Hello, old friends! We’re BACK! You may have noticed that we were on a bit of a hiatus during the first half of the summer. Well, we’ve been a little busy…
LEE & PETER GOT MARRIED!
There was love and pie AND cake and so much LAUGHING and love and beautiful words said by beautiful friends (All Our Friends) and a mood ring and incredible flowers and food and our favorite songs and twinkle lights and story-telling and our favorite people and jump-dancing and cry-laughing and shout-singing and confetti and Walt Whitman and Frank O’Hara and the most hugs we’ve ever gotten in one day and cryptids and Legos and did we mention the jaw-dropping, head-smacking, just-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-ourselves insane amount of love? WHAT A DAY.
And now that we’re back, naturally, there has to be: pasta.
What’s that old stat about how many times a day guys think about sex? Every few seconds or so? A quick Google says it’s, specifically, every 7 seconds.
Whether or not that particular piece of data is totally accurate, it makes for a pretty solid analogy for the way our brains operate when it comes to pasta. We just thought about it now… and… now… Yup, there it is again. See?
Pasta can fulfill all sorts of meal necessities, all sorts of food cravings. We have our old, easy standbys—like this time of year, we’d eat pasta with summer tomatoes, sweet corn, a drizzle of garlicky olive oil, and fistfuls of fresh herbs all day every day if it didn’t mean our bodies would basically turn into human-sized noodles. But one of the beautiful things about pasta is that while it can be something you toss together during your speediest kitchen sprint with whatever you have lying around, it can also be something much more considered (though we’d argue whichever route you go, it’s always our favorite).
Sometimes you raid your fridge in hopes of finding a few things inside that could be pretty tasty when tossed all together with your favorite De Cecco and enough cheese before running out the door to the rest of your evening. And sometimes, you spend your afternoon working dough by hand to just the right texture, rolling it out to just the right thickness, attentively simmering ingredients you brought home just for this one purpose, lovingly plating everything up and settling in for a long meal with a crisp glass of wine on a hot July night.
This recipe is the second sort.
Two spectacular women in our lives, our friends Margaret and Martha, helped spark today’s appropriately spectacular dish: Margaret, with the stunningly deep red saffron she brought back for us from a recent trip, and Martha, with the beautiful assortment of eggs she shared with us, fresh from her very own hens. An inspiring roster of treasures.
It’s true that making your own pasta dough, steeping saffron, using the freshest eggs (and other ingredients) you can get your mitts on takes more consideration, more time than the average day’s meals.
But it doesn’t take too much time. Not so much that it feels wasted or like a chore or unnecessarily spent. And it’s always less than you imagine before you actually do it—and more fun, too. Really, making a meal from scratch using the freshest ingredients available takes just enough to make you feel like: Yeah, I made something today with my own hands. Yeah, I made something that I feel good about and feel good about sharing with other people. And yeah, I’m going to EAT it because I EARNED it and it’s going to be great.
That sounds pretty nice.
The flavors we have going on in this dish, our Saffron Pappardelle with Shrimp + Tarragon, are full of summer and freshness. We’ve got seafood (shrimp: check), fresh herbs (tarragon: check), heat (chili flakes: check), and color (saffron: check). The bright tarragon flavor is unexpected (in part because it’s waaaay underused in cooking): citrusy and refreshing with some licorice-y notes—but don’t let that deter you! We really, really don’t like licorice, but we really, really like tarragon. And it goes exceptionally nicely, not only with the shrimp (which it spruces up a little), but with the saffron’s earthiness, giving the pasta a super satisfying balance of flavors.
So here’s a great way to spend a too-hot afternoon: making something that you can be pretty pleased with yourself about so that you can make the most of these slightly cooler, cicada-soundtracked, firefly-lit, delicious-smelling midsummer nights. Just make sure you have a bowlful of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (Savannah Buttermint Ice Cream, you say? Key Lime Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt, anyone? Atlantic Beach Pie Ice Cream, friend?) on hand to finish things off real correct.
* * * *
Fresh Saffron Pappardelle with Shrimp + Tarragon
Notes: Remember when making pasta: flour is your pal. Keep all sheets and ribbons lightly floured to prevent sticking. Also, we cut our pasta sheets into pappardelle because that’s one of our favorite things, but feel free to cut the dough into any shape you like. Our recipe makes about 1 pound of pasta.
For the shrimp count, we figured on 4 jumbo shrimp per person, but feel free to adjust as you like.
***BEFORE YOU GET COOKING: Soak a good pinch of saffron in 3 tbs of hot—near boiling—water. Let it steep for a half an hour or longer.
