Friday, March 26, 2010
Basque Shrimp: A Swimming Success!
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to visit his mother in Philadelphia, PA. When we are up there, we try to find restaurants with cuisines not available in Memphis. One evening we googled "tapas restaurant Philadelphia," and at random picked the closest to our hotel, Tinto. As it turns out, it is owned by the newest American Iron Chef, Jose Garces. What luck!
We had a wonderful meal of Spanish Basque area small plates. One of the dishes we most enjoyed was "Lobster with Grapefruit-Vanilla Nage." Garnished with Spanish smoked paprika croutons (called, in Spanish, "migas"), it was delicious.
The French culinary term à la nage means "in the swim." It refers to food, usually seafood, poached in a quickly simmered vegetable broth. called court bouillon, which means "short boil." It is usually acidulated with vinegar, but at Tinto, grapefruit juice was used instead. I didn’t think we’d all want to cook up a lobster, but I was pretty sure it would work with shrimp.
Often in French cuisine the vegetables are served with the broth. Although it wasn’t done at Tinto, when I served up my third and most successful attempt to my wine dinner group, I did serve the vegetables.
At the wine dinner we had it as a seated first course, but with addition of side dishes of rice pilaf and a salad it would make a light but tasty dinner.
Although it doesn’t take long to do, you can make the broth ahead of time and refrigerate for several days. Bring up to a simmer for a few minutes before you poach the shrimp.
SHRIMP IN GRAPEFRUIT-VANILLA NAGE
2 quarts vegetable stock (see note)
½ head of celery, including leafy greens, cut into 1" pieces, about 2 cups
1 bulb fennel, white and light green parts, sliced ¼" thick, reserving green lacy top for garnish
8 oz baby carrots (half a 1 lb. bag)
2 cups fresh grapefruit juice (must be fresh, not frozen or canned—trust me on this)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp. mixed whole peppercorns
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp (I used 16-20 per pound size)
4 oz. butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 cup ready made large garlic croutons
1 tbsp. Spanish smoked paprika
Place all the stock ingredients in a non-reactive pan and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems.
When ready to serve, add the vanilla and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and simmer until just barely done, depending on the size of the shrimp.
With a slotted spoon divide the shrimp and vegetables among 8 warm flat soup plates. To the broth, add the butter and cream. For best results, use an immersion blender to emulsify the broth with the butter and cream. If you don’t have an immersion blender, whisk vigorously until well blended. Even if it doesn’t emulsify totally, it will still be delicious.
In a small bowl, toss the croutons with the smoked paprika. Ladle hot broth over the shrimp and vegetables, garnish with the croutons and reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately. Serves 8 as a first course, or 4 to 6 as a main course with side dishes.
NOTE: I use Better Than Bouillon stock pastes, available at most supermarkets, for my vegetable stock. You can use vegetable bouillon cubes or packaged vegetable stock. But the BTB will be far better!