A Home-Reared Chef: Cook by Instinct, Recipe #1
I am a home-reared chef. And I have rightfully earned my title. Like many great and talented home-cooks, I do not have a degree from a cooking academy. Though that doesn’t mean I never wanted one. Of course, I did! Too busy raising my children and taking care of my home, I never had the time or the money.
Born in Nicaragua, and for awhile raised in Central America, El Salvador, (my mother’s birth place), I was as a child exposed daily to the kitchen and our cooks. My grandmother, Marta Roa, (married to Carlos Roa, then Treasurer of El Salvador in the 1940s), was a lady of high society, and so entertained quite frequently. Always in the kitchen, I observed the cooks in action. I was fortunate to have seen, first-hand, the many delightful dishes created and served to my grandmother’s distinguished guests (usually under her strict supervision). From this time-and-place was the seed of desire and passion to cook planted and forever rooted in my heart.
Marta moved through a wide-circle of high-society and knowing wives of prominent names, as well as visitors from other countries, political and otherwise, she shared and exchanged recipes with the other ladies that entertained for their husband’s interests.
Growing-up in the United States, away from the glamour of high society, I did not have the same exposure and privilege to share my talents. I have, nonetheless, spent the last twenty-seven years perfecting my skills in cooking and sharing my creations with family and friends, and short-term cooking positions. Here, I share just one of my many recipes that have created a stir over the years. Keep in mind that it has not been easy to please most people; often facing a ready-challenge to persuade finicky and snobby palettes. And having turned many skeptics and hard-to-please eaters, usually unwilling to try anything new, I can most certainly now brag about my cooking!
My children have requested I jot down the recipe. At their request, I share it here, (well, sort-of!), written with the help of my perfect cooking-partner and accomplice, my husband Bob. But you will see that we don’t really measure or weigh ingredients, unless it is written on the package. You will also see that I keep ratios on a very personal level—a secret. Any good cook would attest to this. Tradition, after all, must be kept!
Blushing Pasta with Shrimp and Mushrooms
3 pounds rock shrimp (or shrimp, and amount of personal choice)
To the shrimp, in a large bowl, add (and set aside to marinate):
1. A splash of olive oil, extra virgin
2. A splash of sesame seed oil
3. A splash of cream Sherry
4. A throw of sea salt
5. A few heavy dashes of red pepper flakes
6. Lots of garlic (fresh)
7. A touch of ginger (fresh)
8. A heavy throw of green onions/scallions (chopped)
Mushrooms (amount, a personal choice)
Sauté mushrooms on medium heat with ingredients one and two.
1. A pat of butter
2. A splash of olive oil
After about five minutes add ingredients three thru six.
3. A few sprinkles of red pepper flakes
4. Some thyme (fresh)
5. Some oregano (fresh)
6. Some rosemary (fresh)
When mushrooms have begun to look golden add ingredient seven.
7. A splash of cream sherry
Before sherry is completely reduced add ingredient eight and cook to wilt.
8. A heavy hand of green onions/scallions (chopped)
(Set mushrooms aside)
One and a half pound fresh pasta (preferred)
When water is boiling, add (plenty) salt to water and a pat or two of butter. Cook pasta to desired texture, (reserving about one-third cup pasta water for blushing sauce). To strained pasta (do not rinse pasta), immediately add olive oil and toss, (set aside in a large-enough platter to hold pasta and shrimp when done).
Time to fry the shrimp:
In large sauté pan, on the large burner and on medium-high heat, add olive oil, and, or butter, or bacon rendering (preferred), when hot, add all the contents from the marinating shrimp. This should not take long; shrimp should be threatened—a few minutes only. When it is pink it is done! Quickly transfer shrimp to pasta platter, using a large slotted spoon. To the platter with pasta and shrimp add mushrooms and gently fold together.
Time to make blushing sauce:
To the shrimp juices left in sauté pan add garlic (to personal taste)
Chopped garlic (lots or to taste)
When garlic is sizzling and translucent add reserved pasta water and tomato paste.
Reserved pasta water
1 can tomato paste
Let this come back to a boil, and let this boil for about 1 minute.
Now add the heavy cream and let this boil (stirring the whole time) for 3 to 5 minutes.
3 cups heavy cream (about)
Lower heat to lowest setting and add a good chunk of Telme cheese (preferred), or shredded Muenster cheese (full fat), and let this melt, all the while stirring the sauce.
Telme cheese or Muenster (or both!)
Pour the blushing sauce over the pasta and shrimp and mushrooms and gently toss to coat every strand.