Back in the early 90’s I was working for a large contract foodservice company in Rochester, NY. As an account manager, one of the occasional perks was having a dinner meeting at one of the many upscale local restaurants.
On one such occasion, my colleagues and I dined at a small exclusive restaurant located near the Genesee River — I can’t recall the name of the place (and it has been closed for many years) but I still remember one dish I had called “Shrimp Alexander.”
At that particular restaurant, Shrimp Alexander consisted of sweet and tender colossal shrimp stuffed with salty feta cheese, wrapped in smoky bacon, and served on a bed of garlicky wilted spinach drizzled with lemon. The flavor combination was amazing — and I remember thinking that it was one of the best things I had ever tasted.
Once or twice, over the years, I have seen the dish recreated as an appetizer but usually under another name, and never quite hitting the mark of that original dish. Just recently when I looked up Shrimp Alexander online, I found reference to a breaded and pan-fried shrimp appetizer from a popular steakhouse, which doesn’t come close to the dish I remember enjoying all those years ago.
Every once in a while, I make my own version of Shrimp Alexander at home using the following recipe developed from memory.
Restaurant Style Shrimp Alexander
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6 appetizers or 3 dinners
12 Jumbo Raw Shrimp (the bigger the better)
1/2 lb Feta Cheese (use the block – not crumbles)
6 slices Good Quality Bacon
1 lb. Fresh Spinach – cleaned and spun dry
1 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup White Wine or Sherry
4 TBSP Butter – divided
2 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice (about ½ lemon)
2 cloves Garlic – minced (about 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp Paprika
Lemon Wedges – for garnish
Cooking Spray – as needed
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover broiler proof pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. Remove shells from shrimp (leave tail if desired) and butterfly.
3. Stuff each shrimp with a generous amount of feta cheese and wrap with 1/2 slice of bacon (secure with toothpick if needed). Arrange on prepared pan and sprinkle with paprika.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 5-7 minutes. Change oven to broil and finish shrimp under broiler until bacon browns slightly and shrimp is white throughout (about 5 minutes more). Remove from oven and keep warm.
5. In a large covered skillet over medium heat, melt butter – add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add chicken broth, wine, and lemon juice – bring to a simmer and allow alcohol to cook off (about 5 minutes). Add spinach, toss and cover for 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Remove spinach with slotted spoon and keep warm. Add remaining 2 TBSP butter and continue cook/reduce sauce whisking until smooth and shiny (about 5-10 minutes).
6. To serve, place some spinach in the center of each plate – place shrimp with tail end on spinach (2 for appetizer or 4 for dinner). Spoon some of the remaining sauce over shrimp and garnish with lemon wedge.
There you have it, my version of the Shrimp Alexander I enjoyed in a little restaurant somewhere in Rochester, NY in the early 90’s. It’s really good, so I hope you try it. Be sure to splurge on the biggest shrimp you can find since that’s what makes this dish look and taste so impressive.
For those of you that need a more frugal version, why not try this next recipe which is a Shrimp Alexander Dip I created for a recent dinner party with some good friends.
Dan’s Shrimp Alexander Dip
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 10-12 people as a party appetizer
6 slices Smoked Bacon – diced
16 oz Cream Cheese – softened
6 oz. Feta Cheese – crumbled
1/2 cup Real Mayonnaise (like Hellman’s)
2 TBSP Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
10 oz. Frozen Chopped Spinach – thawed and squeezed dry
12 oz. Frozen Cooked Salad Shrimp – thawed
1/2 cup Plain Bread Crumbs (optional)
3 TBSP Bacon Fat – melted (optional)
Cooking spray – as needed
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a skillet over med-high heat, cook and stir diced bacon until almost crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate, and reserve 3 TBSP rendered bacon fat.
3. In a large mixing bowl blend together cream cheese, feta cheese, mayo, lemon juice, garlic powder, black pepper and chopped spinach. Fold in cooked bacon and cooked shrimp until thoroughly combined.
4. Coat a 9 inch glass pie dish or similar size baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon shrimp mixture into the dish and spread evenly.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until heated through and bubbling at the sides.
6. OPTIONAL: If desired mix 1/2 cup plain bread crumb with the reserved bacon fat until combined and sprinkle evenly over the surface of the dip before baking.
7. Serve dip warm (or room temperature) with your favorite crackers, chips, veggies or bread.
Now you have two ways to enjoy Shrimp Alexander. The original appetizer/entree is delicious and impressive to serve guests… the appetizer/dip is a great way to share the flavors with a bigger crowd. Either way I’m sure it will be a big hit with your family and friends.
Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”