Devil’s Shrimp

While self-quarantining these days, I’m cooking even more often than usual. I might attribute this increase to my attempt to avoid waste by using up ingredients before they go bad. I’m sure many of you face the same predicament. We buy more than we need at the market fearing that a long sought-after item might not be available the next time we’re there.

A recent case in point for me was with Roma tomatoes. Because the ones I purchased needed a little more ripening, I had set them aside on window sill where they enjoyed some California sunshine. Well, the proverbial out-of-sight out-of-mind maxim proved true and, if my better half hadn’t noticed them just in time, they might have been out-of-kitchen.

Fortunately, the tomatoes were perfectly ripe and I had just enough for a shrimp recipe that I had recently dog-eared in Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian. Although Giuliano may not have achieved the culinary status of his mother Marcella, his recipes are always very good, easy to follow, and reliable.

The recipe, “Devil’s Shrimp with Brandy and Fresh Tomatoes,” had caught my eye with its use of brandy, an ingredient that I always use, as did my Neapolitan aunt, in my lobster fra diavolo. That the recipe required only a modicum of ingredients and between 35 to 40 minutes to cook made it even more appealing.

Because I hadn’t planned on writing a post about this dish, we didn’t take any photographs until it was done. But it was so good, in fact one of the best shrimp dishes I’ve had in quite some time, I decided to write it up along with the few pictures that I had.

As with any Italian dish that has the word “diavolo,” or devil, you can be sure it will be spicy. The degree of spice, says Hazan, depends on “how devilish” the cook feels when adding the crushed red-pepper flakes. Even though I used considerably more than the recipe called for, the spice of the dish was tempered by the sweetness of the tomatoes and the shrimp.

Aside from increasing the spice, my only other variation from the recipe was using E-Z peel shrimp, which I cooked with their shells on. Although less elegant at the table, shrimp cooked in their shells, in my opinion, have much more flavor and perhaps even better texture.

Close up

Devil’s Shrimp with Brandy and Fresh Tomatoes (adapted from Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian)

Ingredients (Serves 4 to 6 people.)
1 ½ pounds large shrimp (21-25 per pound)
12 ounces fresh, ripe plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons brandy or grappa
Torn basil or chopped parsley for garnish (Optional)


1. Peel the shrimp and devein them if necessary. (As I mentioned above, I used E-Z peel shrimp which were already deveined and in their shells.)
2. Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds, and cut into narrow strips. (To peel the tomatoes, I followed Hazan’s method of using a sharp vegetable peeler, illustrated near the front of the book.)
3. Put the garlic and oil in a skillet large enough to accommodate the shrimp in a single layer and place it over high heat. Sauté the garlic until it begins to sizzle. (For more heat, you might  want to add the pepper flakes at the same time as the garlic; otherwise, follow Hazan and do it in the following step.)
4. Add the red-pepper flakes and shrimp and sauté very briefly until both sides of the shrimp begin to change color.
5. Using caution, add the brandy and flame it, or cook it for about 10 seconds to evaporate the alcohol. (Flaming is best done on a gas stove. After adding the brandy, move the skillet so that the edge is over the center of the burner and tip the pan slightly toward the flame. Be sure to stand back to avoid getting burned.) (I should also warn never pour any alcohol directly from the bottle; adding alcohol is best done off the stove top.)
6. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until the shrimp are done, 2 to 3 minutes. (If cooking the shrimp with the shell on, it may take a little longer.) Do not over cook the shrimp, or they will become tough. Serve at once on heated plates.

As you can see, I added some torn basil leaves for added flavor.

Shrimp done
Shrimp plated

Wine Pairing: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir

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