langoustine & asparagus pasta
Langoustines. Dublin Bay Prawns. Scampi. They're known by many different names, but they're all one and the same. The first time I encountered this tiny critter was with Sylvain's parents, when my mother-in-law placed a giant platter of quick-boiled langoustines on the table, along with bowls of freshly made mayonnaise. Everyone started reaching across the table to grab one, two, three langoustines, and the conversation got louder over the crack, crack, crack of the shells being opened and the occasional slurp as the soft flesh was sucked out of the claws. I reached over for my own and quietly set to work. One langoustine and a couple of cuts on my poor fingers later, I dipped the tail into my own dollop of mayonnaise and bit it in half. And I reached for another one before I'd even finished the first.
Eating langoustines like this is work. They're spikier than prawns, and the shell is a lot harder, but they taste much more delicate, and it's well worth the extra effort. Especially for the little bit of sweet flesh in each of the claws. Sylvain and his father are particularly good langoustine-eaters, and there is a point in every meal when I glance over and am amazed at their overflowing plates of shells against my pathetic two or three carcasses. Sylvain reassured me at the beginning that I would get better, but over ten years later and I'm still not as fast as them - I think it's one of those skills you master when you're really young! Or very hungry!
We don't buy langoustines that often because they do tend to be pricey, but like anything, the occasional craving needs to be satisfied. We always buy them uncooked. If we're just serving them as described above, nature with mayonnaise, it's easy to boil them quickly ourselves and let them cool on the windowsill. My in-laws only ever serve them this way, and whilst it was a challenge to get Sylvain to even consider eating them any other way, once he started there was no going back... There are so many things that can be done with langoustines - sautéed in the pan until just pink enough, threaded onto skewers and grilled quickly with a delicate marinade, or baked for a few minutes in the oven, drizzled with olive oil and garlic.
Anything you can do with prawns can be done with langoustines, just don't drown them in complicated sauces or with complex flavours. With Spring upon us, I'm all about asparagus, so I couldn't help but toss some fresh, crispy spears with the langoustines and a little garlic, chilli and olive oil. It made a perfectly fresh, delicious and quick Sunday lunch.
- 150g pasta (we used Mafaldine n°2)
- olive oil
- 12 langoustines, shelled (or large green, uncooked prawns, shelled)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli (more or less, according to taste)
- 6 large asparagus spears, chopped into 1cm rounds, leaving a few centimetres of tip
- 2 tablespoons Verjus/Verjuice (or white wine)
- salt and pepper
- grated parmesan, to serve
- Boil water and put pasta on to cook according to instructions on the packet. Reserve half a cup of cooking water and drain pasta. Set aside.
- Heat a large pan on medium heat with a dash of olive oil. When the oil starts to simmer, throw the langoustines in the pan and cook, stirring regularly, until darker pink all over (about a minute). Remove from pan and set aside.
- Heat a little more olive oil in the pan, then add the garlic, chilli and asparagus. Cook, stirring regularly, for about a minute. Remove from the pan, adding them to the plate of cooked langoustines.
- Deglaze the pan by adding the verjus (or white wine) and stirring well to remove any bits that are stuck to the bottom. Let simmer for thirty seconds then put the cooked langoustines, asparagus and the pasta back into the pan. Stir well to combine, seasoning to taste and adding a little of the cooking water to loosen things up a little if necessary.
- Serve immediately, sprinkling each plate with grated parmesan.