On a recent weeknight I found my after-work plans cancelled, and when I got home I realized I had nothing in the fridge for dinner. So I opened the cupboard to see what canned goods I could cobble together for a meal. The resulting pasta dish was so delish I had to be sure to document my creation so I could make it again for a planned meal.
‘Cooking by feel’ is my favourite way to make a dish, getting hooked on this come-what-may method back in the 1990s thanks to James Barber, The Urban Peasant. Long before the Food Network, this half-hour show on CBC was a delight for those of the culinary sect with little time on their hands, but full on creativity. Essentially cooked and filmed in real-time with no secondary kitchen hidden behind the scenes, Barber effortlessly put together a few dishes each episode with mostly standard ingredients, with which most kitchens are stocked, in a hurry and with no fancy tools. I still often refer to his 1993 Quick & Simple cookbook that profiles the basic recipes as they were done show.
As you read the title below, yes I did just happen to have escargot, smoked oysters, and artichokes in the cupboard. A picky eater I am not.
fusilli with escargot, smoked oysters, artichokes, and mushrooms
1 package (about 400g) dried fusilli (wheat or brown rice pasta)
1 tbsp butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (398ml) artichoke hearts, drained, reserving liquid (combine with liquid from other cans, below), roughly chopped
1 can (398ml) straw oyster mushrooms, drained, reserving liquid, roughly chopped (or your canned mushrooms of choice)
1/4 C dry vermouth (or white wine)
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 can (200g) escargot*, drained, reserving liquid, roughly chopped
1 tin (85g) smoked oysters*, drained, discarding liquid, whole
1/2 C 2% milk
1/2 C reserved liquid
1 tbsp spelt or wheat flour
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
- Boil pasta according to directions on package. Drain and set aside when ready.
- While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallots, sauteing for 3 minutes. Add garlic, saute 2 more minutes.
- Add artichokes and mushrooms to shallots and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring as needed.
- Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the cream cheese, stirring in place at the bottom of the pot until melted and the incorporate into the mixture.
- Pour vermouth into mixture, and cook for 3 minutes, until mostly absorbed.
- Add escargot and oysters, incorporate and cook for 5 minutes.
- Pour in milk and reserved liquid, stirring. Allow to come to a simmer, and let cook for 3 minutes. Stir in shredded cheese.
- Sprinkle flour over surface and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and let simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Spoon sauce over drained cooked pasta.
* If you’re not a fan of smoked oysters, still give this recipe a go. The oysters mostly ‘melt’ into the sauce, but their smoked flavour makes the dish. If you’re not a fan of escargot, cooked shrimp would make a nice substitute.