I used to work at a small Italian restaurant where I catered to the middle class in the New Brunswick area and paid approximately zero attention to how food was made. That’s the excuse I have in my head as to why I thought a cream sauce would be so easy. I brought them out to crotchety retirees five nights a week. How challenging could it be?
Answer: Quite… if you’re a jumpy, muppet-armed amateur like myself.
A couple weeks ago I posted a jerk seasoning blend, which I put together to use in this dish from Immaculate Bites. Here’s my experience with the rest of the cooking:
Really, it’s a decent amount of prep, especially because I peeled and deveined the shrimp myself (BOO, but way cheaper) and made the spice blend. With all that, it took about 40-50 minutes just for prep, so by the time I started cooking, I was kind of over it. But I powered through it because goddamn if I’m going to stop a recipe halfway!
Everything was going just fine until, for some reason, I threw in a full cup of chicken stock instead of half a cup. I don’t know why I did that, but suspect I was probably just distracted (probably by my own hunger or a video of my roommate’s dog- both are equally likely). Imagine my dismay when, after so much prep, I watched the liquid disperse into the sauce and thin it out so tragically:
Panic sets in. What can I used to soak it up? Kitchen sponge? No, Maggie, don’t be an idiot. What’s absorbent and not disgusting?
…and that train of thought is how I wound up with a slice of bread on top of my cream sauce. Stupid things to skim off sauce: sound familiar?
It soaked up some of the extra stock, but after some frantic Googling (which should have been my first damn step), I learned that flour is good for exactly this- used by sane, level-headed cooks everywhere. I very gradually added about 1/2 tbsp altogether until it was “better than it was” (the official motto of our household) and finally ate it. It tasted like a savory mask covering an angry sea of panic- but it was delicious. I made some changes and my version is below, but Immaculate Bites has the original and her other recipes look incredible, too. Overall, this could be a quick dish- if you’re not budget-conscious and/or a spaz. And watch out for that chicken stock- it’s a doozy.
Shrimp with Penne and Creamy Jerk Sauce
- ½ pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cups sliced white mushrooms
- 1 tsp Jerk seasoning (you can buy premade seasoning that’s on the spicier side or make your own if you’re into that)
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp paprika
- Juice of ½ lemon (or more to taste)
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup 2% milk
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional, but is cheese REALLY ever optional?)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounce penne pasta
- Cook the pasta according to box instructions (but you can do other stuff while it’s cooking: see below). Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, lightly season shrimp with a little bit of jerk spice. I found that the best way to do it is by laying them all out on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil, sprinkling them with the spices, and then flipping them over and doing the same. It’s a nice way to make sure there are no pockets of heat or flavorless spots.
- Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Sauté shrimp and mushrooms together, moving frequently (especially if you have hot spots on your stove like I do) for about 3 -5 minutes, or until lightly cooked, then set them aside.
- Add butter and let it soften. Then add the garlic and cook for about a minute.
- Add paprika, thyme, and jerk spice. Stir until fragrant (this was about 30 seconds for me).
- Add tomato paste and give everything another stir.
- Add the cream, milk, lemon juice and chicken broth.
- Bring it to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 5-7 minutes.
- Add shrimp, mushrooms, and parsley and stir until combined (remember: when the shrimp forms a C, it’s cooked to perfection). Add cheese if you’re using it. Stir for about a minute and add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Add pasta to the pan and stir.
- Turn off the heat and let pasta soak up some of the sauce for about five minutes, and then serve.
This is my kitchen as things were in progress:
…a bit daunting, but still 100% doable and definitely worth it.Maybe not great as a quick weeknight meal, but on a weekend it’ll hit the spot.