Chef Tom’s Food and Cooking Column appears on page 13 of the Ace Weekly print edition. Text and Photos by Chef Tom.
BY TOM YATES
I was late for the market. Really late. By the time I arrived at the farmers’ market, most of the vendors were packing up for the day. With slim pickings, I knew most of the pretty tomatoes would get snagged by the market early birds. I didn’t care. I was on the prowl for the uglies. The culls. The beasts, not the beauties. Sure enough, Cleary Hill Farm, Best Family Farm, and Henkle’s Herb and Heirlooms had a few cat-faced heirlooms lurking on their farm tables.
Blistered, puckered, and split, the tomatoes were a bit too gnarly to slice up for dainty salads or sandwiches, so I cracked them open like soft eggs and used the guts as a base for a very simple riff on Shrimp Saganaki (Greek shrimp with tomatoes and feta).
After resting on the windowsill for a couple of days, the Cherekee Chocolate, Golden Little Giant, and Big Beef tomatoes were beyond ripe. Without bothering to catch the seeds, I pulled the tomatoes apart, squished the pulp into a large bowl, doused the tomatoes with lemon juice, and set them aside.
I haven’t tasted a Kentucky farm-raised freshwater prawn since Michael and I sampled a deconstructed shrimp & grits amuse bouche prepared by Quita Michel at the James Beard Celebrity Chef Dinner Series: Cookin’ In The Bluegrass. Because they’ve eluded me for years, I flabbergasted when I stumbled across them at Good Foods Cafe & Market. Who Knew? Not me. Win. With large black tails and tight opalescent shells, they looked like the sassy well-heeled cousins of salt water shrimp. Rinsed, peeled, and deveined, I kept the prawns chilled over crushed ice while I made the sauce.
Baked Shrimp Saganaki.
After heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over a medium flame, I sauteed 2 small
minced shallots and 1 minced garlic clove. When the shallots melted into the oil (without taking on color), I added the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, fresh oregano, and fresh lime mint. I brought the sauce to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and let it ripple for 10 minutes.
When the sauce tightened, I pulled it from the heat and nestled the prawns into the tomatoes. After showering the prawns with cracked black pepper, I tucked chipped pieces of feta around the skillet, and slid it into a 400 degree oven to bake until the prawns were opaque, about 14 minutes.
I pulled the saganaki from the oven and finished it with a scattering of fresh lime mint.
While the mint added subtle citrus lime undertones, the melted feta provided a creamy salty tang. Steam-baked in the fresh tomato sauce, the cooked prawns had the lusty texture and rich flavor of sweet lobster meat. Bite-sized prawny lobster bombs.
This article also appears on page 13 of the July 11, 2013 print edition of Ace. Click to subscribe to the Ace e-dition (delivered to your inbox every Thursday), and read more of Chef Tom’s Ace food columns.