I have a new book called The Flavor Bible. It is very cool — it is an index of ingredients, cross-referenced with complementary ingredients. For example, if you were to look up “Cabbage”, you will get a list like this:
apples and apple cider
bell peppers, red
celery: leaves, salt, seeds
cheese: cheddar, feta, goat, Parmesan, Swiss, Taleggio, Teleme
The flavor pairings are ranked by how many chefs and food experts mentioned the pairing. Capital letters with an asterisk (*) are the “holy grail” pairings, like mint and lamb or white chocolate and raspberries. Capital letters are very strong, familiar pairings. Bolded are well accepted pairings, and the rest were mentioned by one or more experts. The book also supplies flavor affinities — several ingredients often used together such as mustard + shallots + oil + vinegar — and combinations to avoid, such as coffee and lavender.
I haven’t yet used the book as a reference for my improvisations, though I did use the principle. I was staring at some great looking shrimp and wondering what to do with them that I hadn’t tried before. The only thing I could think of, however, was Old Bay seasoning, since regardless of how I decide to cook shrimp, my dear husband always douses them with Old Bay anyway. Rather than fight his system, I embraced it.
I decided to use the cooking method for my salt-and-pepper shrimp and replace Chinese 5-spice with Old Bay, and the chiles, garlic and ginger with, um, more garlic. Then I used the same pan to make a shallot and white wine sauce The result was fantastic. A little spicy, but rich and buttery too. As it happens, when I looked up shrimp in the Flavor Bible, Old Bay seasoning appeared in bold letters. Definitely some wisdom in the new tome!
Old Bay Shrimp Pasta for 2
3/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1-2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (to taste)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. spaghetti-like pasta
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 shallot, chopped fine or sliced thinly
1 Tbs. flour
3/4 c. white wine
chicken broth (optional)
1 1/2 Tbs. chopped parsley
Put a pot of water to boil on the stove. In a small saucepan, bring oil and garlic up to a simmer over medium-low heat. Set aside.
Dry the shrimp on paper towels. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cornstarch and Old Bay. In a large saute pan, heat 1 Tbs. of the garlic-infused oil, reserving the garlic solids. Toss shrimp in the Old Bay mixture to coat. Immediately place the shrimp in the oil, one by one. Cook shrimp until brown on one side (about 2 minutes), then flip to brown the second side (about a minute). Remove shrimp to a pan or bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add pasta to boiling water. In the same pan used for the shrimp, add a tablespoon of butter and let melt over medium heat. Then, add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the shallots and stir over heat for about a minute. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Let boil until reduced and slightly thickened — should be pourable but also thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you don’t seem to have enough sauce to coat the pasta, add in a half cup of chicken stock and let boil for a minute or so until proper consistency is regained. Swirl in butter to your taste.
Add cooked pasta to sauce in the pan, and toss to coat. Add shrimp and sprinkle with parsley and squeeze of lemon juice. Plate and serve. Delicious!