Baked Shrimp with Fennel & Feta

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This (almost) one-pan dish from my favorite magazine, Fine Cooking, is simple yet perfect for guests.  If you’ve never cooked with fennel, it’s a great way to experiment with it as it’s delicate flavour doesn’t overpower the dish.  You’ll need a few fresh ingredients like the fennel and parsley, but you’ve likely got a handful—or more—of the ingredients in your pantry or refrigerator right now.

Ingredients

 

  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups 1/2-inch diced fennel bulb (about 1 small or 1/2 large) (the fronds make a pretty garnish for the dish once you’ve taken it out of the oven, or tear into small pieces and toss them into a salad for a hint of anise flavour)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 398 ml. tin diced tomatoes, with their juices

 

 

 

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (whiz a few pieces of bread in your food processor)
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 125 gms. feta, crumbled (about 3/4 to 1 cup) (my favorite is the B.C. Sunshine Feta from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.  It’s lightly marinated so gives even more flavour to the dish)  
  • 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

 

 

Method

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel and sauté, stirring occasionally until slightly softened and lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute.  Take care not to let the garlic burn, as it will add a bitter taste to the dish. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes and their juices, season with salt and pepper, and stir to heat through. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, spread the tomato mixture into an even layer in the skillet.

In a small bowl, stir the breadcrumbs, parsley, feta, the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil, and salt (about 1/2 tsp., depending on the saltiness of the feta) and pepper to taste. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer on the tomato mixture, and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the shrimp are cooked through and the cheese is melted, 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes a delicious starter when served with a crusty baguette to sop up all the delicious juices, or pair with an orzo and parmesan side dish and call it dinner.