Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Paula Wolfert's Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic & Hot Pepper

Lately, I am so-so on shrimp. When I was a kid, shrimp were a bigga deal. Now, more often than not, shrimp just don't turn me on.

It makes for a complicated relationship with the crustacean.

Because they are such a snap to prepare, I always keep a bag in the freezer. They're very handy on those evenings when you're desperate because there is nothing in the refrigerator to cook and there is no way that marketing is an option.

Maybe I was simply fed up with the the garlic, white wine, and parsley tossed over pasta or pilaf preparation. Perhaps all I needed was a shrimp recipe that would breath new life into our partnership.

I have found a recipe that has begun to bring the romance back.

In one of the October 2009 Los Angeles Times' Food Sections that my mother saved for me, I stumbled over a Paula Wolfert recipe for Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic and Hot Pepper. It's adapted from her book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking.

That this recipe could be realized in just twenty minutes was a shocker. Wolfert is the queen of Mediterranean cooking, and her recipes are brilliant, but are almost always highly involved, time consuming beasts. No surprise here -- she is a major proponent of the Slowfood movement.

I've made her Sizzling Shrimp many times. You should too! It is delicious and lots of fun to eat.

Please don't panic about all of the olive oil.

You do not have to eat it all! I always have a pool left in the bottom of the pan. Though, you will probably be tempted to dunk just one more piece of bread into the smoky, spicy, garlicky bath.

If you have a Spanish cazuela, now is the time to put it to use. I turn to the bottom half of my Flameware tagine. Of course, you could use a cast iron skillet, if that's what you've got.

The garlic and Aleppo pepper is slowly warmed in the olive oil, until it begins to sizzle and the garlic is just turning golden. The kitchen smells fantastic and you begin to toss a salad. The shrimp cook for four minutes -- at most.

The table should be set with a trivet, because you'll proudly carry the dish to the table for all (could be 4 to 6 friends sharing an appetizer or more likely, just A. and me sitting down to dinner) to tear into.

Eating shrimp with your soon-to-be oily fingers and mopping up the sauce with crusty French bread is definitely a satisfying way to reignite the flames of passion -- for shrimp!

Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic and Hot Pepper

1 pound peeled small (about 60) or medium-large (24 to 30) deveined shrimp
1 scant cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon mildly hot dried red pepper such as Aleppo or Marash
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sweet pimenton de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
4 to 6 slices chewy country bread

Rinse the shrimp and wipe dry with paper towels. Leave them at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes so they are not cold when they hit the pan.

Combine the olive oil, garlic and hot pepper in the cazuela. Set it over medium-low heat and warm the pan slowly, gradually raising the heat to medium or medium-high until the oil is hot. Continue to cook until the garlic sizzles and just turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Immediately add all the shrimp and cook until they are firm and curled, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their size.

Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons hot water and pinches of sea salt and pimenton. Serve immediately from the pot with the bread for soaking up the delicious oily sauce.

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