Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there is some serious eating to be done. And much of it is seriously rich and heavy food. For instance, we had two Thanksgiving celebrations to attend this year and I brought a big ol’ sweet potato souffle side dish to each. If that had an ingredient list, it would go: Sweet potatoes, butter, sugar. The butter and sugar are what make it good so I’m not about to not enjoy it. With that kind of indulgence, it’s kind of nice to atone at the dining room table every now and then. But when we do food penance, we don’t screw around. We do things like Top Chef Night Light and make chef Nyesha Arrington’s fennel and shrimp salad with orange chili vinaigrette (click here for recipe) and chef Sarah Grueneberg’s seared salmon with chili relish (click here for recipe).
We used jalapeno in both recipes, but each called for a stronger chili. I, however, am a serious heat wussie so we had to tone it down. K tackled the salmon filet — roasting a jalapeno, sautéing garlic, making a balsamic and herb relish and searing and basting the salmon filets.
I took on the salad — making a jalapeno vinaigrette, cleaning, marinating and sautéing the shrimp and caramelizing the fennel.
The result? SO tasty! First, why didn’t anyone ever tell me that caramelized fennel was so delicious?! Because it is. When you add some creamy, salty queso fresco, a little jalapeno spice and deeply fragrant cumin shrimp, it’s even more fabulous. The salmon was tender and perfectly cooked. Add the tart spice of the vinaigrette and you’ve got success. It was light, it was healthy, it was quick and it was refreshingly tasty.
Alterations: We used jalapeno instead of Fresno and Habanero. There is no orange in the recipe for the “orange chili vinaigrette.” False advertising. Orange would have been good, but I didn’t notice the omission until just now. We left out the kalamata olives in the salad because K doesn’t like olives. Don’t worry, olives, I love you enough for both of us.
Soundtrack: The Smiths. I think Morrissey and seafood just go together.
Would we make this again: Yes, especially that delicious warm shrimp and caramelized fennel salad. It’s the perfect holiday gourmet detox meal.