WHEN VERY GOOD SHRIMP is simmered briefly, then steeped in olive oil and lemon juice and served before ever seeing the inside of the refrigerator, it makes one of those appetizers in the Italian seafood repertory that is as sublime in taste as it is in its simplicity. You’ll find it on the menu of virtually every fish restaurant on the northern Adriatic.
As in so many other Italian dishes where the principal elements are so few, the success of the preparation depends on the quality of its main ingredients: here, the shrimp and the olive oil. The first should be the juiciest and sweetest your fish market can provide, the latter the best estate-bottled Italian extra virgin olive oil you can find.
For 6 servings
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
- ½ pounds choice small raw shrimp in the shell (if only larger shrimp are available, see note below)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1. Put the celery, carrot, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the vinegar in 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
2. When the water has boiled gently for 10 minutes, add the shrimp in their shells. If very tiny, the shrimp will be cooked just moments after the water returns to a boil. If medium-to-large, they will take 2 to 3 minutes longer.
3. When cooked, drain the shrimp, shell, and devein. If using medium-to-large shrimp, slice them lengthwise in half.
4. Put the shrimp in a shallow bowl and, while they are still warm, add the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and allow to steep at room temperature for 1 hour before bringing to the table. Serve with good crusty bread to help wipe the plate clean of its delicious juices.