GAMBERI IN SALSA
Shrimp in Strong Sweet
is almost New Years and you might be looking for something
special to prepare. Here's a recipe that can be both a great appetizer
with some simple pasta, a fancy and extremely tasty full
Large shrimp bathed in a fantastic sauce made up from shrimp
and fish stock, raisins, cinnamon, pine nuts and sweetened lemon peels.
An Italian preparation that may be new to you, as it was to us. It was
a great discovery!
Even better, most
of this meal can be prepared in advance leaving plenty of time to relax
e have a lot of cookbooks. Yes, the internet can serve up an
almost infinite number of free recipes, but we find that there is
something about browsing through
a book. This way you find things you might never think of trying. We
had some fish stock and a bag of Mexican White Shrimp in the freezer,
wanted something different. Put that into Google and in .54 seconds
there were 14,200,000 pages to look at. We were thinking Italian. Add
that to Google and there were merely 8,240,000 results. The first
several pages were all cioppino. We went to our bookshelf and pulled
out a classic and leafed through it, and found something completely
different from anything we had ever tried. Internet recipes are
technically free and that is a valid reason not to buy books. We
probably are just old fashioned, but having the book in hand, leafing
through pages slowly, savoring the lines of thought of a particular
author, is rewarding. Skimming pages on the 'net isn't the
we do it but somehow it actually takes us longer to find an interesting
new recipe on the internet than in our library of books. And you can't
make notes on your PC or phone (ok, with the right app, yes you can,
but do you?).
We adapted our recipe from one in The
which was first published in Italy circa
to be one of the most popular cookbooks in the world. It was
translated from Italian to English in 2005. According to the publisher
the Italian version was "an instant classic, selling over one million
copies in eight editions. Considered essential in every household, it
continues to be one Italy’s most popular wedding presents."
The Financial Times
says: "The most successful Italian cookbook of all time."
And yet, the one-star reviews on Amazon that address its usefulness as
a cookbook dwell on things like "simplistic"
or "not enough pictures"
or "there are better
recipes on the internet".
have cookbooks that we almost never use, but they aren't the ones
that are 'simple'. They are the ones where the chef has gone out of his
or her way to throw in dozens of ingredients, often only easily
available to a restaurant, and plates them in grand style that no home
chef wants to deal with. We might for special occasions but do you
always need recipes that are complex? There's a reason this
is a wedding present. Many people at the start of a marriage may be
more used to dining out, or out of a box. Cooking is an art and a skill
and for most does take a bit of learning.
By the way, we
certainly aren't trying to make money 'selling' this book. Fact is it
appears to be out-of-print. You can get used copies for prices ranging
from $50 to $1000. These are the recipes that, if you are Italian, you
remember your mother and grandmother making. Though many are close to
how to boil a potato (instructional if you don't know how!) others are
like the one we present here. Interesting and delicious. We might one
night cook from a book by Alice Waters of the famed Chez Panisse, or
another night from The
Woman's Home Companion,
printed in 1942 and passed down
is an omelet? At it's most basic, nothing more than eggs and
salt. A dish that can take less than a minute to prepare. Yet, Julia
Child, in Mastering the
Art of French Cooking
spends 3 pages showing you how
to cook those eggs. Great chefs remember the time they first perfected
the making of an omelet.
The Silver Spoon
book, filled with ideas for both the 'big' and the 'small'. From the
standpoint of an American, it also brings to life another world and
another time. Truly, if you get good ingredients, when something is
simple that doesn't mean it is to be ignored.
We expect there
are those who will complain that our dish here is NOT simple, yet,
the somewhat unusual step of candying some lemon rind (nothing more
than lemon, sugar and water in a pot), there is nothing unusual about
it. And, if you can boil water, the full meal we suggest just pairs the
appetizer recipe with a plate of spaghetti tossed with some parsley,
garlic, red pepper flakes and doused with good olive oil.
Simple, yes. And yet, we thought it good enough for a New Year's dinner
in a year where you don't want to be doing things that are just
To the New Year and better times ahead.
Large Mexican White Shrimp
These are what a really good butcher shop we frequent sells (along with
stocks). According to one of the butchers, Mexican White
Shrimp are 'the only ones to buy'. The store also supplies it to a fine
establishment we know that specializes in only the best ingredients.
They do tend to be a bit sweeter than some shrimp and we find them to
tasty. That is not to say that other shrimp can't be used (though we
suggest large shrimp for this recipe) but brushing up on what shrimp
are all about is a good idea and we refer you, once again, to
for a quick
primer on shrimp
. As a teaser, we love what they have to say
buying pre-cooked shrimp: "Just
don't. 'Pre-cooked' shrimp should almost universally be labeled
'overcooked' shrimp. They're usually rubbery and bland, and since
they're already cooked, offer no room for flavor improvement and will
end up dry when added to dishes. Leave them be."
Be aware that almost all shrimp you see out on a seafood counter were
previously frozen. Techniques for flash freezing these days are
pretty good and you don't need to ask for 'fresh shrimp'. Some markets
receive shrimp in 2 pound bags and when there is shrimp we like we ask
the market to sell us the still frozen bag. That way we can defrost
what we want when we want.
One more thing about shrimp in general. Producers may add chemicals.
Sodium bisulfite is added to prevent melanosis (also known as 'black
spot'). This is done for aesthetic reasons. Of more concern is the
addition of tripolyphosphate. It causes the shrimp to absorb water,
possibly up to 10%. So not only are you paying for that water, the
result is that when you go to pan fry the shrimp the water is released
and instead of getting a nice sear, they steam instead and are mushy.
When you buy shrimp by the bag, check the ingredients. For best results
it should just say SHRIMP.
