Shakespeare’s Vermouth Shrimp alla Elsinore
“I must be cruel only to be kind.” Hamlet, 3.4
“Shakespeare’s Vermouth Shrimp Tragedy at Elsinore”, more well known as “Vermouth Shrimp”, recounts how Shakespeare – a promising young chef at the time – makes an impulsive, defiant decision to save his reputation and leave Denmark. The recipe is, well, frankly a rip-off of chef de Belleforest’s “Vodka Shrimp” which was in turn a twist on the traditional widely found “Grappa Shrimp” recipes chronicled by the food historian Saxo Grammaticus in his “Vita Squilla” (The Life of Shrimp).
In his recipe however Shakespeare does at least change the liquor Belleforest used as well as adding the “Wha’s up!” exchange, taken from the noted add campaign by Bud-of-Weiser, in the opening scene, a second sea scallop dish later in the recipe and of course the ghost of Julia Child. Given the recipe’s lack of dramatic structure or originality it’s probably best not to argue over or interpret its meaning but simply to prepare the plate and eat it.
The Ingredients of the Dish:
And some Jumbo Shrimp
As much chopped parsley as you need
Extra-Virgin olive oil
A human skull*
Pepper and salt
Enough bad sea scallops to give someone the runs for a week
* a plastic facsimile can be used in case you don’t want to be arrested for grave robbing
The Chefs of the Recipe:
Shakespeare – a promising young chef
Claudio Berlusconi – the (new) owner of the Elsinore, a restaurant in Denmark
Marcellus – a waiter at the restaurant
Barnardo – the same
Horatio – Headwaiter
Caliban – a rotten fish dealer
Julia Child’s ghost
Various other restaurant staff
Act I, sc.1
The Elsinore dining terrace. Enter Marcellus and Barnardo, two waiters, at several tables
Marcellus: Yo, Bernie, wha’s up?
Barnardo: Wha’s up? Wha’s uuup!
Marcellus: Wha’s uuup? Wha’s uuuup!
Marcellus: Wha’s uuuup!
Horatio: Wha’s uuup!
Enter the ghost of Julia Child in a chef’s white frock, holding a rolling pin
Ghost of Julia Child: Uuuuuuuuuup!
Pause. Exit ghost.
Marcellus, Francisco and Horatio: Whoa.
Marcellus: That was creepy.
Barnardo: F***kin’ yeah.
Horatio: Pray, good Barnardo, refrain
From quickly spoken 4 lettered Brooklyn
F’s lest our new real owner, pseudo-
Chef and pseudo-king Claudio with your
Serving job make true substance of the word.
Barnardo: I know, I know. Swear in front of the tourists and I’m screwed. Like, big deal. How much we made in tips so far today? 1 euro each?
Horatio: ‘Tis sadly true. Since the street-of-the-wall
Itself did bear-attack with paper sub-
Primed and toxin derived, our once high Neptune’s
Tide of travelers flows backward ‘pon itself.
Even those returning to this kitchen’d nest
Leave no green eggs for a poor waiter’s omelet.
Marcellus: Nor even the skin of a ham.
Barnardo: So, like, Sam we am?
Pause. Horatio and Marcellus slap Barnardo on both sides of his face.
Barnardo: Ouch! Hey…
Horatio: You guys think we should tell Will about this?
Barnardo: What, that we like, got a freakin’ ghost haunting our empty al fresco dining terrace? I don’t think so.
Marcellus: I rather think you better. Here, use my cell phone. Just press *– 4.
Horatio: If anyone knows what to do about it, Will will.
Exists with cell phone. Enter a delivery truck. Out jumps Caliban, a fish dealer, with a package in his hand. Caliban nods to Marcellus as he walks past into the restaurant. As the package passes close to him Marcellus sniffs noticeably. Exit Caliban.
Marcellus: (looking at you, the reader) Something is rotten in the kitchen of Elsinore.
Act I, sc.2
Enter Shakespeare and Horatio, in Elsinore’s kitchen
Horatio: Thanks for comin’ so quick Will. I’m tellin’ you dude, it was really weird.
William: So, she was holding a rolling pin? Mmm. This bodes of something totally gnarly in our restaurant.
Enter the Ghost of Julia Child. She bids William to follow her. He starts to follow.
Horatio: Dude, are you crazy?
Will: Chill, Horatio. It’s Julia, the Child queen of all us kitchen-bound children chefs, and I will talk straight with her. My fate cries out: She makes each petty recipe in this kitchen as banal as a tuna club sandwich on rye.
