Spaghetti with Saffron Cream and Chilies

Given the fascinating degree of human variation, from DNA (useful in fighting crime) to eye color (useful in not much), it’s interesting that tourist-choked Broadway is a study in similarity. In other words, we look so alike that a 5’6” guy is considered on the short side-a difference of only a few inches from “the norm”-and surplus of a mere 20 pounds or so is thought of as distinctive.

However, there do exist on this earth, people who are truly different: they may best be seen courtside at your local NBA arena, the land of the super-tall, where 6’1 is a height worthy of compassion, a look that says “what a sweet little guy”. Bill Walton strolled past me once on the way to the announcer’s table, and it was like being nudged by a walking palm tree.

Reading a recipe the other day, Knicks game in the background, I considered the definition of “pinch”, the most common-yet universally accepted-imprecise quantity cookbook suggestion. I appreciate imprecision in recipes, actually: it carries an air of creativity and whimsy to cooking, so often “constipated” (in Roux brothers’ Franglais) by military-like commands.

And so, I enjoy the “pinch” (or its sister, the lesser used “splash”), cooking’s tiny version of free-form verse. The only issue with the pinch is that it doesn’t account for variations in finger size, which is how we return to human variation. While most fingers are similar, there’s always the guy with super-tiny digits, or an otherwise proportioned human save for a set of giant hands. Or, as we return to the NBA, a 7-foot center who could crush a coke can with two fingers.

In the creative spirit of “the pinch”, this recipe is inexact and not intended as a strict guide. And since, even power forwards have to cook, a “pinch” of this or a “splash” of that, will do.

(NOTE: The instinct with this pasta is to toss it with some kind of seafood or chicken, but just because a dish has saffron doesn’t turn it into paella. I say honor the saffron. The chili flakes add a little balance.)

Pasta with Saffron Cream and Chili Flakes

Serves 4

2 shallots, minced
splash olive oil
½ cup or so white wine
generous pinch saffron
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup or so heavy cream
1 pound spaghetti
several pinches chili flakes
salt and pepper

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil, add the shallots and gently cook until soft but not browned.
  3. Add the wine, butter and saffron and simmer until reduced by half. Drop the pasta into the water to cook. Add the cream and simmer until reduced by at least half or until sauce consistency.
  4. Drain pasta, add to the saffron cream, season with chili flakes, salt, pepper, and serve.

One Comment

  1. Wow… saffron! I have never cooked with saffron before. I wonder how it is taste. By the way, your spaghetti looks very colorful!

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