Friday, April 16, 2010

A new chapter

It's not that I've been cooking and failing to update. It's that I haven't been cooking at all. I've been living on canned black beans and hard boiled eggs. (Not at the same time.) These last few weeks have been absolutely crazy. I've been to Philadelphia, Cape Cod, working 30+ hours a week at a job that's almost an hour away, filing taxes, finishing up work in the studio, writing bios, shooting images of work...etc. You get the point. There hasn't been a whole lot of extra time for cooking.

But as you can see from the picture, I found a spare minute to prepare dinner. I sort of had to. Tonight was a fairly momentous occasion, which in our household is almost always marked by a memorable meal. L and I have talked about it off and on for years, but today marks the day when I actually quit my job to pursue a career as a studio artist. I can feel my excitement and anxiety increase as I type this. It's kind of a big deal. And a big deal requires a special meal. At least for me.

This recipe is a conglomeration of a few different sources.
The polenta part comes from over at the NY Times and Mark Bittman's "Minimalist" video series. I absolutely love Mark Bittman, not only for his simple, non-fussy cooking, but because every time I watch him it reminds me of what Alan Arkin might be like if he hosted a cooking show. And that just makes me giggle.

Here's the link for the original polenta video.

The second part of the recipe comes from the Best of America's Test Kitchen 2009 Cookbook, a well-worn cookbook in my collection.

Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp

(The recipe calls for serving this dish with a crusty bread for dipping in the oil, which I've done and which is quite lovely. I just happened to have a bit of polenta in the cupboard to finish off.)


14 garlic cloves
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 bay leaf
1 piece mild dried chile, such as New Mexico, roughly broken, seeds included
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Mince 2 of the garlic cloves with a chef's knife or garlic press. Toss the minced garlic with the shrimp, 2 tablespoons of the oil and salt in a medium bowl. Let the shrimp marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, using the flat side of a chef's knife, smash 4 garlic cloves. Heat the smashed garlic with the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the garlic is light golden brown, 4-7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oil to cool to room temperature, Using a slotted spoon, remove the smashed garlic from the skillet and discard.

3. Thinly slice the remaining 8 cloves. Return the skillet to low heat and add the sliced garlic, bay leaf, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is tender but not browned, 4-7 minutes. (If the garlic has not begun to sizzle after 3 minutes, increase the heat to medium-low.) Increase the heat to medium-low; add the shrimp with the marinade to the pan in a single layer. Cook the shrimp, undisturbed, until the oil starts to gently bubble, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip the shrimp and continue to cook until almost cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Increase the heat to high and add the sherry vinegar and parsley. Cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are cooked through and the oil is bubbling vigorously, 15-20 seconds. Serve immediately.

That's the scripted recipe in its entirety. Let me tell you about the substitutions I've made. First, I almost never have a dried New Mexico chile. I've used pasillo and guajillo and they've both turned out fine. A bit spicier, but fine. The recipe says you can substitute paprika for the chile, which I've never done, but I bet would be good. Also, I almost never have sherry vinegar, and though I'm not sure this is a proper culinary substitution, I almost always have a bottle of red wine lying around and a little white wine vinegar, and in a pinch, those two combined work okay.

So that's it. I threw the shrimp over the polenta, topped it with more fresh parsley and some of the shrimp's wonderful cooking oil, and voilĂ , a decadent, celebratory meal!

Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp over Polenta