I am not very good with growing herbs. The only ones to flourish on my balcony are basil, sage, rosemary (and not always!), parsely, pennyroyal (called “menta romana”), chives, and marjoram. I have lots of trouble with oregano and mint – and thyme isn’t very collaborative either. But the winner is … yes, you’ve guessed it: dragoncello. It just keeps growing, bless it, year after year (as witnessed by the above photo). I used some sprigs to season a bottle of vinegar a couple of years ago, and I sometimes use it in sauces or for a particular chicken recipe. For the rest, I have become too Italian to know how best to use it in my cooking. I associate tarragon with French and English food.
So … every now and then I crave shell fish. And every now and then I have to resort to buying frozen. My compromise is to buy the best quality frozen I can find (read: the most expensive) otherwise what is the point. Still, I know that they spray some kind of preservatives over frozen fish to prevent them from going yukky, including something akin to bleach – which would explain the nasty whiff one gets sometimes with frozen fish. Nowadays, apparently, they’ve done away with the awful stink and it’s all for the better. Even so … I rinse my shell fish, after it has defrosted, I can’t tell you how many times. Many many many, let me tell you.
“Gamberoni” or langoustines remind me of a friend and former yoga teacher of mine, the beautiful Francoise Dubo. This charming French lady cooked some for my husband and me not long after we had married, and I still haven’t forgotten how good they were (and they were fresh, yes). She was surprised that there was no fresh tarragon to be had in Frascati. The word for tarragon in Italian is “dragoncello”, which means “little dragon” – and it is true, it is hardly used at all in Italian cuisine. Hence, very difficult to find fresh. So Francoise had to resort to using dried tarragon. With a little inward chuckle, I mused over the irony that I was going to use fresh tarragon and frozen langoustines this time.
Some garlic, olive oil and butter.
I added the tarragon shortly after taking this photo. See below.I added some cognac.
Once the cognac had cooked off its alcohol, I added some cream. Salt and pepper (white pepper if you have some).
Ready to be served.
To accompany this dish, I cooked spinach the way my mother used to. It’s a recipe she learned in Sweden, but I suspect that it has very French origins. The spinach is quickly boiled in salted water, then drained, squeezed and roughly chopped. Boil an egg. Cool it and grate it or chop it with a knife if you prefer. Slice and cooke an onion. Add a pinch of nutmeg, some paprika and some cream. Salt and pepper.
It is a very old-fashioned way of cooking spinach – very rich too. We like to cook it this way at times and it seemed like just the best accompaniment for Francoise’s langoustines.
Please don’t ask me how long it took to cook the langoustines – not a long time at all. A question of minutes.
As you can see, the flesh is not overcooked, it hasn’t gone “gummy”.
Merci bien, chère amie, grazie Francoise. E grazie Mamma too ! Sometimes it’s nice to go old school (butter, cognac, cream, tarragon).