Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ouzo Substitutions

I needed ouzo for the Greek-Style Shrimp and Feta recipe so I used a vodka tincture substitute. (From the Cooks Illustrated magazine for September & October 2010, page 13.)

Ouzo, the popular anise-flavored spirit of Greece, lends shrimp saganaki a nuanced flavor that we like. But since ouzo is not in everyone's liquor cabinet, here are two alternative.

Pernod—Though slightly sweeter than ouzo, this French asise-flavored liqueur is the next best thing.

Vodka + Anise Seed—One tablespoon of vodka plus 1/8 teaspoon of anise seed makes a fine substitute for 1 tablespoon of ouzo.

I used the vodka method. We have star anise so I broke the seeds out and crushed them with a mortar and pestle before mixing with the vodka to form the tincture.

Note the Greek-Shrimp recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of ouzo so triple the above formula.

Greek Shrimp with Feta

This easy weeknight Greek dish defies the old saw that seafood and cheese don't work together—if, that is, you get every element just right. From the Cooks Illustrated magazine for September & October 2010.

I made this recipe when I first got this month's Cooks Illustrated magazine and we really really liked it. They wanted to simplify and improve on the classic Greek dish, shrimp saganaki. Since I didn't have ouzo I did the vodka anise substitute and it worked (remember, I do NOT like licorice so I was pleasantly surprised that it complimented the dish and didn't ruin it.) I didn't know we had fresh parsley & dill in the garden so I substituted fresh basil. ATK recommends feta made with sheep or goat milk but Safeway only had American cows milk varieties.

The next week I made it but skipped the ouzo marinade and used Paul Newman's Own pasta sauce for a quick low hassle version. It was good food but not the spectacular complex flavor of the Cooks Illustrated recipe. What follows it mostly from the magazine, page 13.

Greek-Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta Serves 6 with crusty bread, steamed white rice or my favorite egg noodles.

301 calories per serving of shrimp, 221 calories per cup of egg noodles.

  • 1 1/2 pounds shrimp (thawed, peeled and deveined)
  • 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons ouzo
  • 5 medium garlic cloves (minces or pressed, about 5 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
  • Table salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, diced medium (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced medium (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced medium (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz Hunt's diced tomatoes drained, 1/3 cup juices reserved
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  1. Toss shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, tablespoon ouzo, 1 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside while preparing sauce.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, red and green bell pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables release their moisture, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture cooks off and vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes longer.
  3. Add remaining 4 teaspoons garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and reserved juice, wine and remaining 2 tablespoons ouzo, increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded and sauce is slightly thickened (sauce should not be completely dry), 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and add shrimp along with any accumulated liquid to pan; stir to coat and distribute evenly. [Also branch to step 8, start cooking pasta.] Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are opaque throughout, 6 to 9 minutes for extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 count) or 7 to 11 minutes for jumbo (16 to 20 count), adjusting heat as needed to maintain bare simmer.
  7. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle evenly with feta. Drizzle remaining tablespoon oil evenly over top and sprinkle with dill.
  8. Serve immediately over extra wide egg noodles made with Durum wheat, 12 oz package. Dump the pasta into the boiling salt water about the time the shrimp are added to the dish (step 6).

Here is a video I found in researching this recipe. I learned a few things (you can light the ouzo on fire the way he does it.) But I think the Cooks Illustrated recipe looks better.