Surf and turf (Italian style) for the holidays

Wrapping shrimp around a nugget of sausage is a perfect bite-sized creation

December 11, 2013 

With the holidays getting into full swing, life for most of us is getting hectic. Between all the big meals, the parties, the kids needing treats for their classes, never mind our day jobs. Who has time for it all?

Well, this dish — my Italian take on surf and turf — will come to your rescue. It is ridiculously easy to make (especially if you use jarred roasted red peppers) and involves just seven ingredients (not counting salt and pepper). But I’ll confess that I stole the basic premise — the shrimp and sausage part — from my friend, and one of my favorite cookbook authors, Bruce Aidells.

Wrapping shrimp around a nugget of sausage was an idea he talked about in his book, “Bruce Aidells’ Complete Sausage Book.” I was amazed the first time I made his recipe. The two proteins meld wonderfully when baked. This is such an impressive trick and looks so clever, it makes the perfect appetizer or hors d’oeuvres for a holiday party.

I used large shrimp and fresh Italian turkey sausage, but if you can only find smaller shrimp or another variety of turkey sausage, go for it. However, you will need to use fresh (not dried, cured or cooked) sausage for the shrimp and sausage to stick together.

I gilded this Italian surf and turf with a red pepper sauce. Pureed roasted red peppers make a thick, rich sauce all by themselves; I just intensified the flavor with a bit of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. There are excellent brands of jarred roasted peppers at the supermarket, but avoid any packed in oil.

If you want to roast your own peppers, you can do so by holding the fresh peppers with tongs over a gas burner on the stove or broiling them on a sheet pan, set about 4 inches from the heat source. Either way, turn them until they are charred on all sides. You then transfer the blackened peppers to a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let them stand for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the skin will easily peel off and the core and seeds can be removed without trouble.

By the way, this red pepper sauce has many applications of its own. You could use it as a dip for raw vegetables or a sauce for roasted vegetables, pasta, sauteed mushrooms, polenta, steak, chicken or fish.

When the holidays are long gone and you have finally caught your breath, I am hoping you will remember this little dish and make it part of your weekly dinner line up.

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