Leafing through a Georges Blanc cookbook is an often futile exercise in self control, as I inevitably find myself excitedly making extensive shopping list of all the ingredients needed to make just about everything I see in “The Natural Cuisine” cookbook. In fact, I’ve mused about cooking the entire “Spring” section of the book – the “herbed vegetable cakes” and “stuffed morels” and “asparagus charlotte” along with a vast assortment of springtime delicacies – that is, before summer arrives with its own tantalizing offerings.
We had fresh cut fettuccine in the fridge, made from left over lasagne sheets from a recent dinner. Then I saw Georges’ recipe for “Fresh Pasta with Lemon” (Pates Fraiches au Citron) and I knew exactly what to do with our fettuccine that night. I did make several changes to the sauce, substituting Neufchâtel cheese for crème frâiche to keep it light, while adding adequate amounts of stock and milk to dilute my alternative cheese selection. I also added fresh asparagus tips and a dusting of bottarga, the Mediterranean delicacy sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s caviar.” In retrospect, perhaps I deviated considerably from Georges’ original recipe, but he did inspire me! Here is what I did.
~ Grated zest of 3 lemons (reserving some for garnish)
~ ½ cup fresh squeezed clementine or orange juice to balance bitterness of lemon zest
~ ½ cup dry white wine
~ ½ cup milk
~ ½ cup chicken stock
~ ½ cup lemon juice
~ 1 cup Neufchâtel cheese (8 oz package)
~ ½ cup grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese (2 large slices, if shredding)
~ Salt & freshly ground pepper
~ Powdered or grated bottarga (optional)
~ 1 bunch asparagus tips, lightly steamed
If you are making fresh pasta, please refer to our previous post with the recipe: Lots of Flour & Fresh Pasta. If using store bought, prepare the fettuccine according to package directions, making sure to keep it al dente. The sauce recipe is enough for 4 dinner portions. If you make less pasta, any unused sauce can be later featured in a special Sunday brunch egg dish of your choice.
When preparing the asparagus, remove from steamer when tips are bright green, after only several minutes. Cut off tips and place in a bowl of ice cubes and water to stop the cooking process. Drain before tossing in the sauce. Asparagus stems can be set aside in fridge for other use (see our upcoming post).
To make the sauce, combine wine and lemon zest in a medium sautée pan. Bring to a boil and reduce wine by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in Neufchâtel cheese and grated Swiss (or Gruyere). Add milk and chicken stock and continue to stir well, blending all ingredients to form a creamy sauce. Add the clementine (or orange) juice. Continue to stir over low-medium heat. Slowly add more chicken stock or milk, if necessary, to obtain a thick and creamy sauce consistency, yet fluid enough to coat the pasta well, without clumping. Toss asparagus tips and pasta into sauté pan with sauce, mixing until everything is thoroughly coated and piping hot. Turn off heat, add lemon juice, salt & pepper, bottarga (if using) and a sprinkling of the reserved lemon zest. Serve immediately while hot. Bon Appetit!