Horatio: But what if, like, she eats you or something?
Ghost: Pffff, Horatio if you must know I just wanted to let Wil know that Claudio isn’t using fresh fish, give him a ‘heads up’. He’s made a dirty deal with Caliban, who washes yesterday’s unsold inventory with ammonium and then sells the smelly buggers to Claudio at a discount. An underhanded schemeto make a quick euro. Don’t let the dreadful Claudio ruin your promising kingly career, Shakespeare. I may be out of the kitchen but I still keep a watchful eye on promising young talent, keep good Will hunting, you know, good Will hunting? (giggles to herself. The others look on impassively. Stops giggling.) Anyway. Remember me, Will, remember my cuisine. Adieu, adieu, and…bon appetite!
Shakespeare: You have a pen and paper on you?
Horatio gives him a pen and small notebook from his pocket. Shakespeare sets the notebook on the countertop and writes.
Will: Horatio, no one screws with my tables. Here. (hands the paper to Horatio) There are more fish sellers in Copenhagen than are dreamt of in Claudio’s contacts list. Pick this up at Gammel Strand.
Horatio: (Reading the paper) Jumbo shrimp? What about our menued dish, the seared scallops on their bed of baked apple slices and their dribbled sauce blanket of sweetened wild fruit and Balsamic vinegar?
Shakespeare: The scallops we will leave away from tonight’s guests. Yet hidden will we leave them out in our kitchen’s spoiling warmed air. I will later cook andslice them and then, unbeknownst to Claudio, in our staff’s meal-before-the-meal tomorrow to that same crook feed. The scallops’ll be the hook with which I’ll nail that crook. As for the changed menu…my special providence will defy both augury and Claudio’s meanest method. I will add a different liquor during the cooking of our ordered shrimp. It will not be the Vodka he uses, it will be Vermouth. And after plating, a fish stock and shell reduction. And after that sauce, chopped parsley. Timing is all.
Act I, sc. 3
Enter Shakespeare with a plate of spaghetti. Claudio, Horatio, Barnardo and other staff are already sitting at one table.
Claudio: William, my Great Brit, what delicious sup’ have you for me prepared?
Will: Not even a Great Dane am I, my King chef. We are far from Dover’s purest cliffs. Here I am a smaller pet, your humble cook. But I do my best. Here is your pasta. (Claudius eats, swallows, and makes a strange face.) William, this spaghetti…
Will: …tastes much like the spoiled scallops I incorporated into the sauce. I would they give you the runs all night, you smiling, two-faced, short order villain!
All the staff except Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo: Whoa!
Will: I quit. Horatio, Marty, Bernie: feel like coming with me to London? I called that Polish hedge-fund manager that was here a few months ago. He said he’d finance me. Said he’s got his eye on a place just south of the Thames.
Barnardo: Cool with me.
Marcellus: I’m there.
Horatio: I speak more English than Danish anyway.
Claudio grabs his gut and exits. The others follow. Shakespeare and his 3 waiters slowly stroll from the stage.
Horatio: You decided on a name yet?
Shakspr: Well, since global fusion cuisine is going to be the central thematic I was thinking something esoteric, you know, ‘The Way’ or ‘The World’s Sphere’.
Barnardo: How ‘bout, like, ‘The Globe’.
Shakespeare: ‘The Globe’? Not bad…
For the shrimp:
4 fresh jumbo shrimp
Extra-Virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Chopped wild mint
Vodka or Vermouth
Make a thick puree of strawberries and Vermouth (Martini) or Vodka. Clean and peal the shrimp, and toast them in a pan with just a teaspoon of olive oil, 2 minutes per side. Add a couple tablespoons of Vodka or Vermouth not more than 30 seconds before they’re ready, plate, and add just a pinch of salt, pepper if you choose, a sprinkle of freshly chopped mint and the faintest hint of ground pepperoncino. Plate with the puree in a small container next to the cooked shrimp. Serve with small, thinly sliced pieces of toasted bread and a medium structured white wine.
4 slices of pealed apple
4 sea scallops
Salt and pepper
Make a sauce with melted butter and a little fruit vinegar in a small pot and reduce over low heat. Bake the apple slices in a hot oven until they’re tender, then slice. Sear the sea scallops on each side, roughly a minute. Place the scallops on the warm apple slices and dribble the sauce over the scallops and plate. Serve with a well – structured white, aka a Gerwustraminer or Tocai. Or a bottle of Tuborg.