I think if I could only have one shrimp recipe from now
on, this would be it. And after serving it the other night to the family, it's
clear they all feel the same way. "Fra Diavolo" means "Brother Devil", and is a
classic Italian dish. It's spicy, so it's not for wimps and sissies. But man, is
it good. Maybe keeps the devil happy.
There are probably hundreds of recipes, but this one is
the best. Cook's Illustrated, as
usual, put a lot of research into this method, and I recommend it highly. As you
already know, I also recommend Cook's for everyone who likes to cook. I made very little
modification to their recipe.
I always recommend getting the ingredients ready before
you start to cook, but it's especially important this time. You don't want the
shrimp to cook to ashes while you rummage through your liquor cabinet looking
for that bottle of cognac you've put somewhere. In fact, don't just find it, put
it in the measuring cup and have it sitting there with the other ingredients.
You also don't have time to mince the garlic after you start cooking. This dish
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
1 lb. large shrimp (31 to 40 per
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
12 medium garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 pound linguine or spaghetti
Put four quarts of water in a large pot, add some salt,
and drizzle in some olive oil, and start heating it up. By the time you get the
shrimp ready, it'll be ready to cook the pasta.
Get a skillet hot, and while it's heating, mix the
shrimp, half of the red pepper flakes, two tablespoons of the olive oil, and the
salt in a bowl. Toss gently to evenly coat the shrimp. When the skillet's hot,
add the shrimp in a single layer and cook without stirring until they turn pink
and get brown spots on the bottom. This only takes about a minute or so,
depending on the heat of the skillet.
Take it off the heat, stir the shrimp, and add the
cognac. Give it a few seconds to warm the cognac, and then wave a match or
barbeque lighter over the skillet to ignite the cognac. Shake the pan a little
to make sure it all gets a chance to burn. If you own a restaurant, you should
do this tableside with the lights dimmed...
After the fire goes out, put the shrimp back in their
bowl temporarily. Heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in the skillet, add
2/3 of the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, for five or six minutes, until
the garlic gets light brown. Don't let it burn. Add the other 1/2 teaspoon of
the red pepper flakes, the salt, sugar, tomatoes, and wine. Simmer this sauce
for ten minutes or so.
Hopefully before the sauce starts to simmer the pasta pot
is boiling, so you can sprinkle the pasta in the pot (not all in one blob -- you
want the oil on the water to touch each strand), and start it cooking. The pasta
package will say how long to cook it, but it's probably about 12 minutes. Stir
it now and then to keep the strands separated while the sauce simmers.
When the pasta seems soft, take out a strand, let it cool
a little, and taste it. You'll know when it's too raw and when it feels "al
dente", or chews properly. Scoop out a half a cup of the water with a
coffee cup while it's cooking; you'll add that water back in later.
When the pasta is done, drain it well, and add the 1/2
cup of pasta water you saved earlier. Also add a few tablespoons of the sauce,
and toss to coat the pasta. Now let the pasta sit covered to keep warm while you
finish the dish in the skillet.
Put the shrimp, the rest of the garlic, and the parsley
into the skillet with the sauce, spread it out gently, and cover it to re-warm
the shrimp. After a couple of minutes, it's time to serve. If you go off and gab
on the phone now, when you come back the shrimp will be very small, and your
guests will think you are too cheap to buy decent shrimp.
Serve the shrimp over the pasta with some good bread and
wine, maybe a little salad, and get ready for the compliments!