Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shrimp Provencal... take 1

Last night I tried my hand at a re-make of the delicious shrimp dish that Saba had at Blue Ribbon Restaurant in NYC. I've actually been kind of trying to figure out what was in this recipe since last week (I'm a dork, I know), so making it yesterday was kind of exciting. I talked about the dish in detail in the last posting, so I won't do it again (trying to make these more succinct), but the overall flavor of the sauce was pretty interesting to me, and I really didn't have any idea what the components were so... Chall-ange!

The first thing I did was just do an Internet search for Shrimp Provencal recipe to see if anything came up. Hey! I didn't say I needed to create it from scratch... just figure out what was in it:-p No luck with that. :-p

The next thing I did was to do an ingredient search on epicurious and the food network site to see if I could find anything with the ingredients that I thought I tasted, shrimp, butter, cream and fennel and cheese ravioli. From that little search I initially thought maybe it was a sort of Mornay Sauce which is a Bechamel sauce with added cheese, but I didn't remember tasting any cheese in the sauce.. somehow through a random series of searches I came across a recipe for a Lobster Ravioli in a Chervil Nage. I'd never heard of a "Nage", but the picture looked very much like the shrimp Provencal sauce and the ingredients seemed promising. Saba was pretty sure that the primary herb was tarragon and that there was no cheese in the sauce. I asked my boss (who is very food knowledgeable, and shares an office with me) some questions about fennel bulb (which I rarely cook with), and she mentioned that fennel bulb tastes much like anise when cooked, which was one of the flavors that I initially thought i tasted. So it looked like I was making a Tarragon infused nage sauce. Yay! I actually found quite a few recipes for Tarragon nage sauces, so I figured I was on the right track, but Emeril's nage recipe seemed more complex so I figured I'd pretty much use that one, but sub the tarragon for the chervil. I decided against making homemade ravioli, because I just couldn't do all that on Saturday. I thought there was goat cheese in the ravioli, but Saba thought it was just ricotta... I found a goat cheese ravioli at Whole Foods that had Ricotta as it's first ingredient so I decided to just use those. Here is the recipe I decided to use...

1.5 onion
3 carrots
1 lemon, juiced
1.5 leeks (white part only)
1.5 shallots
3 sprigs tarragon
3 springs parsley
½ tsp coriander seeds
6 peppercorns (or 1 tsp)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb shrimp
1 bulb fennel fronds and upper stems reserved
3 tablespoons minced tarragon
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon zest

I first made a "stock" out of all the the veges and spices (Onions down to Salt). I then threw the shrimp skins in with the veggies. The initial recipe called for the lobster shell to be simmered in the stock. I simmered that for about 30 min. I cooked the shrimp in a butter with only kosher salt and black pepper. I cooked the shrimp only until it started to get pink in the center and then set it aside. When the "stock" had simmered for about 20 min I strained all the solids out and then added the fronds of fennel and boiled it on high.... According to the recipe I was supposed to boil it until the gallon of water reduced to 2-3 cups... but I had a hungry friend over who was getting drunker, hungrier and more belligerent by the moment so I figured I needed to get some food on the table, STAT! I just took 2+ cups of stock out and started to make the nage. The instructions for the nage said to bring the stock to a simmer and add the chopped tarragon, cream, butter and lemon zest, stir and remove from the heat.

So... I finished the sauce and it looked REALLY watery and was kind of bland, so I decided to add some flour to thicken it up... didn't help much. I added more salt and pepper and it helped a bit, but it was still really watery. But my girl was hungry, so I put it all on the plate and we ate. This is what it looked like:

Honestly I really liked it. In terms of mimicking the flavor I recalled I give myself a solid C+ The flavor of the sauce was similar, but it wasn't nearly as potent/flavorful as the original. Also it was WAY WAY too watery. The sauce didn't stick to the shrimp or the ravioli.. They just sort of swam in the butter/cream.

Next time I think I'm going to start with a vegetable broth instead of water. Maybe use less than a gallon of veggie broth with the same amount of vegetables to make the stock and let it reduce down to the 2-3 cups to make a more potent broth. I will also let the stock with the shrimp shells simmer for a little longer 30-35 min and add a bit more tarragon and actually add the coriander. Made a cream of asparagus soup for Christmas that had a lot of coriander and I think that was really one of the flavors that was missing. Saba said she tasted rosemary... I'm not sure if I missed the taste of rosemary, but maybe next time I'll add some rosemary to the chopped up tarragon.

Also I have to figure out how to thicken the sauce... maybe I'll start with a roux? Maybe I'll just use less stock?

Also I discovered how useful shrimp shells are! I ate some of the boiled out vegetables and you could REALLY taste the flavor of the shrimp shells in the vegetables. I think I'll start saving my shrimp shells. I know people use them to start sauces for risotto, bisque's, etc. I never really thought of it, but it really does make a big difference to the depth of flavor.

So overall I give the entire dish a C/C+ I give it a C+ for overall flavor, a B+ for the shrimp, but a D+ for the wateryness of the sauce.

If anyone has any suggestions about thickening the sauce, please let me know. I'm going to try this again in a few weeks.... it's a bit too rich to be eating all the time. :-p

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