My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken √† l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Scampi Fra Diavolo

Not feeling up to a full-fledged Julia entree and also wanting something really tasty without involving a heavy cream sauce, Scampi Fra Diavolo truly fit the bill.

Italian isn't one of my languages, but I think it means something like The Devil's Brother's Shrimp. It's a light, full-flavored pasta recipe and, quite frankly, would probably be a big hit at  - -  ahem - - The Olive Garden. The "devil" part obviously comes from the hit of red pepper in the recipe.

I searched through a number of recipes for this dish and combined what I thought would work best. Some recipes called for just a whisper of red pepper (well, that's no fun) while Emeril LaGasse's called for an overblown, theatrical Bam! of the stuff.

One recipe didn't have much in the way of tomato sauce, others had little fresh herbage.
Julia never published this recipe but that didn't stop me from employing what I've learned from her. I used her technique of reducing the white wine, then reducing the diced tomatoes to concentrate the flavors, and adding the shrimp at the very last minute. French techniques to make an Italian dish -- why not?

Here's my recipe:
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine (I like Sauvignon Blanc for cooking)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Saute the chopped onion in olive oil until soft, add the garlic and red pepper and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the white wine and simmer on high heat until reduced to a thick consistency. Add the diced tomatoes, salt and reduce until thickened. Reduce heat, add the shrimp and simmer until the shrimp are barely done. Stir in the basil and parsley just before serving. Serve over thin spaghetti and drizzle each serving with olive oil.

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