Friday, July 25, 2008

Shrimp in Escabeche

I mentioned a while back, after making nanban zuke, that I wanted to try making the European dish that evolved from, escabeche. I've been slightly sidetracked from that because when I went to buy the whitefish for the recipe I found that Publix was having a 2-for-1 sale on Greenwise shrimp. So now I've got three pounds of shrimp to get rid off. I suppose that doesn't sound like a lot but I'm not really a sit-down-and-eat-a-pound-of-shrimp sort of guy.

By the way, has anyone seen an investigation of Publix's Greenwise program to see if the animals actually get the humane conditions claimed? The website is high on marketing crapola and low on useful details. There's a lot of lip service paid to humane treatment in this sort of thing and even beyond any interest in the animal's welfare taking away antibiotics without improving living conditions has been shown to reduce safety of the resulting meat. None of which probably has any relevance to shrimp, though. Publix doesn't say anything more specific than that they're farmed in Thailand which isn't helpful as there's a wide range of qualities of farming practice over there. But since none of the places I shop offer certified organic meat or fish of any sort (except for some whole chickens at Whole Foods I think), Greenwise plus some wishful thinking will have to do.

Anyway, I found this recipe on which it says is originally from a 2007 issue of Gourmet. It's attributed to Maggie Ruggiero but I don't know if she developed the recipe for the magazine or just typed it into Epicurious.

1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 pound large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per pound), peeled, leaving tail intact, and deveined

Toss together onion, vinegar, oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt in a shallow glass or ceramic dish.

Simmer oil, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns in a small saucepan 10 minutes, then let stand until ready to use.

Add shrimp to a medium pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water), then remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain well, then stir into onion mixture along with oil mixture.

Chill shrimp in escabeche, covered when cool, stirring occasionally, at least 12 hours. Discard bay leaves and serve shrimp cold or at room temperature.

I used just a half pound of shrimp as I'm not cooking for a crowd here but I only halved the amount of marinade. I've found it to be a good rule of thumb in scaling down recipes to only cut down marinades by half as much as I cut the amount of stuff I'm marinating. It tends to be too skimpy otherwise.

Another important note here is that 21 to 25 count shrimp called for are not large as the recipe says, they're jumbo. I found a handy guide to shrimp sizes here. The actual large shrimp I had cooked through almost instantly. One thing I'm working on with my surfeit of shrimp is learning to properly poach them to get that nice tender texture boiling and steaming won't give you. I didn't get it this time as I was confused by the inaccurate "large" in the recipe, but maybe next time.

And a third thing, there's no emulsifier in the marinade so I found the olive oil tended to separate out and solidify over the 12 hours in the refrigerator. Got to watch that.

So, there's a nice garlic vinaigrette and some shrimp. I decided to poach a few extra shrimp at the last minute that just got a dunk and a drizzle for comparison to see if it's worth the twelve hour soak. I'm going to say yes. The marinated shrimp are infused with the marinade's flavors but not overwhelmed like a full pickling. There's a mild tang from the vinegar, the warm richness of the fried garlic and the aroma of the herbs all blended fully with the shrimp. The fresh shrimp the sauce just rolls off of.

So, on the whole, pretty good and not a whole bunch of trouble beyond the fact that you have to make it before heading off to work in the morning. Or you could have it for breakfast I suppose.

I still want to make a fish escabeche. I understand that most recipes call for the fish to be fried and I'm curious how those nice browned bit react to being pickled. Plus, this recipe wasn't suitable for storing for a month. I want something I can keep for a while.

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