Otto is a great pizza joint with lots of other good food available, in addition to having an excellent bar and a fantastic wine list. To top it off, the bartenders are pros, and so are some of the waiters. Some guy named Batali runs the place, or at least wanders in occasionally, and obviously he knows what he is doing. Anyway, I have had a wonderful antipasto there that they call, simply, “Shrimp, Ceci, Chiles.” Great stuff, and almost as simple as it sounds. Tommy:Eats has written about it, breaking down the dish pretty damned well. So, I happily stole it and served it on Saturday night, to great fanfare and rejoicing. Now, Mario Batali stole it from someone, and Tommy stole it from Batali, and I have stolen it from Tommy. At some point it will enter the public domain, but don’t let that stop you from making it now. Thievery in the service of your palate is a noble thing.
Shrimp with Ceci Beans and Chiles (Shrimp a la Tommy)
1 lb. good quality raw shrimp
1 can ceci beans
1-2 serrano chiles
Juice of one lemon
Extra Virgin olive oil
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Boil the shrimp until barely cooked. Overcooked shrimp taste like rubber bands, so be careful. Err on the undercooked side and you will be happy. Dump them in ice water to stop the cooking, then peel, cut into chunks a bit bigger than a ceci bean, and stick them in a bowl. Open the can of ceci beans, rinse and drain them, and dump into the shrimp. Now comes the fun part. If you like hot food, simply slice the serranos into thin rings and toss them into the shrimp bowl. If you don’t want the sometimes considerable heat from the serranos, you’ll have to remove the seeds and veins. But this dish looks great with those cool slices of chile so, using your thinnest bladed knife, slice the tips off the chiles and core them without slicing them lengthwise. It will take a few seconds, and don’t forget to wear gloves, or wash your hands thoroughly, or you may experience the joys of a capseicin burn on any mucous membrane you touch. Slice them into those rings I just described and toss them in with the shrimp and beans. Dress the shrimp with the fresh lemon juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil (use something good), the chopped parsley and (this next step is important) and more salt than you might think. The shrimp aren’t salty, and the beans aren’t salted at all, so the dish will need a healthy dose of kosher salt.
Let it marinate for a few hours before you serve it in ramekins. This can be prepared in advance so your guests can enjoy (or suffer) your company.