Food We Love: Seafood Pasta Recipe Featuring Mussels, Shrimp and Calamari
Welcome to Food We Love, our Sun-Times video series featuring stories about Chicagoans family food traditions, secret recipes, special ingredients and unusual favorite dishes. Each week we’ll hear a new story about food and family and learn some amazing recipes that you can try at home. Our host is Chicago journalist Linda Yu who loves cooking at home, as well as exploring new restaurants throughout the city.
Today’s episode: Cooking seafood pasta with Chef Sean West of Lark Restaurant in Lakeview.
Cooking Seafood Pasta with Chef Sean West
His first job in the food industry was delivering pizzas. From there, he got a job at Burger King. Sean West had no idea he would someday become a chef, but he knew food was an important part of his life. Not just eating it, but learning how to cook it.
Sean and his younger brother were being raised by their mother when she realized it was important for her to go back to college to get her degree. Sean was 12 years old, but he decided to help by taking on the cooking. After school and football practice, Sean rushed home to figure out how to put dinner on the table. What started as a challenge turned into a passion. At Christmas, when his mom brought home a beef tenderloin, he figured out what to do with it. The delicious result was a hit, and as Sean says, “I was hooked.”
West started cooking as a child
Leaving fast food aside, Sean got a job at a restaurant near his family home in western Michigan. It was exciting and exotic because the restaurant had a wood-fired oven. He began learning how to be a chef as well as how to manage a staff and the restaurant itself. Sean was hungry to learn and soon he was devouring cookbooks and chef biographies. To this day, he has a few beloved cookbooks that inspired him as he decided to move to Chicago to attend Kendall College. Chicago also meant he was in the orbit of famous chefs such as Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz and Thomas Keller. Sean worked in a number of fine restaurants, learning from some exacting chefs, perfecting techniques while beginning to be confident enough to create his own recipes.
A dream job working for Chef Ryan McCaskey at Chicago’s Acadia reinforced his feelings about sustainability, supporting local farmers , appreciating the freshest seafood, demanding the best ingredients.
Sean says it was love at first sight when he met his wife Jessica, who also works in the hospitality industry. When their daughter was born, Sean’s focus really turned to healthy foods. He’s now the executive chef of the popular Boystown restaurant, Lark. Sean taught me how to cook one of Lark’s popular dishes — and one of my personal favorites — a seafood pasta with shrimp, calamari and mussels, plus homemade vodka tomato sauce. Plus, he also shared the recipe for one of Lark’s popular summer cocktails.
Lark’s Seafood Pasta
- 5 oz. mezzi rigatoni
- ½ oz. neutral oil (corn, canola, vegetable or any oil that won’t add flavor to dish)
- 2 oz. shrimp, tailed and butterflied
- 3 oz. fresh calamari, cleaned
- 2 oz. mussels, cleaned
- 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. shallots, minced
- 2 oz. white wine
- 2 oz. marinara sauce
- 1 oz. heavy cream
- 1 oz. Parmesan, grated
- Shredded basil and shaved Parmesan for garnish
- Boil pasta in salted water until al dente, strain and set aside (keep boiled water to be used later as needed).
- Add oil to medium skillet and saute seafood beginning with shrimp (until half cooked). Add calamari, then add mussels. Cook until mussels open.
- Add garlic and shallots, taking care to sweat (should appear translucent) not brown.
- Deglaze sauce by adding wine and reducing heat to thicken. Add marinara and cream, bring to a simmer.
- Add pasta and Parmesan, stir to coat with sauce. If too thick add small increments of water from boiled pasta until desired consistency is reached.
- Plate and garnish with shredded basil and shaved Parmesan.
After we sampled the Lark’s Seafood pasta dish, Sean showed me how to make one of the restaurants popular summer cocktails. It’s called the Cucumber Duck Duck Mule.
Lark’s Cucumber Duck Duck Mule
- 1.5 oz. Stoli cucumber vodka
- ½ oz. lime juice
- ½ oz. Red Bull
- 2 oz. Stoli ginger beer
- 2 dashes of Thai bitters
- Garnish: lime and a miniature rubber duck
- Pour vodka into an 8-oz. glass.
- Add lime juice and Red Bull.
- Top with ginger beer and add two dashes of Thai bitters.
- Garnish with lime wedge. If you’re throwing a party and want to be festive set a miniature rubber duck afloat.