The Five Food Groups

And now abide the food groups... pasta, cheese, chocolate, wine, and butter, these five. But the greatest of these is butter.

We arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire around 7:00pm to visit Susan and Towny, and Towny’s sister Lisa; we were there to say a sad farewell to their daughter, Alex, who, last August, left this world too early. Wanting to help, I called Susan from the airport to see if we could pick up ingredients for dinner.

“No,” she said, “I’ll go across the street and get some pasta and scallops.”

After hugs and stowing our luggage, we headed back to the kitchen, the warm and inviting nucleus of their home. Susan looked at me rather sheepishly and semi-whispered, “I was kind of hoping you would make dinner.”

As if that was even a slight imposition... It was comforting to be at the helm (stove) of their kitchen again and, honestly, when people are hurting I like cooking for them, nurturing them with food and love. It’s my way.

The dish started with a big skillet and an obscene slab of butter. You see, they had this incredible log of fresh, creamy butter. What was I supposed to do? Ignore it? Besides, butter is emotionally good for you. It is comfort at the highest level.

The butter melted to the most beautiful golden color and, to that, I added shallots and ribbons of carrot, fresh from their friend Claire’s garden.

It began to turn a saffron color from the carrot. A light bulb went on. “Towny?? Do you have any saffron?” I called to the other room. He sure did...

After the saffron, I added a splash of wine (it was rosé, of course), let it cook down a bit, and then added the scallops. In went the al dente pasta.

I was concerned that the pasta would be swimming in butter but I was pleasantly surprised that the pasta soaked up every bit of the butter... The only thing I could do now was add a bit of cream, which I did.

One might think this would have caused toxic butter shock, but it didn’t. We all slept well, the lingering warmth of our dinner still with us as the next day as we walked to church... to celebrate Alex’s life.

~ David

Spaghetti with Buttery Scallops

1 pound spaghetti
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably European
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 carrots cut into ribbons
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch Piment d’Esplette or red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1/3 cup wine - rosé or white wine
1 pound sea scallops, halved into discs
1/3 cup heavy cream
bottarga, for garnish (optional)
parsley, for garnish

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the shallots and the carrot strips. Sauté until both are softened; the shallots should be clear but not brown. Season with a little salt, generously with freshly ground pepper, then add the Piment d’Esplette and saffron, and cook for 1 minute.

Raise the heat to medium-high and the wine, cooking until slightly reduced. Add in scallops and cook for a couple of minutes until the scallops are just opaque.

Add the spaghetti to the pan (reserving cooking water) and continue to cook until the pasta has absorbed most of the sauce. Add the cream and mix it through. If too thick, add the pasta water a couple of tablespoons at a time.

Divide among 4 warmed plates and sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4.

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