March 11th is a significant day in my life. And no, it’s not because it’s music legend 311‘s famous “311 Day,” though I must admit they’ve always been a favorite of mine. I’m not ready to share the exact meaning of this day with the online community just yet, (sorry, it’s a piece of my life story that I don’t share with many people these days…in due time, I’m sure), but all you really need to know is that, for me, this day is about celebrating life. It’s about reflecting on and appreciating the people who have shaped my life. It’s about sharing my time with those who matter most and also reserving some alone time just for myself, pondering the things that bring me joy and then doing them.
Last year, I spent this day playing with my dog, eating raw oysters with my husband, drinking fine champagne on the San Francisco Bay with friends, and getting my first tattoo. (No, not in that order, though looking back on it, perhaps it should have been.) No new tattoos for me today, sadly, but let’s not rule out the champagne just yet. The day is not over, after all.
I decided instead to spend all of today in my kitchen: music on the iPod (in fact, 311‘s ‘Amber’ is playing in the background as I write); dog at my feet, drooling per usual; and spoon, whisk, and knife in hand. It’s these simple things in life that I tend to enjoy the most anyway.
Don’t let me fool you, though. The dish I’ve prepared today, a squid ink pasta with champagne sea urchin sauce, is anything but simple. It’s more like the epitome of life’s culinary awesomeness: luxurious and indulgent. Each component, a treat in and of itself. When eaten together, they are just downright sinful. It’s as if someone bundled up all of the sea, twirled it around fork with some pasta and threw it in a bowl.
The dish begins with a squid ink pasta, which is tossed in a sweet, buttery sea urchin sauce. I found a way to sneak some champagne into the sea urchin sauce to give it some acidity as well…and also just for good measure. It’s then topped with salty caviar, a piece of briney sea urchin, and fresh, crisp chives.
There is so much that can be done with the base of this dish and, after eating it today, I’m certain I’ll be “celebrating life” with it for many years to come. If you don’t have caviar or extra sea urchin lying around, try topping it with a different fruits de mer like a butter-poached lobster or pan-seared sea scallops. The possibilities are endless!
Now, where’s the rest of that champagne?
“Celebrate we will. Because life is short but sweet for certain.” -DMB
Sea Urchin Squid Ink Pasta
Serves: 4 as a side; 2 as a main
- 8 oz of sea urchin + sashimi pieces for topping (about 6-8 pieces total)
- 1 shallot, diced finely
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1 cup of champagne (+ the rest of the bottle for drinking, if you so please J)
- ¼ tsp of sea salt
- ¼ tsp of white pepper
- 8-oz fresh or prepared squid ink pasta, cooked
- chives, chopped for garnish
- 2 tablespoons of fresh caviar of your choosing, for garnish (optional)
Melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the shallots until translucent. Add champagne and simmer until liquid has reduced to half.
While liquid is simmering, puree the sea urchin in a blender, making sure to reserve 2 pieces of sea urchin for topping the pasta. Strain through cheesecloth into a medium size bowl. Whisk in the champagne and butter mixture, into the bowl, a little bit at a time.
Purée again. Add salt and white pepper to taste. If too thick, you can thin out with leftover water from making your pasta.
Cook squid ink pasta according to package directions. Toss pasta with sea urchin sauce and plate. Top each plate with 1 piece of sea urchin and sprinkle with fresh caviar. Garnish with fresh chives.