Sunday, September 12, 2010

Prawns or Shrimp with Tomato Confit, Garlic, and Chile

Run, don't walk, to the nearest farm stand or farmer's market, and get some of the last of those yellow tomatoes. You'll want to make this recipe, because believe me, it's worth it. This recipe was a revelation, in that I had never before made a serious attempt to confit something. The idea of cooking anything in large amounts of oil was scary to me, but I shouldn't have been scared. In this case, at least, you don't really end up eating all that much oil, and even if you do, it's a good fat, right?

The tomato confit, with its infusion of herbs and aromatics, tastes like summer, but not in the typical tomato-and-basil way that you're almost sick of by the end of the summer. The confit seems creamy, there's no cream;.it also tastes a bit buttery, but there is no butter in this dish. It's just magic. And then the shrimp...Oh, the delectable, garlicy shrimp.

This recipe takes a bit of time prep-wise just because of the amount of chopping, but overall, it's not especially difficult or time-consuming. But you can tell your friends that it took a really long time to make, and they'll believe you; it's one of those recipes.

With big hunks of crusty bread (I was too lazy to make it, but Jim Lahey's bread would be perfect) , this made one of the best meals I've had in a while, and if you're looking for something a little heartier, Suzanne Goin says that these shrimp are also delicious with pasta or steamed rice.

Oh, and about the 'shrimp': California Spot Prawns are apparently awesome, and this recipe was designed with them in mind. But if you're not lucky enough to live on the west coast, plain old shrimp will work just fine.

Prawns or Shrimp with Tomato Confit, Garlic, and Chile
(From Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

Serves 6
  • 24 large spot prawns (about 4 1/2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced chile de arbol
  • 1/2 cup sliced garlic
  • 1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Yellow tomato confit (recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup sliced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green basil
  • 2 tablespoons sliced opal basil
  • 1 lemon, for juicing
Use kitchen scissors to cut the shells of the spot prawns down their backs, from the base of their heads to the tip of their tails. (Suzanne Goin directs you to not remove the shells. I think, though, that if you really want to, you can go ahead. The sauce might just be a bit less flavorful.) If the prawns are wet, dry them with paper towels.

Heat 2 heavy-bottomed sauté pans over high heat for a couple minutes. Swirl 2 tablespoons olive oil into each pan, and carefully place the prawns in the pans, on their sides. (You might need to cook the prawns in batches to avoid overcooking them.)

Season each batch of prawns with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the shells get some color, and the flesh begins to turn opaque on the first side.

Turn the prawns over, drizzle another 2 tablespoons oil into each pan, and season the second side of each batch with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Cook another 3 minutes or so, until the prawns are just cooked.

Remove the prawns to a platter, and turn the heat under both pans down to medium-low. Divide the shallots, thyme, and sliced chiles between the two pans. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Cook 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the flavorful shrimp bits. Divide the garlic between the pans, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the shallots and garlic are soft and just starting to color.

Turn the heat back up to high, and add half the cherry tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper to each pan. Taste for seasoning and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Spoon the hot yellow tomato confit onto a large warm platter, or spoon a portion into each person's plate or bowl.

When the cherry tomatoes are tender and breaking down, add half the prawns, sliced parsley, oregano, and the two basils to each pan, and roll the prawns in the cherry tomatoes to coat well.

Arrange the prawns on the platter, or divide them amongst the individual bowls or plates, and squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over them. Spoon the remaining cherry tomato sauce over the top. Serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauces and juices. The prawns would also be great with steamed rice or over pasta.

Yellow Tomato Confit

  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol, broken in half with your hands (then wash your hands!)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow tomatoes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Scatter the red onion, chiles, garlic, and basil and oregano sprigs in a baking dish. The baking dish should be small enough to fit the tomatoes snugly, as Suzanne says that if there is too much room in the pan, the sauce will be thin and lose some of its intensity. I found that a bread-baking pan (made of Pyrex) was perfect.

Core the yellow tomatoes and place them, stem side down, on top of the onions. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt, and pour the olive oil and 1 cup water over the tomatoes. Cook the onions in the oven about 50 minutes, until they soften and blister.

Remove the pan from the oven, and cool 10 minutes. Strain the tomatoes and onions over a bowl, saving the juice. Discard the herbs and half the chiles.

Transfer half the tomato mixture to a blender with 1/2 cup of the liquid. (You'll need to do this in batches.) Process at the lowest speed until the tomatoes are purees. Pour in more liquid, a little at a time, until the tomato confit is the consistency of heavy cream. Turn the speed up, and blend about a minute, until completely smooth. Transfer to a container, and repeat with the second half of the tomatoes. (You may not need all of the liquid.) Alternatively, you can do this all in one batch with a stick/immersion blender.

Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Taste for seasoning.

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