Food with an attitude.
February 29, 2012
I didn’t get around to baking a cake for the dog, but he forgave me after he tasted the shrimp BLTs with lemon mayonnaise and arugula. I think he especially liked the intensely flavored half-dried tomatoes I substituted for fresh. He doesn’t care for winter tomatoes any more than I do.
The occasion was Oscar night, which Tony and I also celebrate annually as our dog’s birthday. We named him “Oscar” because we adopted him five years ago from a rescue the week of the Academy Awards. When Oscar grew large enough, he would climb onto the back of a sofa that abutted the kitchen pass-through in Tony’s condo. With the concentration of a puma stalking dinner, he would watch every knife stroke, every stir, every ingredient as I prepared dinner. I had an eerie feeling that he was trying to learn how to cook.
It’s no surprise that Oscar became something of a gourmet. He adores sushi and disdains the kibble we insist he eat. I think he considers our dinners his real food that we inexplicably withhold. Dry dog food is a last resort to prevent starvation. He grudgingly eats his kibble late at night, after he realizes that once again he has been deprived of his “real” meal.
Oscar night is an exception. We dine in front of the television, sharing ample bites with Oscar because it’s his birthday. Sunday’s menu was potato and greens soup, that terrific shrimp sandwich, and wedges of my friend’s chocolate Queen of Sheba cake, left over from her gourmet club dinner.
I got the idea for the sandwiches from Wolfgang Puck’s Adventures in the Kitchen, a cookbook I consulted because Puck prepared the real Oscars dinner in Hollywood Sunday. Puck’s shrimp BLTs are incredibly time-intensive to make, so I merely heisted the idea. I made a simple lemon mayonnaise to slather on toast, which I piled up triple-decker and filled with crisp bacon, half-dried tomatoes, arugula, and shrimp pan-fried in the bacon drippings. These sandwiches are loaded with flavor.
To straighten the shrimp so they could be layered more easily, I threaded them head-to-tail on bamboo skewers before cooking. Tony taught me this trick, and also taught me to soak the skewers in water even when cooking inside, because the food comes off the skewers more easily.
The medium-large shrimp (about 25 per pound) cook in less than two minutes and slip off the skewers straight as an arrow. I cut them in halves lengthwise for layering on the bread, and cut the finished sandwiches in halves diagonally and arranged them on a platter.
Oscar loved them.
- Grated zest of 1/2 large lemon
- 6 slices bacon, cut in half crosswise
- 12 medium-large raw shrimp, shelled
- 12 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup half-dried frozen tomatoes, thawed, or sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
Combine mayonnaise ingredients, stir well, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Soak bamboo skewers in water to cover. Meanwhile, fry bacon (in batches if necessary) in a large skillet until crisp; drain on paper towels.
Thread shrimp on skewers from the tail through the body to the head so that the shrimp is straight rather than curved. Reheat the bacon fat remaining in the skillet. Cook shrimp over medium-high heat, turning with tongs, for about 1 minutes or less per side. Shrimp should be just barely cooked through. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly, then remove from skewers and cut in half lengthwise, leaving the two halves attached and spreading flat.
Toast the bread in a toaster until golden. For each sandwich, spread some of the mayonnaise on one slice of toast and top with three pieces of bacon and a few tomatoes. Top with a second slice of toast. Spread mayonnaise on the toast and top with one-fourth of the arugula and three butterflied (cut and flattened) shrimp. Spread some mayonnaise on a third piece of toast and place, mayonnaise side down, on the shrimp.
Gently cut sandwiches in halves diagonally with a serrated knife. Makes 4 servings.
ANOTHER WEIRD CUPCAKE
The Honey Baked Ham Cupcake, featuring a honey cake batter baked in fluted folds of glazed ham, which stand in for the pleated cupcake paper. The cupcakes are topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and crowned with a pineapple ring.
I spotted this cupcake at http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2009/05/honey-baked-ham-cupcakes.html, which even provides a recipe. The cupcakes are visually interesting and could actually taste decent with appropriate filling and toppings -- say, a cornbread filling and a schmear of cream cheese with just a touch of honey. Otherwise, no. Just no.
From Linda Harold:
In regard to M.B.'s freezer mishap, she should notify her homeowner's insurance company about what happened. She might get reimbursed for the food she needed to discard. It certainly doesn't hurt to ask; we've been surprised before about what our insurance covered. Good Luck to MB!
Dear Linda: That never would have occurred to me. Thanks so much.
From Michelle Falcone, Balanced by Design Interiors:
I am an interior designer who specializes in kitchen design, and a friend thought I might be able to help you with some information on kitchen storage solutions. There is a product line which, if you have never heard of it, you NEED to check out! Rev-A-Shelf http://www.rev-a-shelf.com provides very high quality products especially designed to make use of spaces that might otherwise stay undiscovered or under-utilized as storage areas. I swear the people who came up with these designs are geniuses! The 3-inch space that would otherwise be "plugged up" with a filler because a cabinet wouldn't fit there becomes a pull-out storage area. Wondering how in the world to avoid the avalanche of pots and pans when you open the cabinet and how to get around the search for that elusive lid you know is in there somewhere? Try the Two Tier Cookware Organizer. And what about those quirky blind-corner base cabinets where the "Black Kitchen Hole" resides? You know if you lose something back there, it is lost in the universe forever...unless you install one of the Blind Corner Accessories from Rev-A-Shelf. Hope this helps.
Dear Michelle: I checked out the site and there are indeed some cool products, but none that solve my problem. If you ever come across an idea for pan lid storage that doesn't involve a cabinet, let me know.
From Ellen Otto, Crown Point Ecology Center:
I really need your advice. My cousin in Virginia frequents a lovely upscale restaurant and recently attended a class at the restaurant on preparing and cooking fish. The chef, for whom she has considerable respect, stressed repeatedly the concern about cooking fish -- especially if you don't buy it from a fish monger of repute. He spoke of maggots and even revealed one in a piece of the fish he was preparing. She said the only place she will now eat fish is at his restaurant. I suspect this was his intent.
I had been preparing more fish lately because I’m trying to reduce my red meat intake. Can you help me understand where, how, what I should be considering as I purchase fresh fish? I have been so grossed-out since my conversation with my cousin several weeks ago that I have not eaten fish since!
Dear Ellen: According to the Sea Grant Extension Program at the University of California at Davis (http://seafood.ucdavis.edu/pubs/parasite.htm ), parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms can be found in many species of freshwater and ocean fish. The website advises: “All living organisms, including fish, can have parasites. Parasites are a natural occurrence, not contamination. They are as common in fish as insects are in fruits and vegetables. Parasites do not present a health concern in thoroughly cooked fish.”
Commercially freezing the fish kills the worms, as does cooking to a temperature of 140 degrees. Home freezers do not get cold enough to kill the parasites.
Good commercial fishing operations and processors take steps to avoid or minimize infestation, so it is important to buy quality seafood from a trusted purveyor. Most of the fish we see in Ohio stores has been frozen, and then thawed for sale, which in this case is a good thing.
Consumers who do find a worm in a fillet are advised to return it or at least alert the store where it was bought, so that the remaining stock can be inspected.
As for sushi, I’ll continue to eat it not just because my husband is a sushi chef but because he and many other sushi restaurants buy top-quality seafood from a purveyor that deals strictly in sushi fish. The fish is cut thin by hand, one piece at a time, at the sushi bar. I’m sure nothing would get by Tony.