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Monday, January 24, 2011

Spicy Shrimp Gratin - a Gutsy Cooks Selection

This was a perfectly good dinner (here is the recipe), but it wasn't as good as I had hoped. I love shrimp, hot peppers, slowly cooked onions, gruyere cheese, and creamy sauces, so I had great hopes for this dish. For me, the flavors just didn't come together, and its good parts didn't make a great whole.

As I've mentioned before, The Illustrated Kitchen Bible likes to make complicated recipes easy. I think this one took a few too many shortcuts.

The shrimp are initially marinated in lime juice and hot pepper sauce (I used Sriracha). Why? They're marinated for only about 15 minutes--not long enough to "cook" them, and the lime juice is drained before the shrimp are cooked. These flavors seem like the base for a spicy grilled shrimp dish, not a creamy gratin. And, while cookbook authors don't have to follow the rules, it would be nice to know what this author had in mind.

Onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil--the base for many a great dish. Here--another surprise--hot red peppers are added too. No objection to the peppers, but again, I'm wondering how they're going to work with the cream and gruyere.

The onions, garlic, and peppers form a bed for the marinated, drained shrimp.

A half-cup of cream (not cream sauce, not even heated cream) is poured over the shrimp. (I halved the recipe). Grated gruyere cheese is scattered atop, and the dish is placed in a preheated broiler.

The biggest cooking challenge with shrimp, as with most fish, is not overcooking them. Cooked perfectly, shrimp and tender and flavorful. Overcooked, they're a rubbery, chewy mess. I had concerns about broiling them because, with the cheese on top, the shrimp couldn't be turned midway for even cooking. Result? Top half a little overcooked, bottom half a little undercooked. If I'd cooked them for two minutes more, the whole thing would have been overdone. Maybe if a hot cream sauce had been poured over the cold shrimp, that would have helped with even cooking. The alternative method of baking probably would have also resulted in more even cooking, but 20 minutes sounds like way too long to bake shrimp.

The odd thing about this dish is that every bite was a little different. Some bites had more pepper in than others, so at times the shrimp seemed quite hot; other bites seemed creamier and milder. The cheese started to turn a little gluey before the shrimp were all eaten.


Jim: I'll give it an 8. My first thought was 7 1/2, but then I decided I liked it a little better than that. I have to say I'm a little disappointed in this dish.

Marie: I agree. 8 was the number I had in mind too. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I thought the shrimp would turn out better than they did.

1 comment:

  1. mmm... I actually cheated and had mine in the marinate more than 15 minutes (mainly because Tom was late coming back from the dog part run)... and I did not want to cook them and let them sit. Maybe the trick was 20 minutes?

    Like you I thought about the cream as well... next time I'm going to put 1/2 of it with the onions and the other 1/2 (warmed in the Microwave) on top.

    Mine were spicy, but then I totally used the sauce (paste) in my onions as well and not fresh, so the spicy was distributed evenly all over.

    Over here we gave them about the same scare as you and Jim.