I don’t know if we make this dish mainly because it’s tasty, or because it’s so much fun to set fire to a panful of shrimp. Probably both.
Shrimp fra diavolo (“Brother Devil”) is a traditional dish, the main idea being a spicy tomato sauce with shrimp, saucing long skinny pasta. The version we make comes from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It adds an extra step or two to the typical recipe, but it’s well worth the effort. If you’ve never flambéed before, give it a try – it’s gratifyingly easy. Just make sure there’s nothing flammable right above your stove burners. You can skip the flambéing step, but the shrimp won’t have as deep and rich a flavor.
First you toss the raw, peeled shrimp with hot pepper flakes, as much as you think you can stand, plus some salt and olive oil.
The shrimp are seared in a very hot pan, then pulled off the heat. Add some brandy (a quarter cup for a pound of shrimp), put it back over the heat, and tip the pan to let the brandy fumes come in contact with the open flame (or use a match)…
Once the shrimp are engulfed in flames, just shake the pan and wait until the fire dies down – it won’t take long for the alcohol to burn off. Scrape the shrimp into a bowl.
After being flambéed, the shrimp take on a slightly caramelized coating, and the hot pepper flavor is really seared in.
Then all you need to do is put the pan back on medium-low heat, sauté minced garlic in a bit of fresh olive oil until golden, toss in a can of tomatoes and some white wine, simmer it down and add the shrimp back in along with some minced raw garlic and chopped parsley. Cook some pasta and toss everything together. A chilled white wine goes well with the spicy shrimp.