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Friday, September 18, 2015

Shrimp Steam Up and Go to Town with Remoulade and Charred Shallots

Often the most ingenious cooking techniques are the simplest. Years ago I met a Thai chef who graciously showed me some basic cooking techniques. One particular technique I loved was cooking raw shrimp in an aluminum foil pouch. The resulting shrimp were plump, juicy and sweet. Of course the freshest, highest quality shrimp needed to be used.

I loved the technique not only because of the result but also because as the shrimp cooked, the pouch expanded. That reminded me of the way stove-top Jiffy popcorn puffed up.
Long before there was microwavable popcorn, Jiffy satisfied the hunger for easy-to-make snack food. Prepared correctly, the popcorn came out nicely steamed. But if you weren't careful, the bottom kernels burned and gave the whole bag of popcorn a harsh charcoal flavor. The same is true of cooking the shrimp in an aluminum pouch, be careful not to burn the shrimp.

Preparing the shrimp this way can produce perfectly steamed shrimp to use for an icy-cold shrimp cocktail to accompany an equally icy-cold vodka martini (dirty, of course, with an olive and an onion) or to be served hot and steaming on a platter.

With the shrimp cocktail, serve a horseradish-hot cocktail sauce. With the hot shrimp, remoulade is a good accompanying sauce or chermoula.

After steaming, the shrimp can be quickly charred on a carbon steel pan to add a bit of color and sweetness. That's what I did tonight for dinner when I made the shrimp with charred shallots and remoulade.

FAT JUICY STEAMED SHRIMP WITH REMOULADE SAUCE AND CHARRED SHALLOTS

Raw shrimp that have been shelled and devined can be used, but I prefer to go the distance and do the prep work myself. That way I know when the shelling and deveining was done and I will harvest the shells to make a light and delicious shrimp-shell sauce. More about that in another post.

Use any size shrimp you like. Smaller shrimp will cook more quickly and are more trouble to shell and devein. In general, I would recommend medium to large sized shrimp.

Time to prepare depends if you are shelling and deveining them yourself. The cooking time will also vary, depending on the size of the shrimp.

Choosing a mustard to use to make the remoulade is a personal choice. Dijon has a good clean flavor but can be intense. A milder choice is deli-style mustards. In either case, buy a good quality mustard.

Serves 4 as an entree, Serves 8 as an appetizer

Time to prep: approximately 15 minutes

Time to cook: approximately 5 minutes

Total time: approximately 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds raw shrimp, washed, pat dried
1/4 cup mayonnaise preferably Best Foods or Heilman's
1/4 cup good quality mustard, either deli style or Dijon
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5-6 large shallots, washed, skins removed and ends trimmed and discarded
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 sheet aluminum 15" long

Directions

To make the remoulade, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard and capers, seasoned with black pepper. Place in an air tight container and refrigerator.

If the raw shrimp are shelled and deveined, wash and pat dry. If not, peel the shells off, starting with the legs and rolling them off the flesh, pulling off the tail at the same time.
Using a sharp paring knife, cut a shallow incision in the back of the shrimp, remove the black vein and discard. After shelling and deveining, rinse the shrimp again in clean water, drain and pat dry.

Lay the sheet of aluminum on a flat surface. In the middle of the sheet, lay the shrimp snuggly together, all facing the same way. Imagine they are coodling in bed.
Fold the foil over the shrimp and neatly seal the ends being careful to keep the shrimp flat. The objective is to create an air-tight pouch. The ends of the pouch should be folded over 3-4 times so that as the pouch expands, the ends do not pop open releasing the heat and liquid.

Heat a pan large enough that the pouch can fit in the center. Turn the heat onto high. Have a pair of long tongs at the ready.

To determine that the pan is hot enough, dip three fingers into a bowl of water and fling drops of water into the pan. If the water skitters across, the pan is hot enough.

Have a large plate ready.

Place the pouch onto the hot pan. When the pouch inflates, the shrimp are cooked on that side. If the pouch is not sealed completely, the pouch may not inflate. The shrimp will cook regardless. In which case, assume that 3 minutes on each side will cook the shrimp.
Carefully use the tongs to turn the pouch over. Lay the pouch in the middle of the hot pan. If the pouch had inflated, turning it over will deflate it. When it inflates again or the pouch has been on the hot pan for 3-4 minutes, the shrimp should be cooked.

Using the tongs, hold the pouch over a bowl and cut open the pouch. Remove the shrimp, reserve the liquid to make a sauce for another dish and, if you are not immediately serving the shrimp, refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 24 hours.
Just before serving, finely slice the shallots the long way (end to end). Toss with olive oil. Heat a frying pan. I like using a carbon steel pan which will quickly add a beautifully flavorful caramelization on the shallot strands. Place the oiled shallots into the pan. Using tongs, toss well and sauté until the shallots are charred. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the pan again. When it is hot, place the shrimp in the pan for a few seconds on each side, just long enough to lightly char the sides. Remove.

Serve the shrimp topped with the charred shallots accompanied with a small bowl of remoulade.

The shrimp can be accompanied with steamed rice, freshly made pasta or a tossed green salad. And don't forget the dirty martini!

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