Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spiced Shrimp with Mint Cilantro Pasta

This was a stunning combination of two recipes that pretty much only shared mint as an ingredient. The flavors - particularly of the shrimp infused with the smokey heat of the peppers - was phenomenal. The mint cilantro pesto seemed pretty weird to me, but tasted wonderful and went perfectly with the shrimp. The bacon, of course, made the dish perfect. I can't recommend it highly enough. Seriously, you have to make this dish. Do it tonight.

Bacon Shrimp & Cilanto Mint Pesto

The Food (Jhan)

By now you may have noticed that I like to make things with lots of herbs and that I have a bent towards Asian cuisine. For this dish I combined a couple of recipes, one parsed from a Cooking Light magazine and another inspired from one of my Food and Wine recipe books. These shrimp were juicy, salty, sweet and spicy; the pasta with the mint and cilantro salsa brightened and enhanced the flavors of the seafood.

Tony loved this dish and I think we'll continue to make this in the future (even though it has bacon in it - Why do men like bacon so much? Don't they know it's bad for them and so fattening?).

What I wanted from this dish was something quick, easy and light with flavors that pop. My idea for combining the two recipes worked and the dish had tons of flavor. BTW - Tony won the leftovers from this one and I'm certain he had a delicious lunch. I had my usual tuna and rice. :(

The recipe

Note: the mint cilantro salsa should be made about 30 minutes ahead to blend flavors

For the shrimp
1 pound raw shelled and deveined jumbo shrimp
4 strips bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 serrano chilies whole
1/4 cup white wine,
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup tightly packed chopped fresh mint
Kosher salt and cracked pepper
EVOO for the pan
Add oil to a large heavy skillet cook bacon on med-high heat until still soft but just browning, drain off most of the bacon fat. Add garlic and whole chilies, saute quickly. Add shrimp, salt and pepper, cook until shrimp are pink and bacon is crisp. Add wine, cook about a minute until reduced, add mint and stir through. Serve immediately over spiced pasta..

The shrimp cooks quickly so you should drop the pasta before beginning to cook the bacon.

1/2 lb or so, fettuccine, cook in usual manner
1cup packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup packed roughly chopped fresh mint
2 small thai chilies or 1/2 serrano chile toasted and seeded
1 tablespoon sliced green onions (white parts only)
squeeze juice of 1 /2 lime
squeeze juice of 1 orange
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. fruity EVOO
Combine all in food processor until only small chucks of chili, garlic and green onion remain. Taste to check salt and lime balance. (If you don't want a spicy salsa omit the chilies and 1 clove of garlic)

Toss about half the salsa with the drained cooked pasta and scoop the remainder into a bowl to spoon over shrimp. Twirl pasta onto serving plates and arrange shrimp on top. Garnish with bacon bits and finely chopped mint.

Bacon Shrimp & Cilanto Mint Pesto


As usual, I really didn't know what this dish was going to look like until it was done. This is a huge disadvantage for me because I need to choose my dishes and props before the food is ready in the interest of being able to eat something for dinner that has some remnant of warmth in it.

In this case, it worked out just fine. I decided to go with a simple square plate and neutral, earth-toned plate mat and napkin. The neutral colors and simple shapes did not compete with the food, and created a simple background.

The peppers were a bit of a surprise. I had no idea that there would be whole peppers, so I just tossed them on the plate. I can't decide if I like that or not. You tell me.

One trick I have learned is that you need to use really tiny wine glasses for food photography; if you use full-sized glasses, all you'll see in the photo is the stem. This glass used in these photos is no more that 4 iches tall.

Bacon Shrimp & Cilanto Mint Pesto

Lighting and Photography

Bacon Shrimp & Cilanto Mint Pesto Lighting
I am still still still struggling with lighting white on white set ups. I have no clue what I'm doing wrong, but everything comes of flatly lit. To top it off, my semi-beloved-but-not-really-because-I-had-to-shoot-tethered Vivitar 285 flash died during this shoot.

That's it in the lower left-hand corner of the photo, only moments before its death. One second it was fine, and then it went into a continuous whine, draining my Quantum Battery 1+ down to nothing. I thought maybe the battery was just low, so I hooked it up to another battery and it started draining that too. After several minutes it emitted a very loud sizzling pop and the air filled with the aroma of ozone. I hastily unplugged it, grabbed the plate of food, and headed off to dinner. Later that evening, stricken with grief, I bought a Canon 420EX flash on eBay and then a Canon 550EX flash from KEH. Finally, I'll be able to shoot completely wireless!

As to the photos in this shoot - meh. They're OK, but still pretty flat. The shrimp just looks like it's in the shade or something. I need more pop somehow. I'm working on it.

Bacon Shrimp & Cilanto Mint Pesto


  1. Very interesting blog.I drop by via Flickr.I love natural light ,mostly for food photography and I tried to recreate the light in studio, without successes I must admit ;(. Your work is great here and I am sure that I can learn a lot with your posts. Thanks a lot for share

  2. This sounds so're right I need to try this one tonight!