I finally got to do some real cooking. I haven’t done much of that recently, what with us being empty nesters and all—both working, dogs and cats pretty much at war with each other, and my nicely blossoming indoor orchard of citrus trees. And then there’s the pending living-room remodel.
Sometimes there just isn’t much time left for real cooking. You know the kind I mean—where I actually get to start with making a stock, where I layer in the flavors thoughtfully one at a time, where I actually start with a found recipe and adjust and adapt it to my personal style and preference. Plus, since I’m now 50 pounds lighter than I was 11 months ago and plan to keep it that way, the choices I have from on-hand supplies is a bit different. Butter and flour as main ingredients aren’t much in the plan any more, so flavors and textures come from other, more creative places.
So there I was on a Friday evening, sipping quietly on a syrupy Zinfandel, and thinking through my dinner prep plan (yes, Virginia, we actual trained cooks think and make a plan).
Tonight’s menu was built around a tasty shrimp and white-bean stew with fresh basil and lemon zest, and a surprise. And it meant actually cooking!
Heaven in a kitchen.
E thought it was pretty good. I thought it was one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in a very long time. So good that I just had to write about it here, I haven’t been so inspired in a while, but tonight’s dish just struck that chord—definitely a major-seventh in D. I hope you’ll try this one. It’s a winner!
SHRIMP AND WHITE-BEAN STEW
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 pound jumbo shell-on shrimp (21-26 count), peeled, deveined, and tails removed, shells reserved
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans (1 can drained and rinsed, 1 can left undrained)
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 garlic cloves, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
1. Dissolve sugar and 1 tablespoon salt in 1 quart cold water in large container. Submerge shrimp in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove shrimp from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
2. While the shrimp is brining, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn spotty brown and skillet starts to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add 1 cup water. When bubbling subsides, return skillet to medium heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Strain mixture through colander set over large bowl. Discard shells and reserve liquid (you should have about 1/4 cup). Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion, garlic, anchovies, pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in now-empty skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 can drained beans, 1 can beans and their liquid, tomatoes, and shrimp stock and bring to simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to low, add shrimp, cover, and cook, stirring once during cooking, until shrimp are just opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in basil and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and serve.
Morgan and her mom made these incredible spring rolls the other night for company, and they were a huge hit. I thought they were every bit as good as any I have had at a restaurant. Fact is, this is a restaurant recipe, from la Patisserie in Birmingham, Alabama, where a large Vietnamese population has resettled after the floods in New Orleans. There is a wonderful video that accompanies this recipe, for which I will post the link at the end of this recipe. Try these. You will need to find a good Asian market to get the rice wrappers, but if you haven’t found one already, you owe it to yourself to find one. Now. The one near us is wonderful, and always smells great. Very nice people, too.
Shrimp Spring Rolls
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 ounces rice vermicelli
24 baby shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 rice wrappers (8.5 inch diameter)
3 leaves lettuce, chopped
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
4 teaspoons finely chopped Thai basil
- Whisk vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Set the dipping sauce aside.
- Fill a large bowl with room temperature water. Add rice vermicelli and soak for 1 hour.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in shrimp and cook until curled and pink, about 1 minute. Remove the shrimp and drain. Or you can buy precooked baby shrimp with the tails on. Defrost and pinch off the tails. Transfer rice vermicelli noodles to the pot of boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove and drain in a colander. Immediately rinse the vermicelli with cold water, stirring to separate the noodles.
- To assemble the rolls, dip 1 rice wrapper in a large bowl of room temperature water for a few seconds to soften. Place wrapper on a work surface and top with 4 shrimp halves, 1/4 of the chopped lettuce, 1/2 ounce vermicelli, and 1/4 each of the mint, cilantro, and Thai basil. Fold right and left edges of the wrapper over the ends of the filling and roll up the spring roll. Repeat with remaining wrappers and ingredients. Cut each roll in half and serve with dipping sauce.
Makes 6 spring rolls
Servings: 1 roll, 2 tablespoons dipping sauce