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Shrimp Portofino
February 6, 2016

For a short time, one of our favorite places to eat when visiting Indy was Romano's Macaroni Grill. My wife, Annie, would always order chicken portobello and I would get shrimp portofino. Along with their fine bread and olive oil, great salads, and wonderful mixed drinks, we'd leave absolutely stuffed.

Sautéing garlic, onions, celery and carrot
Mushrooms added
Shrimp and spinach added
Thickening

Then someone added the Macaroni Grill to their 2009 Worst Foods List, featuring, among other items, our favorite dishes. Romano's quickly caved into criticism about unhealthy meals and reworked the recipes on their menu. Needless to say, the healthier versions weren't all that great. Within a year or so, I noticed that every one of the Macaroni Grill restaurants around Indianapolis had closed! I guess others agreed with our negative impression of the new menu.

Since we don't eat out all that often, heart-attack-on-a-plate menu items with lots of heavy cream aren't a big worry. I do, however, remember to take my Lipitor after eating such dishes. With that advice, I'll now offer here our somewhat unhealthy, but delicious recipe for shrimp portofino. Let me add quickly that I relied heavily on a couple of excellent online copycat recipes (1, 2) when developing our version.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
1 small onion (optional)
1 small carrot minced (optional)
1 stalk celery chopped (optional)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (white or portobella)
1 handful pine nuts
20-24 large raw shrimp (de-veined and tails removed)
4-6 cups baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
splash of white cooking wine
1/2 cup chicken broth (optional)

1 pint heavy cream
1 tablespoon flour (for thickening)

pasta (fettuccine or ??)

Before you start cooking

If your shrimp are frozen, they'll need to be thawed in the refrigerator or cold water. Avoid thawing in a microwave.

Once thawed, the shrimp will need to have shells and tails removed. Note that some folks online suggest saving the tails and shells to simmer in water to make shrimp stock!

You'll also want to start a pot of hot water with a bit of salt and olive oil in it for the pasta. About halfway through cooking the portofino, you'll need to start your pasta.

Preparation

I start our shrimp portofino with a base that could serve for many dishes. I chop or mince three or four cloves of garlic, a small onion, a small carrot, and a stalk of celery and sauté them in olive oil. Butter could be substituted for the olive oil. I just happen to like the taste of olive oil better.

After a few minutes (less than ten), I add the sliced mushrooms to the pan along with some pine nuts. Either white or portobella mushrooms will work, each adding its own particular flavor to the dish. Since pine nuts are terribly expensive, the amount of them added depends on whether or not I happen to have a big bag of them on hand or have bought just a small package.

After a few more minutes, I add the raw shrimp that I've previously shelled and removed tails from. As the shrimp cooks, I add a splash of white cooking wine and/or some Swanson chicken broth. Then I begin to pinch the stems off of baby spinach leaves and cover the pan with them, turning them in, and adding more spinach. If I'm using spinach out of our garden, I fully stem the larger spinach leaves.

While I add a bit of salt and pepper to the pan at this point, I usually end up adding a bit more salt when the dish is almost done. While some recipes call for up to two teaspoons of salt for shrimp portofino, I find less is better.

When the shrimp begins to turn pink, it's done and it's time to move on to the next step. Overcooking shrimp can make it tough.

I mix a tablespoon of white flour and a pint of heavy whipping cream in a shaker jar. I then add it to the pan, stirring regularly as one would do when making gravy or thickening any other dish.

While doing all of the above, several handfulls of fettuccine have been boiling in a pot (with a little salt and olive oil). When the pasta is done, I spread the fettuccine on a plate and cover it liberally with the now done shrimp portofino.

Shrimp Portofino

Notes

This is another one of those recipes that I've resisted posting on Senior Gardening, thinking it not really related to gardening. But when I looked at some of its ingredients, I realized that we grow a lot of the stuff that goes into shrimp portofino. No, we don't have a shrimp pond on our property, but we often grow garlic, onions, celery, carrots, and spinach in our garden plots.

The top two photos above left were shot during a subsequent round of cooking. I'd forgotten to get pictures of sautéing the garlic, veggies, and mushrooms. Interestingly, that round of cooking was actually in preparation of making a variant of a Copycat recipe for Romano's Chicken Portobello. Parts of the recipes are somewhat similar. The shrimp portofino did get sliced white mushrooms, while the chicken portobello got sliced portobellos.

While I don't push a whole lot of name brands, I did specify Swanson Chicken Broth. I think the seasonings added to both Swanson's chicken and beef broth add a lot of flavor to recipes. Sadly, the broths are not totally gluten free, so I have to use other gluten free brands when several of our gluten sensitive family members come for dinner. We also use a lot of broth we save from buying bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts on sale, filleting and freezing the breast meat, and boiling down the rest for chicken and broth. Chicken and noodles, Portuguese Kale Soup, and Asiago Cheese & Tortellini Soup (another heart-attack-in-a-bowl food) all have to compete for chicken broth around our house, so we use a lot of our own and a lot of Swanson's.

The pan used for this recipe was a nearly new Greenpan given to us by one of our adult daughters. She was appalled at the conditions of some of our Teflon pots and pans when visiting last fall and got us a set of Greenpans for Christmas. So far, we're thrilled with the new pans. Thanks, Erica!

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