Well, this dish — my Italian take on surf and turf — will come to your rescue. It is ridiculously easy to make (especially if you use jarred roasted red peppers) and involves just seven ingredients (not counting salt and pepper). But I'll confess that I stole the basic premise — the shrimp and sausage part — from my friend, and one of my favourite cookbook authors, Bruce Aidells.
Wrapping shrimp around a nugget of sausage was an idea he talked about in his book, "Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book." I was amazed the first time I made his recipe. The two proteins meld wonderfully when baked. This is such an impressive trick and looks so clever, it makes the perfect appetizer or hors d'oeuvres for a holiday party.
I used large shrimp and fresh Italian turkey sausage, but if you can only find smaller shrimp or another variety of turkey sausage, go for it. However, you will need to use fresh (not dried, cured or cooked) sausage for the shrimp and sausage to stick together.
I gilded this Italian surf and turf with a red pepper sauce. Pureed roasted red peppers make a thick, rich sauce all by themselves; I just intensified the flavour with a bit of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. There are excellent brands of jarred roasted peppers at the supermarket, but avoid any packed in oil.
If you want to roast your own peppers, you can do so by holding the fresh peppers with tongs over a gas burner on the stove or broiling them on a sheet pan, set about 4 inches from the heat source. Either way, turn them until they are charred on all sides. You then transfer the blackened peppers to a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let them stand for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the skin will easily peel off and the core and seeds can be removed without trouble.
By the way, this red pepper sauce has many applications of its own. You could use it as a dip for raw vegetables or a sauce for roasted vegetables, pasta, sauteed mushrooms, polenta, steak, chicken or fish.
When the holidays are long gone and you have finally caught your breath, I am hoping you will remember this little dish and make it part of your weekly dinner line up.
ITALIAN SURF AND TURF WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Makes 16 shrimp
16 peeled and deveined large raw shrimp (about 8 to 10 ounces)
6 ounces hot or sweet Italian turkey sausage meat (about 2 links)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment.
Arrange the shrimp on the prepared baking sheet with all of the shrimp facing the same direction to form a series of C's. Remove the casings from the sausage, place a small mound of the sausage in the centre of each shrimp and press down so that the shrimp and sausage filling make a solid round.
In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with half the garlic and all of the oregano. Sprinkle the shrimp lightly with salt and pepper, then brush the oil mixture over the shrimp and sausage. Bake the stuffed shrimp until they are cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender combine the red peppers, the remaining tablespoon of oil, the remaining garlic, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat just until hot.
To serve, arrange the shrimp on a serving platter, then drizzle each with some of the sauce.
Nutrition information per shrimp: 170 calories; 50 calories from fat (29 per cent of total calories); 5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 130 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 22 g protein; 710 mg sodium.___
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."