Penne with Prawns, Cream and Tomato and Blondies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips

by Kristin on October 30, 2009

The only culture shock of going to college in Madison, Wisconsin having grown up right on the state border in Illinois was discovering that people from northern Wisconsin really do have accents like they do in the movie Fargo, and that they say bubbler instead of drinking fountain and soda instead of pop (aka minerals or fizzy drinks in Ireland; oh, the adaptations I’ve had to make). I was genuinely shocked as a freshman, though, to discover that a new friend I’d made in the dorms who came from Maryland had never even heard of bratwurst, much less had one. You mean not all Americans had seen the commercial about Charlie Murphy cooking Johnsonville Brats? Not everyone had beer brats at every summer barbecue? I was just as surprised when my husband and I were first living together and I found out he’d never heard of or had German potato salad, which I’d thought was a staple at every grocery store deli counter. I could understand that bratwurst might be a Midwestern thing, explaining why my east coast friend hadn’t heard of them, but Matt is from Michigan. I was surprised once again when earlier this week I said I was making blondies to bring to a play date the next day, since I’d had an inexplicable craving for them for awhile, and Matt had never heard of those either. “Oh come on,” I said, “you have to know what a blondie is. Every Ruby Tuesday or Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s has a blondie sundae on their dessert menu.” But no, he insisted he had no idea what they were. Not quite a brownie and not quite a cookie, you can have it on its own or, in true over-the-top American chain restaurant style, top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate fudge sauce drizzled over everything. Now I’m wondering what other food is particular to the Midwest — anyone for a lemon Jello ham salad?

Penne with Prawns, Cream and Tomato
adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter
1 x 14-oz (400-g) can of whole plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb (450 g) penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb 2 oz (500 g) raw prawns, peeled and deveined (or you can use the same amount of frozen prawns)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small pan, and when it’s sizzling, add the whole tomatoes, crushing them with the back of a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to packet instructions. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Heat the oil and the rest of the butter, then add the prawns and garlic. Over the highest heat possible, cook the prawns until they’re bright and the undersides are crusty and golden in places (you won’t achieve this with frozen prawns). It’s important that you use a non-stick pan so that the prawns fry quickly instead of boiling in their own liquid. Turn them with tongs, and once they’re cooked, sprinkle them with salt.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Add the tomato sauce to the prawns, along with the cream and parsley. Heat until just bubbling. Add the pasta to the pan and toss everything together. If it seems like you need it, add a little of the reserved cooking water to help the sauce coat the pasta. Serve immediately with a grinding of black pepper.

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Blondies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips
from Bon Appétit, July 1998

Makes approx. 24 blondies

I love Smitten Kitchen‘s idea of making blondies with bourbon or espresso powder, but alas, I was making these to serve to kids. These can be prepared 1 day ahead; just cover and leave out at room temperature.

2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) (140 g) unsalted butter
2 cups (packed) (340 g) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup (130 g) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup (90 g) chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat, then add the sugar and whisk to blend. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract, then gradually stir in the flour mixture (the batter will be thick). Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle with the chocolate chips and pecans. Bake the blondies for about 25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. (Don’t overcook them, or they’ll turn out hard and dry.) Cool the blondies in the pan on a rack. Cut into squares and serve.

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