Gulf Shrimp au Gratin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
2 teaspoons Essence
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ cup minced shallots
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1¼ cups milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1½ teaspoons lemon juice
1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 slices firm white bread, crusts removed, toasted and processed in a food processor to make fresh bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease 8 (6- or 8-ounce) shallow ramekins or gratin dishes.
In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over high heat until hot. Season the shrimp with the Essence, ½ teaspoon of the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pep-per and add them to the hot pan. Cook quickly, turning once, until lightly golden on both sides, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Divide the shrimp evenly among the ramekins and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the remaining butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the flour, whisk to combine, and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until fragrant — do not allow flour to brown. While whisking constantly, add the milk and heavy cream in a thin, steady stream, until mixture is very smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce comes to a gentle boil, thickens and any floury taste is gone, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the lemon juice, 1 cup shredded cheese, chives, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat and spoon the sauce evenly over the shrimp in the ramekins.
In another small saucepan melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Remove from the heat and add the butter to the bread crumbs. Toss to thoroughly combine. Sprinkle ½ cup shred-ded cheese evenly among the tops of the ramekins and then divide the buttered crumbs evenly among the tops of the ramekins.
Place the ramekins on a large baking sheet and bake until golden brown and bubbly, 15 to 18 minutes.