Monday: Navy Bean and Escarole Stew with Feta and Olives with Grilled Bread
Tuesday: Shallot Tart Tatin, Remains of Sunday Gravy
Wednesday: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin, Butternut Squash Sauté
Thursday: Pasta with hearty greens and beans
Friday: Roasted Shrimp, pasta, salad
Saturday: Salsa Verde and Tortilla Chips
Sunday: Sesame Phyllo Crackers and Bar Snack Brussels Sprouts, followed by Coq au Vin, Arugula with Oranges, Pistachios and Feta
“Dining with one’s friends and family is. . . one of life’s primal and . . . innocent delights, . . . soul-satisfying and eternal.” – Julia Child
“Friendship increases by visiting friends, but visiting seldom” – Ben Franklin
Clearly, Franklin is dead wrong on this one and Julia is right. I suspect that Ben was just recycling something he heard from a misanthropic Pennsylvania Dutch farmer. But what does all this have to do with what we cooked last week?
Well, we had been going to invite a certain friend, a good fan of the blog, for dinner for some time. We talked about it when we met, we e-mailed about it, I even took leftovers to her, at one point. The only thing we didn’t do about the idea was consummate it. But on Sunday, just after the Steelers won a tough game in which Le’Veon Bell ran for a record-setting 236 yards, another record was achieved: For the first time (without being part of an entourage or group) Rosie Welsh came to our house for dinner. And she’ll be coming again, often (and Ben Franklin can go fly a kite).
Rosie and Beez
Rosie, the proprietor of the Rosebud’s gift shop in Aspinwall,* was wonderfully appreciative for a meal that was just okay, but made memorable by the company (Billy and Rosie). It was a solid way to end a good week. – I’m not sure anyone has ever used the word ‘delicious’ so many times in our house, except for UFR and I can never tell whether he’s being sincere or sarcastic.
*If, like me, you don’t know what to buy for your Sweetie, Rosie will take over the process. (Honestly, in my case, it’s even worse – I’m afraid of getting the wrong thing.)
The other high point of the week was the discovery of a new way – the absolute best way, no matter what anyone thinks, no matter what advances in induction cooking, sous vide or supra vide occur – to cook shrimp. Even as we speak, SWMBO is drafting a letter to the College of Cardinals Sub-Synod on Comestibles to lobby for the re-imposition of the prohibition on eating meat on Fridays accompanied by a copy of this recipe. By way of coincidence, on Wednesday night I dropped by the HYP Club for the Holy Cross Alumni Christmas Party (at Billy’s request) where they served the best shrimp hors d’oeuvres I can remember.
About the shrimp we cooked, they were, as Donald Trump might say – Huge! Huge!. Sorry, but recipes calling for large shrimp always make me oxymoronic. SWMBO just mentioned that she agreed with half of that self-descriptive adjective. So what was it about these shrimp? They were roasted in their shells with butter, parsley, garlic, pepper and salt. And the shells, it turns out, contain sugars and proteins that give the shrimp the deepest, take me down to down to the bottom of ocean, flavor you can imagine. Strike that, – you can’t imagine it – just cook the damn recipe and you’ll see. I would put these shrimp up there with Mary Stewart’s modified recipe for Ina Garten’s Shrimp Scampi. Higher praise than that for a shrimp is not possible, Danny DeVito excepted.
You can read all about these shrimp in Cook’s Illustrated Best Winter Recipes. If you like to cook or eat, Cook’s Illustrated is a resource you should subscribe to. Not only does it contain great recipes, but each recipe is the result of two or more trial runs and many of the articles explain the science and the history of cooking as well.
Here is my modified version of the recipe. (I modify in a way that seems to me best suited to avoid forgetting ingredients, understanding timing and preparing what you need before you absolutely, positively need to add it to the dish to avoid burning, insipidity, kitchen fires, etc. I should note that Cook’s does produce these recipes for the home cook – but the print for the recipes is small, the steps are really multi-step stages in the cooking, and there is not a good handle on overall timing. Since I cook for SWMBO, among others, I have to figure out when to start getting food out of the refrigerator, or start chopping the onions, in order to serve at meal at, say 8:00. So, unless you work in a test kitchen, you might want to look below. And, as an extra I’ll toss in a nifty Pico de Gallo Verde that you must avoid, if you are trying to give up eating chips.
ROASTED SHRIMP WITH PARSLEY AND ANISE
(Adapted from “Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Winter Recipes”)
Note: This recipe calls for large shrimp (16-20, see below). Get them – it’s too difficult to winkle small shrimp out of their shells and too easy to over-cook them.
Minus thawing the shrimp (which you can do in 10 minutes under running cold water – add 5 minutes to dry them well), it takes about 30 minutes tops to make this meal. The cooking takes only 6 minutes or so.
Ingredients: Serves 4 -6 (we used 1 lb. of shrimp for 3 people)
2 lbs. shell-on jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound) Note: bags of shrimp are marked 16-20, 20-24, etc., indicating the number of shrimp per pound.
1/3 cup salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced (we used 2 for 1 lb. of shrimp = 4 for 2 lbs.)
1 teaspoon anise seeds (this is important and can be found in most supermarkets – in a pinch, you can grind some fennel seeds – don’t use whole ones)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used ½ teaspoon plus)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (I used ½ teaspoon)
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
Lemon Wedges for serving
Thaw shrimp and slit shell in back, devein, but do not remove shell. With a paring knife, cut the trough you cut to devein deeper, maybe ½”, BUT DO NOT CUT THROUGH.
Dissolve ¼ cup salt in quart of cold water and submerge shrimp in brine, cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. (This process plumps up the shrimp and is important. I do this with all the shrimp we cook.)
Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler and heat broiler.
Combine melted butter, oil, garlic, anise seeds, pepper flakes and pepper in a large bowl.
Remove shrimp from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
Add shrimp and parsley to the mixture and toss well – get butter mixture into interiors of shrimp.
Arrange shrimp in a single layer on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. (We used the rack from a roast pan)
Broil shrimp until opaque and shells are beginning to brown, rotating sheet halfway through. Flip shrimp and broil until second side is opaque, rotating half-way through. We roasted for 3 minutes on each side. Cook’s Illustrated recommended 2-4 minutes per side. Use your eyes and common sense.
Transfer shrimp to a platter and serve immediately, with lemon wedges.
EXTRA: Pico de Gallo Verde
(adapted from Bon Appétit, Holiday Special, Dec, 2016 – Jan, 2017)
Timing: 5-10 minutes to assemble plus 20 minutes in refrigerator to blend flavors
Ingredients: Serves maybe 6 as an appetizer
4 medium Persian cucumbers, finely chopped (We used 1 English cucumber – easily found in all supermarkets – the Persian resembles the English but is only about 4 inches long and sweeter)
1 Avocado finely chopped (you want a just ripe, or firmer avocado, obviously)
1 celery stalk plus ¼ cup of finely chopped celery leaves
2 scallions, thinly sliced green parts only
1 small poblano, seeded and finely chopped
1 jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely grated
¼ cup chopped unsalted, roasted pistachios (we used salted – easier to find and better tasting)
¼ cup lime juice (couple of limes)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (or substitute parsley)
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint (or substitute parsley)
Olive oil for drizzling
Tortilla or plantain chips for serving
Toss everything but the olive oil and salt in a large bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and toss again.
Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving with chips.