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Capellini Noodles with Oysters, Spicy Sausage, and Watercress
Courtesy of Brigit Binns, Author of The New Wine Country Cookbook – Recipes from California’s Central Coast



Serves 6

The divine marriage of ranch, sea, garden, and dairy in this perky yet sensual dish epitomizes my goal to eat all across the spectrum of California’s lush bounty. Be sure to plan the final assembly carefully, since there is nothing worse than an overcooked oyster! If you have all your ducks in a row, this dish is very quick to assemble yet still elegant, and eminently suitable for company.

  • 12 ounces pre-cooked, spicy pork sausage, about 3 links, sliced ½-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 pound dried imported capellini noodles
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pint small, shucked oysters, with their liquor (halve or quarter larger, Pacific oysters)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 small bunch watercress, tender leaves and stems only, roughly chopped
     

Preheat a cast iron grill pan or cast-iron skillet until hot. Sizzle the sausage slices for 2 minutes, turning over halfway through, until brown and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper towel and cut in half, so they are about the size of the oysters. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Warm six wide bowls in a low oven. When the water is about to boil, melt the butter in a very large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots to the butter and sauté, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until they are softened. Add the broth and thyme to the sauté pan and increase the heat to medium-high. When the broth in the sauté pan is simmering, add the capellini to the boiling water and, at the same time, stir the cream, oysters with their liquor, and white pepper into the broth. Cook both the sauce and the pasta for about 3 minutes, then quickly but energetically drain the pasta and add it to the sauce along with the reserved sausage and the watercress. Decrease the heat to low and toss the mixture with tongs just until the pasta is evenly coated and heated through; do not overcook or the oysters will be tough. Remove the thyme sprig and serve immediately.


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