This article appears in the March 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
A couple of years ago when the movie The Reader came out, I learned something new about my husband: Food rules his life in an even more iron-gripped way than I had previously understood.
The Reader is the story of a homely German boy who gets to have hot naked relations with much older Kate Winslet. The boy later grows up to be Ralph Fiennes (neither homely nor German) while Kate Winslet gets to stay Kate Winslet, except we learn that she was a Nazi concentration-camp guard some 14 years before she met the boy and started toying with him. Also, everyone in the film speaks English. Fairly early on, the viewer realizes that the alleged fraulein is illiterate — hence the title. Following each session of hot relations, she asks the boy to read aloud to her, and he of course obliges.
While it’s hard to believe that any educated person coming into this movie would not previously have heard about the Bernard Schlink novel on which it is based — it was an Oprah book, for pity’s sake! — it’s even harder to believe that this same educated person would sit through well over half the movie before asking, “What’s her problem?” My husband did not ask himself, mind you, but asked it out loud.
I pinched him and whispered, “Have you been sleeping again? Or is it just that you refuse to take in anything happening to Germans?” Seriously, the guy could listen to an interview with Martin Buber, and his response would be a mock “Heil Hitler!”
It turned out that what alerted him to Kate’s (i.e., the Nazi’s) illiteracy was the scene in which she could not read a menu in a restaurant. He had missed all of the earlier cues, but when it came to the procuring of food, he finally got it. It was, plainly and simply, incomprehensible to him that anyone over the age of five would not know how to read a menu.
After the movie ended, as is his wont, he tried to blame me for his moviegoing density. He said it was my fault for making in advance, but not serving, the lobster sauce we would be having for dinner that night. His mind was on the lobster sauce, as were his palate and stomach.
It’s hard to hold this against him, and yet I do. I want my companions to pay attention to what they’re watching. Still, if something is going to divert the mind, it should be a worthy opponent to Kate Winslet unclothed. And this sauce contains all of the ingredients that make life worth living, starting with lobster.
On the day I made it, I had the meat of a leftover lobster to use, but you can buy lobster meat (already removed from the crustacean) at several local markets. I’ve since made the dish with a combination of lobster and crabmeat, which is equally tasty — some might say even tastier.
The sauce ingredients pretty much speak for themselves. What’s not to work about this combination of flavors and the manner of reducing and enhancing them? It’s a fairly simple feat to carry off.
The part I’ve experimented with involves finding the ideal pasta for the sauce. If you pour it atop a thinner cut of noodle, the pasta tends to disappear; if you pour it over something thicker, such as ravioli, the flavor of the sauce gets overwhelmed by whatever the ravioli is stuffed with. Linguine, I believe, is the answer. Not just any linguine, but the fresh linguine made every day at Lotsa Pasta. I’ve tried making my own from scratch, and it’s just not up to snuff. Yes, yes, I know: Real cooks make their own pasta, just like in Italy. But after a lifetime of trying to perfect the making of various noodles (hey, Dumpling, this is where Germany and Italy come together!) I have given up. It’s not worth the bother. Spend the time on the sauce, and buy a good local product to put underneath it.
Guten Appetit! Wait, I mean, Buon appetito!
The Recipe: Linquine With Lobster Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
4 large shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
A sprinkling of salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup dry white wine or good-quality brandy
3 cups cooked lobster meat (or a combination of lobster and crabmeat)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound fresh linguine
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Heat the butter in a saucepan, and once it’s sizzling (but not brown), add the shallots. Sauté them for three minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another minute before adding the wine or brandy. Cook until the liquor has almost completely evaporated. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, cinnamon and half of the parsley. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir in just enough of the heavy cream to turn the sauce a dark coral-pink color. Stir in the seafood, and keep the sauce warm but not bubbling. Add more cream if the sauce starts to stick.
Cook the linguine until it is al dente. Drain it and toss the pasta back into the pan along with the remaining tablespoon of butter and garlic. Put the pasta in a large bowl and pour the tomato sauce over it. Sprinkle it with the remaining parsley and serve. Serves four.