Aluminum foil is easily one of the most versatile items in my house. I use it to make costume swords, wrap leftovers, and recently, transform a dinner with whopping amounts of (admittedly delicious) fat into a meal that can be called “healthy” without qualification.
My neighbor Deborah is from Louisiana, and quick to offer a kind word, an adult beverage and a recipe. She introduced me to Shrimp Mosca, which is the darling of Mosca’s Restaurant outside New Orleans. The dish contains a bounty of large, fresh crustaceans, which are a fantastic source of low-fat protein. But the traditional recipe calls for submerging the shrimp in a cup of olive oil. While olive oil full is of unsaturated, healthy fat, a cup promises more than 200 grams of fat and nearly 2,000 calories.
This is where aluminum foil saves the day, and the recipe. When you cook food in aluminum foil packets, you only need a little liquid to infuse your yummies with flavor. A mere two teaspoons of olive oil, some vegetable broth, and a squeeze of lemon juice were all I needed to steam the shrimp to low-fat, low-calorie perfection.
In the traditional recipe, the oil and juices are sopped up with crusty bread. But my initial test batch made from peeled, deveined shrimp yielded broth that was uninspired. To deepen the flavors, Deborah suggested using shrimp with the shells still on. Onion rounded out the savory notes, making a light, flavorful broth that was deliciously baguette-worthy.
Foiled shrimp steams in just 10 minutes on the grill, which happens to be the exact time it takes to also cook a side dish of foiled tomatoes. Simply toss cherry tomatoes in a drizzle of oil and throw in some fresh basil. Serve the tomatoes with more bread, like a warm panzanella, or with roasted corn kernels. You can even make a foiled dessert by dotting cored pear halves with a teaspoon of butter, a tablespoon of brown sugar, and a handful of dried fruit on top of each. Wrap the dressed pears in individual foil packets and place them on the grill when you remove the shrimp and tomatoes. In 20 minutes, or about the time your meal is winding down, you’ll have a warm dessert that looks and tastes far more complicated than it really is.
If you’re not keen on lighting the grill (and I get it, particularly if you’ve just washed your hair and don’t want it to smell like charcoal), you can make foiled dishes in a high-heat oven. But the grill adds a round, smoky flavor that’s hard for your oven to replicate. If you’re torn, I suggest grilling while wearing a shower cap to protect your ‘do. And if your neighbor raises an eyebrow at your appearance, well, at least your hat isn’t made out of aluminum foil.
Inspired by the eponymous dish at Mosca’s Restaurant, Westwego, Louisiana