This rosé shrimp recipe eluded me for months.
As May, June and July bled into August, I found myself cooking iterations of my idea — pan-seared shrimp with rosé butter — so often that even my partner, a seafood obsessive, said enough was enough.
After much tinkering, I did eventually lure him back to the dinner table.
It turned out that blooming herbes de Provence — heady with dried herbs like rosemary, thyme and often lavender — in hot, shrimpy olive oil amplified the savoriness that crustaceans cooked in butter and wine tend to have (think of shrimp scampi). And the floral herbs made the rosé butter taste somehow even more of rosé, that crisp summer wine, another taste of Provence.
It was getting closer. And yet, it was still missing something.
One day, my friend Rebecca, a recipe developer herself who sometimes works for The Times (and often helps me gut-check my own recipes), suggested that I add some piment d’Espelette to match the dish’s French leanings.
“I feel like it’s totally underutilized,” she said about the fruity, moderately spiced pepper, named for a commune in France and prevalent in Basque cooking.
When it comes to the piment d’Espelette, which turbocharges the flavor and pinkish color of this shrimp, you don’t have to pluck it from a Basque field. You can easily find it online as well as in many supermarkets and specialty spice stores. And if you can’t? Gochugaru, Aleppo pepper and red-pepper flakes are all adequate substitutes.
Be sure not to skip the orange zest, though; it brings out the Provençal wine’s inherent fruitiness. This last addition was a gift from another friend and colleague, Melissa Clark.
For weeks, I had a draft of this recipe lingering on my Google Drive, but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn it in. It wasn’t ready yet. So I cooked it with Melissa in her Brooklyn kitchen: She tasted it, lingered for a moment and ran to her fridge to grab a lemon — then an orange. Zested over the shrimp, the bittersweet orange lent balance and made the buttery sauce taste all the better. Recalling the sunny rosé, it locked everything into place.
I love cooking because sometimes all it takes is a friend (or two) to help you finesse the details of a dish, to give rosy color to an idea.