Author Notes: This is a play on a dish we had at a great new restaurant in the Willamette valley called Paulée. The restaurant is about an hour away from our house, but we are big fans of the head chef, Daniel Mondok, so decided to make the trek. We had a 9 course tasting menu for our anniversary dinner that was truly spectacular. One of the dishes we had was grilled octopus with beluga lentils, charred tomato vinaigrette, and avocado. It was a great combination of flavors and textures – the meaty, slightly chewy octopus, the earthy lentils, and the creamy avocado were all tied together with the slightly tangy tomato vinaigrette. I made a mental note to try something similar at home. I decided to use shrimp rather than octopus, and used the shrimp shells to enhance chicken stock for cooking the lentils. I cooked the shrimp using the Cook's Illustrated method for pan-seared shrimp, as I find it produces shrimp that are flavorful and not overdone. For the vinaigrette I decided to oven roast tomatoes, and use some smokey spices to enhance the roasted flavor. The resulting dish has the qualities I was hoping for – the meaty, slightly sweet shrimp, the earthy lentils, the creamy avocado, and the slightly tangy tomato vinaigrette to tie it all together. It makes a great main course, but could also be used as a warm salad. - hardlikearmour
Serves 4 entrées
Roasted tomato vinaigrette
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes
- 1/3 cup olive oil, plus additional for roasting tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar, plus additional to taste
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
Shrimp and Lentils
- 1 lb large shrimp (31 to 40 per pound)
- 1 quart chicken stock (or low sodium chick broth)
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- generous pinch sugar
- generous pinch black pepper
- 2 tablepoons olive oil
- 1 cup French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 1 small avocado
- Note: Many of the steps should be done concurrently. While the oven is heating, peel and devein the shrimp, and start the chicken stock heating. While the stock is infusing and the tomatoes are roasting: pick through and rinse the lentils, mince the shallot, and chop the parsley. While the lentils are cooking finish the vinaigrette. The whole dish can be finished in not much more than an hour, so is feasible for a week night meal.
- For the vinaigrette: Heat oven to 400º F. Core tomatoes, then cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Place the tomato halves cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet, and smash them so they are fairly flat. The skin will split in several places, use a paring knife to help it if needed. Brush tomatoes with olive oil. Bake until skin is spotted brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes, or until easily handled.
- Peel the skin from the tomatoes. Transfer the tomatoes to food processor. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar, shallot, salt, cumin, paprika, and black pepper. Process until homogenous. While processing, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, or vinegar. Add the parsley, and pulse several times to combine. The parsley should essentially be minced, not fully incorporated.
- For the shrimp and lentils: Peel and devein shrimp, saving the shells. Toss the shrimp with kosher salt, black pepper, and sugar. Cover and refrigerate.
- Combine the shells with the chicken stock and bay leaf in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain. After 15 to 20 minutes, strain the shells and bay leaf from the stock.
- Return the stock to the pan and add the lentils. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain the lentils, and return them to the pan. Stir in most of the vinaigrette, leaving some to drizzle over the final dish. Keep the pan covered over very low heat, stirring occasionally until ready to serve.
- Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat until the oil is just starting to smoke. Add half of the shrimp in a single layer. Cook about 1 minute, the bottom third to half of the shrimp should be opaque. Remove the skillet from the heat, then flip the shrimp over. Allow the residual heat from the pan to cook the shrimp until all but the very center of the shrimp are opaque, about 30 more seconds. Transfer the shrimp to a plate, and repeat the process with the remaining olive oil and shrimp. Add the first set of shrimp back to the pan. Cover to allow the residual heat to fully cook the shrimp, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- While the shrimp are finishing up, thinly slice the avocado. Give the lentils a final stir. Plate the dish with the lentils on the bottom, topped with the shrimp and avocado, and drizzled with the remaining vinaigrette.