Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pink Picante Shrimp

"This is the tastiest shrimp I have ever had...." said one of my guests the other day at my holiday open house party.

Funny, I had never even made it before. I have always wanted to try this recipe, but like most things in life, it fell off the radar. So here was the perfect opportunity to resurrect it.

At the risk of sounding like a chef groupie, I want to share another one of my favorite cooks to the growing list: Nigella Lawson. She isn't on the food network these days, but back a few years ago, she was gaining popularity here (you see, she is British, which is part of her charm...for me anyway....). I had customers coming in and asking for her books, and for her famous little whisk (of which I own two!), when she was on the air.

I did see recently that they had her as a guest judge on "Top Chef"...much to my delight, and I did actually meet her myself, once, at the Chicago Housewares Show. She was doing a book signing and I was prepared with one of her books...I had lugged it on the plane in hopes I would be patient enough to get through the line to have her sign it! I am here to tell you that I made it and I do own a signed copy now. It was almost as satisfying and thrilling as the day I did the same thing with my first edition copy of "The Moosewood Cookbook" when Mollie Katzen was at the show......she said she had never seen such a worn out copy! She thought it was great!

Anyway, back to this shrimp. The recipe is from Nigella Lawson's Feast cookbook. It seems that Nigella has a thing for pink....says it reminds her of the Eighties- how the pink peppercorms bring such a vibrancy to the dish and all. Seems that pink peppercorns are not really peppercorns at all but are the dried berries from the Baies rose plant. They're cultivated in Madagascar and imported via France, hence their exorbitant price. These rose-hued berries are pungent and slightly sweet. You can find them at gourmet and/or spice stores (like Penzeys or The Spice House.)

Here is the recipe for Pink Picante Shrimp (adapted from the book):

1 tbsp pink peppercorns, plus more to crush to decorate
1 tbsp sea salt/ 1/2 tbsp table salt
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, or seeds from about 8 pods

1 tsp picante pimenton (hot smoked paprika)

2 egg whites

1 1/2 lbs. peeled raw medium shrimp

2 tbsp oil for frying or as needed

1. Crush the peppercorns, salt, cardamom seeds, and picante pimenton in a mortar and pestle until you have an aromatic nubbly mixture. You can alternatively grind the spices in a pepper or coffee mill. Turn out onto a large shallow bowl.
2. Hand whisk the egg whites until foamy, but not stiff. Dip the shrimp into the egg white, and then toss them into the crushed spice mixture turning so they are well coated.

3. Heat the oil in a large pan and stir fry the spice coated shrimp for 5-7 minutes or until they are cooked through.

4. Remove to a serving dish and sprinkle with some more pink peppercorns.

here's how they looked on my Eighties-inspired pink-hued platter!

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