Shrimp, Corn, and Brown Butter Pasta: I Tried Classic Comfort Food

In 2011, the United States was seventh in the world in pasta per capita consumption, but consumed more total pounds of pasta than Italy. Pasta is everywhere, all the time. It’s a date night classic, easy to throw together when you’re too lazy or tired to cook, and the majority of things it can be mixed with for flavor even comes in cans, jars, or some combination thereof for maximum convenience.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend and chef during which he described making pork bolognese to feel better after a bad day. I came home from that conversation to our former roommate sitting on the sofa, drinking beer and describing bolognese as the ultimate comfort food. Deja vu.

I mean, I get it. It’s warm, hearty, rich, meaty (or vegetable-y, depending on what school of thought you follow), and like a good relationship, gives back exactly what you put into it. I’ll be honest, though. This culinary force is not strong within me. To be blunt: I have never associated pasta with being a comfort food. I do not crave it after a bad day. I do not crave it after a good day. I do not crave it here or there, I do not crave it anywhere.

All right. What were we talking about?

Right.

I realize my wolf pack is going to dwindle to a minuscule number after I reveal I’m “not into pasta.” This acknowledged, I wanted to drink the Kool-Aid and try making something recognizable to the general public as a pasta dish. The focus was flavor. If the dish ended up being comforting, it would be a bonus.

I find comfort in….

  • closing my eyes on the sofa with The Beach Boys, The Ventures, or other instrumental surf music playing in the background and a glass of nice Tempranillo (preferably a Crianza….and Reserva….) on the side.
  • a long massage followed by a leisurely cappuccino.
  • curling up with cheese toast and a juicy book.

Which translated itself in my notebook to something rich (but not necessarily creamy), simple, and relaxing (i.e. very few steps) to make. I don’t have a new comfort food, but at least I’ll be able to whip something together for a last-minute date night.

Shrimp, Corn, and Brown Butter Pasta

  • 1/2 pound Shrimp – Peeled and Deveined
  • 2 ears Corn
  • Unsalted Butter (3  and 1/2 Tablespoons Total)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Dry White Wine (I used Francis Ford Coppola’s Director’s Cut Chardonnay. Remember, always be willing to drink the wine you’re cooking with.)
  • 1 stalk Celery – roughly chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Celery Leaves
  • 1 Shallott – 1/2 left whole, 1/2 finely diced
  • Parsley Sprigs (Grab a large handful)
  • Paprika
  • 1/2 pound (usually half a box) Fettuccine, Pappardelle, or other long pasta

Melt 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over Medium-High heat and saute shrimp until pink and fully cooked through. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Cut the kernels off the corn cobs. SAVE THE COBS! YOU NEED THEM. Repeat, YOU NEED THEM.

Melt 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a pot over Medium-High heat until the butter starts to brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Toss in the corn cobs, celery, whole shallott half, parsley sprigs, and 3 cups of water. Boil this again, and reduce by 1/3. (30 minutes-ish)

Strain the vegetable stock (congratulations! You made stock without realizing it!) into a bowl and save.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter (it’s not that much, I’m just mentioning it a lot. Do you want to feel better or not?) over medium heat, saute the diced shallott half until soft, then stir in paprika to taste until everything is a rusty red color. Pour in the reserved vegetable stock and 1 additional cup of water. Reduce by 1/3 (20 minutes-ish).

Stir in the corn and let boil and toil in the butter/stock mixture until fully cooked. If you’re stressed about scalding the bottom of your pan, add more water by the 1/4 or 1/2 cup….I didn’t need to, but you might, depending on how volcano-like your stovetop is.

Finally, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a large pinch of salt. Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions, drain, and return to pot. Stir in the corn mixture and cooked shrimp until heated through.

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