Pernod Shrimp with Tarragon, Fennel, and Feta
After 3 photoshoots over the last 2 weeks featuring 4th of July outdoor entertainment menus, I found myself longing for a non-traditional recipe that had the biggest, boldest flavors I could find. I just returned from London a few weeks back where I picked up a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, NOPI (named after his famous restaurant there). Paging through, I came across King Prawn with Pernod, Tarragon, and Feta. This recipe called out to me. My first fascination was that it had Pernod, tarragon, and fennel, which would make one think that that the final product could be too liquorish-forward. But I had to trust the genius – and he was right.
I never follow recipes exactly, but I did follow this one pretty closely. I’m not a fan of Sumac, so I left it off. The flavors were otherworldly. My farmer’s market had no King Prawn, so I settled for wild-caught shrimp from the Georgia coast to keep it in the family.
I left the shrimp heads on, as Ottolenghi suggested, and they made the sauce sing. Simply clean and peel the shrimp as normal, leaving the head and tail on. The head is easily removed when eating, and provides an elevated, fancy French took to the plate.
I made Grandma Mildred’s famous white rice to serve as a base, but also toasted some buttered French bread slices for “sopping” the yummy sauce.
Place the shrimp in a bowl with thyme, garlic, zest, and 1/8 cup of EVOO. Toss to coat shrimp, and cover, and leave to marinate for at least an hour- but can be left overnight.
Place feta in bowl, add 2 Tablespoons of EVOO, Red Pepper flakes, and dried oregano. Stir gently and place back in fridge to marinate.
Heat remaining 1/8th cup of EVOO and sear the shrimp for just 2 minutes on high heat until they are no longer translucent, BUT NOT FULLY COOKED. Remove them to a plate and set aside. Now, sear the fennel on med-hi heat until charred nicely (about 7 minutes) flipping halfway through. Remove fennel. Deglaze pan with Pernod, then add stock. Cook until reduced, and then turn heat down, add butter, tarragon, and salt. Stir from bottom gently until sauce becomes glossy. Return shrimp to sauce and remove from heat. Shrimp will finish cooking.
Plate rice first, then sauce, shrimp, bits of feta, and garnish with fennel and a shrimp head. Serve with buttered French bread slices.
A Note on Pernod: The oldest anise liqueur in France, Pernod is made from distillates of star anise, fennel and 14 other botanicals such as coriander and mint. It has a low licorice content, which sets it apart from pastis. The original version included wormwood and was produced as absinthe at the Pernod Fils factory from 1805. The Pernod liquor of today was created in 1938, though a reformulated absinthe based on the original recipe was released in 2005. It can be found at most package stores. If you can’t find Pernod specifically, any licorice flavored liqueur will do nicely.