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This recipe from reader Nicole Aandahl shows how easy it is to make a great meal where spices take the spotlight. She uses the shrimp shells to make a rich stock, and finishes the dish with plenty of butter, lemon, and bright herbs. "Over the years I’ve had many a different rendition of this classic Gulf Coast dish, but I’ve found that the ones I love the best have a nice amount of black pepper. Fortunately black pepper goes with just about any flavor, including other peppers and spices. One of my favorite pairings is black pepper and sumac, which is a Mediterranean spice with a citrusy scent, and cumin. I also love Jamaican Pick-a-Peppa sauce, which is tamarind-based condiment with a lot more soul than Worcestershire, and melts right into the butter and wine sauce. These incredibly diverse flavors come together into an luscious, lick-your-fingers sauce."
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pound shrimp, shell on
½ yellow onion roughly chopped
1 rib of celery and leaves, diced small
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, well smashed
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon Pick-A-Peppa sauce (see Recipe Notes)
½ cup white wine
1 sprig rosemary
Juice of one lemon
Chopped parsley and cilantro, to finish
Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tails intact and reserving the shells.
In a medium saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp shells and saute until pink, about 1 minute. Add the onion and celery and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir to coat the shells and the vegetables, then pour in the water. Tuck in the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook uncovered while you clear your work space and start the rest of the dish – about 20 minutes. Keep a strainer nearby.
In a small, heavy bottom saucepan, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the Pick-a-Peppa sauce, wine, and sprig of rosemary. Bring to a boil and boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. While this is cooking, strain the shrimp stock into a bowl, then pour it into the saucepan. Stir once, then boil until reduced to about 1 cup of liquid. Turn off the heat and discard the sprig of rosemary and bay leaf.
Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and sear until pink all over. Add all of the spice mix and toss with the shrimp. Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil. Then add the remaining butter and stir into the shrimp. Lower to a simmer until you have a nice sauce.
To finish, stir in the lemon juice. You can serve right out of the skillet pan. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and cilantro, and serve with some toasted baguette.
You can buy Pick-a-Pepper sauce and sumac at World Market, many Whole Foods, and on Amazon. Superior sumac, fennel seed, and cumin can found be at one of my favorite sources for spices, La Boîte.
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