Taste of Provence
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JR's Shrimp with Basil
“Several times a day, food offers each of us the promise of short-term
As a source of satisfaction, joy, discovery, and renewal, few daily rituals
such extraordinary potential as the act of preparing and sharing a good
~ Patricia Wells
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Courtyard in Provence
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JR’s Shrimp with Basil
Patricia Wells at Home in Provence:
Recipes Inspired by Her Farmhouse in France
by Patricia Wells, 1996, Scribner
“When I first offered cooking
classes at Chanteduc, French chef Joël Robuchon volunteered to inaugurate
the school. I would have been a fool to turn him down! He came with an
entourage and prepared a feast to remember. I was up at 5 a.m. to fire up
the bread oven for his homemade sourdough rolls as well as a guinea hen
stuffed with foie gras and set on a bed of potatoes, a recipe worked on
together for our book
Patricia Wells Presents the Cuisine of Joel Robuchon
The lunch began with sips of cool, bubbly Champagne and these delicacies:
golden, deep-fried Mediterranean pastry twisted around sea-fresh
langoustines and dipped in a vibrant green basil sauce. At home, fresh giant
shrimp are a worthy substitute. For a festive and elegant winter touch, the
basil leaves wrapped around the shrimp can be replaced by thin slices of
fresh black truffles. The truffles do a remarkable job of bringing out the
iodine-rich essence of the sea.”
1 bunch of fresh basil, leaves only, washed and dried
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup (12.5 cl) extra-virgin olive oil
2 spring onions, peeled and finely chopped
Several tablespoons of chicken stock (if necessary)
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
About 4 sheets of phyllo dough (cut into twelve 6-inch
12 small toothpicks
2 quarts (2 l) vegetable oil (peanut or safflower) for deep
1. Set aside about 12 leaves of basil for decoration.
In a large saucepan, bring 1 quart (1 l) of water to a rolling boil over
high heat. Add the coarse sea salt and remaining leaves of basil. Blanch for
2 minutes. Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and refresh under cold water to
stop further cooking and maintain the rich green color. Drain again.
Transfer the leaves to the bowl of a food processor and purée. Set aside.
2. In a medium-size skillet, combine the olive oil and
onions, and cook gently over low heat just until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the onions to the basil purée and stir to blend. Set aside. (This can be
done several hours in advance.)
3. At serving time, warm the basil purée in the top of a
double boiler set over lightly simmering water. If the basil purée is too
thick, add a bit of warmed chicken stock to thin it.
4. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Place a shrimp at
the corner of each square of phyllo. Place a basil leaf on top of the shrimp
and roll tightly in the phyllo. Twist the ends in opposite directions to
form a bow. Secure by piercing the shrimp in the center of the roll with a
toothpick. Repeat for the remaining shrimp. The shrimp should not be rolled
5. Place the oil in a heavy 3-quart (3-l) saucepan or use a
deep-fat fryer. The oil should be at least 2 inches (5 cm) deep. Place a
deep-fry thermometer and a wire skimmer in the oil and heat the oil to 320
(160 C). Add the reserved basil leaves and fry until crisp, 1 to 2
minutes. Remove and transfer to paper towels to drain. Season each side of
each leaf with fine sea salt. Set aside.
6. Bring the oil to 375 degrees F (190 C). Fry the shrimp in
batches, 3 to 4 at a time, until the pastry is crisp and lightly browned,
about 1 minute. Remove and transfer to paper towels to drain.
7. To serve as appetizers, place the shrimp and basil leaves
on a large warmed platter, Place the warmed basil purée in a small bowl for
To serve as a first course, place a shrimp on a small, warm plate
with a bit of warmed basil purée around it and add a few fried basil leaves
for decoration. Serve additional sauce on the side.
suggestion: Champagne is the ideal accompaniment. For a very festive
occasion, try a vintage pink Champagne from the house of Billecart-Salmon.
Ever have a problem with food sticking to the skimmer when you attempt to
retrieve fried food? It won’t happen if you warm the skimmer as you heat the
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