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Author Notes: The people of Germany love to gather at the table and share food family- style. In The German Cookbook I came across a recipe for Crayfish or Shrimp in Beer that perfectly embodies the spirit of casual gathering. The author’s note says it all, “Guests have to shell their own, or go without dinner, when you serve this dish.”
This food is meant to be eaten with your hands, flavorful juices dripping from your chin. The cooking is quick- mere minutes go by before a generous platter of shellfish graces the table. Taking inspiration from Mimi Sheraton, I made a one-dish meal by cooking shrimp and mussels in a beer broth. Weissbier is from Munich, and the name means “white beer,” which is a golden yellow brew made from wheat grain. The beer has a slightly tart flavor with a hint of coriander seed that compliments the seafood perfectly. Cooking the shrimp in their shells gives the broth richer flavor. Caraway, a seed commonly used in German cooking, adds earthy spice with a hint of anise. The warming spice trend continues with nutmeg and black peppercorns. In about 5 minutes the shellfish are cooked through and ready to serve on a platter with spiced beer broth and plenty of Munich rye bread for sopping up the juices. —la domestique
Serves 6 as a hearty appetizer with bread
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 pound large shrimp with shells on
- 1/2 pound mussels rinsed of grit
- 6 peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 strip of lemon peel
- 1 cup Weissbier from Munich, or other light ale
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Heat a heavy-bottomed soup pot (such as an enameled cast iron) over medium heat. Add butter and once melted toss in garlic and shallot. Sauté for 1 minute, then add the shrimp and mussels, stirring to coat the mixture in butter.
- Put the peppercorns and caraway seeds in a spice ball and place the spice ball in the pot with the shellfish. Add the lemon peel to the pot along with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and the sea salt. Pour in the beer and turn the heat up to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook the shellfish for about 5 minutes, until all the mussels have opened and the shrimp are pink and firm.
- Once the shellfish has cooked, remove it from the pot and place it on a platter. Take the broth that's left in the pot and pour it through a strainer to remove all the aromatics and any grit from the seafood. Pour the strained broth over the shellfish platter and serve immediately with plenty of Munich rye bread to sop up the juices.