Friday, September 26, 2008

Fiddling with Fennel for my Queen

It took some hard thought and a second try, but I came up with something scrumptious for Jen the Leftover Queen's Royal Foodie Joust. The object of this fun foodie challenge is to use three ingredients selected by the previous joust winner. Peter of Souvlaki for the Soul won last month's Joust with his recipe for Halvas, a Greek sweet semolina dessert, using the chosen trio of whole grains, citrus and ginger. Peter selected the next trio of fennel, parsley and dairy for this round of jousting.

I first tried making a batch of delicious Zucchini-Spinach Soup for my joust entry, but the addition of the required dairy did not improve this recipe, so I had to put my chef toque back on for some additional scheming. Instead of using fennel seeds, as in the soup, I decided to buy a fresh fennel bulb to play around with. After a little kitchen fuss and muss, improved with the accompaniment of Stanley Clarke and Cassandra Wilson on the boom box, I came up with a nice Shrimp Cocktail Parfait that was scarfed up rather quickly. This is based on a terrific appetizer Dan and I had several years ago when we vacationed at Mystic, Connecticut. Right near the Aquarium is a seafood restaurant that served a similar starter, using a couple of fried jumbo shrimp layered with guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

I wanted to recreate and lighten up this recipe, so I tried it with yogurt cheese, steamed shrimp and a tomato-fennel sauce. I made four (one cup) portions as shown in the photo, which even so proved to be very rich and filling, so next time I would dish this up in a much more dainty serving. Some shredded lettuce in the bottom of the parfait glass would no doubt be a nice addition next time too.

Here's my Joust offering:


Yogurt Cheese Layer:

1 (8 oz.) container plain yogurt

Guacamole Layer:

2 ripe avocados
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt to taste

Tomato-Fennel Layer:

5 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/2 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped

Begin parfait at least 3 hours before serving to ensure that all ingredients chill and flavors meld.

Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth, a double thickness of coffee filters or paper towels. Dump in yogurt and let drain into a container, for at least 1 hour to drain whey.

Meanwhile, boil up some water in a saucepot and cook shrimp until they are pink, plump and curled up, about 10 minutes. Drain and chill.

Mash avocados with lime juice and salt. Chill.

Mix tomatoes and fennel. Pour on balsamic vinegar and chill.

Just before serving, assemble shrimp parfaits:

Put in a layer of tomato-fennel mixture, then yogurt cheese, then guacamole, topped by a couple of shrimp and some parsley. Repeat.

Serves 4 (too generously!, you won't eat anything else for dinner). More reasonably, this makes 6-8 appetizer portions.

Be sure to check in with the Leftover Queen's Royal Foodie Forum after October 1st to see all the joust entries.


What's Cookin Chicago said...

What a creative presentation! I love the idea of this and its so elegant too!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Great entry! I love when a real classic like a prawn cocktail gets a real working over like this! I bet it tasted so fresh and delicious.

Thistlemoon said...

This is so beautiful and elegant Rachel! I love it! Best of luck!!!