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Giving shrimp a boost
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Giving shrimp a boost

I love shrimp. My wife can barely stand having them in the house. This unfortunate difference of opinion means that I don't get to enjoy the little fellows as often as I might. But as in every good relationship, we find ways to compromise, so I have permission to use these tasty crustaceans as long as I can come up with a recipe that offers complete nutrition even if one (and I do mean ONE) picks around the shrimp and eats the other parts.

And so, the other night, I boiled up a batch of shrimp to add to a leftover pot of sausage gumbo (a more authentic version of the simplified Cajun dish I featured in the FoodLetter on May 2).

While I was at it, I decided to experiment with a wacky variation on the traditional French "court bouillon" - a poaching medium in which herbs and vegetables are added to water or wine so as to infuse the item being poached with flavor. Shooting for a pleasant mix of citric and spicy flavors, I came up with a quick and simple preparation so flavorful that my shrimp-hating spouse, taking a tiny taste of one for the sake of science, said "Hey, this isn't bad!"

Here's the procedure. I peeled the cooked shrimp and tossed them into the gumbo pot just long enough to warm them through, but they're good enough to serve by themselves to peel'n'eat or use in a shrimp cocktail or salad. These quantities make enough for two, but the recipe could easily be doubled.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1/2 pound medium shrimp, raw in the shell
1/4 cup limoncello, the Italian lemon liqueur
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1 thick "coin" fresh ginger
2 Thai bird peppers or other small, hot dried red peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. At least one hour before you need the shrimp, make the poaching liquid: In a pot large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer, pour the limoncello and lime juice. Peel the garlic and smash the cloves with your hand or the side of a chef's knife. Smack the ginger in the same way to release its juices. Add the ginger, garlic, hot peppers and salt to the liquid.

2. Rinse the shrimp and put them in the pot. Add enough water to barely cover. Cover the pot and bring just to the boil; then turn down heat to very low and cook the shrimp for a moment or two, just until they turn pink. (Take care not to overcook shrimp, which turns them into something with the texture of pencil erasers.)

3. Remove the shrimp from the liquid. Discard the flavoring ingredients but reserve the liquid in a small bowl or cup. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, peel them (if you will be using peeled shrimp in your recipe; otherwise leave the shells on) and return them to the liquid after it has cooled. Leave them to marinate in the liquid for 30 minutes or so, then drain, and they are ready to use. You can eat them on the spot, use them in your recipe, or refrigerate to use later.

WINE MATCH: Because I used the shrimp only as a supporting player in a spicy, rich okra gumbo with sausage, I matched to the dish rather than the shrimp and chose a fruity, non-tannic red wine, a Bourgueil (Cabernet Franc) from the Loire Valley. When shrimp enjoy a more leading role, I would choose a tart white - perhaps staying in the Loire for a Sancerre or Muscadet, or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, or perhaps one of the aromatic Southern Italian whites that I really enjoy, a Fiano or Greco di Tufo.

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Thursday, Sept. 26, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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