Recipe Hub: Some Baked Stuffed Shrimp For Your Feast Of Seven Fishes, Or For Whenever
Last week, for Thanksgiving, I met my immediate family down in Rhode Island to see my extended family. As lovely as Thanksgiving dinner is, turkey is just never on our food priority list when we go back there. Rhode Island may be small, but it has some truly glorious food and beverages, most of which cannot actually be found outside of the state. Clamcakes I understand, they're definitely more of a thing you eat when you are only a few miles away from the sea, but I still don't understand how the rest of the country has slept on coffee milk. They have salted caramel milk at my grocery store now, but I still have to get my Eclipse coffee syrup shipped to me, like a fool? It's not right.
Every time we go back, one of our biggest priorities is going to Twin Oaks in Cranston. I grew up going to Twin Oaks. It is the restaurant where they gave me a Shirley Temple with my very own glass of maraschino cherries every time I came in with my parents, it is the restaurant where my uncle bit a guy's nose off one time, and it remains one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world. And every time we go there, my mother, sister and I all get the baked stuffed shrimp. Other than the weird conversation I had at a bar with a guy who said he was in max with Ted Bundy and had, I shit you not, an Italian flag neck tattoo, putting those shrimp in my face was the highlight of my trip.
Unlike hot weenies or clam cakes or Del's Lemonade, it is very possible to have baked stuffed shrimp outside of Rhode Island. In fact, it is super easy, which is why we almost always have them for Christmas Eve dinner. As you may or may not know, many Italians, even those of us who are not even Catholic, do seafood on Christmas Eve, and it's more of a "thing" for us than actual Christmas Day is. It's sometimes called the Feast of Seven Fishes, but if I am honest, we really only do the Feast of Four or So Fishes, Five If You Count The Sardines That Only My Dad Eats. Seven fish is a lot of fish for four people, unless you are making cioppino or something.
So you can make them for your Feast of However Many Fishes, or you can make them another time. I find that it is a good choice for the first time cooking for someone you are dating, on account of the fact that it seems really impressive but is relatively cheap and easy to make, so if it doesn't work out it's not like you invested all that much in it. No braciole until the third month in, I say.
You will need:
However many pre-cooked jumbo shrimp you want, I'd say about 4-5 per person but your mileage may vary
Ritz crackers, like a sleeve or two
Butter, at least a full four stick package
Parsley (the kind in the shaker is FINE)
Little bit of garlic powder, if you want
Mashed potatoes (optional!)
So all you're gonna do here is dump a sleeve of the Ritz crackers into a bowl and smash them into tiny crumbs. Alternately, put them in a Ziploc bag, smash them into tiny crumbs and then put them into the bowl, which ever works better for your purposes. Then melt a stick of butter in the micro, and pour it into the Ritz crackers, throw some parsley in there, some garlic powder if you want it, and mush it all together into a stuffing. I tend to use plastic gloves for this because it's just easier than trying to do it with a spoon and less gross than doing it with your bare hands.
If you wanna get fancy, you can put some crab meat in there. I never do, but people like it.
Then you're gonna butterfly your shrimp. If you don't know how to do that (it's just cutting the back of the shrimp and then flattening it), there are YouTube videos. Put about a spoonful of stuffing on each shrimp, mold it, and throw it in the oven at 350 for like, 15 minutes. Serve with lemon juice or lemon wedges and ramekins of melted butter.
In my family, our preferred custom is what they call "Baked Stuffed Shrimp, mashed in the middle," which is one of the ways they serve it at Twin Oaks. All that means is that it is served with mashed potatoes in the middle, like so:
Yes, my sister takes a picture of this every time we get it. This one is from 2012.Photo: Gia Pennacchia
The stuffing, really, is pretty all purpose. You can put it on any fish and it will be delicious. If you're feeling fancy, you can also use this same stuffing for baked stuffed lobster, although I am not going to tell you how to make lobster. If you add crab meat and Italian sausage and onions and whatever other seasonings you want, you can put it in some mushroom caps and have some extremely delicious stuffed mushrooms also. That's actually what I make for most potlucks and people love them.
That's all I got for today, this is now your open thread! Enjoy!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse