Spoiler alert! If you’re a Top Chef Masters fan and haven’t seen the first episode yet, I’m about to tell you who won!
What to make from the first Top Chef Masters episode was a no-brainer for us. The “first date” winning recipes from team Susan Feniger (one of the Too Hot Tamales and chef at Border Gill) and Tony Mantuano (chef at Spiaggia) looked too delicious (and do-able) to pass up. And while the southwestern seafood flavors of the black pepper shrimp (recipe here) didn’t seem to be a match with the rich pasta (recipe here) (as the judges noted) everything, strangely, worked very well together.
I started by making the pasta sheets with what might be the world’s most simple recipe — flour, egg yolks and water. Knead them together and run them through a pasta maker to squish and you’ve got pasta. I should note that I don’t have a pasta maker because I am a gourmet chef or anything. I had a great aunt who had every cooking tool known to man and never touched any of them. Ate nearly every meal either at church or McDonald’s. So when she moved out of her home, I was the lucky recipient of a really solid pasta maker that was 30 years old, but still new out of the box. If you don’t have a pasta maker, you can always use a rolling pin to make the sheets of pasta.
And tender little sheets they were! Their lack of uniformity (let’s just call them free form) seemed a little vexing to K’s designer brain, who wanted them to look nice and square on the plate. But the important thing was that they encased the truffle mushroom mixture (someone gave K a little jar for his birthday) and talleggio nicely.
Before I purchased it for this recipe, I had no idea what talleggio cheese was. I thought it was a hard cheese used mostly with pasta. Turns out it is a runny, soft cheese used mostly with pasta. I called it stinky cheese. The cheese guy at Byerly’s called it “aggressive.” We sprinkled the little truffle mushroom talleggio pasta packets with truffle salt (K is going through a truffle phase right now, I think) and popped them in the oven for 10 minutes. “Chad” the Bravo intern is at it again and the recipe doesn’t specify what temperature the oven should be. We guessed at 325 and it seemed fine.
With the pasta in the oven, K quickly sautéed the shrimp and scallops and made the simple broth of oyster sauce, soy, pepper, sugar and a little lime juice. I chopped the cilantro and some chives. I skipped the mint called for in the recipe because we always use so little and I have too much left over that I never know what to do with so it ends up in the compost pile. If you’ve got other mint ideas, let me know and I’ll start using it in recipes again. K also threw together the accompanying simple arugula salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. The whole meal came together very quickly while the pasta was finishing in the oven.
While K felt the shrimp were a little overcooked (they continue to cook in the hot broth), I thought they were delish and the scallops were absolutely perfect. The broth was, indeed, peppery, but the cool cilantro balanced it out. The bright, citrus flavor and the pepper bite was great to offset the incredible richness of the talleggio in the pasta. I thought we may have gone a bit too crazy with the truffle flavors because, to me, the pasta was very dark and dusky — 1/16th of an inch too earthy. But it was very, very good and the simple arugula salad helped cut through the buttery richness of the pasta. It was easy to see why these were winning recipes.
To celebrate our engagement the night before, we enjoyed a fantastic bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne to accompany our fine shrimp, scallop and truffle feast. It was a lovely complement. The bubbles popped with the pepper, were best friends with the creamy talleggio and got better and better as they warmed a bit.
This was a special meal, but the pepper shrimp and scallops would make a really simple and quick meal with some bread and a salad. If you happen to have truffle mushrooms and salt around (because who doesn’t, right?) then definitely add those supple pasta squares. And if you’re the luckiest girl in the world (as I am) someone might bring along a bottle of Veuve and then you’ve really got a celebration.