Next week, I’ll be joining a Holland America ship as my second gig as a guest chef for the cruise line. Long story, but another chef canceled and so we agreed to go relatively last minute. HAL partners with Food & Wine magazine to put together culinary programs on all of their ships.
We’re leaving from Rome, hitting Livorno, Monte Carlo, Mallorca, Palermo and Naples before returning to the eternal city. The big lure for us was Barcelona; we got engaged there back in 2004, and we’ll be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary on the 4th July while we’re on the ship. Mike’s 45th birthday is the next day, when we’ll stop in Tunisia.
Although I officially have to work only two days of the trip, with two demonstrations and one hands-on class, there’s a lot of preparation that goes this kind of thing. Each demo has to be carefully timed, with lists of instructions for the crew on board, and the recipes have to allow for tastes for up to 200 observers. I wanted to focus on Mediterranean cuisine plus demonstrate several techniques, so I came up with a mix of recipes. Two were new creations, so they had to be tested several times. One of them is below, a spicy shrimp number that recalls a dish that I had in Rome several years ago.
Spicy shrimp in saffron tomato sauce
This dish comes with a kick. If you like a milder sauce, decrease the crushed red pepper. After you cook the shrimp, most of the red pepper flakes will stay in the pan. Fear not, these will flavor the rest of the ingredients. This recipe goes fast, so be sure to prep and measure all the ingredients in advance. This is equally delicious served over basmati or saffron rice. Serves four.
½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 generous pinches of saffron
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped fine, about ½ cup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced peeled tomatoes in juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated orange peel (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons dried mixed Italian herbs
1/3 cup whipping cream (optional)
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Combine the wine or vermouth with the saffron and allow to sit for at least five minutes. Add a few of the shrimp shells to the stock and simmer until needed.
Toss the shrimp with the ½ teaspoon salt, several grinds of black pepper and red pepper flakes. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat until a sprinkle of water dances on the surface. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink, about two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs to a bowl. Lower the heat to medium. Add shallots and sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate into the shallots. Add wine with saffron, reduce for about a minute. Drain the shells from the stock. Lower the heat to simmer, and add tomatoes, garlic, orange peel, drained stock and herbs and cook until reduced to sauce consistency, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked shrimp and cream (if using) and simmer until shrimp are slightly firmer and sauce thickens, about two minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in parsley. Serve over hot pasta or rice.