Friday, May 14, 2010

Shrimp in Spring

I was drawn to Whole Foods today at lunch.  I wasn't feeling that great, I was a little tired, and at least a little cranky.  Definitely in need of a pick-me-up.  For most girls, this would mean a Frappuccino and pedicure.  New shoes, even better.  But not me.  I was after raw flesh.  The heat was making me crave it.

Coming around the corner, I wasn't greeted by my favorite unattended free sample table of crab cakes.  I think they may be on to me by now.  What I did see, aside from brand-new Cucina Fresca shelf-stable pasta sauces (NICE!!), were freakish, gigantic, peachy pink shrimp.  Wild-caught and $4.00 off per pound, they had to be good.  After all, I had to wait for some old Lake Oswego woman with bitchface to take the entire display bin while I waited for my peasant's share from the back.  How could I lose?

For the first time this decade, Portland was tipping off at 80 degrees.  The sun was out, the clouds had vaporized, and pale, mealy skin was out in full force to absorb it all.  These consummate crustaceans were just begging to bask on the barbecue.  "How would you grill these?"  I asked the fishmonger, gingerly clutching my allotted splurge.  "Like, stir fry in a grill basket?"  Oh I do love my grill basket.

"I kind of like them just on a skewer," he said.  So simple, yet so enticing. 

I brought home my little payday treasure, to the approval of Matt and Max.  Sure, Matt is always a little leery when a "Whole Foods Bridgeport" charge pops up on the Chase account.  What happened today?  A sliver of cheese?  A new kind of bulgur?  One look at these mutant shrimp though, and he understood the allure.  "We can still have pork chops, right?  With mac 'n cheese?"

Well, another two-dinner day.

For myself, I threw together a curried orzo.  It didn't turn out fantastic.  Too much curry powder; I was a little heavy-handed.  And I over-cooked the orzo while I was busy de-veining the shrimp.  Oh well, at least I probably wouldn't get Chopped.  They'd take the properly-cleaned shrimp over a mangled side dish.  Usually.  Although I'd catch some wicked hellfire from Alex Guarnachelli.  Matt got microwaved Rice-A-Roni and macaroni and cheese that was supposed to be his lunch.  He grabbed my leftover tomato-basil-chevre pasta by mistake.  Oh, and those pork chops.  I thought I had a good marinade in the cupboard, but when I opened it up it was... off.  Looks like I didn't pay enough attention to that whole "Refrigerate After Opening" thing.  Oh well.  Goodbye, $12.95 Oil & Vinegar marinade.  Life was just too much for you. 

To remedy the situation, we decided to make a sauce all of our own.  Gazing over my shoulder in the pantry, Matt suggested, "how about Beaver mustard with sriracha?  And... something?"

"Barbecue sauce and peach chutney?" 

"I don't like chutney," he pouted.

"Did you like the chicken thighs this week?"


"There was chutney in them!"

"You hid it!"

Well, it would hide again.  We assembled our ingredients, mixed, and dipped our fingers in for a taste.  I thought it was really good right away, but Matt could still get too much of a fruity hint.  "It needs something else.  Something to make it more savory.  How about soy sauce?"

"That could work," I concurred.  Our one last addition, and we were sold.  We're convinced we could bottle the shit. 

Fun, fantastic things happen when we both get in the kitchen together.  Sometimes.  Other times I just end up kicking him out. 

Matt took the meats out to barbecue.  I was a little nervous about the kabobs; I haven't had much luck with them on smaller barbecues.  They tend to cook kind of slow, and during a bad early charcoal experiment, lost my shrimp after they got soggy and melted through the grates.  That would be a sad, sad fate for such gorgeous (and expensive) supplies. No worries, though.  This time, the skewers came off the grill without so much as a burnt stick.

When we sat down to our two slight variations of dinner, his surf and turf and my little Weight Watchers 2-pointer bite of pork chop.  It was one of those nights with the eye-rolls, the exclaimations, the inability to stop talking about how perfect everything cooked up.  On the grill, the pork chops stayed moist but also developed a much deeper, smoky quality.  The shrimp were just light, perfectly textured and not even a moment overcooked. 

I kind of want to go back and get more.  The possibilities just keep rolling into my mind.  Shrimp tacos.  Shrimp grill paella!  Grilled shrimp springtime asparagus risotto!  Tomorrow's supposed to be almost as nice, once again beckoning us outside.  It feels wrong to go out without something nice to bring along.  Whole Paycheck may indeed live up to their nickname.


  1. That looks fantastic! Maybe you can cook some of that up the next time we come down to visit :-). Love that pic of you too!

  2. Anytime anyone mentions shrimp, all I can think about is tempura fried prawns. Ah, grease and fat. I shall miss you.

  3. Get quality ones, and grill them! I promise you won't miss the grease. They're that good.

    Mawm, I can't wait to barbecue for you guys :) I hope they quit jerking around with I-5 soon so you can visit again..