Since Monday was Joe's birthday, he had the pleasure of selecting our festive meal for the evening. Which turned out to be my new recipe for the week! And a spectacular one at that. Because how can you go wrong with wine, basil, a whole mess of seafood and cream?
It's become our Valentine's Day/birthday tradition to cook something at home, instead of attempting to get a hotly sought after reservation at a restaurant around town. I find it entirely unromantic to call restaurant after restaurant and ask for reservations for two and get laughed at or offered the 4:30 senior citizen special or the very European (kitchen's about to close, folks!) 10:30 slot. I suppose if we made plans earlier we could get in, but that's boring and we can never make up our minds that far in advance.
So cooking at home it is. But what special, fancy and not entirely time consuming for a Monday night meal do we make? I'm a big fan of Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond's website. Joe is too. Ree is a great photographer and a self effacing, charming writer and a fabulous cook. Most of her recipes, including those in her cookbook (which we have) are down to earth, tasty, filling and crowd pleasing. I like her homey family style and admire the way she can take basic ingredients and craft straightforward, hard to screw up recipes. It boosts my cooking confidence when I make one and it turns out perfectly, is nearly effortless and has big bang for the buck. Joe spent a half an hour flipping through the Pioneer Woman cookbook, wiping his drool off each page and he browsed, and he landed on this recipe Penne a la Betsy. And what a delicious place to land.
Joe's modifications included adding mussels, calamari and scallops to the shrimp called for in the recipe. Because if shrimp is good, mussels, calamari and scallops are better. And Costco sells a perfect package of all four. Since I was in class all day Friday and Saturday, Joe was kind enough to hit the grocery store and Costco to pick up supplies. After work on Monday, Joe had about thirty pages left in his book that he wanted to finish, so we divided up the cooking and I got started on prep while he read. Chopping Italian parsley, chiffonading basil and dicing onions and garlic, I started the pasta and cooked the mussels and cleaned the seafood. Joe finished up the latest Kay Scarpetta book (2 stars of 4 per Joe) and he was on deck to take the reigns while I set the table, heated up the bread and pulled together our salads.
Joe cooked the seafood and onion/garlic/wine combo perfectly. The tomato cream sauce came together, creamy and colorful with the pinkish red of the sauce and bright green of the fresh herbs, with the savory tang of onions and garlic underneath. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I know what leftovers I'm having for lunch tomorrow. Tossed together with penne pasta and a pile of seafood, Penne a ala Joe and Kassie was superb. Paired with a glass, maybe two, of a little Riesling, I highly recommend making this and sharing it with someone you love soon. Like right now. It's early still, you haven't had dinner yet? Oh, you have? Well, maybe a late night snack?