White Bean, Tomato, and Shrimp Skillet Dinner
Consider yourself transported to the Mediterranean! This gorgeous skillet dinner is bursting with tomatoes, anise-scented fennel, white beans, and vibrant shrimp.
White beans, tomatoes, and fennel are heaven-made matches. Just ask an Italian.
This one-skillet dish confirms the adage of “what grows together, goes together.” Add some shrimp to the mix, and you have a substantial meal that comes together easily and all in one pan!
Think of this as a filling stew. For extra credit and texture, make some toasted breadcrumbs to sprinkle on top, and it’s like a seafood cassoulet! Shrimp and vegetables are a meal on their own, but to make dinner even more robust, serve it with a green salad and a baguette.
GIVE FENNEL A CHANCE!
Fennel is a prized vegetable in the Mediterranean, where it is eaten both raw and cooked. It’s beloved by Italians and Greeks for its flavor and medicinal qualities.
If you haven’t fully explored fennel, then let me be an advocate. The fat bulbs are as crisp as celery when they are raw, with a distinctive licorice flavor. When cooked, they become soft and sweet, and the licorice takes a step back.
I think it is a vastly under-appreciated vegetable that deserves at least a “try it, you’ll like it” chance.
For this recipe, brown wedges of the bulb in a skillet before simmering them in stewy tomatoes. There is a flavor exchange here—the tomatoes take on an herbal undertone, while the fennel sweetens and mellows in the sauce.
THE BEST WAY TO COOK SHRIMP
If you’ve ever cooked rubbery shrimp (and truth, we all have), it’s probably because you cooked it at too high a temperature.
The delicate proteins in shrimp seize, shrink, and become rubbery when subjected to high temperatures, so the trick to making tender, succulent shrimp is to cook them at a temperature lower than the boiling point. For poaching shrimp, the water temperature should be between 165ºF and 175ºF.
In this recipe, you’re basically poaching the shrimp in tomato sauce. If you simmer it very gently for a minute or two and remove the pan from the heat for another few minutes, the shrimp cooks in the residual heat and is perfectly done.
HOW TO MAKE FRESH BREADCRUMBS
Adding crunchy breadcrumbs to this dish is like the icing on the cake. You could skip it, but they make the dish irresistible.
You can use store-bought breadcrumbs (like Panko), but it’s also really easy to make your own!
To make breadcrumbs quickly in a food processor, remove the crusts from slightly stale bread; tear the bread into pieces, and pulse in a food processor until they form coarse crumbs. It is a great way to preserve those last few slices that have gone a teensy bit stale.
Once you’ve turned them into crumbs, slip them into a plastic bag, and keep them in the freezer. They will last almost indefinitely, but I think they lose some flavor after three months.
DOES THIS MAKE GOOD LEFTOVERS?
Some people hate leftovers, but this is one of those dishes I am happy to have in the fridge.
It will keep a day or two after it is cooked. Just reheat it very gently on top of the stove. Don’t nuke it in the microwave (you know, that shrimp rubber ball thing).
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