Today I am preparing a Shrimp and Chorizo Stew that will pair beautifully with the Portuguese white wines featured recently at Heinen’s. Before moving to Chicago I lived in Newport Rhode Island, a beautiful sea side town in New England. There, the influence of the Portuguese culture made its way into the recipes. I love the indulgent combination of shrimp and chorizo, a spicy Portuguese sausage. The rich heat of the chorizo is a natural compliment to the sweet shrimp. In this dish, the layers of flavor created by the smoked paprika, fresh thyme and minced shallot combine to create an incredible flavor profile.
In theory, you can simply use pre-made stock, but like most things, you’ll find reward when you put in a bit of extra effort. The reinforced stock made with shrimp heads and fresh thyme is the difference between an average dish and a meal that is truly impressive. Cooking is always about creating layers of flavor. Although the steps might not seem to make much of a difference individually, when combined, the extra time and attention pays off with unforgettable flavor.
Seasonal summer crops allow us to enjoy fresh tomatoes instead of canned. To make your work of peeling the tomatoes much easier, simply drop the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, then run them under cool water. This process of blanching the tomatoes will cause the peels to almost fall right off. Use a sharp knife to easily pull the peels away.
Shrimp and Chorizo Stew
- 1.5 pound head-on shrimp *
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 pound fresh chorizo sausage
- Olive oil
- 2 minced shallots
- 1/3 cup diced tomatoes (use canned in the winter and fresh in the summer)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Several slices of your favorite rustic bread
- 1 small handful fresh thyme leaves for garnish
* Shrimp with heads on can be ordered but are not readily available daily in our region, so follow the same instructions by using 4 whole shell-on shrimp in place of the shrimp heads. It gave enough flavor to the broth and the process of dry roasting the shells gave a wonderful smoky flavor layer to the broth.
- Begin by removing the heads and shells from the shrimp. Save the heads separately from the shells or, in this case, without heads. Reserve 4 shrimp for this step.
- Using a paring knife, make a shallow slit running along the back of each shrimp. Remove and discard the vein that runs the length of each shrimp. Store the shrimp in the refrigerator.
- Set a large pot over high heat. Do not add anything to the pot, leave it completely dry and empty. When the pot is hot, add the shrimp heads or reserved shrimp, and roast them in the dry pot, flipping them with tongs occasionally so that all sides are lightly charred.
- When all sides of the shrimp heads look slightly charred, reduce the heat to low and add the white wine. When the wine is almost fully evaporated, add the stock, thyme, and shrimp shells.
- When the wine is almost fully evaporated, add the stock, thyme, and shrimp shells.
- Adjust the heat to high and bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the stock is gently simmering. Cook until the stock reduces by half. Strain the stock with a fine mesh strainer. Save the strained stock and discard the rest. This stock can be made one day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.
- Remove the chorizo meat from its casing. Flatten the meat into the shape of a large, thin pancake.
- Set a large pot over high heat, and add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pot. When the oil is about to start smoking, add the chorizo (shaped like a thin pancake). Let the chorizo cook, undisturbed, until the bottom of the chorizo pancake is nicely caramelized. Using a wooden spoon, aggressively chop the chorizo into bite-size, crumbly pieces (this “pancake” technique helps develop more caramelization and flavor with the chorizo).
- Stir the chorizo until it is fully cooked, breaking up any large pieces with the spoon.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots. Cook the shallots, stirring occasionally, until they appear soft and somewhat translucent. Do not let the shallots burn. When the shallots appear soft and somewhat translucent, add the diced tomato and paprika. Season the pot with a pinch of salt.
- Add the reduced and strained stock. Increase the heat to bring the stock to a boil, and then reduce the heat so that the stock is just barely simmering.
- Add the shelled and deveined shrimp.
- While the shrimp are cooking, toast your slices of bread under the broiler (or in a toaster oven). When the toast is ready, set it aside. When the shrimp are fully cooked, taste the broth in the pot. Adjust with salt as necessary. Ladle the stew into bowls, garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves, and serve along with the toasted bread.