Shellfish and crustaceans have a natural affinity for anise-y, licorice-y flavored things. Bouillabaisse isn't really complete without a few slices of fennel and mussels steamed with Pernod. But I'd never thought to add tarragon to the seafood before coming across this Ragoût of Shellfish in At Elizabeth David's Table.
The recipe begins with an incredibly flavorful roux of butter, onion, garlic, a bit of sugar, and white wine. In classic Elizabeth David fashion, the amount of tarragon added is entirely up to the chef. If the flavor appeals to you, don't be shy; add a sizable handful. The tarragon is sweet and aromatic, and the rest of the dish comes together with all the shrimp, scallops, mussels, and mushrooms. Wait, mushrooms? At first they might seem like an odd addition but once cooked, they mimic the texture of seafood and bulk up the dish.
The trick here is to heat the dish until the mussels steam open and the scallops are cooked through, usually only ten minutes. After that, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of chopped parsley, a loaf of crusty bread for dipping and you're ready to serve.
- 12 cooked extra-large shrimp or langoustines
- 4 dozen mussels
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Fresh tarragon, to taste
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
- 1/4 pound mushrooms
- 6 scallops
- Lemon juice
- Parsley, for garnish
First of all split the shrimp in half, retaining 6 halves in their shells for the garnish. From the remaining shells remove the flesh and cut it into fairly large pieces. Clean the mussels carefully.
In a deep pan sauté a sliced onion in butter. When golden add the tomato paste, the chopped garlic, salt, pepper and the sugar and tarragon. cook for 5 minutes. stir in the flour. When thick, pour over the heated wine, and cook this sauce for 15–20 minutes. add the flesh of
the shrimp, the sliced mushrooms, the scallops cut into 2 rounds each, and the mussels. turn up the heat and cook until the mussels have opened. At the last minute add the reserved shrimp in their shells. turn into a deep dish, squeeze over a little lemon, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve very hot, in soup plates.
Note: The black shells of the mussels and the pink of the shrimp make a very decorative dish. the tails of large crawfish (or small lobster tails) can be used instead of the shrimp, but of course fewer will be needed, and they can be cut into four or six pieces each.