Any great recipe is a blend of all five flavors. Sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami. Sometimes they are barely identifiable, swirling around and coating your mouth. The food should prey on your every sense, your eyes, your nose, your mouth, your skin. Hear it sizzle. Hear it crack between your teeth. Eating should be a visceral experience, each of us reduced to something more primal.
I am twenty years old when I try squid ink for the first time. An old boyfriend makes it in the form of a risotto. Here, taste this, he says, and I see the blackness, smell the salty scent of the sea, hear the slightly al dente grains crunch, my mouth filled with silken brininess. I think of the ocean. The huge blue expanse of the Pacific, the fishermen with their catch. The clams, the mussels, the carpet sharks, the urchins. The way the jellyfish drifted up to the sandy shoreline. The eel I nearly stepped on. Squid ink is the flavor of the sea.
Pairing squid ink with seafood is natural. Here, the brininess of the squid ink is softened in a pasta and then paired with the gentle sweetness of clams. I scoop it up from the pan on the stove. It never makes it to the plate, but the sauce does make it to my apron.
Wipe my mouth off. Start again.
This is the third plate. The one I finally photographed once my mouth was slower than my hands.
This is for you.
squid ink fettuccine
2 cups 00 flour
2 eggs + 1 yolk
1 tablespoon squid ink
1.5 tablespoons warm water
1/4 tsp salt
Form a mound of mixed dry ingredients with a well in the center. Slowly mix, from the center out, with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated and dough is smooth and substantial (6-8 minutes).
To shape the pasta, use the progressive technique. That is, roll the dough out on a well-floured surface. set pasta roller to 1 and feed the dough sheet through. Turn pasta roller to 2 and feed dough sheet through. Repeat until 5 has been reached. Switch to fettuccine cutter and feed well-floured dough sheet through. Rest on a well-floured half-sheet (baker's or cookie sheet) tray.
Pasta will cook in boiling, salted water for about 2-3 minutes. Check often.
clams in white wine
1 lb clams (steamers, littlenecks, or cherrystones)
2 cups white wine
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp minced shallots
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced parsley
1 oz lemon juice
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste
Melt butter in a large saucepot (or sautoir, a large saute pan with straight sides). Reduce to medium heat and add garlic, shallots, red pepper, and wine. Add clams and cover, steam 4-5 minutes or until clams have opened. Toss out any that do not open. Remove from heat, stir in parsley and lemon juice. Serve.