A (Birth)Date with the Devil

The great bass/bass-baritone Samuel Ramey turns 70 today. Ramey has played the devil so often that he tours with a program called “A Date with the Devil.” He has sung Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust, all four villains in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, Mefistofele in Boito’s Mefistofele, Faust in Berlioz’ The Damnation of Faust, and the sinister Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.

Fra Diavolo sauce, literally Brother Devil, is a garlicky, spicy tomato sauce, perfect served with shrimp over pasta. Ramey is an aw shucks, midwestern boy from Colby, Kansas. How cool (hot) is that?

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 t. salt, plus additional as needed
1 t. dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
3 T. olive oil, plus 1 to 2 additional teaspoons
1 medium onion, sliced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 c. dry white wine
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 t. dried oregano leaves
3 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 T. chopped fresh basil leaves

Toss the shrimp in a bowl with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, turn, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate. Add another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the shrimp to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve over linguine.


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