Something about the new year gives me a distinct craving for seafood. It might be that there’s been just a tad too much turkey, squash and brown sugar hanging around. Not that I’m complaining–man, I’ve been eating well. Or, it might simply be that in my childhood New Years Day and shrimp went hand in hand. I don’t remember elaborate New Years Day celebrations (and they’re not elaborate now either, just me and S, cooking the day away). But simple shrimp cocktail and the Rose Bowl-I do remember that.
So this year, even though S had carefully planned his traditional Louisiana Black-Eyed Peas and Cabbage, I grabbed some shrimp with only the merest glimmer of an idea of how I would present them. I wanted to use these cazuelas that Dad got me last year, since they hadn’t been used yet (shame on me), and I wanted flavors stronger than those found in the shrimp cocktail of my childhood (I betcha I was too picky eat it then anyways!). That led me to Spanish flavors, which led me in turn to a cookbook whose only prior purpose was to decorate my coffee table. I also had a vague recollection of shrimp and garlic and there I easily found it: Shrimp Pil Pil. That’s crazy sounding, isn’t it? Apparently it’s Basque in origin, “pil” referring to the little metal pan it’s served in. I bet you’ve had this and didn’t know the true name. I didn’t either. In the index it said “shrimp, sizzling, with garlic”–yep, that’s exactly what I wanted. The ingredients aren’t terribly exotic, but the combination, I think, of not just olive oil, garlic and lemon but also the smokiness of a Spanish paprika, is what makes this dish so over-the-top delicious. S and I devoured a whole pound in about 10 minutes. That’s about how long they took to make as well (!).
Adapted from Savoring Spain and Portugal, Joyce Goldstein, 2000. Serves 2 for dinner, 4 as a tapa.
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and sweet paprika
juice of 1/2 a lemon
a couple of glugs of white wine
a handful chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the garlic, crushed red and paprika and sauté for one minute. Raise heat to high and add in the shrimp, lemon juice and wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on the parsley and serve immediately with some good bread for soaking up the sauce.
They’d also be fabulous with my unintended Christmas vacation lunch staple: whole grain tortilla + arugula + manchego +oven-dried tomatoes = Heavenly Spanish Quesadilla. I never thought to put these flavors together in a tortilla, until I looked in the fridge needing a satisfying post-holiday lunch. Now it’s going have its own rotation on the quesadilla calendar. Trust me when I say there’s nothing much better than melted manchego. Give this one a try and see for yourself.
3 slices manchego cheese
2 slices white cheddar
2 chopped oven-dried tomatoes*
a handful baby arugula
Super easy this one is. Brush the tortilla with water and place in a non-stick fry pan. Add the cheeses to one half of the tortilla and heat over a medium flame until the cheeses start to melt and the tortilla bubbles. Add the tomatoes and the arugula and carefully fold in half. Press so that the cheeses mix with the arugula and create a seal. Flip and cook until the cheeses are melting. Let rest for 2 minutes and slice in half. Enjoy!
*Thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow and her book My Father’s Daughter, I now intend to enjoy tomatoes all winter long. For her oven-dried version used in these quesadillas, preheat oven to 275° and cut several vine-ripened tomatoes in half horizontally. Place on a baking sheet coated with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup). Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt (I used sea salt, but you could also use kosher). Bake for 3-5 hours until they are almost crispy and quite shriveled. They should resemble sun-dried tomatoes at this point. These will last at least a week in the fridge. I kept mine for a week and half, adding them to whatever I could, including a bean soup and a smoked salmon frittata.
These flavors were so refreshing, yet still comforting enough for winter, that I decided one of my New Years resolutions should be to eat more Spanish food. That just might be a resolution I can stick to.