Monday, July 30, 2007

Recipe Three-Ways: Shrimp and Cherry Tomato Persillade

This dish is one of my stand-bys. It's based on the Shrimp Persillade recipe from James Peterson's "Fish & Shellfish" (highly recommended), but underwent a metamorphosis the summer that I made my first stab at container gardening.

Let's just say that my efforts weren't very successful - a cat dug up my pot of turnips and radishes, my snow peas wilted, and the lemon cucumbers were so evil (spiney, snaking vines that tried to strangle the other plants) that I uprooted them myself. But the cherry tomatoes thrived. I had planted two pots: one of fairly ordinary red grape tomatoes, and one of sweet, flavorful, golden-orange sungold cherry tomatoes. After about two weeks of tomato and mozzarella salad, I was ready for a change, and inspiration struck. Where inspiration took the form of a bag of frozen shrimp that fell out of the freezer and landed on my foot.

This dish is fast, easy, elegant, and can be made at any time of year, but it really shines when cherry tomatoes are in season. It makes a delicious topping for pasta, but can stand on its own as an appetizer or main dish alongside a green vegetable like spinach, asparagus, or brocolli raab. Its appeal is all about balance: the rich olive oil, light and mineralic shrimp, bright parsley, bold garlic, sweet tomatoes, spicy pepper, toasty caramelization, and topped with a nutty cheese. There's also a wonderful balance of textures: silky persillade, firm shrimp, and slightly soft tomatoes that explode into a shower of juice as you bite in.

Shrimp and Cherry Tomato Persillade
Makes 2 hearty appetizer-sized portions, or 1 generous main dish portion

8 oz. Shrimp, preferably not pre-cooked
12 Cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
1/2 cup Fresh Flat-leaf Parsley
1 clove fresh Garlic (jarred is fine)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Pepper, preferably fresh-ground
Salt, preferably kosher or sea salt
2 Tbsp Shredded or shaved parmesan cheese

1- Thaw the Shrimp
If your shrimp is frozen, start it thawing. I'm told that the correct ways to do this are to leave it overnight in the fridge, or run it under cold water in a collander. I usually soak them in cold water, changing it once or twice when ice forms around the shrimp, but try it at your own risk. In the meantime, make the persillade.

2- Make the Persillade
Mince the parsley and garlic together as finely as you can. It should almost resemble a pesto.

3- Prep the Shrimp
Once the shrimp are fully thawed, remove the shells (you can leave the tails on, if desired) and dry them very well with paper towels.

4- Cook the Shrimp
Heat a large frying pan over very high heat. The pan should be large enough to hold all the shrimp without crowding. When the pan is very hot, add the olive oil, and then the shrimp. Stir-fry until the shrimp turn pink and are no longer transparent, about 2 minutes.

5- Add the Persillade
Add the persillade to the shrimp mixture, and continue to stir, being sure to scrape the pan as you go. The persillade should cling to the shrimp and begin to caramelize after about two minutes. (Some may not cling - that's okay. Just make sure that it's being scraped off the bottom and turned along with the shrimp.) I like mine very dark and a little crispy. You may prefer yours only slightly browned.

6- Add the Tomatoes
Add the cherry tomatoes, and continue to stir-fry until the tomatoes are warmed through, and begin to change color slightly and swell, about 1-2 minutes. (The goal is to stop just before they burst, but it's okay if they do.)

7- Serve
Place on top of linguine, or on individual plates. Sprinkle with salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese (optional). Serve with crusty bread. (Optional)

Seafood Watch:
(Note: the rating only applies to seafood purchased in the US. Readers from other countries may want to try the Seafood Choices Alliance)

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Score: Avoid

Shrimp is listed as a "good alternative" if it's produced in the US or Canada (farmed or wild), but the vast majority of shrimp you'll find is produced in supermarkets is imported, which is on the "avoid" list. Your fishmonger may be able to get you domestic shrimp, as well as lots of other tasty seafood.

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