Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roast With The Most

After years of languishing on my shelf relatively unused (except, of course, for chili) I've finally gotten into the groove of looking to my slow-cooker for help. I've used it more this year than ever before, which has taken some of the heat off of my oven and stove top, and also made for super easy clean-up. But as the days turn slightly warmer, I'm reminded that soon I'll turn to the stove in anger for heating up an already sweltering kitchen. And as I mentioned in a recent post, putting dinner on the table this winter has become a much easier feat thanks to my new penchant for oven roasting. And it was roasting to the rescue once again as I finally tried out a wonderful new technique for oven roasting shrimp. I love shrimp, but they always seem to either be boiled or sauteed in oil. Boiling and steaming doesn't do much for their flavor and in fact can extract flavor, which is great for a stock, but not for shrimp. Sautéing is great if you're eating shrimp on their own, but not if you mean to add them to a sauce. Cooking them in a sauce is okay, but doesn't develop any extra flavor.

A few months ago I saw a great tip on Ina Garten's new show, Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. I don't normally watch her show, but on this particular lazy weekend morning I was drawn in by her recipe for shrimp cocktail. Instead of boiling or steaming her shrimp she tossed them with a little olive oil, placed them on a sheet pan and threw them in the oven to roast. In roasting them she was able to develop flavor (the shrimp caramelize a bit on the sheet pan) and also contain flavor by not boiling it out into the water. Her method also allows the shrimp to cook quickly, taking only 5-6 minutes even in the oldest and most uneven of ovens (and mine's one of them). There's no waiting for a pot to boil—just turn on the oven and let it preheat while you prep your other food, or even while you peel and devein the shrimp (if you've bought them with the shell). Because shrimp cook so easily and so quickly with this method, they're great for entertaining. The host of a Christmas party I attended this year used Ina's shrimp cocktail recipe and it was a huge hit. The fact that she could have another batch of shrimp on the table in 5 minutes made it easy for her to make more when the plate was inevitably licked clean by me all her guests. 

I've really taken to this method, especially for pasta dishes. After all, the stove-top can often become precious real estate when pasta is involved, with a big pasta pot on one burner, a sauce pan on another, and possibly a protein on a third, all vying for space, not to mention your attention. I most recently roasted shrimp to serve atop a puttanesca-style sauce (the ultimate pantry clean-out sauce) and found that having one less thing to watch on the stove was perfect. In fact, as long as your oven is pre-heated, you could pretty much cook everything in advance and not worry about the shrimp until your burners are just about off. I made my sauce and boiled the linguine, leaving my olive oil coated shrimp on a sheet pan ready for action. By the time the pasta was al dente I simply chucked the sheet pan into the oven, taking the five minutes that the shrimp would roast to drain my pasta and fold it into the sauce. By then the five minutes had passed and the shrimp were pink, plump and juicy, with slightly caramelized edges. All that was left to do was to top the plated pasta with the shrimp and serve. The whole dish took about 30 minutes including all of the chopping and prep work, which is pretty good for something so flavorful. A lot of that is thanks to the roasting technique, which explains why restaurants like roasting so much. Below is the easy-peasy recipe for oven roasted shrimp (good for a myriad uses) in addition to my easy pasta puttanesca with roasted shrimp.

Oven Roasted Shrimp

Preheat your oven to 400 F degrees. Peel and devein shrimp and toss with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Spread shrimp out in one layer on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 5-6 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and cooked through.

Pasta Puttanesca with Oven-Roasted Shrimp
makes 2 generous portions or 4 first course portions

16 large, uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb linguine (I like whole wheat)
2 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 oz jar oil-packed anchovies, finely chopped, oil reserved
2 Tbsp capers
4 basil leaves, torn into pieces, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Toss shrimp with a drizzle of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Set aside on a baking sheet.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet along with 1 tablespoon of the reserved anchovy oil. Add anchovies and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes or until beginning to dissolve. Add onions and garlic and cook another two minutes, careful not to brown them. Add capers, olives and oregano, cook a minute further, then add tomatoes and basil. Simmer over low heat until pasta is cooked though.

3. When the pasta is done, put shrimp in the oven and bake for 5-6 minutes. Drain pasta (reserve 1 cup of pasta water) and add to the sauce, tossing to combine. Add reserved pasta water as necessary to thin out sauce. Plate and top with roasted shrimp and finely sliced basil. Enjoy!



Rosemary said...

I'm with you about roasting -- roasting just about anything. Shrimp is something new to me, though. Will defintiely try it. I'm enjoying reading your blog--great recipes, nice writing style.

Kathryn said...

We tried this the other night and loved it!!! Delicious. And the roasting was so easy. :-)