Shrimp was on sale this weekend — the cooked variety, though, not the raw Gulf shrimp I was hoping for — so yours truly had to come up with a shrimp recipe. The whole point of my handing out recipes at the island is to encourage people to try new flavors and cuisines and broaden their eating experience, have fun and enjoy eating healthy food (and, oh yes, to sell the featured items, which this weekend were the shrimp). Easy enough: I love shrimp any way I can get it, so I have several of those recipes on hand. It’s just after the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season, though, and most folks are looking for something that’s less hassle than the fancy stuff they’ve just overdosed on during the holidays. So I reached for a simple-to-make Chicago favorite: Greek-style shrimp and feta with fresh tomatoes.
I think the first time I had this was when I was a teenager. We were at Diana’s Grocery on Halsted Street with the immediate family for a Sunday dinner with my sister’s nice Lithuanian boyfriend (later husband; good man). Now I love many things on the menus of Greektown restaurants in Chicago; but just as I must have saganaki (flaming cheese, a local creation) for an appetizer and taramosalata (a pink roe spread bright with lemon juice) for my bread whenever I’m in a Greek restaurant, if I’m in the mood for seafood I’ll go first for the Shrimp Tourkolimano. No question. And I’m not alone.
I’ve had this served in an individual baking dish or skillet by itself with just fresh bread on the side, over white rice with an extra wedge of lemon, or served family style from a big platter. My suggestion is serving it over rice, but if that’s too many carbs for you, Shrimp Tourkolimano is just fine on its own … though you might want just a teensy piece of bread to mop up the last of the sauce. It doesn’t take long to make, either; the most time-consuming part is peeling and deveining the raw shrimp — but if you start with extra-large 16-20 count size, they’re much easier and faster to peel and clean than the smaller ones. And worth it. The finished dish makes a nice one-pan presentation, too. You’ll be so proud when you make it and it looks and tastes great.
BTW, the cook is not obligated to dance around the stove singing Opaaaaa! while cooking this, but it can’t hurt. Did I mention that the roadie in me rejoices because Route 66 cuts through the heart of Greektown? Now if that and Greek shrimp aren’t reasons to celebrate, then I don’t know what is.
Greek-style Shrimp Tourkolimano (Shrimp and feta) serves 4-5
2 lbs. 16-20 count raw pink Gulf shrimp
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
about 1 tsp. of freshly minced lemon peel
1 oz. Metaxa Greek brandy
6-8 fresh Roma or plum tomatoes, chopped intp ¾-inch pieces (with the tomato water)
1 tsp. fresh Greek oregano (or half that amount dried)
2-3 drops Tabasco sauce
½ tsp. Lea & Perrins lower sodium Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. ground savory
½ tsp. ground coriander
sea salt, to taste
1 twist of freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. minced rosemary leaves – fresh only, not dried (if you dislike rosemary, use thyme leaves)
½ lb. feta cheese, cubed (buy it in a slab and cube it yourself)
sliced green tops of 1 thoroughly washed and dried green onion
cooked and buttered white long-grain or Basmati rice
- Peel, devein and butterfly the shrimp; if you like the crunchy tails, leave them on (I don’t). Peel and chop shallots and garlic; set aside. Wash and dry a lemon; zest or mince enough peel to get about 1 teaspoon. Halve the lemon and pick out the seeds, then juice it; you need at least ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice. Slice the green onion tops; set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and add the shallots, stirring, then the shrimp and garlic; sauté until the shrimp begin to lose their translucency. Pour in the brandy and flambé by touching a lit match to the edge of the brandy. Let the flames burn and die, then add lemon peel and sauté for a minute. Add the fresh herbs, stir, then add the lemon juice and stir again. Add tomatoes and other seasonings. Cook through for about two minutes, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to soften. Note: if you want a thicker sauce, you can add a bit of tomato paste from a tube dissolved in 1 ounce of white wine and mix that in well.
- When tomatoes have formed a thin sauce, add the feta, cover pan, reduce heat, and warm through the cheese a minute or so until soft. Serve immediately with hot, buttered white rice or warm, fresh sesame-semolina bread, and sprinkle the sliced green onions over individual servings.
Accompany the shrimp with a dry white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc/Fumé Blanc, Soave or Vernaccia. Opaa!