Over the course of my newspaper column's twenty year run, I but rarely developed original recipes for it. It wasn't laziness; it just wasn't cost effective. To fully develop a recipe from scratch requires a great deal of time and a lot more money than the column earned.
Still, every now and again, a column would inspire an idea for a dish that just wouldn't leave my imagination alone. And when, on those rare occasions, I gave in to the call and the recipe turned out well enough to make it into the column, it was always met with a hollow promise that I'd repeat it until it was perfected.
All too often, though, it got filed away and never made again.
Last year when panic hoarding created so many shortages of basic staples, just such an idea reared its little head and demanded to be noticed. The column was about getting the most from seasonal new potatoes by using them in ways that we were accustomed to using other starches that were in short supply: rice, pasta, and, of all things, grits.
A seasonal delicacy here in the lowcountry is local brown creek shrimp, the sweet crustaceans that thrive in late spring and summer in our tidal creeks and marshes. They're often paired with rice, macaroni, and grits, and have been known to turn up in potato salad, so why not mate them with new potatoes in the same way that they're paired with those other starches?
Inspired in part by lowcountry breakfast shrimp (sautéed in butter and served with hominy grits) and in part by a garlic shrimp sauce for pasta, the recipe was for shrimp sautéed with butter or olive oil, garlic, and scallions, then tossed with chunks of hot steamed new potatoes. It was really quite nice, and had the potential for being nicer still. I promised myself I'd work on it.
Well, a whole year later, I'm just now keeping that promise, but here it is.
Shrimp and New Potatoes
1¼ pounds small new red or gold potatoes
4 tablespoons best quality unsalted butter or olive oil (or half butter and half oil)
2 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and minced
2 anchovy fillets, boned, blotted of excess oil, and minced or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes (or to taste)
1¼ pounds medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 small scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley, thyme leaves, or oregano, or a combination
1. Prepare a heavy-bottomed pot with a steamer insert and at least 1 inch of cold water (it should not touch the bottom of the insert). Cover and bring it to a boil over high heat. Scrub the potatoes under cold running water and drain well. Cut smaller ones into quarters and larger ones in half, then quarter each half. The idea is to have all the chunks roughly the same size.
2. Put them in the steamer insert, cover, and steam 2 minutes over high heat. Lightly sprinkle them with salt and adjust the heat to medium. Steam until the potatoes are just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Carefully remove them from the pot and, if you're steaming them ahead, let them cool before covering them. Don't refrigerate the potatoes, but use them within a couple of hours.
3. Put the butter or oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. When the garlic is sizzling but not coloring, about a minute, add the anchovies and hot pepper and stir until the anchovies dissolve. Add the shrimp and white parts of the scallions and raise the heat to medium high. Sauté, tossing often, until the shrimp are curled, pink, and almost done, about 1½-to-2-minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp.
4. Add the cooked potatoes, scallion greens, and herbs, season lightly with salt, and gently toss until the potatoes are hot through and the shrimp are completely done, about a minute longer. Taste and adjust the salt and hot pepper, and serve at once.