Saturday, July 04, 2009

Possibly Persian Shrimp

We're not really sure where this recipe came from, or whether our vague memories of it being Persian are correct, or how different our current version is from the original. We found it a few years ago, and it's been our favorite use for leftover fresh dill ever since. Heck, we've even been known to go out and buy fresh dill just for this purpose. So when we had dill left over after our Swedish-style Midsommar party, it was my first thought. Well, actually, my first thought was spanikopita, but when you live with a lactard, you make adjustments.

Although this dish has a fairly smallish list of ingredients, they make for an interesting combination. I love that this dish has some ingredients -- paprika, tomato paste, dill -- that seem to place it in the somewhat limited spice pantheon of Eastern Europe. But then you throw in some surprises -- white wine! shrimp! -- that take it in an entirely different direction, lighter and surprisingly complex. We tend to make this with tiny bay shrimp, since they work well in a sauce and they're local to the Oregon coast, but we've also made it with standard-size shrimp for an equally delicious variation.

Possibly Persian Shrimp
adapted, to an extent we can't say, from some cookbook we can no longer remember
serves 2-4, depending on what else you're serving

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced

1 1/2 Tbsp butter or oil
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp sweet paprika
a few grinds black pepper

2 cloves garlic
scant 1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 - 2/3 cup white wine

3/4 lb bay shrimp
~1/3 cup chopped fresh dill (generally 1/2 a bunch, depending on the size of your bunch)

In a deep pan or heavy-bottomed pot, sautee the onion in the oil over a medium heat until softened, and just barely browned.

Then make a roux -- if you want to make this process easier, you can remove the onions from the pan and set them to the side, or just work around them. Add the butter or additional oil to the pan, and then add the flour, paprika, and black pepper. Whisk until the flour is well-mixed, and allow it to cook a few minutes, stirring regularly. Then press the two garlic cloves into the pan and add the tomato paste, whisking until combined. Pour in the white wine, whisking to incorporate your roux. Start with the smaller amount of wine, and add more if it's too thick -- you're aiming for an alfredo sauce-like consistency. You can bring up the heat to get it to bubble, but then reduce it and simmer, whisking, for a few minutes. If you removed the onions when making your roux, return them to the pan.

After simmering for a few minutes, add the shrimp and almost all of the dill, reserving a few tablespoons for finishing the dish. Stir, and simmer together for another few minutes, until the shrimp are heated through, and their liquid has been incorporated into the sauce. Taste, adding salt and additional pepper as needed.

Traditionally (we think) served with rice, although the heat of our kitchen drove us to use quick-cooking couscous, which worked just as well with the sauce. I imagine it might also be good with a loaf of crusty bread. I also served it with lemony garlicky sauteed greens, which were a nice compliment. But aren't they always?


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