Sunday, March 1, 2015

Shrimp Stew from Puglia

Every recipe can tell a story, if you are willing to listen to it.  This recipe tells of small fishing villages along the coastline of Apulia or Puglia. Villages such as Molfetta or Monopoli.  Walking along the docks early in the morning, one would watch as the small fishing boats head out into the Adriatic Sea, searching for the freshest catch available.  The catch could be mackerel or anchovies.  It could be squid or octopus.  And, for some, it could be shrimp.  As the boats return to the harbor and the docks, one waits to survey the catch.  And, if possible, one could select the freshest seafood, and take their "catch" to a nearby restaurant to be prepared in the local style.  Local seafood prepared by local chefs. 

This recipe -- Shrimp Stew from Puglia -- comes, not from a local seafood restaurant in either Molfetta or Monopoli.  Instead, it comes by way of Mario Batali in his book America Farm to Table.  The recipe was provided by Mariquita Farm, which is located in Watsonville, California.  The farm does not cultivate or raise shrimp.  Rather, it grows a variety of produce, including sweet peppers.  Those peppers provide a nice contrast to the briny shrimp, which is what makes this dish shine.  

Shrimp sauteing in the pan.
When it comes to the shrimp, Mario Batali suggests that one look for American gulf shrimp. The reason is that buying American helps to support local fisheries; and, there is no doubt that the shrimping fishery in the Gulf Coast region definitely needs our support.   

There are also other reasons to buy American shrimp.  One major reason is that there are grave issues with respect to shrimp that is harvested in certain areas of the world.  For example, there are numerous reports and stories about slave labor being used by Thai fishing boats. Those same vessels also do not use sustainable fishing methods, which leads to overfishing and damage to the oceans.  

Fortunately, I was able to find some wild caught shrimp from the United States.  When you look for shrimp, you should buy shell-on shrimp, so you can make the shrimp stock called for in the recipe.  You should also look at large shrimp, such as U-12 (twelve shrimp to a pound), but no smaller than 16-20 count (sixteen to twenty shrimp per pound).  Smaller shrimp would simply get lost in the stew.  

Although there is no mention of it in the recipe, I would suggest that this dish be served with a good piece of crusty bread.  The stew is very good and the bread works well to get every last drop of its sweetness.  We did not have any bread when I made this dish for my beautiful Angel.  That was the one missing ingredient.

Recipe from Mario Batali, America Farm to Table, pg. 167
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the shrimp stock):
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Reserved shells from 2 pounds of shrimp
2 tablespoons of sweet paprika or pimenton
4 cups of water
Kosher salt

Ingredients (for the shrimp stew):
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 red onion, cut into 1/8 inch dice
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/8 inch dice
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/8 inch dice 
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 cup basic tomato sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds (16/20 count shrimp), peeled and deveined,
     shells reserved for stock
3 cups of shrimp stock
1/3 bunch fresh chives

1.  Make the shrimp stock.  In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shrimp shells and toss well.  Allow the shells to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often.  Add the sweet paprika and cook for 3 minutes more.  Add the water and bring to a simmer, pressing down on the shells with a spatula or large spoon to extract maximum flavor.  Cook until reduced by one-quarter.  Season with a little sauce to taste.

2.  Saute the vegetables.  In a 10 to 12 inch saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat until just smoking.  Add the onion and bell peppers and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes, sugar, tomato sauce, and salt and black pepper to taste and cook over low heat until tender, about 10 minutes.   Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.  Saute the shrimp.  In a 12 to 14 inch saute pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat until smoking.  Season the shrimp with salt and black pepper on both sides and cook until very red, 1 to 2 minutes.  Turn carefully with a wide spatula and cook on the other side for 1 minute.  You may need to cook the shrimp in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.

4.  Make the stew. Remove the shrimp, add the bell pepper mixture and the shrimp stock to the pan and bring to the a boil.  Cook for 3 minutes, then return the shrimp to the mix and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for a few minutes more.  

5.  Plate the dish.  Ladle the stew into deep bowls and garnish with chives and and a drizzle of good olive oil.



Erin said...

Would this be good with rice? It doesn't seem hearty enough on its own.

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you for your question and my apologies for the delay in responding. The recipe is for a stew, and, is just one course usually served before a main course. If you wanted to make it a main course, you could serve it with rice. I think that either Jasmine or Basmati rice would work.

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