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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2010

Easy shrimp makes an elegant meal


By Susan M. Selasky
Detroit Free Press

Shrimp are one of those ideal go-to ingredients to have in the freezer. You can take them out and have them ready at a moment's notice.

Baked, broiled or sauteed, these crustaceans make for a snappy meal and happy diners.

Shrimp go well with a huge variety of seasonings and flavors, and should thaw in less than an hour if you place them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator.

Try pairing shrimp with another go-to pantry item, quick-cooking angel hair pasta. You'll have an easy dinner in less than 30 minutes.

Choose extra-large or jumbo shrimp for this dish because they won't get lost in the long strands of pasta. I always remove the shells but leave the tails intact because they make for a nice presentation.

Some stores now sell shrimp labeled "easy peel." These are shrimp with the shell split along the back. The split makes it easy to remove the shell and leave the tail on.

Today's dish pairs shrimp and asparagus tips with a light herb cream sauce and sauteed mushrooms. The dish calls for cremini mushrooms, which I prefer. Sometimes you will find these labeled mini portabellas, or what some folks call Italian mushrooms. They are simply a brown mushroom that's a close cousin to the white mushroom.

With most pasta dishes I am on the cream sauce side, preferring rich buttery sauces. Trouble is, those sauces are loaded with fat and calories.

The cream sauce in this dish uses a tip from Lisa Lillien of www.hungrygirl.com a Web site dedicated to helping dieters by providing product news and reviews, recipes and inspiration. Lillien uses wedges of the Laughing Cow brand of soft cheeses in many recipes for a creamy consistency without all the added fat and calories. Laughing Cow recently added light varieties to their cheese line.

For this recipe, use the garlic and herb cheese variety, which has only 35 calories per wedge. It melts nicely and has a good herb flavor.

SHRIMP WITH HERB CREAM SAUCE

Serves: 2 / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes

4 ounces angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti

1 tablespoon kosher salt for pasta water

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms

8 ounces extra-large shrimp, shells removed, tail left on

Salt and pepper to taste or favorite all-purpose seasoning

4 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup sherry or white wine

2 wedges light herb and garlic cheese (such as the Laughing Cow brand) or 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese

3/4 cup fat-free or regular half-and-half or fat-free milk

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-7 minutes. Reserve and set aside 1 cup of the pasta water; drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook and stir until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and saute 4 minutes or cooked through depending on the size; season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the asparagus spears and saute 2 minutes or until they are crisp-tender. Transfer all the ingredients to a plate.

In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add the sherry or white wine and deglaze the skillet, scraping up any bits on the bottom. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese wedges and half-and-half. Cook and stir over low heat (so it doesn't curdle) until the cheese is melted and the mixture is of a sauce consistency. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta cooking water a little at a time until desired consistency.

Add the shrimp and vegetables and the cooked pasta back into the skillet. Toss to heat through and coat with the sauce.

Place in large serving bowls and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 559 calories (30 percent from fat), 19 grams fat (7 grams sat. fat), 56 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 605 mg sodium, 194 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.