The gods have flipped the summer switch ON in Italy. The first day of summer came in right on schedule with full on summer heat.
It’s already hot enough that I want a cold lunch and cold shrimp seems like the perfect way to go.
I love cold shrimp cocktail, preferably served retro style, with large shrimp hanging over the edge of a martini glass; but we had fresh Adriatic shrimp in the market, so they require a more delicate approach.
Poached in a little white wine and left to cool in the pan juices, these small shrimp are soft and amazingly sweet. To play up the sweetness, I served the shrimp with two piquant dipping sauces: fennel/lemon, and lime/chili. Of course, after the first couple of shrimp are swirled around on the plate to mop up the sauce, it turns out these two sauces actually played very nicely together: the fennel cooled the heat of the chili, but in a very ‘simpatico’ way.
1 lb, or .5kg of whole shrimp
10 whole peppercorns
2-3 glugs of white wine, enough to cover the bottom of the pan
2-3 juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 two fingered pinch of salt
If you can find head-on shrimp, use those. The heads hold in the juice and add flavor. If you can’t find head-on shrimp, don’t worry, just keep asking your fish guy for them and maybe he’ll start stocking them.
Absolutely buy shrimp with the shells on..shells are full of flavor. Every once in a blue moon you will come across truly fresh shrimp that have never been frozen. Don’t even stop to think about it…snap them up immediately!
Combine the wine and all the seasonings in a flat bottom pan; use a big enough pan that the shrimp are either single layer, or at the most, two layers deep.
Bring the wine to a simmer and add the shrimp.
Gently simmer until they are done. It will all depend on how big the shrimp are, but these fresh shrimp were cooked for about 1 minute, then left to cool in the poaching liquid.
Blend the ingredients on high speed until you have a luscious, gorgeous green emulsion.
Chili & Lime Salsa
1 fresh hot chili pepper
1 small clove of garlic
Juice of 1 one lime
1 T olive oil
Pinch of salt
Few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
Our Umbrian garden grown chili peppers just never get that hot. We’ve tried all types of peppers, but they’re never killer hot. I’m convinced it has something to do with Umbrian palettes being very sensitive. The peppers just can’t bring themselves to be hot. Which is why I need to keep some hot sauce around to heat things up.
Add all the above ingredients and blend until it’s a frothy pink emulsion. Check for chili heat and adjust.
To serve: peel the shrimp and arrange on a plate, serve the sauces alongside the shrimp so everyone can experiment with the flavors. Also serve with cold white wine and with some bread because the sauces are so good you want to keep eating long after the shrimp are gone.
Happy summer and buon appetito!