Monday, June 21, 2010

#87 - Garlic Shrimp & Farro Pasta With Vintage Brut Cava

Okay! Fine!

We like shrimp! Happy?

As Mrs. Ney said, "What can we have for a Sunday night dinner when Christo is going to be home but I don't want to cook and I DEFINITELY don't want to shop anywhere else?"

I was home on a Sunday because years of waiting tables has taught that you don't work on holidays like Father's Day. It's one of maybe four or five days a year when people who normally don't go out to eat go out to eat. And that only brings pain.

So...Sunday night at home, a rare thing, that.

Usually reserved as Frozen Food night, this Sunday did include the use of frozen shrimp. Other than that, this was a finely crafted meal taken from solid recipe sources, executed to perfection and lovingly fawned over. I'm channeling my inner-Pat Bruno.

Food: Spanish-style garlic shrimp in farro pasta, jalapeños, orange/lemon zest, mint and basil

Frozen Wild Blue Shrimp ($10.99/lb) from Trader Joe's cooked in copious amounts of garlic and olive oil using this recipe from Cook's Illustrated. Perfectly cooked, having that nice multi-textured bite to them. There were fears it might be a tad garlic-y but they weren't. Great stuff.

Dried spelt spaghetti bought at Fresh & Wild in Toronto, a vacation taken last year that...well...just read this. Snore fest. Good food but we had some issues with things.

Pasta tossed with tons of mint, normal amount of basil and parsley, two parts orange to one part lemon zest and two raw, deseeded jalapeños. Just freakin' sung. Jumped out of the bowl.

Brightness from the zest, a hint of that wheaty quality you got from farro, the right level of heat came from the jalapeño and a refreshing aspect from the mint. Flavors. Just. Kept. Changing.

Getting a little bit of everything in one bite made for a taste I won't soon forget. And we'll be having this again quite soon.

A note to new home cooks out there who patently refuse to use recipes because they think they need to channel some inherent, perceived, improvisational talent they think they have. Use recipes. There are people on this planet that know tons more and have more experience with things of this nature than you and HEY! They publish their results in an easy-to-read format using a step-by-step guide. I say this because the Ney household is sick of listening to people wax on about how they injected their own personality into last night's dinner to weird results. It's not jazz. It's food. Execution and precision is a wee bit more important. Rant done.

Wine: 2006 Raventós i Blanc "L'Hereu Reserva" Brut Cava Penedes ($18 - Binny's)

Grape: Parellada, Macabeo and xarel-lo (biodynamically grown)
Region: Penedes, Spain

We love cava but cava sometimes gets a bad rap. Champagne is the undisputed king of bubbly and the bargain/budget sparkler shopper tends to fawn all over Prosecco before cava. It can be a tad rough and if you like that exact style of roughness, it's great but it's not for everybody, I guess.

We like that exact style but this one isn't your average, everyday cava. It's more fancy pants.

Tons of minerals here with the best type of dryness. Where good Champagne shows brioche notes in their yeasty quality, cava tends to be more in the raw yeast, bread dough vein. This one is more refined, raw at first only to blow off and fall into a nice baguette-type track. Apple and pear throughout but nothing over the top, never clouding the core of minerals and refreshing, tight bubbles. Great cava, spectacularly balanced, under $20 and somewhat widely available. Huge fan and has been on El Bulli's wine list for years.

And just great with the bowl o' shrimp pasta.

Pairing: 91 Refreshed, cleansed and offered up oodles of goodness

With a dish offering heat and zest, a sparkler seemed apt.

And it was in a pretty great way. The cava cleansed the palate of the heat from the jalapeños. It was like hitting a reset button with every sip after a bite of food, allowing us to enjoy the heat without letting the heat become the dominant taste in the meal.

The mineral quality in the wine also worked beautifully with the shrimp and, especially, the orange zest. All the underlying fruit in the wine didn't get lost in the food and the wine retained a sense of self without ever saying, "Look at me!"

A nearly perfect compliment to an impromptu Sunday meal.

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