Shrimp in Spicy Fennel Broth
by Emma Cerulli
“Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink,” he said. “Though I guess that presupposes that there is a wine I wouldn’t drink.” – Lev Grossman
This simple dish is a phenomenon of flavours and aromatics that pull you in closer with each bite. This recipe combines the freshness of fennel, the fruity heat from red habaneros, a herbal hit of Ricard Pastis, the sweetness of juicy shrimp and tartness of the perfect white wine to balance it out. You’ll serve bowls of these beautiful shrimp swimming in broth, with fresh crusty bread for lots of dunking and a glass (or two) of Grüner Veltliner wine from Höpler. Grüner Veltliner is a delightful white from Austria, with aromas of melon and green apple. This wine is divine, paired with the delicate flavours of shrimp and fennel, and makes a great addition to the dish itself, should you be willing to part with a drop or two.
Fennel is one of those vegetables that you either know or don’t. Its pale green hue, aromatic liquorice flavour and satisfying crunch is a favourite in fresh summer salads or used to add flavour and texture to a dish. Fennel has a hard bulb, usually white or light green with green feathery leaves shooting from its stalks. Fennel comes from the carrot family and is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. The bulb can be sliced and eaten raw, it can be shaved and tossed with a light dressing or it can be braised in broth until tender and juicy. The fennel fronds are great in salads or used as garnish for an array of dishes. The fronds are bright green, wispy and resemble dill. Fennel seeds are used in baking and spice blends around the world. A common use of fennel seeds is in the preparation of Italian sausage. In my family, we often had fennel or finnochio after a meal, with our espresso. The sweet freshness of the fennel is the perfect palate cleanser before dessert. My favourite bit is found right in the middle of the bulb, it is the sweetest and most flavourful part of the fennel. So… if you haven’t tried fennel yet, what are you waiting for?
Step 1: Prep ingredients
- 2 lbs (900g) shrimp 31-40, with tails, peeled and deveined
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bulb fennel, finely diced (finely chop fennel fronds)
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 red scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, seeded & finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 5-6 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1/3 c. (80ml) Ricard (Pastis Liqueur)
- 1/2 c. (120ml) white wine
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp butter (optional)
- 3 green onions, finely chopped
- Handful Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Step 2: Chop ingredients before you start cooking
- To prepare fennel, cut off green stalks and remove wispy fronds. Save fronds for later.
- Slice in half and remove core. Proceed by finely dicing fennel.
- To prepare chilli pepper, please be careful as chilli peppers can sting if you have even the tiniest cut or scratch on your hands.
- Cut the pepper in half and scrape out the seeds.
- Finely chop pepper as small as possible.
- Scrape everything into a bowl and wash the cutting board, knife and hands thoroughly with soap. Do not touch your face or eyes while preparing chillies.
- Heat olive oil on medium-high in saucepan large enough to hold shrimp and liquid.
- Oil should be shimmering when it is hot enough.
- Toss in chopped vegetables and stir to coat with hot oil.
- Sauté vegetables until lightly golden and very fragrant.
- Pour in Ricard and white wine to deglaze pan.
- Use a spoon to scrape up any bits stuck to base of saucepan.
- Bring to simmer and reduce by about 1/3 to cook off alcohol and intensify flavours.
- Toss in shrimp and 1 c. water or vegetable broth.
- Simmer shrimp until curled and pink.
- Once shrimp are pink and cooked through, turn off the heat immediately as to not overcook.
- Stir 1 tbsp. butter through to bind sauce and add a touch of luxury.
- Season dish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Don’t be afraid to season accordingly.
- Right before serving, stir in green onions, fennel fronds and parsley or sprinkle on individual bowls.
Serve this mouthwatering dish with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread and salted butter. The fiery broth from the shrimp is begging to be soaked up and savoured!
Don’t forget to pour yourself a glass of Grüner Veltliner wine from Höpler.
Emma Cerulli is a Montreal-based chef and Creative Director. Her passion for cooking began in her family kitchen and grew into a fulfilling and challenging career. Emma has worked in some of Montreal’s top kitchens.