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It’s well known that fresh lemon brightens up fish. But incorporate a certain lemony Italian liqueur, and things go to an entirely different level. That’s where Francesco d’Amuri, chef-owner of L’Orcio in New Haven, takes things with his limoncello shrimp. “This recipe is interesting because of its simplicity and how a few ingredients combine to create such a harmonious palette,” he says. “It’s unexpected because limoncello isn’t typically used for cooking.”

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Francesco d’Amuri, chef-owner of L’Orcio

Summer was the dish’s inspiration. “I love the light, delicate flavors and the combination of the acidity from the lemon and the sweet from the limoncello, a celebratory drink enjoyed at the end of the meal,” d’Amuri says. “I wanted to bring that fun, happy taste to the beginning of the meal and set the tone for the rest of the guest’s experience. I love that I can serve this any time of the year and hit those notes.”

D’Amuri is particular about the ingredients he uses in the dish. “Make sure to use wild-caught shrimp. Never use farm-raised shrimp, and get a larger size, but not jumbo, so you get a good sear without overcooking them. Also, use a decent-quality limoncello from Amalfi,” says the native Italian, referring to the famed coastal region in Southern Italy. “I love combining and using traditional ingredients to honor Italian cooking heritage. It’s also fun to put a twist on those tastes and concepts, adding new, unexpected things.”

A summer job that connected d’Amuri with a great mentor led him to his career. “I realized how satisfying it was to create a culinary experience and have people enjoy it. It feels great to know I can make people happy with the dishes I make,” says d’Amuri, who recalls the summer when the head chef of a small hotel in Rimini, Italy, quit unexpectedly and his boss gave him the job. A few days later d’Amuri was cooking for a group of 50 senior citizens. “They wanted to see me in the dining room, and when I went out they started clapping, shouting ‘Bravo!’ and gave me a standing ovation. It felt really good and made me feel so satisfied. If I could make a room full of Italian grandmas and grandpas this happy, perhaps I had found my calling!” — Pamela Brown

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Limoncello shrimp

Serves: 4

Prep and cook time: 10–15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound wild-caught large shrimp
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 cup limoncello
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Prepare the shrimp by removing the shell, then remove the vein with a small paring knife and cut along the back of the shrimp. Rinse under cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Place the shrimp in a bowl and toss with the flour until lightly coated.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the shallots, and stir to evenly coat. Sauté over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are slightly browned.

Add the shrimp, white wine, salt and pepper. Cook together, stirring frequently, until the shrimp start to change color to a bright pink, about 2–3 minutes. Add the limoncello and finish cooking the shrimp for another 2 minutes.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place the shrimp over salad greens and sprinkle freshly chopped parsley on top.

Chef’s tip: D’Amuri says the dish is best served over a delicate salad of Boston Bibb with a light lemon vinaigrette made with top-notch extra-virgin olive oil. He also notes that a crisp white wine is a great addition, and recommends Menhir Verdeca from Puglia, his home region.

Pamela Brown is a former English professor, a freelance writer, a marketing/PR specialist for the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, and author of Faithful Love, her first novel that inspired a love of writing. Pamela resides in Connecticut with her daughter, Alexis, who makes her life an adventure.