18 March 2009

Patés, Terrines and Potted Meats

Speaking of lark's paté, I do love terrines. Aside from the slightly flamboyant name, "terrines", they are basically tarted up meatloaves. Simone Seeker’s, Pates, Terrines and Potted Meats was published in 1978 in England. It follows in the wonderful English tradition of offering ingredients with no specific amount and simply throwing all the ingredients together and expecting you to figure it all out.

This recipe for potted shrimp is old fashioned and a bit out of favor. It is a simple recipe and can therefore be mucked up with wreckless abandon, which is perhaps why it has fallen out of favor. Often people confuse “simple” with “sloppy” and a lovely little appetizer becomes the butt of jokes. Face it. The recipe is shrimp drowned in butter. Shrimp and butter! Make a lovely potted shrimp for you next party, and see what a success it can be.

Potted Shrimp

1lb peeled shrimp
Powdered mace
Freshly ground pepper
4 oz butter
Cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt

Melt the butter slowly, then put in the shrimp and spices. Let them get thoroughly hot, without letting them boil, as this toughens them. Stir them as they heat. Put them into small pots and chill. Seal with a good 1/2 inch clarified butter.

Now, here is some explanation. In England where potted shrimp was all the rage, they use tiny brown shrimp from the English seaside. While commercially fished here in the States, they can be a bit hard to come by as everyone loves those big, plump, pink shrimp. Chose the smallest shrimp you can find 70-80 count per pound. If you have larger shrimp, slice them in 1/2 inch slices. Heat the butter in your pan till it is nicely melted and add 1/4 teaspoon grated mace or the actual nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, two or three good grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt. Add the shrimp to the hot butter just until the shrimp pink up. Pour into small ramekins, leaving about 1/2 inch of space and place in the fridge for about 30 to 40 minutes. After the shrimp has set up, fill to the top with clarified butter. In the end, you have a container that looks very much like a dish of butter, but what a surprise when you dig in and find those succulent shrimp to spread on crusty bread. Here's a recipe for clarified butter.

Clarified Butter

Heat butter in a taller than deep pan till it divides into three parts:

1. A scummy foam
2. The clarified butter
3. The watery residue in the bottom of the pan

Skim the foam, then spoon off the layer of clarified butter, leaving behind the residue in the bottom of the pan.

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