Monday, September 27, 2004
Halfway to Liking Shrimp
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
I do believe I’ve reached a milestone of sorts. If, as Jeffrey Steingarten claims, you can rid yourself of a food phobia by eating it eight to ten times at moderate intervals, then I am halfway to liking shrimp.
I made Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Spaghetti from Italian Classics this weekend. This time I used frozen peeled and deveined shrimp from Whole Foods. That is definitely the way to go – they smelled so much better than the “fresh” shrimp I bought from another store last month. Actually, they didn’t smell at all – which is as it should be. It was also nice not to have to peel and devein them. I thawed the bag overnight in the refrigerator, pulled their little tails off, rinsed them, dried them, and they were ready to go.
After my last experience with shrimp, I felt that I needed something bolder and spicier to mask the flavor of the shrimp, so I picked a recipe with copious amounts of garlic and hot pepper flakes, not to mention wine and cognac. However, the fact that the shrimp were in better condition this time was probably a bigger factor than all that garlic and hot pepper in making the shrimp more palatable.
When I first selected the recipe, I failed to notice that it called for flambéing the shrimp. I have never flambéed anything before and was a little reluctant to attempt it. I’ve always thought of the process as being mostly for show and not worth trying at home (though fun to see in a restaurant), but the recipe had a note which made me rethink my position: “Flambéing the shrimp in cognac brings out its sweetness and provides a nice balance to the spicy, garlicky tomato sauce.”
The shrimp are cooked quickly in a frying pan over high heat, doused with cognac, and then flambéed. That’s the plan anyway. My fear before starting was that I would have an out-of-control open flame that would burn me and/or my kitchen. What actually happened was that I couldn’t get the damn thing lit. I suspect that my pan, which was cast iron, was so hot that the alcohol cooked off before I even attempted to light it. The recipe had said to add the cognac and then wait a few seconds for it to “warm”, but I think the cognac was hot the moment it hit the pan – it steamed up like crazy. If anyone has had experience flambéing or knows how flambéing affects flavor, I’d be very interested to hear about it.
With all the excitement in the kitchen, I completely forgot to take pictures until after I had eaten dinner. So the picture above is of the leftover shrimp and sauce still in the pan and without the spaghetti.
Given that I am not yet a full-fledged shrimp fan, I enjoyed this dish quite a bit. I had some leftovers tonight for dinner and was happy to find that reheating shrimp in the microwave seems to work just fine.
Five more shrimp meals to go. Any suggestions?