Shrimp day is always my favorite day. Why can’t we figure out a way to replace chicken tenders day with shrimp day? I really want to write a snappy poem about my deep love of shrimp, except the only word I can think of that rhymes with shrimp is pimp. Pimp, and limp. It may make for a slightly crass poem.
This dish actually calls for prawns, with their little faces still on. As much as I’d like to chomp into a prawn face, they weren’t available at Whole Paycheck. I opted for the peeled and deveined shrimp instead, and they turned out just as dandy as candy, Randy.
Before you even think about cooking the shrimp (or prawns, if you’re being the good person Yotam Ottolenghi assumes you to be), they need to be coated in an aromatic marinade of lemon zest, crushed garlic, thyme and olive oil. You can leave them swimming around in the marinade for up to overnight, or as little as one hour. If you have the time, invest it and leave those little babies coated in the marinade for as long as you can. Maybe even forever, if you really wanted.
The next “make ahead” step is marinating the feta. It is tossed with dried oregano (which I randomly had in my pantry. I almost always use fresh oregano, so when I saw the dried I gave myself a pat on the back, a high five, and a suggestive wink), crushed red pepper and a bit of olive oil. The addition of oregano adds a a subtle herbal note, while the red pepper adds a slight heat. On a scale from gentle heat to raging wildfire, the feta ranks a satisfyingly, warm zip. It’s just enough heat to know it is there, but not enough to justify sitting around with your fire extinguisher at the ready.
The rest of the dish is relatively easy and straight forward. Begin by quickly searing the shrimp, before setting them aside on a plate. Add the fennel next, and cook for a few minutes, before deglazing the pan with the Pernod. After the Pernod has cooked for about a minute, add your vegetable stock and reduce, followed by a bit of butter and the tarragon. Once the sauce has come together, re add the shrimp to reheat and you are off to the races.
The sauce is surprisingly rich, and is beautifully complimented by the bright shrimp, and salty-spice of the feta. The tarragon, fennel and Pernod are an obvious pairing, but the most obvious things often make the most sense. If you decide to be a better person than me, I would recommend dipping bread into the sauce. It was glorious.
While I do find everything in this book to be magical sorcery, but I am being serious about this one. All hail shrimp day, in its crustacean ilk.