Super easy lettuce wrapped shrimp
So this is different! We were recently provided with a review copy of The Great Shellfish Cookbook: From Sea to Table More than 100 Recipes to Cook at Home by Matt Dean Pettit from Penguin Random House Canada, and boy, were we excited. First of all, we love seafood and shellfish…all of it! Second, the idea of reviewing a cookbook, telling all of you what we thought of it and testing some of the recipes, frankly made us feel a little special. But then, the uneasiness crept in. What if this cookbook was awful? What if we hated it? What if the recipes were boring and bland? How would we navigate the ocean waters between being ethical and honest in our review while at the same time being respectful to a chef and publishing company that we clearly did not want to upset. What were two blogging sisters to do?
Thankfully, (and come to think of it, not surprisingly, because we should have known that Penguin Random House Canada wouldn’t publish and promote a horrid book) we had nothing to be concerned about. The moment we took this well constructed soft-cover cookbook in our hands, we knew all would be well.
There are many reasons to love The Great Shellfish Cookbook. First, there is a clearly written and fun introductory chapter which gives the reader helpful information on the various shellfish used in the recipes. Here you will learn that clams, oysters and mollusks are sustainable, that fresh squid should be wrapped in a damp dish towel or newspaper and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days, and that scallops can never fully close their shells. Who knew!? It seems that Chef Pettit knew, and he is more than happy to share these and other informative and lovely tidbits with us.
The recipes themselves are arranged by main ingredient; you will find chapters devoted to clams, crabs, exotic shellfish, lobster, mussels, octopus and squid, oysters, scallops, and shrimps and prawns. This is great if you’ve got pounds of scallops in your refrigerator (we’re free…invite us over!) and want an easy way to flip through a few meal possibilities. Many recipes are also categorized using a symbol to denote whether they are appropriate for lunch, brunch or dinner. This was fine, but perhaps more helpful were the symbols which identified recipes thought to be quick and easy or great for a party. A few of the recipes were actually created by celebrity chefs, and this was clearly indicated as well. Serving sizes are clearly marked and the recipes themselves give ingredient measures in both cup and metric equivalents, which is often appreciated. The book is nicely rounded out by including recipes for some side dishes, sauces, and cocktails. We think that Chef Pettit must be a great guy to have at a party.
And then there are the pictures. Although not every recipe is accompanied by a photo, many are, and they are all beautiful. The composition, use of accessories and the lighting all work together to create images which showcase the food and so much more. We found ourselves salivating (literally, and kind of grossly) over pictures; in the same breath commenting on how incredible the food looked and how much we loved the platter that the lobster lo-mein was served on.
What we didn’t necessarily expect was what a great read this book is. You should know that one of us reads cookbooks like novels; there is always a collection piled high on the night stand, along with the suspense thriller of the moment. The mark of a really good cookbook then is its ability to captivate our attention in a way that goes beyond an excellent catalogue of recipes; we like to know where dishes originated, who or what inspired the chef, and who the author is, actually. After all, we’re trusting this person with our time, ingredients, and the appetites of our friends and families. The Great Shellfish Cookbook understands this.
Coincidentally, many of the experiences that Chef Pettit shares in his book mimic our own, and had us smiling with nostalgia. When he presents his recipe for Spicy New Orleans Oyster Po-Boy, we are transported back to New Orleans where we bar-hopped along Frenchmen Street listening to incredible music, getting increasingly hungry, until we ended the night eating a sandwich-too-good-to-be-merely-called-a-sandwich (also known as, a Po-Boy). Before the recipe for Matty’s Spanish Vacay Paella, Chef Pettit describes falling in love with paella during his first visit to Spain. We remember doing the same, and vowing that once home we would purchase a true, authentic paella pan so that we could recreate our favourite version of this dish every week (we had forgotten about that…and have actually never made paella!). The chapter on Exotic Shellfish reminded us of the first time that we ate conch fritters in the Bahamas, and wondering what conch was. And when Chef Pettit associates his recipe for Steamed Shrimp Buns to memories of spending the day in Vancouver with his late grandfather, we are reminded that food is intimately linked to our past. So very lovely.
Choosing the recipe to test from the cookbook was not easy; the options were varied and each sounded enticing in it’s own way. Ultimately, we opted for a recipe that we imagined ourselves making over and over again, because it was simple, cost efficient, and quick. We also happened to have a bag of shrimp on hand, so that helped.
The recipe for these chili lime side stripe shrimp lettuce wraps did not disappoint; the flavours were phenomenal. Chef Pettit says that his favourite way to eat these wraps is to dip them in soy sauce, and we agree. This is a simple step which adds an entirely different dimension, giving you fresh, tangy, sweet and salty, all in one bite.
This recipe is identified in the cookbook as being Quick and Easy, and it most definitely is. We would recommend it for a simple lunch, a light dinner, and as perfect party fare.
Chili lime side stripe shrimp lettuce wraps
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1-inch (2.5cm) piece fresh ginger, minced
- 2 red Thai chilies, seeded and diced
- 24 side strip shrimp, peeled and deveined (note: if you’re buying side strip shrimp by weight, you’ll need approximately 2 lb (900 g))
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 leaves Bibb or iceberg lettuce
- Juice from 1-2 limes
- Note by author: Side stripe shrimp are light and sweet to taste and firm in texture. My favourite way to eat these babies is by dipping them into soy sauce. Sweet and salty, they’re absolutely delicious.
- In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, chilies, and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until the shrimp have all turned opaque and are cooked through.
- On a large, clean working surface, separate each lettuce leaf and lay flat. Next, divide the shrimp mixture among the leaves and squeeze some lime juice overtop. Now, wrap up the lettuce leaves and eat! Super fresh and super simple!
“Excerpted from The Great Shellfish Cookbook: From Sea to Table More than 100 Recipes to Cook at Home by Matt Dean Pettit. Copyright © 2018 Matt Dean Pettit. Photography copyright © 2018 Ksenija Hotic. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.”