One of the most amazing things I experienced during the brief year I lived in New York City (Yonkers, to be more specific, which everyone considers "upstate" even though it takes less than 35 minutes to get to Manhattan via bus+subway) was that I could get my hands on pretty much anything my heart desired when it came to foodstuffs and groceries. Unlike the stretched out state I currently reside in (AZ), there was pretty much a butcher, a bakery and a deli on every corner.
It was like I'd died and gone to heaven ... but for the crushing amount of people I encountered daily and the astronomical prices I paid in rent. Back home in a tiny, northern Arizona town, I realized you pay a price regardless; wide open spaces, limited stop-lights and staring at a star-studded sky at night also means you forgo the "luxury" of having seemingly limitless ingredients at your immediate disposal.
I whine about it often, but actually, the scarcity of culinary commodities makes it necessary for me to a) plan ahead and b) cherish specialty foodstuffs when I have the opportunity to enjoy them.
And so it was that when I last traveled through Las Vegas, I made a stop in Chinatown (Spring Market Rd West - shop and eat at every place you see, don't question it) to load up on Asian ingredients I cannot get in my little one-shop town: fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, pork belly, gochujang and coconut milk. Actually, my little grocery store does carry coconut milk, but only the canned variety, and I wanted to try the boxed Thai coconut milk Andy Ricker recommends in his Pok Pok cookbook, as well as boxed coconut cream, which I definitely couldn't get at home.
I found what I was looking for, but unfortunately I could only find the coconut milk in rather large boxes. Stable on the shelf, I would need to use all of it rather quickly once I opened the box, as they didn't reseal. I only used a bit under one cup in last week's Red Curry Dumplings, so I scrambled to come up with other recipes I could use the rest of the milk in.
[Note: I kept my opened coconut milk in a sealed tupperware container in the fridge for a week. I thought about freezing it but wasn't sure how it would act once I defrosted it. I suppose I should experiment on that, but I LOVE coconut milk and never want to waste or ruin a drop - if you have experience freezing coconut milk (besides making a granita), let me know.]
Bon Appétit to the rescue! Browsing through my Facebook timeline a week or so ago, I screeched my scrolling finger to after eyeballing a delicious picture of their Spicy Lobster Pasta. Sweet, tender lobster meat paired with cherry tomatoes, spicy red pepper flakes and glossy pasta? Delicious as is, but slightly more special (just my opinion, man) with a bit of coconut cream and the addition of some lump crab meat.
Go with your gut, here. You can use all lobster meat from a whole lobster (small town grocery store only had two small tails when I purchased) or mix it up with lobster and shrimp, or just go with shrimp. Or scallops! Make it your own and enjoy.
Spicy Coconut Lobster & Crab Pasta
Based on the original Spicy Lobster Pasta recipe from Bon Appétit
Serves 4 (or two hungry folk)
- 12 ounces spaghetti or linguini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large shallot, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon + crushed red pepper flakes (make it as spicy as you need to, mama)
- 1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 lb picked, cooked lobster meat - or - 1/2 lb lobster meat + 1/2 lb lump crab meat
- 3/4 - 1 cup coconut milk
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Normally, you would save some of the pasta water to help make a silky sauce, but in this recipe I'm adding coconut milk, so you don't need to do that. Don't feel like adding the coconut milk? Than I do recommend holding onto one cup of pasta water that you can add to your sauce when you finish the dish.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and cook until the shallot starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring here and there, until the tomatoes start to soften up and lose their shape, about 5-8 minutes. Add the coconut milk and turn the heat down to medium, medium-low. You want to heat the coconut milk through and let it mingle and marry with the other ingredients, but you don't want the heat so high that the coconut milk breaks. Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.
Add your lobster and crab meat and toss gently to coat the seafood. Everything's already cooked, so you're just making sure the meat gets heated through. Gently fold in your pasta and toss again to coat all the pasta in the creamy sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.