Weeknight Wondermeal: Baked Egg Linguine with Onion, Scallion, and Umame


Spring is getting here … but it’s taking its sweet time.  Today was nice and sunny, yet there was a cold, strong wind that blew right through my corduroy jacket, and right up my long skirt, swirling around my unwisely unclad ankles, up past my bare knees.  For Clayton – out on the tractor all day, then gardening with a friend for several hours – he was frozen to the core, and he came home rather late.  I needed something quick, something warm, and something with what I had on hand.  Voilà! Using only some farm fresh eggs, linguine, cream, cheese, butter, onion, and scallion – with a sprinkling  of black truffle salt, and a dash of black truffle oil – I whipped together all those somethings, and more.  Thursday night could become one of my favorites, if I keep making quick pasta dishes like these…

Baked Egg Linguine with Onion, Scallion, and Umame

4 oz uncooked linguine
2 fresh eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 stick butter
some flour (2 tbs or so)
1 cup fresh grated parmigiano reggiano
1 small onion
3 scallions
black pepper
black truffle salt
black truffle oil
a small loaf french bread
some leftover robusto cheese, and some more butter


I start by mincing my onions and scallions, and setting my water to boil for my pasta.  I also grate my cheese and butter my two 8oz ramekins.

I get 2 tbs butter melted in my large saucepan, and add my onions.  I sweat these out just until softened.

I then add about 2 tbs of flour, which I mix well with the butter and onions to form a roux.  I cook this for a few moments, until fully incorporated and just turning a wee bit tan.

I then add my heavy cream, and bring this to a simmer.  See how it’s thickening up?  NIIIIICE.

In goes most of my shredded cheese (I save some for garnish, and for Clayton to pick at), which I stir in well.  I then lower the heat, and let this simmer until thick.  I salt and pepper it to, until it tastes just right.

I’ve been cooking my linguine on the back burner, and at just slightly undercooked, it’s ready to add to the sauce.  I reserve my pasta water, too, so that – if this gets too thick – I can add a little starchy wetness to the pan until the sauce is the right consistency.

The last ingredient to add to the pan is my abundance of sliced scallions (reserving some for garnish, too).  I toss this in, remove from the heat, and stir well before…

… swirling my pasta into my waiting ramekins, using tongs to make a nice nest for…

… the addition of a single, cracked (but not the yolk!), farm fresh egg for the center.  This goes in my 350 degree oven, on middle shelf, for 10 minutes to bake – just until the whites are set, but the yolk is still runny.

Oh, I also split a nice small loaf of french bread down the middle, spread it with hot melted butter, and top it with shredded robusto cheese.  I put this in the oven, too, on the top shelf, and let the cheese melt and toast while my eggs are setting.

Scrumdillyicious!

Right before service, I sprinkle some black truffle oil (Thanks, Tom!) and some black truffle salt over the dish, just to add that umame savor that separates this meal from any ol’ linguine alfredo.  Served with my toasted cheese bread for sopping, I pierce the quivering sun in the middle of my creamy pasta tresses, and I dive into this hot, simple, elegant, perfect little meal.  30 minutes + very few ingredients = utter weeknight dining perfection!

Baked Egg Linguine with Onion, Scallion, and Umame

Creamy Curry Cheese and Macaroni with Langostino Tails and Black Truffle Oil

Macaroni and cheese: are there any other three words that go together better?  Is there any other phrase more evocative, anything else that inspires in each and every person an urgent yearning for whatever sinful, pseudo-sexual gastronomic glut the dish means to them? Tonight, to me it meant succulent, tender, mouthfuls of sweet seameats, and creamy stringy scented cheeses, and crispy crunchy crust.  Paired with a sexy simple arugula salad with parmesan croutons, and dabbled with fragrant, earthy, and enlightening black truffle oil, this Sunday night dinner is elegant and hearty, soulful and seductive, and exactly the adornment our peaceful, productive weekend deserved.  Welcome, Monday: we’re ready for you.