- Piece of cheesecloth and piece of kitchen twine for tying up the shrimp shells so you can add them to the pasta water for extra flavor
- Food processor
- Pasta machine
Ingredients for the pasta (makes about 1 lb):
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup semolina flour
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- the saffron you steeped in water earlier
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Ingredients for the shrimp:
- 16 jumbo shrimp (which weighed in at just under a pound), shelled and deveined—shells reserved and wrapped in a piece of cheesecloth, tied up tightly, and set aside
- 1 tbs olive oil
- chili flakes to taste
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced into 1/4 inch rings
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- Juice of one lemon
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- a handful of fresh tarragon, chopped—reserve some for garnish
Make the Pasta
* With the metal blade in place, add the flours to the bowl of your food processor and process for a few seconds to mix.
* Break the eggs into a small bowl. Add the olive oil and the saffron, along with its steeping liquid, and beat with a fork just to mix.
* With the motor on the food processor running, slowly add the egg mixture. Process and pulse until incorporated. The dough should start to ball up on the blade. If the dough sits on top of the blades, turn off the machine, and with a spoon, push the dough to the bottom of the bowl so the blades will catch it. Turn the machine back on and give it a whirl or two. You may need to do this a couple of times.
* Let the machine knead the dough until it looks smooth. If it seems a bit dry and crumbly, dribble in some water a little bit at a time and process. If you over do it and the dough seems too wet, add a little flour in small increments. It should just hold together with a little squeeze with your fingertips.
* Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. Form into a ball.
* Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes or so right on your counter.
* While the dough is resting, set up your pasta machine and work space. Have additional all-purpose flour handy for dusting the dough as you work.
* Unwrap the dough, place on your floured board, and cut into quarters. Set aside one quarter and wrap the others back up.
* Working on your board, flatten the quarter a bit, cut it in half and pass the dough through the rollers of your pasta machine, starting with the first setting.
* After last setting, flour the pasta sheet, place on a floured board and cut into 10 inch long sheets. Lightly flour them again to prevent sticking and cover with a towel or a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
* Loosely roll up each sheet of dough and slice it into ribbons about 3/4″ wide. Lay the strands flat on a floured baking sheet, hang them on a pasta rack—a clean broom handle suspended between two chairs would work— or loosely roll into nests and dust with flour. Don’t bunch the strands tightly together though—air needs to circulate so they won’t stick together.
* Repeat the process with the remaining dough. Once you get into a rhythm, things will go pretty quickly.
* Put a large pasta pot up to boil on your stove. When the water is boiling, salt the water, add shrimp shells tied up in cheese cloth for easy removal, reduce heat, and keep at a simmer until the pasta is ready to be cooked.
Make the Shrimp
* Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil and chili flakes.
* Add the scallions and cook until soft.
* Add the shrimp and sauté, turning occasionally until just opaque.
* Add the garlic, black pepper, and salt to taste. Continue cooking until the shrimp is pink and just cooked through. This should only take a couple of minutes. Don’t overcook or you’ll get rubbery shrimp!
* Remove the shrimp to a plate. Add the white wine and lemon juice to the pan. Scrape up any bits with a wooden spoon and bring to a simmer for two or three minutes.
* Remove from heat. Add the parsley, tarragon, and shrimp. Gently toss and taste for seasoning. Cover with a lid, leaving it slightly askew so everything stays warm. Set aside.
Cook the Pasta
* With tongs or a fork, remove the bundle of shells and discard. Return the water to a boil.
* Add the pasta. It will literally take a couple of minutes to cook so don’t walk away. Stir very gently and continuously.
* When pasta is cooked (carefully taste test a noodle), drain, reserving about 2 cups of the water.
* Add enough cooked pasta for 4 servings to the sauté pan with the shrimp and sauce. If you have more pasta than needed, cool and refrigerate any leftovers.
* Gently toss everything together, adding some of reserved pasta water to make everything nice and saucy.
* Plate, garnishing with extra tarragon.
© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.
All wedding photos by the incredible duo of An Endless Pursuit Photography.
Wedding invitation by Maura McNamara
Wedding Coordinator: Lauren Niles Events
Caterer: Heirloom DC
Tables and Chairs: Barnes Handcrafted Farmhouse Tables
Lighting: 27 Studios
Cakes: Grassroots Gourmet
Pies: Dangerously Delicious Pies
Dress: Leanne Marshall
Hair: Top Knot Studio
Makeup: Pamela Brandes