What We Cooked Last Week: December 7, 2015 – December 13, 2015
Monday: Sausage and Escarole Soup with Pan con Tomate
Tuesday: Beet, Goat Cheese, Arugula Salad, Pan con Tomate
Wednesday: Guacamole, Chicken Grandma-Style (Spanish) – green salad
Thursday: Dunnings Meeting
Friday: Mary Stewarts Shrimp Scampi, salad with goat cheese
Saturday: Pizza (Margherita and Sausage-Mushroom), salad
Sunday: Steelers Brunch (pictured above):
Bacon, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Frittata with tomato scumble
Dinner: Treacle-Cured Beef and roasted potatoes
Last week Kathleen, the matriarch of the Welsh family, passed away. We have lost a great lady, but we think that right now she is having a Scotch on the rocks with her great friend, Queenie (Regina Duffy), her husband Tom, Dr. Fred Duffy and their friends and looking down lovingly on the rest of us. At her funeral mass, yesterday, Tom Welsh and his son, Tommy, put into words what she meant for her family and friends. She will be missed. Everything else last week – D. Trump’s latest nonsense, the Penguins continuing struggles, and even food are insignificant in comparison.
But Kathleen, as Tommy and Tom reminded us in their wonderful eulogies, was a benevolent soul – she was also a great cook and knew that eating and drinking bring people together and help us to get through tough times. And weekly blogs are weekly blogs, so . . .
We tried another of Tom Kerridge’s recipes, treacle-cured beef last week. It was very good, but perhaps because we had to substitute blackstrap molasses for treacle, it didn’t sing to us. We also returned to some tried and true favorites, Sausage and Escarole Soup and pizza. We have already shared the soup recipe and our general approach to pizza with you. But we also had, for the second time, Mary Stewart’s Baked Shrimp Scampi, and, even without Mary’s permission, we have to share this with you. It is easy to cook*, spectacular for family or company and you need to have at least one good shrimp recipe (we have several) in your repertoire. We don’t have Mary’s permission (nor did she forbid us), but this recipe is so good that it cannot be kept secret. Mary’s proportions are the best (she has fiddled with an Ina Garten recipe) and we want you to cook this the way she does – you can invite us over, if you like.
*What do I mean by “easy”? Before cooking the shrimp, I met Ambrose, Tim, and Ann and Chris for a drink at The Mansions on Fifth. The occasion was a belated celebration of Hughes birthday (what a fine little bar they have at this place, by the way.) So here was I, home at around 7:00, stewed, if not to the gills, at least to the withers, with hungry people to feed. I whipped up some guacamole to fend off the ravening hordes, and by 8:00 we had Mary’s spectacular scampi with a salad.
You can adjust the recipe amounts to fit your crowd. For 3, we used 1.25 lb. of shrimp. You need cleaned shrimp with the tails still on. I was lucky enough to find a bag of frozen, cleaned shrimp and simply had to thaw and remove the shell (remember to leave on the tails!). Excuse the oxymoron, but you want to use ‘jumbo’ shrimp for this dish. Shrimp are labeled by the approximate number you get per pound. You want 16-20 for this dish. Smaller will be frustrating to eat, so delicious is the dish and so annoying will be the small bites and constant discarding of tails. Larger would frighten the children and the elderly.
Here is what else you’ll need – 2 TBS good olive oil, 2 TBS dry white wine, 1 stick of butter – at room temperature,* 1.5 Tsp of minced garlic or 3 Tsp, if you are Sicilian, not quite 1/4C of mincedshallots,2 TBS of fresh parsley leaves, ¾ Tsp of minced rosemary leaves, ¼ Tsp of red pepper flakes – I used a whole half Tsp,1 Tsp – I zested a whole lemon since we don’t mind lemony flavors, 1.5 TBS lemon juice, 2 Large Egg Yolks, 2/3 C of panko, lemon wedges for serving.
*Look, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times that cooking is 90% organization and preparation. Bringing meats, eggs and butter to room temperature is a must for certain recipes and this is one of them. In a pinch you can mash colder butter (warm a fork in hot water) until it is soft. This will take some time, but it will build up your wrist and forearms.
Cooking: Preheat the oven to 425.
Place the shrimp in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, the wine, a Tsp of salt and a Tsp of pepper.
In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks, panko, and ½ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp of pepper.
Starting from the outer edge of an oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. (The cut side, for those of you from the Gobi desert, is the back of the shrimp where they cut in to pull out the vein.) Pour the marinade remaining in the bowl over the shrimp and then spread the butter mixture over the shrimp. Sprinkle extra panko over the entire dish.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly – if you wish to brown the top, place under a broiler for another minute. Serve with lemon wedges.
Mary serves this over pasta with a good baguette for sopping up the juices.
You can also have it by itself with a green salad, though I would have some form of toasted bread for sopping or just general gorging.
After you try this you’ll want to thank someone – direct your notes to Mary.
Note: Any shrimp you get in Pittsburgh will have been frozen – often they are thawed and put into a display case. Cleaning the shrimp yourself will give you a cleaner taste. In the case of scampi, with the lusciousness of the butter and the earthiness of the garlic and shallots, I see no reason to clean your own, except that it is much cheaper than buying cleaned shrimp.
Question: Why is it so difficult to clean shrimp or scrub and shuck oysters? I have no answer, but I do have a solution. I think people who are well-off and who like to cook should have shellfish butlers. SWMBO informs me that we are not in a position to hire one. I have told her that, if the budget improves, a shell-fish butler is a high priority, ranking only slightly behind our need for a Swedish governess.
So what is tomato scumble? It’s what we (the Stewarts) happen t0 call a fortuitous mixture of halved cherry tomatoes, chopped shallots or red onion, spinach and goat cheese. (A refrigerator-review item we created years ago.) You need to cook the tomatoes and onions first and, when they are cooked, toss in the spinach to wilt and then the goat cheese. You sort of work it or ‘scumble’ it with a pair of tongs and It will all come together in a vodka-sauce pinkish-red mélange. Season it with salt and pepper. This is good on its own – and great served on a piece of frittata or grilled bread.e