Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Recipe: Crevette Béchamel (Shrimp with Béchamel)

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. – George Bernard Shaw

Delicious, but I'd do it in a rectangular dish next time.
I made a mistake. I broke a cardinal rule with this recipe: “You eat with your eyes first.” I used the wrong baking dish. I had just finished doing dishes and was a little leery of dirtying more right away. It was a mistake, albeit a minor one... There’s a reason why a certain type of dish is “necessary” in a recipe.

The mirepoix. A classic French technique.
If you want a (little) better looking result than I had in plating use a 9x9 baking dish. I used a Dutch oven because I could sauté and bake right in the same pot (thus saving on dirty dishes…). But it didn’t dip out quite the way I wanted. You should be able to serve nearly perfect squares from a rectangular baking dish.

Regardless, this still tasted very good. It’s a bit of an odd dish. My inspirations will make you laugh and perhaps leave you a bit perplexed.

This started out in my mind as one dish (shrimp on toast) but ended up with a little bit of James Beard’s pastitsio recipe thrown in for good measure. (His pastitsio recipe is to die for…)

So what exactly did I do?  I substituted the “bread” part from the shrimp on toast with a puffed béchamel sauce, like on the top of Mr. Beard's traditional Greek specialty. It actually makes sense when you think about it. The topping on pastitsio is somewhat "bread-like" but at the same time is very light and creamy. It transformed the shrimp on toast in a wonderful way.

The spices, although perhaps odd on the surface (tarragon, nutmeg and cayenne), work together very well. So we have some France, some Greece and a good dose of Docaitta all thrown together. What could be better...?

This turned out rather well, except for the plating part. I didn't serve a salad, but should have. I would recommend something light that won't dominate the delicate flavours in the Béchamel Shrimp – something like mesclun greens, fresh tomato, cubed mozzarella and balsamic vinegar dressing. But feel free to create your own.

Crevette Béchamel
Prep: 10 min  | Cook: 15 min  |  Bake 35 min

This is just before I added the béchamel.
For the base:
2 tbsp butter
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 lb small shell pasta
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp tarragon, dried
salt and pepper

For the béchamel
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup mozzarella, grated
2 eggs
parmesan cheese for the top

When baked the béchamel puffs slightly and forms a
wonderful light topping.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. While you make the shrimp mixture boil the pasta in salted water.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the chopped garlic, celery, carrot and onion. This is the classic French “mirepoix” which adds the flavour punch to the base of the dish.

Sauté the vegetables in the butter until they soften. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and mix well. then add the milk and water. Stir while you do this to avoid lumps.

Add the drained pasta and raw shrimp. Stir in the tarragon and some salt and pepper. Don't worry about the raw shrimp. They will cook while the béchamel bakes. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a 9x9 pan.*

If you’re capable of handling two (three?) pots at once, do the sauce while the mirepoix and pasta cooks.

To make the béchamel melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and let cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the milk, whisking constantly. Allow to cook until thickened.

Whisk in the mozzarella until it is smooth. Let cool for a few minutes and then beat in the two eggs. Then add the nutmeg and cayenne.

Pour the béchamel evenly over the shrimp mixture. Sprinkle the top with parmesan.

Bake for 35 minutes. Serve the squares warm with a side green salad.

* If the pasta mixture sits while you make the béchamel (as I did) the pasta may start to absorb the sauce. You may want to add a little more water before spreading it on the bottom of the baking dish.


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