I have to create an small appetizer, bordering on amuse, for a dinner. The focus is shrimp. I'm looking for some creative ideas, but first I thought I would share my thought process to this point:
It's winter. I want to give shrimp a winter feeling without destroying that beautiful seafood flavor. I want to flavor with ground cinnamon, coriander, cumin, black pepper, and cloves, ever so slightly. Certain fruits pair well with seafood, so stealing an idea from Thomas Keller, I think poaching figs in port, then creating a port-coffee reduction from the poaching liquid would go well with the shrimp. Onions caramelized in duck fat were my next thought because they pair well with figs and the spices used in the shrimp.
The final dish winds up as: Spiced Shrimp with Poached Figs, Port-Coffee Reduction, and Duck-Fat Caramelized Onions
Plating is: Small pool of sauce. Poached fig in middle of sauce. Onions on top of fig. Shrimp on top of onions.
Assuming I go with this combination, my problem is how to make the shrimp shine with such strong flavors. Thoughts on this include roasting the shrimp in a spice infused oil, plain old roasting them with a light coating of spices, or steeping in a stock of spiced water.
Any thoughts on combinations of the dish itself and its preparation would be welcome.
Where do you live? On the east coast, the perfect shrimp for a winter dish are the Northern shrimp sold as Maine shrimp (AKA sweet shrimp, red shrimp, crevette, ama-ebi). They are native to the north Atlantic, and come south in the winter, where they are harvested in Maine. To me, its a shrimp that symbolizes winter in itself, as they are out of season by the beginning of April. They are tiny and incredible sweet, and would be perfect for a small dish. You can do anything with them, they cook almost instantly, although I like them best raw, as sashimi.
Yes, I do live the East coast, in fact I can walk 3 minutes to the beach. I am incredibly grateful for the fresh seafood we get. Maine seafood, in my opinion, is the best one can get because of the cold water habitat.
I haven't eaten shrimp as sashimi, although I wouldn't hesitate to try, I bet its delicious. Unfortunately most of my extended family for whom I am cooking has a mental block against raw seafood that I am trying to get them to overcome.
re: c oliver
It's funny you mention that, I braised some short ribs today. Yes, I understand, its a lot of strong flavors when paired with something as delicate as shrimp. What I'm trying to do is make shrimp shine in a, for lack of a better word, "wintery" fashion, and when I think of winter I think deep hearty flavors. Would you have any suggestions on changing something else to allow the shrimp to come through while keeping the "heartiness"?
Go for flavors that also say Winter. Figs are late Summer/Fall.
Meyer lemons are still around, and a nice lemon relish with chervil would allow the shrimp to shine.
You could put the shrimp and relish on a brioche toast if you wanted to add some fattiness.
I like your flavor combinations alot except for the shrimp. I agree with most of the other posters that the fig, port and coffee will mask the flavor or the shrimp. Kudos for thinking outside the box, tho.
I live in an area with a year round temperate climate so we get things liks mangos and pineapples all year long. Both are natural pairing with shrimp. But other than root veggies, 2 items that say winter to me are tangerines and grapefruits, both of which would work with shrimp. I'm thinking a little ruby red grapefruit juice (and supremes) with some Xtabentun (honey & anise liquor) might work well with shrimp. Also love the Meyer lemon suggestions.
Maybe some kind of shrimp-in-a-blanket preparation would allow you to incorporate the interesting, sort of Afro-Carribean, spice mixture you're contemplating? Phyllo?