Happy Valentine's Day!
SP and I aren't that into celebrating Valentine's Day, but we do like the excuse to have a nice meal and spend some quality time together. We always have some kind of seafood on Valentine's Day and this year we decided to try something new - baked stuffed shrimp. The latest issue of Cook's Country had a recipe for Baked Stuffed Shrimp so that's what I made:
But before I get into that, let's talk about our first course. Initially the plan was to have roasted asparagus as our vegetable, but on the way into work yesterday I remembered a dish I used to love when I was in college. There was a restaurant in town that served roasted or grilled asparagus tossed in a light vinaigrette and served with a fried egg on top. The whole dish was showered with grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. It was outstanding and I've always meant to make it at home (especially for my mom, who loved the dish and who is probably mad at me now since she wasn't invited over last night). It's an easy dish to make, but as regular readers will know, asparagus isn't a vegetable that makes many appearances on our table. It just isn't on my radar for some reason. But I already had a nice bunch at home so it was simple enough to change plans and serve this as a first course. Here are the asparagus ready to be roasted after being tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper:
Roasted asparagus tossed with lemon juice, salt and pepper is always good, but the addition of the fried egg is what makes this dish amazing:
See how the yolk starts to ooze over the spears? It mingles with the lemon juice and oil to make a simple sauce that is just outstanding with the slightly charred asparagus:
What a great way to start the meal. This would also be a great brunch item if you placed the asparagus on top of a grilled slice of crusty bread and added another fried egg on top. Yum!
Now for the shrimp. As I said, we wanted to try something different but I was a little concerned about how this would turn out. I have a lot of faith in Cook's Country and they didn't disappoint. This could not have been easier to make and the great thing about the meal was that the asparagus and baked potatoes cooked together in a 400 degree oven and once the asparagus came out and I turned the oven down to 275 for the shrimp, I was able to leave the potatoes in the oven to stay warm. Here are the shrimp stuffed and ready to go into the oven:
My plate with the baked potato (dressed simply with a little butter and sour cream) and the baked stuffed shrimp:
The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the stuffing had a really amazing flavor. You could really taste the garlic, mustard, clam juice and scallions. I followed the recipe exactly except for the last step - broiling the shrimp after they bake in order to crisp up the stuffing. I decided not to do that step because I didn't want to overcook the shrimp. After we finished eating, SP and I decided that the only thing that would have made the dish better was some kind of sauce to go over the shrimp, even if it was just a little butter and lemon juice.
For the potatoes I rubbed the skins with olive oil, salt and pepper before baking them. I had been hoping for a crispy skin (I never eat the skin on baked potatoes because I can't stand the soggy skin) but they never got crispy. Maybe I'll try a higher heat next time.
Overall this was an outstanding meal and we were both really happy with our special Valentine's Day dinner.
Baked Stuffed Shrimp
Cook's Country Feb/March 2008
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup bottled clam juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 pounds extra-large or colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to coarse crumbs. Transfer crumbs to broiler pan bottom and bake, stirring halfway through, until golden brown and dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove crumbs from oven and reduce temperature to 275 degrees.
Add parsley, scallions and garlic to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Combine crumbs, mayonnaise, clam juice, parsley, scallions, garlic, lemon juice and zest, mustard, cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl.
Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt. Grease the broiler pan with vegetable or other light oil. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a 1-inch opening along the back of shrimp (where the vein was located) to butterfly it. Arrange the shrimp cut-side down on the broiler pan. Divide bread crumb mixture among the shrimp, pressing it into balls between the tails and body. Bake 10-15 minutes for extra-large shrimp or 20-25 for colossal. As soon as the shrimp turn pink, they're done.
Remove shrimp from oven and heat broiler. Broil the shrimp until the crumbs are golden brown and crispy, 1 to 3 minutes.