The Secret Ingredient (Parsley): Shrimp with Green Sauce


[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

This dish is very close to my heart. Before I was born (back in the seventies), my parents used to go to an old Spanish restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York called Malaga. It's an old-fashioned place in that terrific and charming New York way: wine-red booths. A stately and enormous awning. A bar to the left as you walk in with the same guy sitting behind it. Porcelain portraits of flamenco dancers, wooden details, plants, and the best part: the dessert case that you can see at the very back of the seemingly endless rooms, full of flan. A relic from when restaurants looked like the places that inspired them--not like a blank if stylish canvas.

Once I was born, my parents started taking me with them, and I would sit in my little cradle on the booth beside my mother. Eventually, when I could eat solid food, Malaga is where I learned to eat my first lobster, and where I learned to say "La quenta, por favor!" to the waiters that new us by name. It's where, thirty years later, I still go and order my Spanish lobsters with my whole family, and that same man at the bar still hands me a lollipop as I walk out the door, a little tipsy on sangria.

I always went to Malaga with my father--I've never been there without him. And he almost always orders the Shrimp with Green Sauce. Even when he rarely orders the seafood paella, he still orders green sauce on the side. He loves green sauce. And green sauce is all about the parsley, stewed with garlic and the juices of the shrimp. Poured over the saffron-stained rice, it is fragrant and fresh.

This dish really couldn't be easier. I blitz up parsley, garlic, scallions, jalapeno, and olive oil until it's smooth--like a pesto. I mix in some white wine, stir in the shrimp, and slide it into a super-hot oven until the shrimp leach out their briny juices and the garlic looses its raw spice and sinks into something sweet and Spanish. The top chars ever so slightly. It would make my dad proud. I serve it with baguette to lap up the extra green sauce, but you could certainly cook up some yellow Spanish rice studded with a few peas if you wanted to make this a la Malaga. Parsley has never tasted so good.

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Shrimp with Green Sauce