I spent a few enjoyable weeks in Spain in the late 1990s. Much of the food was memorable, but none of the dishes influenced me more than this one, served in a small, but excellent restaurant in Madrid. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that upon return to home I immediately tried to emulate it, with some success. It is very simple, but delicious and attractive. We have probably made it 100 times over the last 20 years. Only recently did I learn that it is, in fact, at standard recipe in Spain, however I have no idea how that came to be. In any case it is called Spaghetti Rasputin, named after Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the mystical adviser and healer friend of Czar Nicholas II. The connection with this “mad monk” would appear to be the dollop of caviar that adorns the dish, and possibly the sharpness of fresh chilies. Be that as it may, it is wonderful and quickly prepared, needing only a fresh, green salad to make a delici0us and memorable meal.
A note about smoked salmon and caviar: There are enormous differences in quality and a high price may not guarantee the best. Ideally, one would chose wild-caught salmon, but just because it says it is that on the package it may not be true and it may not say anything about taste. It is best to trust your eyes and nose. If buying prepackaged fish in a supermarket, which is not the first choice, but may be necessary, it will be best to buy a package and then open it after paying. If it smells fishy or “off” you can return it without having to drive back to the store. You know then to look elsewhere. Smoked salmon should smell of the sea with a slight smokiness. It should also be deep pink and not light pink or grayish. At most there should be only very few white fatty streaks, which are a sign of poorly farmed fish. If you have a good fish monger he or she will let you smell it before buying. If you find a good source make note of it and you will know what you are getting the next time you buy.
Now about caviar: We have never made this recipe with true caviar such as Beluga or Sevruga (from sturgeon). We generally have trout or salmon roe in the refrigerator and use that. True caviar is such a delicacy that it would be a shame to serve it together with other flavorful ingredients such as those in this dish. When I had it in Spain they served it with the black roe of lumpfish, which is fine, too. The dish can be served without any “caviar,” too.
This is one of those amazingly simple recipes that just work.
For 4 servings
2 small shallots peeled and finely chopped
6 oz (200 g) smoked salmon sliced
2 small tub of caviar (trout, salmon or lumpfish roe are all fine)2 small chilies (or according to taste)
6 oz (200 ml) of sweet cream
2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbl butter
freshly ground pepper
Cook the spaghetti ‘al dente’.
In a medium pan sautee the shallots in the butter until soft. Mix the cream and cornstarch and add to the pan and cook to thicken.
Reduce the heat and carefully place the slices of salmon in the pan. When the fish is warm correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve over the pasta and garnish with a few small dallops of caviar. Serve with a fresh green salad.