Saturday, August 19, 2006

What Lies Beneath

The last time we used the shishito peppers, we tried them raw. In a corn tomato relish. Just to sort of try the unadulterated taste.

But this time, I wanted to pan roast them. With a sprinkle of salt.

The only reason for this is that when I was researching the peppers for last week WHB, I noticed many restaurants serving the peppers pan roasted with salt as a side dish.

So, naturally, I wanted to see what it was that they found so appealing about this simple preparation.

But, I can’t just try something. That would make too much sense. And be too easy.

Since there were not so many peppers, about a pint, this seemed like more of a garnish.

The question became one of what would go underneath.

Many chefs probably begin with a solid foundation. And add some interesting taste and texture components. Then move on to the garnish.

Again – too easy. Too ordinary and conformist.

The more interesting idea was to start with the garnish and imagine something or things to fill in the structure and foundation.

To be fair, we already had the prawns. From a recent visit to the Asian market. So that layer, unless we had a really inspired idea, was sort of set. None the less – prawns can come to the table in many forms.

We’ve sort of overdosed on rice lately, and potatoes were vetoed. I was leaning towards polenta. When TeenBoy and I simultaneously came upon grits. New Orleans polenta. Cooked up with a lot of milk instead of water, and fortified with some cheese. Maybe parmesan.

So now, with the top and bottom set, all that was left was to finish the prawns. And that was now easy – Creole style prawns. Set on top of parmesan grits. With the roasted peppers as a garnish on top. The mildly spicy peppers would work well with some smokin’ hot spicy prawns. And a later of creamy, cheesy grits would be a nice contract in taste and texture.

The result was fun to make, and had a wonderfully rich, spicy flavor. And made a very nice presentation. We left the heads and tails on the prawns for looks. Both the prawns and peppers we just as easy to eat with the fingers as with a fork. Just a gentle twist, and the prawn head popped off, and the rest could be eaten while holding it by the tail.

I think the roasting brought out a little more heat from the shishito peppers as well. I liked them much better pan roasted. Tender with just the right touch of heat. A real complement to what was beneath.

Shrimp on Parmesan Grits with Roasted Shishito Peppers
Based on recipe by Emeril Lagasse, adapted by surfindaave
Serves 4

2 pounds medium-large shrimp in their shells, about 42, shells removed and reserved
Mix together:
1 tbsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Dried Oregano
1 tbsp Paprika
1 tbsp Salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
16 turns freshly ground black pepper, in all
4 tablespoons olive oil, in all
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 bay leaves
3 lemons, peeled and sectioned
2 cups water
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
Roasted Shishito Peppers (recipe follows)
Parmesan Grits (recipe follows)

Season the shrimp with ½ of the seasoning mix and cracked black pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the reserved shrimp shells, the remaining seasoning mix, the bay leaves, lemons, water, Worcestershire, wine, salt, and the remaining 8 turns black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes, and strain into a small saucepan. There should be about 1 1/2 cups. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook until thick, syrupy, and dark brown, for about 15 minutes. Makes about 4 to 5 tablespoons of barbecue sauce base. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the seasoned shrimp and sauté them, occasionally shaking the skillet, for 2 minutes. Add the cream and all of the barbecue base. Stir and simmer for 3 minutes.

Spoon the grits in the center of each plate. Place the shrimp around the grits. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and around the plate. Garnish with the roasted shishito peppers. Serve. Enjoy!

Parmesan Grits
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4-6

Grits – either regular, or quick, for 8 servings
Make grits per package directions, using ½ milk and ½ water for total amount of liquid called for
1 to 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
salt, pepper

Make grits per package directions for 8 servings, using milk for ½ of the liquid called for, and water for the other ½ of liquid called for. When grits have thickened, stir in the grated parmesan cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Shishito Peppers
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 as a garnish

1 pint shishito peppers, washed and dried
Olive oil

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet until hot. Add peppers, and toss. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until peppers are well charred in many places and softened. Remove to a plate, and season with salt.

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