In the very early 80s an old family friend served Shrimp Mosca at a dinner party my parents attended. They instantly fell in love with the dish so she gave my mom the recipe. Now, I’ve lived with this dish in my life since junior high being served with the shells, legs, and tails still attached, thus, with the vein still intact. This didn’t really bother me, except that it was sometimes a source of grit in my food, until I knew what that vein was and have since always served it with tails only, no veins. However, if you're braver than me, it is really fun to serve the whole shrimp and clean them as you're eating.
Something about this dish I’ve often wondered but had never taken the time to research is the name “Mosca.” After a quick Google search, I have deduced that this recipe has to have morphed from Mosca’s Restaurant in New Orleans. Here’s the link for the original recipe. Next time we go to NOLA, I am booking reservations here and ordering this so I can compare.
The version my mother still uses calls for marinating the shrimp for at least a couple of hours or preferably overnight then baking for twenty minutes. If you choose to read the original recipe, you’ll notice the shrimp cook for nearly half an hour. It is my personal opinion that twenty minutes is far too long to cook shrimp. They get tough. Last time I made this dish, The Captain suggested (because he likes to add his two bits and he’s often correct – in the kitchen – so I don’t mind) that I, (ahem) we combine and place the herbs, wine, and garlic in a screaming hot oven to heat the oil so the shrimp start cooking immediately when we add them. This worked beautifully. Not only did the preheated oil become infused with the herbs and garlic, but very little additional oven time was needed before the shrimp were pink and plump and delectable.
The ingredient amounts are deliberately left vague so it can be suited to your family’s tastes. In fact, the recipe given my mom didn't have amounts either. Where we love strong flavors, you may not. So if you see an ingredient that you don’t love, scale back on it and amp up one you do love. Don’t drink wine or don’t want to open a bottle just for a couple of glugs for a recipe? Skip it. No fresh herbs in the garden or fridge? Use about half the amount of dried.
When you’re ready to serve, simply place the baking dishes on the table within everyone’s reach so they can dip crusty sourdough or ciabatta bread in the oil right out of the dish. We usually have a green salad along side and call it dinner. You could skip the bread (or not) and serve rice, couscous, or pasta as a bed for the shrimp instead. That would be tasty. Let me know how it turns out.
Keep in mind this is a fun, kid- and adult-friendly, unfussy meal. Don’t use your best linens because there will be olive oil on the table.
|We combine the two plates of shrimp for the table.|
See all the herbs and garlic on the bottom? mmmm
Raw shrimp with or without tails, we like the 31-40 size
Olive oil, just enough to cover
White wine, a glug or two, doesn’t matter what kind as long as you like it, we use Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay or whatever's in the wine rack
Garlic, at least several cloves, we use the better part of a head
Fresh herbs, chopped, lots:
(Or use dried Italian Herbs blend from your spice cupboard)
Asparagus (we had never done that before but we had a bit from the garden so we threw it in too)
Preheat oven to 450°F. For two pounds of shrimp, use two 9x13 baking dishes and fill each about 1/4 to 1/3 inch deep with olive oil. If using, add some wine – don’t forget to put some in the oil, too J. Generously sprinkle with herbs, garlic, and salt. Place dishes in the oven for at least 5 minutes. To determine if the oil is hot enough, put a wooden spoon handle into it. If it bubbles a bit, it’s ready for the shrimp.
Carefully remove baking dishes from the oven and place shrimp in a single layer. If using asparagus or other veg, now’s the time for that too. Put the dishes back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes; just until the shrimp are pink and plump.
Serve with large napkins and eat with your fingers… well maybe not your salad. Enjoy!