The most common question I am asked by friends and clients is how I know which flavors go together. There are some very basic rules for pairing flavors in cooking; strong flavors with other strong flavors (lamb, rosemary, and Zinfandel, for example), and mild flavors with other mild flavors (halibut, orange, and Pinot Grigio). But, as in most of life, these rules are not hard and fast.
So how did I really learn what goes together? Practice. And not just practice from the seventeen years I have been cooking. Equally, if not more important, have been the thirty-some-odd years I have been eating. Food memories stick with me. I don’t know if it is a gift or a glitch, but I remember what I have eaten, and especially what I have loved eating.
Roasted beets with capers and cheese at a potluck, zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic sauteed together on a pizza, chili flakes on slice of ripe melon (thanks, Sarid), a sandwich with just a little bit of good salt on the tomato slice, and, as presented in today’s recipe, shrimp and artichokes.
When I was a teenager, my mother dated a man who clearly and unforgivingly had set his sights on marriage. My mother was wooed by this man ferociously. He told her she could quit working and move into his beautiful home with a view of the city. He tried to pal around with my brother and I (unsuccessfully – we were teenagers after all), and perhaps most impressively, he cooked. He put on an apron in his big gourmet kitchen and he made his last offering – an incredibly rich dish of shrimp and artichokes. And it was really, really delicious.
My mom eventually told him no. She liked her job and she liked her own house and her garden and she was very flattered but no thank you. None of us miss him, that’s for sure, but I will never forget my first time eating shrimp and artichokes together.
Greek-Style Shrimp with Artichoke Hearts:
2 Tbsp. butter
1# raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp. olive oil
half a medium red onion, medium dice
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 C. dry white wine
2 C. diced tomatoes, boxed or canned
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained
juice of half a lemon
Italian parsley, chopped
Rinse the clean shrimp thoroughly with cold water and pat dry. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until melted and bubbling. Cook the shrimp in batches in a single layer, just about 20-30 seconds per side or until they are just turning pink. Once pink on both sides, quickly remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Once all the shrimp are cooked, place them in the refrigerator while you finish the sauce.
Add the olive oil to the same pan and saute the onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Season with sea salt and add the garlic slices. Continue to cook for a few minutes more, stirring often, until the garlic is very fragrant and the onion is starting to brown just slightly.
Deglaze with the wine and stir to bring up and bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf, and chili flakes if using and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced.
When ready to serve, add the drained artichoke hearts and return the shrimp to the simmering sauce. Stir together to combine and let cook for just a minute to warm the shrimp through. Transfer to a large bowl and squeeze with a little lemon and top with Italian parsley.
You might try this dish atop soft polenta, with your favorite pasta, with steamed rice, or alongside some nice crusty bread.