I just returned from an amazing week of wine with Herdade do Esporao and their sister winery Quintas dos Murcas in Portugal. Easily one of the most beautiful places on earth with breathtaking views of vineyard filled vistas dotted with olive and citrus trees sweeping down into the Douro river in the north and olive trees rising parallel to old vine vineyards in the south in Alentejo with quaint historic towns and Roman ruins rising next to gilded churches. A truly special place. The food was rich and robust, much like the wine, celebrating new twists in traditional fare like heart stews of lamb, rabbit or fish, salt cod, and plates and plates of salty cured presunto, or the Portuguese dry-cured ham, served with sweet chimneys of tomato, pumpkin, apple or apricot, and lots of fresh olive oil ranging in flavors from light and green to floral to spicy and robust. While visiting Murcas we had dinner at a beautiful restaurant called Rui Paula DOC/DOP on the Duoro River after a leisurely afternoon boat ride.
This gorgeous meal featured my favorite flavor of the trip – octopus carpaccio pulled straight from the river that morning and cooked in perfectly seasoned water to accentuate its salty brininess and flavored with an herb pesto and very green olive oil.
Incredible, and something my culinary aptness hasn’t tried to master yet.
Instead, here is a recreation of another dish we had that night, just caught sweet shrimp called Mozambique with a creamy, incredibly rich and decadent potato puree accentuated with black truffle and mushrooms. It was their play on surf and turf or Terra/Mar (Earth/Sea). A touch of truffle salt can give the aroma and hint of flavor similar to their truffle or a bit of truffle paste. For the shrimp, use the freshest, sweetest and largest ones you can find. Also, don’t be afraid of the olive oil…they use a lot like in Spain and Italy, but it is so much better for you then butter and cream used often with a heavy hand in traditional mashed potatoes. Bonus, my skin has never looked better. We had this paired with a mineral filled, steely white from Esporao called 2 Castas blending the indigenous Arinto and Antao Vaz varieties, another good white for this would be an Assyrtico from Greece.
Jumbo Shrimp with Olive oil and Truffle Whisked Potatoes
1 pound large, very fresh shrimp – leave the tails, remove the rest of the shells and reserve
1/2 white onion, cubed
5 golden/white potatoes, skinned and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
5 chantrelle or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into quarters
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped fine + 4 whole stems + a bit for garnish
1 fresh bay leaf
Olive oil (a good rich one, not a light one – you want the flavor)
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons black Truffle paste or 1 teaspoon truffle salt (if you use the salt be careful with the rest of your seasoning to not over salt)
Salt and pepper
Finishing oilve oil, a lighter one then what you cooked with but still rich and green
Add the potatoes to a large stock pot filled with water. Salt the water generously (this will add a flavor to the potatoes while they are cooking – like you would with pasta). Bring the water to a boil. Boil the potatoes until tender. Meanwhile, in a very Portuguese way of using everything and not wasting, bring another small pot of water to a boil with the shrimp shells, and tablespoon of salt, the whole parsley stems, bay leaf, 1/2 white onion, 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Boil for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/3 cup for sauteing and save the rest of the water to use as stock in soup. Meanwhile season the shrimp the with the dried spices, a dash each of salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 the wine. In a large saute pan cook 1 garlic clove and 1/2 of the shallot in 1 tablespoon olive oil, when soft add the mushrooms and the parsley cook for another 2-3 minutes until warm and slightly caramelized. Keep warm until ready to serve. When the potatoes are soft, drain and add them back to the pot. Drizzle in olive oil, starting with out 1/3 cup, whisking as you drizzle. Depending on the texture of your potatoes you may need to add up to 1/2 or even more, but you want them to almost have a yellow-green hue and be able to taste the herbal notes married with the truffle, without being runny. Fold in the truffle paste or truffle salt with 1/2 tablespoon pepper and salt, to your taste. Keep warm until ready to serve. Heat 1 more tablespoon of oil and saute the remaining garlic and shallot and cook until just soft. Add the wine and stock. Reduce by 3/4. Toss in the shrimp and quickly saute for 2-3 minutes until pink – be careful not to over cook. Plate by placing a large spoonful of potatoes in the center of a plate place a few mushrooms around the plate. Add three or four shrimp to the top of the potatoes and drizzle with the finishing oil and an extra sprinkle of parsley.