Sunday, February 26, 2012

Linguini with Crab, Chilies, Mint, Lemon

This is the antithesis to winter's heavy, dense meals.  A refreshing punch of heat is tamed by fresh citrus and herb.  A light pasta dish nicely paired with a green salad and grilled baguette slices rubbed with a split garlic clove.  Quick to bring to the table and easy to throw together, this is a weeknight meal you'll look forward to between the pasta casseroles and braised meats.  This could also be enjoyed on Fridays during Lent, if follow rules like that.

The best part of this recipe is the heat level you want to bring- I used jalapenos and red chilies, as I wanted to invite a fair amount of zing to enjoy with the citrus and mint to balance the flavors.  For less heat, banana, Anaheim, or just plain bell peppers would work, although you'll miss a bit of the fun. 
I made a joke at work that I was going to exsanguinate over what I considered to be a serious paper cut.  It was close to arterial spurt, honestly.  I completely forgot about my almost-life-threatening incident by the time I was home, but was quickly reminded when squeezing the lemon directly into the wound.  That will get your attention, and handling hot peppers with the upper-body injury didn''t really help the situation.   

As any dish, especially those with few items, the quality of your ingredients is 99% the outcome of the meal.  Fresh lemon juice of course, there's no way you still squeeze lemon out of a yellow plastic lemon-shaped container.  Find fresh mint leaves, it makes this dish sing.  I know paying $12-$15/lb for good canned crabmeat is not cheap, but you will get 3-4 meals out of it.  Extra points if you procure fresh Dungeness crab meat.  If the smallest canned variety is 16 oz, you'll have to double this recipe or do what I did and fry up some crab cakes to freeze for later use.  Don't try and save an opened can of crabmeat, as it will deteriorate quickly.

Linguini with Crab, Chilies, Mint, Lemon
3-4 servings

8 oz linguini
4 TB unsalted butter, divided
1/4 C shallots, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2-3 chilies- jalapeno, red Thai, Anaheim, or banana pepper, seeded and sliced thinly into rounds
2 TB fresh lemon juice
2 ts lemon zest
freshly cracked black pepper
8 oz good quality canned crabmeat, or fresh
1/3 C fresh mint leaves, hand torn, divided

Cook the pasta in standard fashion- in boiling salted water until just al dente.  Save 2 C of the cooking water. 

While pasta is cooking, saute the shallots in a large skillet over medium heat with 1 TB butter and 1 TB of EVOO.  After 4-5 minutes and the shallots are soft, add in the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.  Add 1 TB lemon juice and 1/4 C of the pasta cooking water, stir and let cook for 60 seconds.  Add in the pasta, 1/2 C more reserved pasta water, toss the mixture with tongs for a minute to coat all the linguini with sauce. 

Add in the remaining 3 TB butter, 1 TB good EVOO, the chili peppers, 1 TB lemon juice, 1 ts lemon zest, half of the mint leaves, a pinch of pepper and the crab.  Stir until the butter melts and everything is looking heated through and delicious, you may add a bit more pasta water if more hydration is desired.  Serve with a touch of the lemon zest and torn mint leaves atop, a squirt of lemon may also be lovely. 

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