Wednesday, June 19, 2013

barefoot contessa's roasted shrimp with feta

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Last week I had an out-of-the-ordinary appointment that required a bit of a wait.  I had not yet eaten that day, and at the office where I sat impatiently, the television was tuned to the Food Network, a special kind of torture for someone as starving and prone to low-blood sugar attacks as myself.  I watched longingly as Ina Garten set about in her typical effortless fashion, making lunch for a friend that was of course enjoyed in an immaculate spring setting off the porch at the Hamptons home, complete with vases bursting with pristine hydrangeas.  Oh, Ina, I love you, but you are a bit predictable.

I've written before about Ina's bewitching presence.  Her voice is sort of low and syrup-y, with no discernible accent, just languid and dreamy.  Nothing ever takes very long in her kitchen, there are always loads of butter and cocktails, and her dinner guests (or darling husband, Jeffrey) find themselves sitting at beautifully set tables, surrounded by sparkling silver and fresh flowers.  Ina has inevitably had the foresight to prepare the dish long in advance, which means she spends all of her time at lunches/dinner parties/picnics/brunches chatting with her friends.  When you watch her, not only are you completely drawn into her presence, you become convinced that you too, can pull off a meal with such grace and aplomb as Ina.  An episode of Barefoot Contessa is a soothing as a cup of nice, steaming tea, and will leave you undoubtedly feeling inspired.  Of course, we can't all be as organized or skillful as Ina, but that thought is far from your mind once you've spent a half hour with her.

Needless to say, when I printed out this recipe yesterday, I wasn't sure if the real reason I wanted to try it was because I was unreasonably hungry the day I watched the episode featuring it, or if I might have just been in an Ina fog.  I like all of the ingredients on their own, enjoy Mediterranean flavors in general, and am certainly a huge fan of roasting my entire meal in one pan.  It wasn't with trepidation that I began the preparation, I just simply worried that it might not be as flavorful or filling as we wanted for our dinner.  I was in a bit of a rush (toddler-induced, of course) and I didn't even follow some of the directions properly (sauced the shrimp with lemon BEFORE putting in the oven, sprinkled the feta on TOP of the breadcrumbs instead of the other way around).

You guys, the final result was stupendous.  So. Incredibly. Delicious.  The delicate flavor of the fennel married perfectly with the tomato, lemon, and parsley to create a base for the shrimp that was mildly spicy, and the briny nature of the shrimp was countered by the salty feta, which, by the way, tasted especially amazing with its nice, toasty brown top.  Of course, the breadcrumbs, accented with threads of lemon zest, gave the entire dish the homey feeling that I love.  I will also admit that it wasn't a particularly fussy production.  The fennel does need to saute for a bit, but you can easily prepare the crumb topping or wash dishes while you're waiting.  The whole thing could definitely be finished in 45 minutes, maybe less if you're super speedy.  I suggest you make it immediately.

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