For this recipe you want
shrimp that have not been peeled. In fact, no matter what purpose you
might be buying shrimp for, we think you should always buy unpeeled
shrimp. Those peels, as they are used here will
to making a truly rich broth. When peel-on shrimp is not part of a
recipe, we still buy them and save the shells in the freezer. When
there are enough we
make a quick shrimp stock, reduce it and
put it back in the freezer. Frozen gold for some later
And we do mean quick! While we, like we suppose many, might think
simmering something for a long time does a better job at getting
flavor. This, according
to Cook's Illustrated
(and after following their instructions, we agree), is wrong.
They brown the
shells in a pot and then
simmer them with water, peppercorns, a bay leaf, and salt for no
more than a five minutes.
Pine nuts are expensive. Even more expensive are toasted pine nuts. You
can save some money by toasting them yourself, but, as we have learned
from experience, there is a decent chance of burning them. So much for
cash. But recently we came across a way that seems almost foolproof,
which we discussed recently in
. Take a look!
what is fish fumet? It's a fish stock. Some use the term
interchangeably with fish stock, but Mirriam-Webster defines
'fumet' as a reduced and seasoned fish, meat, or
That's what we are after in this recipe. We were lucky enough to have
some fish stock in the freezer which we had already reduced to save
space. For most that's probably not going to be the case.
What to do?
You could go ahead and prepare your own. Here's a perfectly
High end grocers may have their own fish stock ready to go. Many
supermarkets will have fish stock, often in cartons. Markets that don't
have fish stock may very well stock clam juice in a bottle. Used
judiciously, that can be a good substitute (see this
at Serious Eats for more about that). There are also
boullion style fish and lobster stocks in jars, such as those
that we have found in many supermarkets. You might even have some in
your pantry. When using boullions or clam juice, watch out for the salt
they contain and adjust your recipe to account for it.
don't find any of those solutions workable, anchovies or little tubes
of anchovy paste are almost universally available. Try grinding up a
few in a small food processor or blender with garlic (or use a mortar
and pestle... or even just the side of cleaver). Maybe add a few drops
of worcestershire sauce or Nam Pla, an Asian fish sauce that is
becoming more and more findable. We keep it on hand for the extra umami
it gives to dishes (but use sparingly!).
We think this make an excellent appetizer for a special occassion.
At the same time, paired with pasta, you get a tasty meal.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a dinner with pasta
GAMBERI IN SALSA
Shrimp in Strong Sweet
- 1 pound 16 - 20 count shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve
the shells). We suggest using good Mexican White Shrimp
- 5 TB olive oil
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup Fish Fumet (For this recipe, reduce regular fish
stock by half to get fish fumet.)
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seed and chopped or 1/2 of a 14 oz
- 2 lemons
- 1 TB sugar
- All purpose flour (enough to dust the shrimp)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- scant 1/2 cup golden raisins are suggested (but you could
ordinary raisins, we did)
- 1 TB toasted pine nuts
- salt and pepper
Heat 3 TB of the oil in a large pan. Add the shrimp shells, carrots,
celery, onion and leek. Cook over low heat stirring occasionally until
the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the brandy and cook until
it is evaporated. Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Add the fish
fumet, thyme, bay leaf and tomatoes.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is thickened somewhat.
Look for thickly breaking bubbles. Do not let it all boil down
want there to be enough liquid to capture by straining.
Place the contents of the pan in a sieve or chinois and strain the
liquid into a new pot (we prefer non-stick for this step). Remember to
take a large spoon or other appropriate tool to push down on the
vegetables to extract all
Simmer the liquid until it is
reduced to 5 or 6 Tablespoons. Take the pot off the heat and set aside.
Pare the lemons, avoiding all the white pith. Long strips are nice but
not mandatory. Cut the peel into very thin batons (the size of
matchsticks). Squeeze lemons and strain the juice. Reserve.
Using three separate changes of boiling water, blanch the batons three
times. Drain the water and place the rinds into a small pot. Add the
sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Bring the water to a boil and stir until
the sugar is dissolved then boil without stirring until the lemon rind
is coated with the syrup. Don't overcook, you don't want it to get so
hard that you can't get it out of the pot. Remove from the heat. The
rinds may harden or mass into a ball but if you haven't overcooked them
they will come apart when placed in the sauce.
You can do all the above in advance which means there's very little
left to do!
Lightly dust the shrimp with the flour. Heat the remaining 2 TB of
olive oil in a large pan. Add the shrimp and season with salt and
pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned.
the cinnamon. Add the reserved stock, lemon juice, lemon rind, raisins
and pine nuts and mix well. Season with salt to taste and serve.
If you would like to pair the shrimp with pasta, we suggest the
PASTA AGLIO E OLIO
Pasta with Garlic and Oil
8 oz. thin or angel hair pasta (or even just regular spaghetti). We
used De Cecco No. 11 Thin Spaghetti.
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3rd cup (more or less to taste) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp (more or less to taste) hot red pepper flakes
10-15 large sprigs Italian parsley, chopped (leaves only if you want to
be fancy and avoid crunch; we just use it all)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large pan (we prefer non-stick for this), heat the oil,
then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste then
cook over low heat until the garlic just starts to turn brown. About 2
Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the large pan. Add the
parsley and toss. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Add
a little more olive oil if you like. Serve immediately with the shrimp
to the side.
e drank a
with the meal and it was a fine match. If you don't have one around or
want to celebrate with a Nalle, consider (if you have one)
the 2018 Nalle Hopkins Ranch Sparkling,
their own version of a Blanc de Blancs. Made in the
traditional Champagne method with secondary fermentation in the bottle
and no dosage at disgorgement (no sugar added), this wine will surely help to ring
in the new year.
Here is a summary
of the recipe in a .pdf you can print