Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oil-poached shrimp, potato, green bean salad

For many years we’ve had a recipe for tuna poached in olive oil (tonno ventresca). Peter prepared it once, so long ago we have no idea when it was. You can buy ventresca tuna in cans at specialty shops. It’s an excellent product. I thought it might be interesting to do it from scratch.

Marcella Hazan, perhaps the doyen of Italian cooking, is so fussy about everything being from scratch that I used to say her ventresca tuna recipe should begin, “First, rent a fishing boat.” I took the easier path of getting ¾ lb. of nice fresh tuna from my local monger. It had some of what I think is called the bloodline, that dark stuff, on the side of it. Monger Bruce told me it was edible although somewhat strong tasting. I chose to cut it off.

Our recipe gave very explicit instructions for how to do this: put the tuna in a pan, cover it with oil, add a garlic clove or two, and bring the oil up to a temperature where it bubbles ever so slightly. After ten minutes remove the pan from the heat and add a couple more things. Then marinate the tuna overnight before constructing the tuna salad.

I didn’t want to have leftovers, and made basically a half recipe. It was the perfect amount for our lunch on Sunday. In order to reuse the oil, I prepared enough potatoes and green beans to make up another lunch, this time using shrimp.

I couldn’t find very good directions for poaching shrimp in oil, so I had to kind of make this up. To be honest, I liked the shrimp salad result better than the tuna. For the tuna, a red wine and oil dressing was called for. It tasted very good, but I replaced the vinegar with lemon juice for the shrimp.

The basics of the recipe are from that one we found in one of our recipe binders (we have more than 650 pages of them). I did some tweaking and consider this to fit in with the intention of my postings: invention. This is well worth trying.

This picture "resembles" my shrimp salad, but I confess to having borrowed it from FoodNetwork. It's fun to have a picture.

Oil-poached shrimp salad
12 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 oz. green beans
8 small potatoes (1-2” diameter)
olive oil
dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, cut in half
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 bay leaf
zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup chopped parsley
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

Put the shrimp in a saucepan and just barely cover with oil. Add the garlic. Bring the oil’s temperature up over medium-low heat. If it starts to bubble, turn the heat down. Carefully watch the progress of the shrimp turning pink, tossing them frequently with a fork. At the first sign they are close to being cooked through (about 5-6 minutes), remove the pan from the heat.

Add the lemon zest, thyme and bay leaf to the oil. After 5 minutes remove the shrimp, let cool completely, and refrigerate overnight.

Allow the oil to cool completely, then refrigerate it overnight also.

Place the potatoes in another pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, add a generous amount of salt, and simmer them until fork tender, 20 minutes or so. It will help to cut in half any disproportionately large ones.

While the potatoes cook, trim and wash the green beans. When the potatoes are cooked, remove them to a colander and bring the water back to a full boil. Add a bit more salt and blanch the beans to your preferred crunchiness. For me it was about 9 minutes as the beans were fairly mature.

Drain the beans and rinse them for a minute with cold water, using your sink sprayer attachment. When the beans and potatoes are cool, refrigerate them along with the shrimp and the oil.

Now you could construct and eat this salad the same day you poach the shrimp. It probably would be pretty much as good. But I had the time and did it a day ahead.

To construct the salad:*
Cut the potatoes into ½” pieces. Cut the green beans into ½” pieces. Put them both in a large bowl. Cut the shrimp into similar sized pieces and add to the bowl. Add the parsley and toss to mix.

For the dressing:
Put the lemon juice into a bowl in which you can whisk the ingredients. Add salt and pepper and more dried thyme. If the poaching oil has solidified (as it almost certainly will have), warm it over low heat. Add some of the oil to the dressing bowl. How much? No more than an amount equel in volume to the lemon juice. Whisk the mix together until the oil emulifies, ½ - 1 minute. Taste. If it is too lemony, add a bit more oil. At this point your taste buds must be your guide. Add salt and pepper as necessary.

Pour the dressing over the shrimp, potato, green bean mix and toss to coat. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy.

*We were eating our salad on a very chilly day and wanted it to be at least warm. That was accomplished easily by combining the beans and potatoes and microwaving them for 90 seconds. Then, when tossed with the shrimp and dressed the salad was nice and warm.

For a free excerpt of my book, “A Year of Food,” in which I opine, report, cook, muse and philosophize about everything that passed my lips for an entire year, write to me at: scrout1944@msn.com.

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