Home Lifestyle Autumn appetizer rich in flavor, light on calories

Autumn appetizer rich in flavor, light on calories

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The shrimp should be peeled and deveined before you start cooking.

By Wolfgang Puck

The first day of autumn is days away, and the thoughts of many enthusiastic home cooks are beginning to shift from outdoor to indoor entertaining. It’s a great time of year for dinner parties, too, with the evenings closing in while the frenzy of holiday parties is still mercifully more than two months away.

But with summer still here, I’d like to share some advice I think is very important, based on my own interest in providing delicious, nutritious, high-quality meals to my family, friends and everyone who dines in my restaurants. That advice is: Don’t let the change of seasons derail you from your own commitment to healthful cooking and eating.

Wolfgang Puck Cooking School RecipesAs I detail in my recent book “Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy,” soon to come out in a new paperback edition, even the most elegant, special-occasion recipes can be cooked in ways that reduce fat, sugar and salt while maximizing not only flavor but also all kinds of beneficial ingredients. Case in point is a new, lighter (but no less delicious) version of an appetizer I’ve been serving for years: my butterflied baked shrimp with herbed breadcrumbs.

Bearing in mind that we eat with our eyes before food ever passes our lips, I butterfly the shrimps to create a satisfyingly beautiful presentation as well as to ensure they cook both quickly and evenly. I then coat the shrimp with just enough breadcrumbs to give them a golden-brown, crunchy surface, using a little olive oil to help the coating stick in place of the melted butter I once used decades ago. A trio of fresh herbs enlivens the coating, along with a pinch of the traditional Basque seasoning called Espelette pepper, for which you can substitute cayenne or hot paprika if you can’t find it in a specialty market.

In similar spirit, I enhance the dish by adding moisture and flavor with a streamlined version of aioli. That classic southern French sauce uses egg-rich mayonnaise as its base; but, for this recipe, I instead substitute nonfat Greek-style yogurt, which miraculously feels and tastes rich. To amp up the sauce, I use caramelized garlic – made easily at home – in place of the usual raw garlic.

BUTTERFLIED BAKED SHRIMP WITH HERBED BREADCRUMBSThrough such subtle yet significant changes, a once-indulgent dish becomes admirably lean, with fewer than a third of its calories coming from fat. Serve it as an appetizer for an autumn dinner party; or, if you like, double the portion size for a light but very satisfying main course. Either way, the results will make you want to entertain more often this autumn.

Butterflied baked shrimp with herbed breadcrumbs and roasted garlic lemon yogurt aioli

Serves 4

  • For the shrimp:
    • 3/4 cup (185 mL) fresh whole-grain breadcrumbs
    • 3/4 pound (375 g) extra-large shrimp (16 shrimp), peeled and deveined
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground Espelette pepper or hot paprika
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • 4 cups packed baby arugula leaves, rinsed well and patted dry
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • For the aioli:
    • 3/4 cup (185 mL) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
    • 4 1/2 tablespoons mashed roasted garlic, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon honey
    • Pinch cayenne pepper
    • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
    • Kosher salt
    • Lemon wedges, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

For the shrimp, evenly spread the breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning. Remove from the oven, transfer to a mixing bowl, and set aside. Raise the oven temperature to 500 F (260 C).

With a small, sharp knife, butterfly each shrimp by slicing along the length of its outer curve where the vein was removed, cutting half to two-thirds of the way down through it, from just in front of the tail to the head end; be careful not to cut all the way through. Turn each shrimp over and gently make three shallow perpendicular slits across the other side to prevent them from curling. Lightly season all over with salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Presenting the shrimp: Mound most of the salad in the center of each serving plate. Surround the salad with the shrimp. Using a squeeze bottle, add dollops of sauce between the shrimp. Garnish with tomato halves, if desired, and parsley. Serve immediately.

Mound most of the salad in the center of each serving plate. Surround the salad with the shrimp. Using a squeeze bottle, add dollops of sauce between the shrimp. Garnish with tomato halves, if desired, and parsley. Serve immediately. Photo courtesy Wolfgang Puck

Add the basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, garlic and Espelette pepper to the bowl with breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and toss.
Brush the bottom of a large ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Press the open side of each shrimp into the oil in the skillet, then dredge in the crumb mixture, pressing down firmly so the crumbs coat the shrimp well. Place all the shrimp, coated side up, in the skillet in a single layer. Bake until the shrimp are just cooked through, turning pink and white, and the crumbs are deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the arugula in a large bowl, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the lemon juice, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well.

Divide among four serving plates.

For the roasted garlic lemon yogurt aioli, in a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, roasted garlic, lemon juice, honey, cayenne, black pepper and salt to taste. Stir well.

To serve, arrange the shrimp, breadcrumbs up, on each plate. Serve with lemon wedges, passing the sauce at the table.

Roasted garlic

Makes about 1/4 cup (60 mL)

  • 4 whole heads garlic
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).

Arrange the garlic heads in a small roasting pan and drizzle with the oil, turning to coat.

Roast until very tender when gently squeezed with a hand protected with an oven glove, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside at room temperature until cool enough to handle.

When cool, cut the heads crosswise in half with a serrated knife. Squeeze the softened pulp from each half. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate. Use as needed within three or four days.


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