Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 7: Shrimp Scampi(ish)

Back to the kitchen for this one.  The Pad Thai from two nights ago left me hungry for something more.  The result was tonight's meal, a shrimp and pasta dish best described as a scampi, although that isn't really accurate.  It's been a long while since I actually did anything with Shrimp and this was the perfect chance to give them a whirl once again in something fairly simple but flavorful.

The meal started its life as a bag of uncooked frozen shrimp.  Much as I know that word sends shivers down the spine of many a foodie out there you just can't beat it for something you are throwing together to feed yourself day in and day out.  And I'll take a frozen piece of protein over a wasted piece in the trash any night of the week.  Anyway, I thawed out about half the bag of 21/25 count shell on shrimp just until the ice fell away and the meat was soft to the touch, but not all the way through.  Unlike chunks of beef or chicken that can take weeks to thaw out, even if you do it properly under running water, the shrimp thawed quickly and easily.  They were set aside in the refrigerator briefly while the next step of tonight's meal came together in a metal mixing bowl.

As I'm sure you will all come to see as my challenge continues, I love citrus and I love sweet.  I decided that the combination was perfect for the first shrimp and seafood dish of my challenge.  I grabbed an orange from the fridge and set out to juice it to form the basis of my quick marinade.  It was here that I encountered one of the major pitfalls of not knowing exactly what and when things went into the fridge.  The orange I had selected was dry and crumbly.  There were no signs of aging on the peel, but my first squeeze yielded nothing for orange flakes and a powder in my hand.  Time for plan B, the stuff in a box.  Grabbing the morning's box of orange juice I poured that out into my bowl and added in a mixture of spices.  Paprika, Ancho chile powder, minced garlic, basil and some sage went into the mix along with a healthy splash (ok, more than a splash) of olive oil.  The marinade was mixed in with my shrimp and thrown in the fridge to absorb for about two hours.

The next step was prepping the veggies.  I chopped up a set of green peppers (about one and a half) half a red onion and half a white onion (split due to ingredient limitations, not style choices) and cleaned some spinach.  Finally I set out a large pot of salted water and got it boiling away.  With everything ready to go it was fire time for everything else.  The shrimp I cooked first, they went straight out of the marinade and into a very very lightly oiled non-stick pan.  After about two minutes they had changed colors on one side and it was time to flip.  Another two minutes and it was time to pull them out.

With the shrimp set aside and cooling rapidly, (more rapidly than I wanted) I quickly tossed the angel hair pasta I had set aside into the water, and threw the peppers and onions into the shrimp pan with a touch more olive oil.  Some minced garlic, a bit of salt and the same seasonings as the shrimp minus the sage.  As those started to soften it was time for the pasta to come out (angel hair takes almost no time to cook, and I wanted it really al dente).  This gave me just enough time to slice a tomato into pieces about the same size as the onions and peppers and get ready for the final assembly.

  It's worth pausing at this point to pick out my first major error.  I'm not sure whether the problem was in cooking the shrimp part way at the start, then re-heating them or whether I just completely overcooked them from the start, but my shrimp came out well past the ideal.  They were much tougher and more rubbery than anyone should do to perfectly good shrimp and while the flavor was just about right, I was disappointed with the texture.  I'll have to see about pulling them out even faster next time, and doing them last, rather than first, even if it helps other things fall into place.

Final assembly was fairly simple, everyone into the pool.  The pasta went on top of the onions and peppers, along with the shrimp.  The spinach and tomatoes were placed on the whole pile, and then I got to bring out the booze.  A fairly dry sauvignon blanc made the base of the sauce with a bit of Grand Marnier drizzled over the top to try and add a bit more sweetness and reinforce that orange flavor from before.  Here is where I made my second mistake.  When I poured the liquids into the mixture it was rapidly absorbed by the pasta so that the liquid base I had planned for evaporated quickly.  Without thinking about it I just dumped some more white wine on the top.  This resulted in entirely too much wine in the pasta and left that flavor throughout and overpowered most of the citrus and sweetness.  Instead of just dumping more wine on top I should have taken the time to get the OJ back out.  It would have added a bit more sweetness, some more citrus and generally just improved the whole dish.  Oh well, that's the point of this after all, learn what does and doesn't work for new meals that I haven't tried before.

After wilting the spinach I plated it up on top, and just so I could pretend I'm being healthy tossed a bit more spinach on the side.  It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but it worked, and worked well.  Shrimp Scampi is one of the classics, its something everyone knows and everyone has tried because its just the right combination.  I'm not going to pretend that I made the best out there or that I even nailed it, but I was happy with the outcome.  It's definitely something going into the toolbox so to speak, and something I'll hopefully be able to riff off of in the future.

That's my first full week of the challenge completed.  I think its time for a well deserved break, tomorrow my new rig finally gets to see SCII and League, its a pretty good reward for a week well done I think.

Today's Recipe, all quantities are approximate and should be done to taste:
18 21/25 count shrimp
3 servings of angel hair pasta
3/4 cup of orange juice
3/4 cup of olive oil + some for sauteeing
1 cup of dry white wine
1 and 1/2 green peppers
1 onion
1/2 lb of spinach
1 tomato
minced garlic
ancho chile powder
and of course, salt and pepper

1 comment:

  1. rookie at this stuff myself, so if this sounds unenlightened, it most certainly is, but i liked the grand marnier touch. that seemed like a really bright move. do you think that generated the desired effect, or did the liquids being absorbed negate the benefit?

    on a completely unrelated note for this blog [i'm assuming the cognac notes of GM are one of the reasons its flavor profile fit what you were going for and what i'm about to mention does not feature those notes] if you ever get a chance to try giffard's premium curacao triple sec in a drink, i highly recommend going for it. had it the other night and could not believe i was endorsing a liqueur. it's dry though, and it's damn good.