In troubled times, world turns to comfort foods

Entertaining

Fettuccine dish furthers tasty goal of sharing simple meals with friends

Entertaining

April 20, 2003|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

During difficult times, when the world situation is tense and uncertain, fancy entertaining is the last thing on my mind. A dinner party of several courses, which would require a good amount of time in the kitchen (not to mention cleanup afterward), or a large cocktail party or reception isn't appealing. What I long for are simple meals shared with good friends.

Comfort foods that soothe the palate and the soul come to mind. Stews, potpies, meatloaves and mashed potatoes and just about any kind of pasta top the list of dishes that calm and satisfy. This week, for a small circle of friends at my house for lunch, I prepared a menu of such fare, offering my guests bowls of pasta along with a loaf of warm crusty bread, a mixed green salad and fresh fruit for dessert.

The entree I served -- fettuccine with shrimp, peas and scallions -- was a new version of an old favorite from my recipe files. The dish, which took less than 45 minutes to prepare, looked as if far more time had been required to assemble it. This more recent creation also calls for a little less butter than the original and has an addition of spring vegetables.

Noodles were cooked until al dente in a large pot of boiling water, then drained and tossed in a serving bowl with garlic and herb-scented butter. Sauteed shrimp and sliced scallions and blanched fresh peas also were stirred into the pasta. A dusting of grated Parmesan cheese was a final garnish.

As soon as people began to twirl buttered noodles around their forks and spoon up the coral-hued shellfish and bright green peas and scallions, the conversation started to flow. When I checked my watch, I couldn't believe the time. We had stayed at the table far longer than I had anticipated, and no one was ready to leave. We were relaxed and, for a moment or two, thinking about friendship and comforting food.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services International

Fettuccine With Shrimp, Peas and Scallions

Serves 4 generously

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

5 tablespoons chopped chives

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Salt

2 bunches scallions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound large (21 to 25 count) shrimp, shelled, deveined and cleaned

1 cup fresh shelled peas or frozen, defrosted

16 to 18 ounces fresh fettuccine

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

Freshly ground pepper

Combine butter, 2 tablespoons chives, parsley, shallots, garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small mixing bowl. Mix well to blend. (If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring butter to room temperature before using.) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. When water comes to a boil, cover pot with a lid and keep water at a brisk simmer.

Cut off root ends and all but 2 inches of stems of scallions. Then slice on the diagonal into 1/2 -inch pieces. Set aside. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add shrimp and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp are pink and curled and scallions are softened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer shrimp and scallions to a shallow serving bowl. Cover loosely with aluminum foil while you cook the pasta and peas.

Add fresh peas to a pot of water and cook about 3 minutes. (Cook defrosted, frozen peas for 1 to 2 minutes.) Remove peas from water with a slotted spoon and add to the serving bowl.

Cook fettuccine in same pot of water until al dente (tender to the bite), 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in a colander and add to bowl with shrimp and peas. Add seasoned butter and 1/2 cup cheese to the bowl and toss to mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and remaining chives. Serve immediately.

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