Creamy Curry Cheese and Macaroni with Langostino Tails and Black Truffle Oil

12 oz Trader Joe’s frozen langostino tails
4 oz fontina cheese
4 oz cheddar cheese
heavy cream
2 tbls butter, divided
1 white onion, 1/2 diced, 1/2 thinly sliced
flour
nutmeg
chili curry powder
2 cups uncooked fusili pasta
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
fresh grated parmesan cheese
fresh arugula
an excellent EVOO
a high quality white balsamic vinegar
sea salt
cracked black pepper
black truffle oil, for garnish

Trader Joe’s came through: their 12 oz bag of frozen langostino tails are an excellent alternative to lobster, but more indulgent than shrimp.  I’d also use crawfish tails; or Maine shrimp, since they’re so tiny and sweet, and so unlike their bigger, brinier, ubiquitous tiger cousins.  See how sweet and pink and plump they are?  I defrost them, rinse them, then drain them over a screen set over a bowl, to separate all the liquids from the meat.

Since I only have one suitable pan (my Ikeawok), I start with my breadcrumbs, which I can set aside for use later.  I melt a tablespoon of butter of medium high heat until just turning brown…

  I throw my panko breadcrumbs, about 1/2 a cup, into my hot butter, and toss in my wok…

… until all the crumbs are uniformly toasted.  I remove them from the pan, setting them aside on some parchment paper, where I flavor them with salt and pepper, until I need them later.

Along with fontina cheese, I have a nice mild Wisconsin cheddar.  I shred about 4 packed ounces of each onto a plate.

OK, I shred about 6 oz of each; Clayton is on the prowl, and he pinches when (he thinks) I’m not looking.

Along with grated nutmeg, simple salt and pepper, and a dash of chili curry powder, these are the spice components of my sauce.  To me, the best macaroni and cheeses are the simple ones: firm pasta, flavorful cheesy sauce, and a crisp crust.  The addition of too many flavors and veggies just mucks up perfection.

 But the addition of  1/2 a white onion, nicely minced, is a must — shallot would do nicely, too, or garlic.  In this case, we went simple…

… and sweated and softened the minced onion (about 1/2 cup) in a tablespoon of sizzling (but not browned) melted butter.

After a moment, I add a tablespoon of flour to the sizzling butter, and stir well to make a roux.

Finally, I add my cream, and bring this to a simmer to thicken.  See how the butter-sauteed onions float to the top?  They will be tender little bursts of flavor on the tongue later in the meal.  Stir well, and thicken over medium heat.  My pasta is cooking on the back burner, and will be ready in a few minutes.

Meanwhile, I throw my cheese into the sauce, and…

… I briskly whisk over medium heat to melt and blend.

I add my just slightly undercooked pasta to my cheese sauce, and blend well.  I then add my drained langostino tails, mixing well, and simmering until heated through.

Finally, I spoon my sauce, seafood, and noodles into buttered 8oz ramekins.  I sprinkle a healthy portion of my breadcrumbs over the top of each dish, then place in a 350° oven to bake through for 15-20 minutes.

For the last five minutes, I put a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper, and mounded with fresh shredded parmesan cheese, into the oven to make some cheesy croutons for a simple, snappy, arugula, onion, salted kumato tomato, EVOO, and white balsamic vinegar salad to serve on the side.

Right before service, I dribble some black truffle oil, a delicious gift given to me by my close friend and superpartner, Tom, over the top of my bubbling baked crispy topped macaroni and cheese.  My salad is fresh and light and sharp, topped with a wafery salty savory parmesan cracker, the perfect compliment to my rich, fragrant, slightly hot and wonderfully spiced creamy macaroni and cheese, studded as it is with sweet, briny mouthfuls of tender langostino tails, and topped with just the right buttered toast texture.  Clayton and I dig in with abandon: our noses fill with the umame aroma of melting cheese, our mouths with the gooey heat of pasta cream, and our brains fire synapses hard-wired to supreme excitement and titillating pleasure.  Thank you –  gods of the heath, spirits of the kitchen – for introducing cheese to pasta, and letting them  make their particular brand of love on the porcelain pillow of my plate: it is beautiful.

