Sometimes, good meals evolve from the simplest of things. A tiny spark of imagination, or an unexpected moment of discovery can result in a meal that looks like it was carefully planned and fully conceived.
This morning, while I was rummaging through the garden, searching for the last few tomatoes to pluck before the upcoming frost, I found several garlic plants that had recently sprouted. The garlic plants were a carryover from the garlic that I had planted earlier in the spring. I’ve never been able to get garlic plants to produce large bulbs but the plants shoot out of the ground, like they are on a mission! So, I decided to pull some of the garlic plants and use them for cooking.
The green leaves and white stems of garlic plants, called scapes, are edible and, as you might expect, they taste like garlic. I sometimes like to use them in stir-frys, to flavor the cooking oil. This time, I decided to add them some butter, to make a compound butter.
After I decided to make the compound butter, I thought that the butter would pair well with pasta and the rest of the dish fell together easily. I wanted shrimp with the pasta but, I knew that some people might prefer chicken over shrimp, so I prepared both.
This will serve 3 to 4 people.
6 Tbs butter
4 fresh garlic scapes (green garlic leaves)
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp lemon juice
2 green onions, chopped. Reserve white stems.
3 cups dry pasta (I used Farfalle – butterfly pasta)
1 lb chicken breast, pounded into ¼ inch slices
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, mixed with 2 Tbs water
8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
About 1/4 cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 head of Romaine lettuce
3 small tomatoes
Vinegar and oil salad dressing
Chop the garlic scapes into small pieces. Reserve the white stems.
Add garlic scapes, thyme and lemon juice to the butter. Allow the butter to rest at room temperature for a few hours. When the butter has softened, mix to combine.
Prepare the pasta, according to the directions on the package. Remove from heat just before the pasta reaches ‘al dente’. Set aside.
Slice chicken breast into flat pieces. Pound down to ¼ inch thick slices. Set aside.
Wash, peel and devein the shrimp and set aside.
Arrange a dredging station. Mix the egg with water, in a bowl. Scatter a thin layer of breadcrumbs onto a plate.
Add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of the compound butter mixture. Set heat to medium. Add a few garlic scapes and green onion stems to the pan.
Once the garlic and onion soften and begin to char, dredge chicken pieces in egg and lightly coat with breadcrumbs. Add chicken to the pan and avoid overcrowding.
Brown the chicken and turn it over to brown on the other side. Total cooking time for the chicken is about three minutes.
Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with a little salt. Once all of the chicken has been cooked, wipe the skillet to remove charred bits and oil. Add one tablespoon of the compound butter mixture and turn the heat off. This will allow the butter to melt, without burning. Add a few garlic scapes and green onion stems.
Finish heating the pasta before returning to the skillet to prepare the shrimp.
Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of the compound butter mixture to the pot, containing the cooked pasta. Turn the heat to low and stir, to coat the pasta with butter. A Parmesan cheese and turn the heat off. Keep the pot on the stovetop, to keep warm.
Return your attention to the skillet. The butter should be melted. Turn the heat to medium high and add the shrimp. Cook on one side for one minute. Turn the shrimp and cook for one more minute. Remove the shrimp to a serving platter.
Add the cooked chicken to the serving platter.
Gently stir the pasta to blend in the Parmesan cheese.
Transfer the pasta to a serving dish.
Scatter chopped green onions over the pasta, shrimp and chicken.
Serve with a simple garden salad of lettuce and tomato. Toss with vinaigrette dressing.