Monday, April 19, 2010

Iron Chef Wine: Marinated Shrimp with Champagne Beurre Blanc

Have you ever heard of that diet book entitled, “French Women Don’t Get Fat”? Seems like they are rubbing it in a little, don’t you think? Especially since all the food they send over to America seems to be particularly unhealthy. French fries, French toast, and pretty much anything from Julia Child’s cookbook. I can perfectly picture those beautiful, lithe French women snickering as they puff away on their glamourous cigarettes saying, “Ha, ha, ha! We have tricked ze Americans and now zey are fat and miserable! Send zem more recipes made with butter!” And that’s when they invented the Beurre Blanc, a fancy schmancy name for butter sauce. But, after tasting this recipe (the Iron Chef Wine winner) I think you’ll agree that clogging your arteries tastes pretty darn good.

Sauce base
2 cups Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or other white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 cup Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
24 extra-large uncooked shrimp (about 2 pounds), peeled with tail left intact, deveined
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

A few quick notes... if you’ve never used shallots before, you can usually find them near the garlic, as they are sort of a mix between garlic and onion. The nicer grocery stores almost always carry them, but they can be somewhat expensive. You don’t need many for this recipe, so it’s worth it in my opinion. I used a fairly inexpensive Brut Champagne and the sauce was very tasty, but obviously the better the Champagne, the better the flavor. And finally, I used the white wine vinegar since I knew that was something I’m likely to use again, versus Champagne vinegar, which is not a common ingredient.

You can make the sauce base up to four hours ahead of time, which makes things a lot easier if you are having a party or something and want to serve this dish warm. It’s fairly simple, just mix the four ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, let it boil until the liquid is reduced to about half a cup, which will take around 20 minutes. The more you reduce it, the more tart it becomes, so don’t overdo it. In the meantime, mix up your marinade. Stir the Champagne, olive oil, shallots and pepper in a small bowl. Put the shrimp in a large ziplock bag and pour the mixture over, making sure the shrimp are coated. Marinate for at least a half hour, and no longer than one hour.

I made my beurre blanc sauce before cooking the shrimp because I wasn’t sure I could handle both at once. If you are a skilled multitasker or have some help, you can do them at the same time. Just remember that the shrimp will cook fairly quickly, while the sauce takes about ten minutes to pull together. Warm up the sauce base in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Be very careful never to let it boil or the sauce will break. Add the chilled butter one slice at a time, whisking it in until it’s fully melted. Take it slow and don’t rush it. Once all the butter is melted in, it’s done! Just add a little salt and pepper to taste. Broil the shrimp until just opaque in the center, about 2 minutes each side. Then put the shrimp on a serving platter and pour the sauce over them. Finish with a sprinkling of minced chives, tarragon and parsley. It might be a good idea to serve this with some French bread, or simply let your guests lick it off the plates, as some of the highly cultured ladies at our Iron Chef party may have done. And I don’t think even those uberthin French ladies would fault them for that.  

(Click here for printable recipe)

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