THE CHEF: MELISSA RODRIGUEZ
Her Restaurants: Mel’s, in New York City; Al Coro and Discolo, both soon to open, also in Manhattan
What She’s Known For: Italian cooking with finesse. Technical command in the service of inviting flavor combinations.
A SMART MOVE gives this shrimp recipe its intense umami flavor. The third Slow Food Fast contribution from chef Melissa Rodriguez features a lemon-herb marinade and a quick sauté in garlic-infused olive oil. But the game-changing element of this dish is a part of the shrimp typically thrown away: “Shrimp shells are underutilized,” the chef said. “They’re just packed with flavor.”
Ms. Rodriguez earned an international reputation at Del Posto, the Manhattan temple of high-end Italian cooking. This dish evinces the more-informal spirit of her new restaurant, Mel’s, as well as the meticulous technique fundamental to all her cooking.
Here she toasts shrimp shells and pulverizes them along with shallots, garlic and red chile flakes in a rich compound butter; melted and poured over the shrimp, it heightens the savory flavor mightily. Served with a scattering of crisp-fried garlic chips, fresh herbs and sliced scallions, this is a showstopper of a dish simple enough to pull off any night of the week.
—Kitty Greenwald is a chef, food writer and the co-author of ‘Slow Fires’ (Clarkson Potter)
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“Shrimp shells are underutilized,” said chef Melissa Rodriguez. “They’re just packed with flavor.” Here she toasts shrimp shells and pulverizes them along with shallots, garlic and red chile flakes in a rich compound butter; melted and poured over the shrimp, it heightens the savory flavor mightily.
- 1 pound whole shrimp
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for frying
- ½ bunch parsley, minced
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons chile flakes
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
- 6 mint and/or basil leaves, roughly torn
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- Peel shrimp and devein, leaving tails intact. Reserve shells. Smash 1 clove garlic. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ⅔ of the minced parsley, smashed garlic, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon chile flakes. Set seasoned shrimp aside.
- Set a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. Add reserved shrimp shells and toast until crisp and pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer toasted shells to a food processor. Roughly chop 2 garlic cloves and add to food processor along with 1 teaspoon chile flakes, shallots, peppercorns and 6 tablespoons butter. Blend until finely minced and evenly combined.
- Thinly slice remaining garlic. Slick a large sauté pan with ½-inch oil and set over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and fry until lightly golden, 1-2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer garlic chips to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add seasoned shrimp to garlic oil, cooking in batches to avoid overcrowding. Sauté each batch until shrimp just curl and turn pink on both sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer cooked shrimp to a serving plate. Pour out pan drippings and transfer shrimp-butter from food processor to pan. Cook until melted and aromatic, 1-2 minutes.
- Spoon sizzling shrimp butter over plated shrimp. Scatter fried garlic chips, reserved parsley, torn fresh mint and/or basil, and sliced scallions overtop. Season with lemon juice. Serve with toasted bread and/or a green salad.
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