And, now for something completely different.
We recently went to Keii Chi, with the Dallas Eclectic Foodies meetup. Many people say Keii Chi is one of the best Sushi restaurants in the state, if not the country. A former reviewer from the Dallas Morning News commented, “Finally, a reason to go to Denton”.
We had omakase which is a one word Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it to you” (from Japanese “to entrust”). It may also mean, “I’m on an expense account.” We had 7 or 8 courses, each better than the last. Rodney, the guy who arranged the dinner, told the owner, “Can you make the pasta with roe? You made it last time I was here, and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since!” The owner is a good sport, thought a second and smiled. He asked, “for everyone?” Heck yeah!
The dish came as the last course and it was everything Rodney had suggested it would be. It was creamy smooth, using large pasta noodles, with roe and a hint of chili infusing the slightly pink creamy sauce. The roe added crunch and texture. And taste! Oh lord, the taste went on forever!
It seems Rodney dreams for months and goes back to the restaurant. I try my feeble hand at trying to make something similar. Saturday we went to IKEA (which I am told means “cheap and rickety” in Swedish) and found some smoked roe paste in the Swedish food section. I grabbed some. (Yes, we paid for it.)
And tonight,inspiration struck. I started with a recent article in Lifehacker on another way to cook pasta You start with a cold skillet and not much cold water. It works.
I used about a quart of water and 4 ounces of an Italian pasta we found at a specialty store – it is about 16″ long and pretty thick. You can use other pasta, of course. I also added a few glugs of olive oil.
As the pasta cooked, I gathered the smoked roe paste, some heavy cream, some Creme Fraiche (actually, I used a Mexican table creme, Crema Mexicana that is very similar to Creme Fraiche and more widely available around here), and some red pepper. I used Chimayo, you can use cayenne or any red pepper you like. If you’re a pepper belly, use a fair amount – but don’t go crazy – you’re looking for balance not a thermonuclear melt down. If you’re not a pepper belly, please, still use a little bit, the pepper really balances the flavors.
When the pasta was just short of al dente, I poured off the excess water. I left a little water to help bind the sauce. I added about 3 or 4 ounces of the smoked roe paste, another glug of olive oil, 2 or 3 tablespoons each of heavy cream and Creme Fraiche. I stirred it and added about a teaspoon of the Chimayo. I kept stirring and raised the heat. I wanted the sauce to reduce a bit. The big reason for the Creme Fraiche was to keep the cream from curdling. If you wanted, you could probably use sour cream, but that would change the flavor profile a lot. I tasted the sauce and adjusted the roe paste and pepper, which is to say I added some more of each.
Once the dish was done, I plated it and shared it with my wife. The sauce had a light pink color from the pepper and the pepper added a flavor balance. It wasn’t hot. What it was, was delightful! Not genius Japanese master chef with decades of experience at the top of his craft wonderful, but pretty darned good.
Next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll go to the Super-H Asian market not too far from here and get some of their flying fish roe. The smoked roe paste added a great flavor, but the roe had processed so there were no eggs in the paste, no crunch in the sauce. The flying fish roe is usually around $20 a pound. It isn’t caviar, but it is very nice.
Sadly, we dug and and after the fact, as we were clearing the table, we asked each other, “Did you take a picture?” Sadly, no. Next time. Probably this week.