Melissa Clark of the NY Times recently posted a very simple recipe for roasted shrimp and broccoli. It’s been all over the internet; folks who’ve tried it say it tastes much better than the sum of its parts.
One repeated comment about that recipe is its extreme simplicity – the one-pan-ness and healthfulness of it all. Recipes like that can turn a weeknight of takeout in to a healthy meal without much more work. It’s not a meal trying to be a huge production; it’s a simple meal of basic ingredients with methods anyone can manage. We all need more of this. We need to let go of the pressure to cook like chefs and instead just cook at all. Our health depends on it.
Unfortunately, most cookbooks are for serious foodies who want to spend hours cooking. Publishers sell more copies when the content is splashy and food-pornorific, but most home cooks can’t manage the recipes without a significant time investment. I dare anyone to actually prepare a Rachel Ray 30-minute meal in 30 minutes, with cleanup, unless you’ve got her ridiculous (annoying?) energy. She can barely do it on TV with production help. It takes most people I know 5 minutes to mince an onion. I give her credit for trying, but I still find the approach lacking. On the far end of the spectrum are the junior league cookbooks full of canned mushroom soup and bottled Italian dressing. Where’s the middle ground?
Jacques Pepin wrote a terrific book called Fast Food My Way which is centered on a simple approach to cooking and the idea that preparing even a very simple meal with wholesome ingredients is infinitely more satisfying than another heart-clogging, chemical-infused cheeseburger and fries and it has the definite appeal of not slowly killing you.
This Pepin recipe for “Little Shrimp Casseroles” is a perfect example of his approach, with only a handful of simple ingredients, very little prep, and only one dish if you make a large gratin instead of individual ones. Your seafood counter probably sells peeled and de-veined shrimp, which are certainly worth the higher price if you’re in a hurry or slow to prep shrimp. Most people can get this dish in the oven in under 15 minutes, with minimal cleanup involved. Lest you think this recipe is here just for its ease, I assure you it’s also quite delicious, with the white wine and butter letting the natural sweetness of the shrimp shine through.
You’ll need a very small amount of white wine – only a quarter cup. If you’re not up to opening an entire bottle, consider purchasing little “airplane” bottles. They are available at most supermarkets, and while the quality available in small bottles is limited, they’ll do just fine for cooking. I used half a 187-ml bottle of Cavit Pinot Grigio for this recipe. If you want to drink wine with your dinner, buy a full bottle of a better wine.
As an additional bonus, this gratin can be prepped ahead, chilled, and baked off at the last minute. You can even make two gratins and have it freshly baked on two different nights.
Add a simple green salad or vegetable (perfect broccoli?) to complete the meal.
Garlicky Shrimp Gratin
A fantastic simple gratin of sweet shrimp, earthy mushrooms, slivers of green onion, and the bite of fresh garlic, all topped with bread crumbs and baked until bubbly and crispy. You can make one large gratin or four individual ones if you want an excuse to use cute little gratin dishes. If you buy peeled and de-veined shrimp, this recipe takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.
Adapted from Jacques Pepin’s “Little Shrimp Casseroles” in Fast Food My Way, 2004.
1 1/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
4 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup green onion, minced
1 cup button mushrooms, small dice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup panko (see note)
Heat the oven to 425F.
Grease a 4-cup capacity shallow gratin dish or casserole dish. (Or use four 1-cup dishes.) Add the shrimp, mushrooms, green onion, salt, pepper, melted butter, and white wine. Stir to coat and evenly distribute the shrimp.
In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs and oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle crumbs over the gratin.
Bake 10-15 minutes or until the topping is nicely browned the shrimp are cooked through. The cooking time will vary based on the size of your shrimp and baking dish. You should be able to hear the liquid bubbling a little when it’s done.
Note: Panko are Japanese-style bread crumbs, which are very flaky and crisp easily. They can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets. Pepin calls for fresh bread crumbs, made by putting sturdy white bread in a food processor.
Do you have any good gratin combinations or alterations to this recipe you’d like to share? Please comment.