I asked her if she wanted frozen gluten free pizza. She looked at me as if I had asked her if she wanted to eat a cow pie (in her defense, they are similar).
I asked her if she wanted pasta with jarred sauce. No dice.
"What about shrimp?" I asked, having just bought a big bag of 13-15's (that's 13-15 animals per pound) a few days ago. She perked up.
"I'm thinking" I continued, "of something sorta spicy with rice, and maybe onions... and possibly celery and carrots on top?" (sometimes my culinary explorations end in disaster, and she had graciously choked down a few of those over the years).
This was not a night for experimentation. It was 7:30. The kids were sick. We were tired and hungry. Strangely... she seemed amenable.
Here's what happened next:
- A dozen 13-15 shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 5 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 minced scallion
- 1.5 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 large wedges of fresh lemon
- 6 tablespoons (or so) of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 large celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 cup dry basmati rice, cooked
Make a quick marinade for the shrimp by combining about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, pressed garlic, cane sugar, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, lemon juice, minced scallion, and crushed red pepper. Taste it! Make sure it is somewhat bold, since this is a quick marinade, but not unbalanced in terms of salt, spice, sugar, and acid. The spice and garlic will continue to come out into the oil over the next 30 minutes. Peel and de-vein the shrimp, and marinate the shrimp for a half hour or so. If you're going any longer than that, reduce the boldness of the marinade.
Cook the rice.
Heat a large cast iron skillet on mdium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot (just beginning to smoke), pour in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, and saute the aromatics (carrots, celery, and onion). When the onions are caramelizing nicely, you're ready for the finale.
The dish will be done in a few minutes. For this reason, make sure the table is set, the wine is poured, and any side-dishes have been finished and plated. Collect errant guests from the parapet, and inject the kids with (a non-lethal dose of) morphine.
OK, now you're ready. Clear a spot in the center of the skillet large enough for all dozen shrimp to lay on their sides directly on the hot cast iron. Drop the shrimp in along with as much marinade as you can scrape. They'll start cooking right away in the hot garlic oil (as will the garlic). With tongs, turn the shrimp over one by one after about a minute (when one side is pink). Cook them for another minute (they're going to keep cooking as you finish over the next minute or so, and shrimp are easily over-cooked). When the shrimp are just pink on both sides, dump in the rice, and stir everything around until the rice is evenly coated with the flavorful oil. Taste the rice and adjust seasoning if needed (i.e. add more salt). Serve immediately.
NOTE: If you are using smaller shrimp, you will need to move things along more quickly here at the end to avoid over-cooking them.