While Jean-Marc Boyer was teaching his recipe for shrimp with vanilla and tarragon to the group at the French House Party, he reached for a bottle of bourbon. Adding a few glugs to the shrimp sautéing in butter, he tipped the pan and let it flame. The bourbon wasn’t on the original recipe, but Jean-Marc Boyer has a reputation for impromptu changes to his own recipes, including his pastries. This creativity has earned his restaurant, Le Puits de Tresor, a Michelin star.
A native of Carcassonne, chef Boyer teaches several of the culinary classes at The French House Party just outside that ancient city. He used prawns in France, but large shrimp is an acceptable substitute. The vanilla oil does have to be made at least half an hour before cooking the shrimp and can be made up to thirty days ahead.
Shrimp with vanilla and tarragon
- 1 pound jumbo shrimp (21/25), shell on or off
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon + 4 teaspoons vanilla oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely shredded
- salt & pepper
- 4 tablespoons bourbon, brandy or rum
- 4 ounces heavy cream
- To make 4 ounces vanilla oil: slice a vanilla bean pod lengthwise in half. Using the blade of the knife, scrap the seeds from the pod and place in a small bowl. Slice the pod into 8 pieces and add to the bowl. Add 4 ounces extra virgin olive oil. Stir, cover and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before using. Note: leftover oil intensifies in flavor but should be used within 30 days.
- Melt butter in a large saute pan and add 1 tablespoon vanilla oil.
- Add shrimp and half the fresh tarragon and saute over medium heat for 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Flip the shrimp and cook 30 seconds more.
- Add the bourbon, brandy or rum to the pan and flame – gently tilt the pan towards gas flame or, carefully, light with a match. Cook for an additional 30 seconds after flame has died. Remove the shrimp, with tongs or slotted spoon, to a plate and keep warm.
- Add cream to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer for one minute.
- Spoon some sauce on each of four plates and top each plate with shrimp.
- Drizzle 1 teaspoon vanilla oil over each plate of shrimp and garnish with remaining tarragon.
This dish is simple yet elegant. Both the bourbon and the vanilla compliment the rich cream, and yet it’s just enough sauce to lightly coat the shrimp. This recipe serves four as an entree.