Built-in Buf­fers

Shellfish aren’t tra­di­tion­ally salt-baked in Spain, but the shells and heads make a nat­u­ral pro­tec­tive bar­rier that pre­vents shrimp and lob­ster tails from ab­sorb­ing too much salt

SAVEUR - - Range -

Salt-baked Shrimp with Caper Sofrito SERVES 4 To­tal: 1 hr. 20 min.

Small green al­ca­parras—the ed­i­ble flower buds of the caper bush—grow in abun­dance on the is­land of Menorca. Salt-cured and then stored in vine­gar, they find their way into many lo­cal dishes. FOR THE SOFRITO: 6–8 medium ripe plum toma­toes (1½ lb.), or sub­sti­tute drained canned plum toma­toes 3 Tbsp. ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1 medium onion (6 oz.), finely chopped Kosher salt 1 medium gar­lic clove, minced (1 tsp.) ¼ cup drained and rinsed ca­pers in brine (1⅓ oz.) FOR THE SHRIMP: 16 shell- and head-on ex­tralarge shrimp (2½ lb.) 5 lb. (13½ cups) coarse sea salt or coarse kosher salt 1 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pep­per 3 large egg whites 1 Pre­pare the toma­toes: If us­ing fresh toma­toes, cut them in half cross­wise. Scoop the seeds into a bowl and re­serve. Us­ing a box grater and start­ing with the cut sides, grate each tomato half un­til the skin peels back and all the flesh has been shred­ded away. Dis­card the skin. Strain the liq­uid from the seeds and add to the grated pulp. If us­ing canned toma­toes, seed and very finely chop or grind them through a food mill, re­serv­ing the juices.

2 Make the sofrito: In a large, heavy-bot­tomed skil­let, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook, stir­ring fre­quently, un­til pale and translu­cent, 10–12 min­utes. Add the gar­lic and cook un­til aro­matic, about 1 minute. Add the toma­toes and their juices. Cook, stir­ring of­ten, un­til the tomato is dark­ened and pulpy, adding 1 ta­ble­spoon of wa­ter when­ever the mix­ture looks too dry, about 20 min­utes. Stir in the ca­pers and cook un­til heated through, 2–3 min­utes. Trans­fer to a medium serv­ing bowl, and cover to keep warm.

3 Pre­pare the shrimp: Pre­heat the oven to 425ºf. Line a large, rimmed bak­ing sheet with parch­ment pa­per or foil and set aside.

4 In a large bowl, add the salt, black pep­per, and egg whites and mix well with hands un­til the salt

feels like slightly damp sand. Pour half of the salt mix­ture in an even layer about ½-inch thick and pat it down lightly. Ar­range the shrimp on top of the salt, about a fin­ger’s width apart. Pour the rest of the salt mix­ture over the shrimp, cov­er­ing them com­pletely in an even layer and pack­ing the salt down gen­tly around them to seal. Bake un­til the salt forms a hard shell and the shrimp are just cooked through, 12–15 min­utes.

5 Re­move the bak­ing sheet and let cool slightly. Us­ing a wooden mal­let or ham­mer, care­fully break open the salt shell into large pieces. Pull any large chunks away from the shrimp. Brush away any salt that clings to the shells and trans­fer them to a serv­ing plat­ter. Serve im­me­di­ately with the caper sofrito.

Spain’s prized gam­bas—gi­ant red prawns—are typ­i­cally served grilled or in paella-like dishes, but they also take well to salt bak­ing.

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