Spring is just around the corner and I start thinking of lighter and fresher flavors. More fish and seafood are on the dinner menu at home. Now, when I turn more to green teas than to my favored blacks, the marine, even saline notes in Japanese green tea such as sencha speak to me as the perfect complement to shrimp. Transforming the lightly-brewed tea into a pan sauce accompaniment for those ubiquitous crustaceans is the perfect way to go for a weeknight dinner. Other seafood such as scallops and lobster could benefit from this same treatment. Buy the freshest shrimp you can find, shell-on (if purchased frozen, thaw in the refrigerator before cooking).  The brewed tea enriched by the shrimp shells is used as the basis for the sauce liquid.

Here’s how to take those few steps to vernal deliciousness.  

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 8 large or 10 medium sized shrimp, with shells on, thawed if purchased frozen; once shells are removed, devein the shrimp, placed on paper towels to dry, and kept in refrigerator if not cooking immediately
  • 2 T. good quality fresh sencha (or other favorite Japanese green tea), brewed in 4 c. spring water
  • 2 carrots, peeled, and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream, if using (optional)
  • 1 T. unsalted butter to sauté the shrimp
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Brew the tea. Remove the shells from the raw shrimp. Place the tea and the shells into a 2-quart saucepan with the carrots, shallots, and celery. Season stingily (remembering that the sauce will be reduced, thereby concentrating the salt and pungency of the pepper in the liquid; therefore, it’s best to lightly salt and pepper it and then season again to taste, if needed, just before serving). Cook to reduce by half. Pour the liquid through a sieve, pressing hard on the solids and then discarding them. Return the liquid to the saucepan and keep warm, on low heat.
  2. Over medium to high heat, continue to cook the shrimp shell-tea liquid (AKA stock) until reduced by half. Watch carefully so it does not evaporate. Add the heavy cream at this point, if using, and then cook the liquid further to thicken slightly.
  3. In a small, heavy frying pan just large enough to fit all of the shrimp in a single layer, melt (but do not brown) the butter. Add the shrimp, and over medium-high heat sear them, turning once, just to brown slightly (shrimp cook in a flash, and when overcooked can be rubbery so be vigilant at this point). Remove the seared shrimp from the pan and set onto a plate, keeping them covered and warm. Now take about ½ cup of the stock from above to deglaze the pan in which you cooked the shrimp, thereby loosening any browned bits that have clung to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add this highly-flavored liquid to the saucepan. Add the shrimp to the liquid. Simmer gently just until the shrimp are completely opaque inside but still tender (perhaps 1-2 minutes) and then taste the sauce. Correct the seasoning as necessary and then portion out shrimp immediately onto warmed plates or in shallow bowls over some simple steamed rice with cooked celery root (peeled and cut into one- inch chunks). Divide sauce evenly and spoon over the shrimp. Enjoy with small steaming cups of freshly-brewed sencha.

Photo “Yum!” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic to the photographer “chapstickaddict” and is being posted unaltered (source)

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