Monday, June 14, 2010

Gamberi Fra Diavolo

After some research and debate, Gamberi Fra Diavolo, or Shrimp of the Devil Priest, seemed like the perfect dinner for a Tuesday night. This is Nick's perennial favorite at our favorite Italian restaurant, La Scala. In the days of yore, the dish used to be made so spicy that Nick would break out into a sweat. He'd say, "I'm sorry, but I can't talk to you for a couple minutes because I have to eat this before the heat catches up with me."

Unfortunately, the Gamberi Fra Diavolo has not recently been very spicy. In fact, it's been remarkably lacking in fierceness. Therefore, Nick was quite excited by the prospect of adding 4 jalapenos and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes to 2 cups of tomato sauce.

What he wasn't too excited about was picking and chopping three tablespoons of thyme leaves. You'll note that the recipe below does not include 3 tablespoons of thyme leaves. Have you ever tried to pick three tablespoons of fresh thyme?

It incited an expletive-filled rant from Nick: "What kind of b.... a.. came up with this s...? Probably some a..hole with a prep cook and s..." I felt his pain, which is why we lessened the amount of herbs in general, and substituted some fresh oregano. Thank you, herb garden. 

We ended up using only 3 of the jalapenos, as Nick started coughing while cutting them up and saying to himself, "Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands." We've all been there--you cut some peppers, forget to wash your hands, touch some mucous membranes or some sensitive skin...
Well, the coughing led to a taste test, which confirmed that the jalapenos were indeed abnormally hot. As we were cooking for company, we not only cut back on the jalapenos, but the red pepper flakes as well. You don't want to serve your friends something they can't eat, right?

Next time, though, we're going to go all-out. But the point is that if you make this recipe, you should taste your peppers, and adjust the spiciness according to your heat tolerance. We could have handled more fieriness, but there was still enough tastebud intensity to get the endorphins flowing. And, funnily enough, we all suddenly hit a point at which our noses started running copiously. Yummy, right? That's how a box of tissues became the new centerpiece. Luckily, it was a pretty box of tissues.

The meal was quite lovely with a cheese plate, some zucchini fritters, baguettes, and some sparkling Shiraz. And like our friend said, we may as well enjoy some succulent, tasty shrimp while we still can.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
  • 1 lb high-quality dried pasta, such as Barilla, the shape of your choice
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 jalapenos, seeded and sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds
  • 1tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb peeled shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley  
Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta until a dente, according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat 2 TBSP olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the red pepper flakes, tomato sauce and wine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.

Lay the shrimp in the sauce and simmer until just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.Drain the pasta and plate topped with sauce and shrimp, garnish with chopped parsley.

Tomato Sauce

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into a 1/4 inch dice
  • 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the herbs and carrot and cook until the carrot is soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with their juice and the red pepper flakes, and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the hear and simmer until thick, periodically breaking up the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon. This will take at least 1/2 an hour, but the sauce can be cooked much longer if you like.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.


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