Sunday, May 31, 2015

Black Rice Vermicelli with Shrimp, Okra and Mushrooms en Tarragon Tomate Vin Blanc Crème








     Super Grain Pasta!  
     Those who are tired of the same old pasta just might find today's recipe to be interesting.  Black rice has its origins in Indonesia and some varieties were bred to perfection in ancient India.  Thai Black Jasmine Rice is one of those ancient varietals that was perfected.  Black Jasmine Rice has been part of Chinese cooking for many centuries, but initially the general public was banned from eating black rice because it was the top choice rice of emperors.  Therefore, Black Jasmine Rice is also known as forbidden rice.  
     Black Rice is gluten free and it contains a much higher percentage of complex protein than regular white rice.  Black Rice offers some of the highest nutritional value of any grain on earth.  
     Black Rice Vermicelli can be found at Asian food markets.  It is a high quality product and there are many brands from China and Japan.  Black Rice Vermicelli is packaged like many Chinese specialty noodles.  The individual portion bundles are tied with a ribbon.  The noodles do change color from jet black to grey when they are cooked, so do not fret when the color fades.  It is the flavor and nutritional value that counts.  

     Instead of substituting Black Rice Vermicelli for a traditional style Asian noodle bowl recipe or pho soup, I decided to create a simple French style pasta sauce that has a little bit of influence from the American south.  One might say that today's pasta recipe is a fancy French American Soul Food item.  
     Pasta with shrimp in a white wine tomato crème sauce is fairly common at small French cafés.  Adding mushrooms, okra and tarragon sets this pasta sauce apart from the rest.  Mushrooms and tarragon are combined in many classic white wine and cream sauces.  Tarragon also goes well with tomato.  Tarragon has a strong flavor, so a little bit goes a long way.  Dried tarragon often tastes stronger than fresh tarragon, so this is important to keep in mind when flavoring the sauce.  Fresh tarragon was used in today's recipe and it takes about twice as much to create the flavor of dried tarragon. 
     Very few chefs feature okra in any recipe these days, simply because many modern chefs simply do not like okra, because of its mucilaginous texture.  Okra only becomes soft and slimy after it is cooked for a certain period of time.  There is a point where okra can be cooked tender without being slimy, but a chef has to be familiar with okra in order to know how to cook okra to that specific texture.  A chef that does not like okra will never know how good okra can be in something like an "a la minute" pasta recipe.

     Chinese chefs use a traditional method of shocking noodles in ice water, so the noodles gain a nice chewy texture.  Since the black rice noodles are from China, it is best to use traditional Chinese noodle cooking techniques, rather than Italian style pasta cooking techniques.  The result is a better quality black rice noodle!

     *This entire recipe yields 1 pasta entrée!

     Black Rice Vermicelli:
     Step 1:  Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 portion of black rice vermicelli noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally.
     Boil till the noodles are tender, but so they still have a firm texture that is not too soft.
     Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Step 2:  Place the noodles in a container of ice water to shock them.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they feel like they have a firm chewy texture.
     Drain the ice water off of the noodles.
     Set the shocked cooked black rice vermicelli aside.

     Shrimp, Okra and Mushrooms en Tarragon Tomate Vin Blanc Crème:
     The rest of this recipe moves along quickly.  The shrimp and vegetables are sautéed and the sauce is made in the same pan.  After the sauce reduces, the okra will be cooked just right.
     It is important to select small to medium size okra.  Large okra can be fibrous and they will require too much cooking time for this pasta sauce recipe.  
     Step 1:  Keep a pot of water boiling on a back burner, so the noodles can be reheated later in the recipe! 
     Step 2:  Peel and devein 8 to 10 medium size shrimp.
     Lightly season the shrimp with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the shrimp in flour.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of pomace olive oil.
     Add the floured shrimp.
     Add 4 or 5 medium size okra that are cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 1/3 cup of button cave mushrooms that are cut into petite wedges.
     Sauté till the ingredients start to gain some golden highlights.
     Step 4:  Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced white part of a green onion.
     Sauté till the onion starts to turn clear in color.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of imported Italian canned crushed plum tomato. 
     Saute for a few seconds.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of shrimp stock.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coarsely chopped fresh tarragon.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a medium thin sauce consistency that can easily cling to pasta.
     Step 7:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Black Rice Vermicelli with Shrimp, Okra and Mushrooms en Tarragon Tomate Vin Blanc Crème:
     Step 1:  Place the cooked black rice vermicelli noodles in a pasta net and dip them in the pot of boiling water till they are reheated.
     Drain the water off of the noodles.
     Place the noodles on the center of a plate as a bed for the sauce.
     Step 2:  Use tongs to arrange the okra on the noodles, so each spear points out from center.
     Use a spoon to mound the mushrooms and shrimp on the center of the noodles.
     Spoon any excess sauce over the shrimp and noodles.
     Garnish with a curly leaf parsley sprig.

     This is a taste plate of modern Soul Food pasta!  

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