Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Shrimp Boil" & Artichoke Salad

This recipe is based on leftovers, from fresh artichokes and roasted sunchokes to a precious gift: a ziplock bag full of leftover shrimp boil. A shrimp boil is a one-pot meal that starts with a good, well-spiced stock in a large pot with strainer. My friend cooks it outside, on a big burner. A born and bred New Orleanian of Italian descend, he is one of these innate gourmands whose body language even changes when talking about food. As if he's physically embracing all the deliciousness of what he is talking about. His eyes sparkle with pleasure when he describes a recipe, a method of smoking, a time to "soak up all these flavors".

In making shrimp boil, he carefully seasons his stock, always smiling when he mentions the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking: onion, bell pepper and celery. When he is happy with the taste of the stock, he adds skin-on baby potatoes, pieces of andouille, and whole button mushrooms, each ingredient enjoying the interaction of giving and taking flavor. He adds corn on the cob just before adding the main characters: a huge heap of unpeeled shrimp. He stirs, times, tastes, stirs again, fishes out a potato, breaks it open, takes a bite, looks pensive across to the rest of us, and - nodding happily - he grabs the bag of ice he has ready, and empties it in the steaming hot pot of shrimp boil. It is to stop the cooking. He leaves the shrimp to soak up all the flavors, and shortly after lifts out the strainer. The shrimp boil is ready to be eaten. He can't wait for the crawfish season to begin, he says. And the mere thought is making my mouth water.

When we left that evening, he rushed to the fridge and handed me a ziplock bag with leftover shrimp boil. The only reason there were any leftovers, by the way, is that his generous shrimp boil had been preceded by an irresistible scrumptious house-smoked turkey and andouille gumbo.

Below recipe gives an option for this salad if you do not have leftover shrimp boil. As for the roasted sunchokes and artichokes, they were leftover from another meal (with seared tuna). Note: while roasted sunchokes are divine, and will add a great dimension to this salad, they are also not always available. So add if you can find them, but don't despair if you have none. The main flavor-interaction is between the shrimp and artichokes, liaised with the sour cream "tartar". Just make sure you use fresh artichokes!

"Shrimp Boil" & Artichoke Salad with Sour Cream Tartar

Appetizer for 4

16-20 peeled large cooked shrimp
2-3 roasted sunchokes, cut into smaller pieces (optional)
4 cooked baby potatoes, halved
4 cooked button mushrooms, halved
4 cooked small artichokes, quartered*

Sour Cream Tartar
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove of garlic, minced
1-2 small cornichons, chopped fine
1/2 tbsp capers (tiny ones or chopped larger ones)
1-2 slices jalapeno, chopped (optional)
1 tbsp chives, chopped fine
salt/pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste

For the sour cream tartar: mix all ingredients together, taste, and adjust to your liking. Make a little ahead so the flavors can mingle!

Being leftovers from a shrimp boil, your potatoes, mushrooms and shrimp will be bursting with flavor. Simply use as is, and arrange with artichoke quarters and sunchokes on a plate. Add dollops of the sour cream "tartar" et voila.

If your salad-ingredients do not come from a shrimp boil, you could cook the baby potatoes, mushroom and shrimp in a flavorful stock (including bayleaf, celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, cayenne pepper) as follows: start with the potatoes, then add the mushroom, and last: add the shrimp. 

Arrange all ingredients on a plate or platter, top with the shrimp, add dollops of sour cream, and serve.
if you can't find baby artichokes, use large ones: boil them as you would an artichoke, eat the fleshy ends of the leaves with a dipping sauce, and keep the heart (bottom) for this salad.
* baby artichokes can be eaten whole. You take off the hard outer leaves, cut the sharp tops of all leaves, peel the stem back. Rub with lemon juice. I quarter the artichokes before boiling: I trim the inner core (usually fibrous and hairy in larger artichokes, in baby artichokes it's just a tiny bit of fuzz), trim the harder top some more, and then boil the quarters until soft. Immediately after, put in ice water to cool down. Drain and use.

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