Linguini & Crayfish in a Saffron Cream Sauce
Growing up in California, we didn't eat crayfish, or crawfish as it's called in some parts of America. Here in The Netherlands, where the life goal is happiness through simplicity, they call it "River Lobster" cause you know, that's basically what it is! Crayfish is a common ingredient here and I love that it's so easy to find. If you can find it, use it! If you cannot, lobster, langoustines or even small shrimps would be an excellent substitute.
Linguini & Crayfish in a Saffron Cream
320 g linguini
520 g green asparagus (stems cut off, not peeled unless very thick and woody)
200 g cooked crayfish (or langoustines or baby shrimps)
2 T olive oil
120 g diced onion
570 ml heavy cream
15-20 g sliced garlic
1/4 t full saffron
1 t lemon juice
1/2 lemon zested
15 g chopped chives
3 T butter
pinch of chili flakes (optional)
In a high-sided pot, way bigger than you would think to use for the amount of cream you are putting in it, pour the cream in with the sliced garlic and bring to a boil-SLOWLY! Cream can boil too quickly and burn AND/OR boil over the sides of the pot very quickly and its a big mess, so keep an eye on it. Once boiling, set on the lowest heat and simmer for 10 minutes without a lid. Then add the saffron and cook for another 5 minutes without the lid. Once the 15 total minutes have elapsed, cover with a lid and turn off the heat. This allows the saffron to really infuse itself into the cream.
Start boiling a large pot of water. Salt it generously! Italians say the water you use to cook pasta, should taste like the sea. Linguini takes about 12 minutes to cook al dente, so be prepared to drop it right away. I like to make sure my sauce is as close to finished as possible before the pasta goes in the water, for timing safety.
While the cream is cooking, in a wide pan with a small amount of water in it (2 cm/1 in. high) boiling, set the asparagus in it for 2 minutes with a lid on. Then remove and place under cold running water until it is cooled. This stops the cooking process and keeps a beautiful green color in your dish. Once cooled, slice them in small rounds, about 1 cm/1/4 in. thick.
In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat up the olive oil and throw in the onions & chili flakes, if you choose to use them. Cook them on medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes with a lid. You want them to become translucent, but not brown. Next, add your cream, scraping out every last drop from the pot it was cooked in with a spatula and add to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low and bring to a boil, slowly. Once boiling, cook it, stirring regularly for about 5-8 minutes (depending on how hot it gets from the kind of pan you use.) Mine took 7 1/2 minutes to reach the right texture, which is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and not slide off too quickly. You can run your finger over the back of the spoon and if the line stays, it's a good sign. You also want to remember, you want the sauce thick enough to end up being a little bit thinned out by the pasta water that falls into the bowl when you serve it.
Once the texture is achieved, salt & pepper it properly. Then, toss in the asparagus & lemon zest. Mix well. Place the lid on until the pasta is done or keep the lid off and warm the asparagus and sauce back up. Once warm, add the lemon juice, chives and butter. Mixing it constantly until the butter is gone.
To plate the pasta, it's really necessary to have some pasta water go with the pasta into the bowl. Serving family style can end up making a big, sticky pasta dish because since the pasta is still hot, it keeps cooking and absorbing the sauce with it. So, I use tongs to grab the right amount of pasta per plate, letting some of the water drip into the bowl with it, Then, I spoon the sauce over the the top. If your pasta still needs some water you can always add it later. BUT if you strain the pasta water, it goes down the sink forever.
Enjoy this dish hot, and make sure you mix it all together.