Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp fra diavolo (“brother devil’) is the Italian answer to shrimp Creole. For reasons I’ve never been able to fathom, it’s a much better dish. Perhaps it’s because the sauce is lighter and other flavors rise in front of the tomatoes. The dish serves well either as an appetizer or entree. Resist the temptation to serve it over pasta. It can also be made to a different but equally delicious effect with lobster of any kind.

If you want to make this the best way possible, buy heads-on shrimp, peel them, and make a stock with the shells and a little onion, celery, and parsley. It only takes about a half-hour on a very slow simmer. Add the stock to the pan with the tomatoes. It’s a bit more work, but adds a flavor dimension I think you’ll like.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. chopped onion
  • 1 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 24 fresh shrimp, 10-15 count to the pound, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tbs. Sambuca, Galliano, Strega, ouzo, Herbsaint, or some other anise-flavored liqueur (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chopped Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 8 leaves chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
The Italian version of shrimp and grits. First, no grits. Second, spicy red sauce.

The Italian version of shrimp and grits. First, no grits. Second, spicy red sauce.

1. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions, garlic and crushed red pepper until they just begin to brown.

2. Add the shrimp and cook until they begin to turn pink. Add the Sambuca (or whatever) and the white wine, and bring them to a boil. When shrimp are pink and firm, remove them from skillet and keep warm. Lean a little on the undercooked side to make them perfect.

3. Add the tomatoes and tomato juice to the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the oregano and basil and simmer until sauce has thickened to the consistency of a thick soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Return the shrimp to the pan and simmer another few minutes. Serve six shrimp per person with just enough sauce to make them wet, as an appetizer.

Serves four.

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