Sunday, December 9, 2012

Macadamia Coconut Shrimp Pasta (gluten free, peanut free, garlic free)

In the middle of doing posts on things to make for Christmas, you might ask yourself why I'd be posting up a pasta recipe. Wellllll, honestly it's because I had shrimp in the freezer, wanted pasta and it was cooooolllllddd and windy out, so I wanted something that would take me on a mental vacation to Hawaii.  Yes, I'll make a meal that takes me on a mental vacation.  Odd?  Maybe.  But oh so worth it.

So, looking at the frozen bag of easy peel shrimp and trying to figure out what pasta dish to make with shrimp that WASN'T shrimp scampi (not in the mood for it), I started looking around my kitchen and came up with flavors that went with shrimp, married them together and created a wonderfully light dish that trust me you'll go back for seconds or thirds with (at least my husband and I did).

This dish calls for a couple of special ingredients which might be new to you.  For one, coconut rum.  If you don't like cooking with spiced rum or something, please do get some of this and try it when you are cooking fish.  It's actually rather sweet and has a wonderful flavor of coconut to it (duh right) and once the alcohol cooks out of it is an INDISPENSABLE cooking alcohol.  I got some to experiment with about two months ago and I've been loving on the stuff ever since.  If you don't believe in cooking with alcohol, you can (if you look at the right stores) find coconut extract and use that (I'd go with a couple of teaspoons) but be sure to add some extra chicken stock to compensate for the loss of liquid in the dish.

Second specialty ingredient?  Macadamia nuts.  If you've never had these before you really should try them.  They are delicate, buttery and one of my favorite nuts of all time.  Oh and they do great as an ingredient in cooking.  I get my nuts in bulk at different online resources, but be warned that I haven't found ones that are peanut free unless you really want to pay for them (you can find some growers that grow them in their back yards and such on E-bay, so no other nut contamination, but they aren't the cheapest option).

To cook really GOOD tasting shrimp, the secret is normally to brine the shrimp for 1/2 an hour to 1 hour before cooking.  Unfortunately, I'm always dealing with frozen shrimp, not fresh (and I'm sure anyone on a budget does the same thing), can NEVER remember to defrost the things ahead of time and just plain don't have the time to mess with it.  So, I came up with a way around the whole brining thing.  I take all the ingredients of a good brine and then heat them up in a saucepan to boiling and then add my frozen shrimp.  It doesn't take long for the shrimp to cook and as it does the brine works into the shrimp so you still end up with perfectly seasoned shrimp at the end of cooking.  So, in short, don't freak out when you see a large portion of salt and sugar in the ingredients.  It's all for a good cause.  Trust me!

Macadamia Coconut Shrimp Pasta (gluten free,  garlic free)
  • 3/4 pound angel hair style rice pasta
  • 1/2 bag 31 to 40 count Easy Peel Shrimp (not pre-cooked)
  • 1 Medium to Large Shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup unsalted Macadamia Nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 TBS unsweetened dried coconut (or more to taste.  My husband doesn't like the texture of coconut so I cut way back on it for his sake)
  • 2 large or 4 medium sized leaves fresh basil, cut into thin strips
  • 2 TBS Chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup coconut rum (estimated) 
For Shrimp Boil:
  • 2 TBS home made Emeril's Baby Bam Seasoning (or seasoning of choice.  If you can do garlic, I'd go for Old Bay Seasoning.  GREAT seafood seasoning)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I use cheap chardonnay for cooking wine.  5.00 per bottle TOPS)
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar (if using palm sugar go with 1/4 cup)

1.  Cook your shrimp.  Fill a medium saucepan about 2/3 of the way full of water (I use a 3 quart saucepan for this).  Place over high heat then add the salt, sugar and the Baby Bam seasoning (or you can use whatever seasoning blend you like that goes with shrimp) and white wine.  Let come to a boil and then add shrimp.  Cook until shrimp turns pink and looks done.  Drain shrimp and add back to pan to await it's final destination.

2.  While your shrimp is cooking bring a large stock pot of water to a boil, add a good amount of salt (the water, when tasted should taste almost like sea water salty) and dump in your pasta.  Cook until el dante (that means its cooked until not crunchy anymore, but still has a chew to it).  Drain.

3.  While both the shrimp and the pasta water are doing their thing (never said this was a one pot wonder folks), place some extra virgin olive oil in a deep preheated skillet (or large saucepan if you don't have one of those) and add shallot.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until shallot is translucent.   Add chicken stock and stir to de-glaze the pan.   Remove pan from heat or turn off flame for a few seconds (better than burning your face off should something bad happen) and take coconut rum a couple good turns around the pan (I'd say it'd be ABOUT 1/3 of a cup when all said and done...remember a lot of that moisture is going to cook off, so don't worry if it looks like a lot of liquid).  Return pan to heat/turn flame back on.  Add macadamia nuts, lemon juice and coconut to the pan.   Cook mixture until the liquid reduces by half.  Then add basil to pan, and let cook for a few more minutes on medium low heat.   Salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Dump pasta and shrimp into pan with sauce and toss with a good pair of spring loaded tongs to coat the pasta and shrimp with sauce.  Serve warm.
Side dish suggestion:  Fresh or canned fruit or a green leafy salad with fresh fennel would be great too.

Serves 3 to 4 (depending on how many times you go back for seconds).


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