The wolf is gray
The wolf is hunger
The wolf is primal
Feed the wolf!
The question of the wolf has been on my mind for quite some time. I’ve been struggling to explain what the concept of the wolf means to a cook. Obviously, it’s not a literal description of an animal with hair, fur, claws, and teeth. In my mind, the wolf is figurative; he resides in a deeper, darker place. I like to think of the wolf as hunger. Our desire to eat and feed lets the wolf loose; it hunts and does what it will.
In pursuit of food, we’re all reduced to our basest instincts. Cooks deal with this transformation every day; we are professionally trained to feed the wolves. In exposing this truth, it bears well to remember that the wolf resides in all of us. Even cooks succumb to the gut-wrenching pangs of hunger. We cook for the hungry and in turn are fed.
Wolves can be particular creatures and hard to please. They roam far and wide in search of a meal, and there’s no telling where a wolf may choose to feed from one day to the next. In fact, it’s the wolf’s discerning palate that keeps people like me employed.
My own wolf likes to roam the tiny kitchen in my apartment. He particularly likes to rummage through the pantry, opening one door and another, touching a can here, looking at a jar there. Sometimes I’ll come home late at night and find the wolf staring longingly into the refrigerator. The light casts shadows around me and I feel his presence in the shadows. I’m quiet in this moment, somehow caught in the reverie of longing. His eyes look up and meet mine. I hear a plaintive whine and I know the wolf is hungry.
In moments such as this, when haste is expedient, cook it fast and serve it hot. Here’s a recipe that I’ve used many times to keep the wolf sated and content.
Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp,
Broccoli & lots of Garlic
2 qts of water
1 tsp salt
8 ozs fettuccine pasta
1 head of fresh broccoli cut into small florets (about 2 cups)
1) Bring the water to a boil. Don’t add the pasta yet; I like to blanch my broccoli first. It saves a step and reduces the amount of time and pots to clean.
2) Cook the broccoli in boiling water for about two minutes then use a slotted spoon to chill the broccoli in a bowl with water and ice cubes.
3) Drain the broccoli and set aside.
4) Time for the fettuccine pasta. Add 2 tsp. of vegetable oil to the boiling water. Add the fettuccine and stir every two to three minutes to keep pasta from sticking. It should take about 11-12 minutes to cook al dente.
SHRIMP ALFREDO SAUCE
½ lb. of shrimp, peeled and deveined
5 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh basil (8 -10 leaves), julienned
3 tbsp. of vegetable oil
Pinch of salt and black pepper
16 oz. of heavy cream
¾ cup of Parmesan cheese
5) Marinate the shrimp with the garlic, oil, salt and pepper and a small amount of basil. Keep most of the basil to add at the end just before serving.
6) In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream and reduce by half. This is important: the cream should be reduced until it is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Remember, Parmesan cheese is salty, so be careful with seasoning.
7) Drain the shrimp thoroughly. This is important. Make sure to get a large saute pan extremely hot and add the marinated shrimp. Stir quickly for a minute before adding the cheese sauce.
8) Add the broccoli and stir well
9) Add the cooked fettuccine pasta and the rest of the fresh basil; stir to coat the pasta in sauce.
10) Sprinkle the rest of Parmesan cheese on each portion before serving.
And if you feel as I do, howl at the moon.