Creamy Curry Cheese and Macaroni with Langostino Tails and Black Truffle Oil

Lolita’s Joint Journal: Thelonious Monkfish, Central Square, Cambridge, MA

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Today, Clayton and I tried Central Square’s newest entry into the dining scene, Thelonious Monkfish: “Jazz for the Palate”, as their menu proclaims. So sayeth us all; the food was, in a word, delicious!  A “sushi and Asian fusion” experience, the menu has everything from curry to stir-fry to pad thai to sashimi. What they didn’t have was alcohol, although they did offer a fine selection of teas. No matter – water worked. We got all the enjoyment we needed from the meal itself.  Our server was a bit tenuous, and didn’t know the menu too well, but he was affable and otherwise efficient.  The place wasn’t too busy, but nor was it empty, either – there was a large 8-top and a couple 4-tops further into the restaurant.  We considered sitting at the sushi bar, but it seemed a wee bit cramped.  We did notice several compelling seating areas just past the bar, designed to be enjoyed in what I presume is a traditional seating style: no seats, just very large, very low tables around bamboo matting on the floor.  In my tight jeans, this did not look like the optimal ergonomic position, so we chose the window overlooking the masses walking down Massachusetts Avenue: one of the best people-watching venues around.

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For our first course, we ordered the avocado salad for $6.95.  It was a healthy sized bundle of diced fresh avocado, julienned cucumber, shredded surimi, all dressed with mayonnaise and sesame oil and topped with tobiko and panko.  It was light and fresh, and even though I thought the panko was over-zealously sprinkled on top, it wasn’t an unwelcome addition to this very enjoyable version of one of my favorite sushi bar starters.

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We contemplated the pad thai.  We contemplated the “create-your-own” stir-fry – for which one can choose between 2 sizes (lunch from $7.95-$8.95; dinner from $9.95-$14.95); and choose between veggie or tofu, chicken or pork, beef or shrimp, rotisserie chicken, duck or seafood; and choose between jasmine, brown, sticky, chicken-flavored, or garlic-flavored rice, or noodles ($1 more); and choose 1 vegetable from a variety of options.  One could do the same with a choice of the 5 basic curries, too.  We contemplated the noodle soups (7 choices), the fried rices (12 choices), the many *many* entrée options with different proteins (or vegetarian), but we ultimately decided to split one of their 12 wok-fried noodle dishes: the Mad Monk Noodles ($11.95), a spicy, snappy, chicken and shrimp peanuty flavorful hot steaming plate which, as they promised in the menu “will bring one to the edge of madness and creative genius.”  Strong words — and they delivered.  I apologize, but I dove into the plate before I snapped this picture; it looked and smelled so good, my eyes rolled back in my head and the feeding frenzy began, before Clayton reminded me I had a job to do.  I can assure you, their presentation was lovely, and the first bite was a kick in the tongue — in a good way.

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Finally, we ordered our last course off of their extensive sushi and sashimi menu.  This marvelous makimono is called the “Crouching Tiger Roll” – it has shrimp, avocado, cream cheese, crab, asparagus all tightly rolled within, is layered with salmon, topped with tobiko, and studded with sesame seeds.  It is just lovely, perfectly proportioned, and generously sized for $12.95.  And I must say, it was hard to choose out of their many options.  This is good — it means we’ll be back to try more things in the future.

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With a final bill of $40, including  20% tip, Clayton’s fat and happy with this lunch, and I’m pleased as punch we’ve got a new joint with a fantastic menu just a few blocks away from our pad.  There are a lot of vacant storefronts in Central Square right now; here’s to hoping more little gems like this move into the neighborhood.