Thursday, April 25, 2013

30 Before 30: Baked Asparagus and Prawns (Gamberi al Forno con gli Asparagi) (#25)

Well, I had a lot of shrimp. It was Alaskan and from one of my favorite families and it was delicious and now it's all gone.

I'm really liking the necessity of digging through my cookbooks and looking at new ways of cooking cuisines that I normally stay within my comfort zone when I cook them. This recipe is a great example. It's simple, but I'd normally just plop a lot of this stuff over pasta. The inspiration comes from a risotto Marcella Hazen had in Venice. I think if you took out the potatoes and went for a risotto, it would also be quite fantastic.

Also, Aaron cooked bacon and had me add it. It's always a good idea.

Baked Shrimp with Asparagus (Gamberi al Forno con gli Asparagi) via Marcella's Italian Kitchen:

Serves 6

2 lb. asparagus
2 lb. medium shrimp, in their shells
½ lb. potatoes
2/3 c. onion
5 Tb. butter
1 Tb. vegetable oil
¼ c. heavy cream
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 Tb. for topping
Black pepper in a grinder

Trim the asparagus, cutting off 1 inch or more of the hard root end and peeling away the tough green skin from the lower half of the stalk. I personally ascribe to the snapping asparagus school, so do what you normally do to prep it. Wash asparagus thoroughly in 1 or 2 changes of cold water.

Choose a shallow pan that can accommodate all the asparagus lying flat. Pour in about 2 inches of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and, when the water resumes boiling, slip in the asparagus and cover the pan. Cook for just a few minutes – depending on the freshness and thickness of the vegetable – until the asparagus is barely tender, but still firm to the bite. Drain and set aside to cool. When the asparagus has cooled, cut it into pieces 1½ inches long.

Shell the shrimp, remove the dark vein just below the surface of their backs, and wash them in cold water. Pat thoroughly dry with kitchen towels.

Wash the potatoes and boil them, unpeeled, in abundant water. When they are done, drain them, peel them, and pass them through a food mill or potato ricer. Though I'm sure it would drive Hazen crazy, I don't have either of those, so I mashed them with a potato masher. Not a big deal when you see how they are used. Put your potatoes in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the other ingredients later.

Turn the oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium saucepan put the chopped onions, 3 tablespoons of the butter, and the vegetable oil and turn on the heat to medium. Saute the onion until it becomes colored a deep gold of even very lightly brown. Add the asparagus, turn up the heat to high, and saute the asparagus, turning them constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer the asparagus with all the pan juices to the bowl containing the potatoes. Add the cream, ½ cup of grated cheese, salt, liberal grinding of pepper, and the shrimp. Toss thoroughly. Choose a 12-by-9-inch oven-to-table baking dish. Smear the bottom with a little butter. Pour into it all the contents of the bowl, leveling with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of grated cheese, and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Bake in the uppermost level of the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. After removing the dish from the oven, allow it to settle for 5 minutes before serving.

This is an easy recipe to break into smaller steps and comes together relatively quickly. Make sure you have some crusty bread to go with this.

Recipes Complete: 25
Recipes to Go: 5 

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