Recently I was planning a Halloween party for the first time in as many years as I can remember. I like attending parties this time of year — dressing up and getting into the spirit — but the last time I actually planned something was when my oldest child was still in elementary school (he's a senior now)...and that was a kid's party. I wanted something for the adults this time.
It all started with a couple of bottles of Casillero del Diablo wine; the name translating to "the devil's cellar" in honor of the legend behind the wine. I thought creating a Devilishly Fun Halloween Party would be a blast! Plus, adults are easy. A little ambiance, a fun playlist, a few beverages, and some tasty food is all we need.
Just as all of the songs on my playlist had the word "devil" in their titles, so did each dish on my menu. I chose to make this Shrimp Fra Diavolo as the main course, sandwiched between some deviled appetizers and a devil's food dessert. Traditionally, "fra diavolo" is the Italian term for something in a spicy sauce that is usually (but not always) tomato-based.
Since this dish comes together so quickly and with so few ingredients, it can sometimes be boring or bland. Obviously I didn't want that. So I turned to America's Test Kitchen for some tips on how to avoid a dish that was just "blah". There were two things that I really loved about their method. First, they use both dried red chile flakes and pepperoncini to add heat to their sauce. Some of the pepperoncini brine also goes in and helps to add a brighter note to the final product.
My favorite tip for making sure the sauce had plenty of flavor, though, was starting with shell-on shrimp. Just like when making a shrimp bisque or a shellfish stock, you start by browning the shrimp shells and simmering them in the liquid base. If you've never tried this before, you'll be amazed at how much flavor you can extract from those delicate little shells and tails. Don't skip this step!
Should I say it? Of course I should — this dish was DEVILISHLY delicious. But don't save it for Halloween parties, it would be a welcome addition to your table any day of the year.
My favorite way to eat it is simply as-is with some crusty bread for mopping up the flavorful juices at the bottom of the bowl. You could buy a loaf, or try making a loaf of this simple Cuban Bread, Kate’s French Bread, or Allison’s Rustic Bread! But it’s also tasty served over your favorite pasta. If you serve it this way, scoop some of the pasta cooking water into the sauce before you drain it — this helps the sauce and the pasta become one cohesive dish.
All Clad Stainless Saute Pan
Le Creuset Revolution Spatula