Published March 1, 2007.
Saucy shrimp (or scallops) blanketed with toasted crumbs represents the best of old-fashioned American cooking, but not when the seafood is waterlogged and tough.
Look in any all-purpose cookbook and you'll find a recipe for this dish. Most follow the same basic formula: Poach the shrimp; place them in a baking dish; top with bread crumbs, sherry, melted butter, herbs, and garlic; and bake. But the cooked shrimp are often rubbery and bland, while the topping is gluey and heavy on raw alcohol flavor.
We wanted all the potent flavors and contrasting textures that the name of this dish promises.
The first problem was overcooking the shrimp—after a dozen failures trying to make the poaching/baking option work, we eliminated both poaching and baking and turned to a stovetop skillet. We seared the shrimp on one side, removed them from the pan, built the sauce in the empty pan, and returned the shrimp to finish cooking in the sauce. To eliminate the alcohol flavor, we cut the sherry with bottled clam juice, letting the mixture simmer for several minutes to concentrate flavor and cook off excess alcohol. Pinches of flour and butter gave the sauce great texture. There was an easy solution to the crumb topping—a chewy supermarket baguette was sturdy enough to retain a crisp texture even after sitting on top of the saucy shrimp, especially since the crumbs are added at the last minute.list of recipes