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Squid Ink Pasta with Uni (Sea Urchin) Butter

The inspiration for this dish was a fantastic dinner that I enjoyed at Bar La Grassa [1] more than a year ago. Since that amazing evening I have made squid ink pasta many times, but pinned for the opportunity to toss it with an uni butter.

Oftentimes, maki sushi is topped with uni. Let’s just say that served in this manner is an acquired taste for some; me included. However, when mixed with butter and tossed with pasta and a sprinkling of minced chives it becomes an delightful combination of flavors.

Serves 6 as main or 8 as first course

1 pound squid ink pasta [3]*
1 pound, about 4 per person (14 – 16 count) shrimp, shell-on
1/2 small onion or 1 shallot, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 peppercorns
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
10 tablespoons (5 oz/ g) softened unsalted butter, divided
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup uni (sea urchin)
1 cup dry champagne, optional (I enjoyed one from Gratiot-Pillière [4])
1 -2 cups seafood stock, freeze any remaining for another use.
Red pepper flakes or Piment d’espelette to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Chives, minced for garnish

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells. In a medium saucepan, place the shrimp shells, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Cover with water by about an inch (start with at least 3 cups of water) and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and allow to barely simmer for about an hour. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Reserve the stock and discard the shells, etc. If making the day before, cool in an ice bath. Refrigerate what is needed and freeze any remaining for another use.

Place a small sauté pan over medium heat, add bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon butter. Cook stirring often until the bread crumbs become toasty brown. Remove from heat and transfer to a small plate to stop the cooking.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, whip together the remaining butter and uni. Set aside. When ready to proceed, set a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and the olive oil. Add the shrimp and sauté just until they are cooked through. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside. Add the champagne, if using, and stock and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer and reduce to about 1/4 cup. Set aside. When pasta is cooked, drain and reserve about a cup of the pasta liquid.

Add the pasta to the sauté pan, stir in the uni butter, the cup of pasta liquid and the reserved shrimp.  Toss everything together until heated through. Divide pasta and shrimp among heated plates.  Top with toasted bread crumbs, cheese and chives and serve immediately.