Books, Cooking, Food

Eat This While You Read That: Michael Hooten

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Bard without a StarBoth the First Reader and I have enjoyed Michael Hooten‘s Cricket series very much, finding them to be high fantasy without over-reliance on tropes and thus refreshing to read. His characters are lively, so it came as no surprise to find a note appended to the recipe he sent me. The book we recommend for reading with this meal is Bard Without a Star, and Hooten tells me the character is a little impish, which inspired him to pair Shrimp Fra Diavolo with it.

It’s not a meal I’ve made before, so I followed the recipe closely. One thing he has you do is to fry the shrimp first, and this really adds a nice level of flavor, I’m very pleased with it. I kept the heat down to maybe a 1 (out of a 1-5 scale) because I wasn’t sure about the red pepper flakes (had to buy some for this recipe, I don’t use them usually!). Frying them in the oil really woke them up and brought out the flavors, as well. I will be repeating this dish, and adding another teaspoon of pepper (I used one teaspoon in this attempt) so the First Reader can feel the heat, too!


Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Michael Hooten’s Shrimp Fra Diavolo

This is a very simple dish to prepare. I started the pasta water while I cleaned the shrimp, and then batch-fried the shrimp while the water was coming up to temp, being very careful not to overcook it – shrimp is delicate.

Frying shrimp
Frying the shrimp in coconut oil.

I chose to use fettucine because I had an open box, but as Hooten recommends, any long pasta will work with this recipe.

Making the sauce in the same skillet I fried the shrimp in meant less dishes, always a yay! in my book. Also, I have no qualms about cooking acidic dishes in my cast iron. One, it’s well-seasoned and the idea of iron leaching into my food is a good thing (I can’t take iron supplements) and two, I wash it as soon as I’m done to prevent damage to my seasoning.

Herbs and tomatoes
I used a handful of fresh chopped oregano rather than the dried, since it’s in season.

Mix the shrimp back in, drain the pasta, and that is all there is. The First Reader and I both ate too much. It was totally worth it. This is a lovely, balanced dish, with some acid to play off the richness of the shrimp and the sauce is thin, but not runny so it coats the pasta.

For my gluten-free readers? This meal would work really really well served over steamed cauliflower, or maybe spaghetti squash. I don’t think I’d try it over the bed of collard greens like I did with the alfredo sauce, the acids in both would imbalance this sauce with the dark green leafy veg as a base.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Shrimp Fra Diavolo and a fantasy book about a bard. What more could you want on a relaxing summer evening?

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