Sunday, June 15, 2008

Spicy Shrimp with Pasta

The first time I touched uncooked shrimp, I was either 5 or 6. I'm not sure which age, I but I am sure it was when we lived in Lake Elsinore. We had these raw shrimp my father intended to cook, and for some reason I (I don't remember my siblings taking part of this, though it could simply be that I was so engrossed in my own trauma I neglected to notice theirs) had to clean them. I will never forget how disgusted I was as I pulled the poop out of each and every shrimp. A huge metal bowl full of them, one at a time, my hands went into cold, cold running water. I remember them being numb a little, and I remember wondering if I would ever finish cleaning the shrimp. I also wondered if I'd been born to do the gross jobs.

I wanted to hate the shrimp, for being so gross. But how could I hate anything that tasted so amazing? Over the years, I've spent most of my cooking life buying pre-cleaned shrimp. I guess I never really recovered from that first experience. Sometimes, though, I have to buy shrimp that haven't been processed for me. It always icks me out a little, and I almost always try to talk someone into dealing with it for me.

They had some 10/12 head-on shrimp at the store for 5 bucks a pound. Despite the crowd of women scooping huge quantities of them into bags, I got in there and hand picked a few (I get a little squeamish around crowds) for us. I wanted to make some spicy shrimp. I would've just ponied up the extra 2 dollars a pound for headless, but I also wanted to make stock and I thought Aleister might like to eat the heads. Gods know I wasn't eating them - they squick me a bit too. Mostly I just feel guilty, and a little unnerved, when I deal with headed shrimp (which is weird, since I feel no remorse when dealing with mammal head-bits).

Anyway, I brought them home and today I made them. First I cut off the heads and shoved them in a saucepan, trying hard not to think about the antennae flopping near me. Then I yanked the shells off and chucked them in there too. A pinch of salt, a quarter teaspoon of peppercorns and 3 cups of water later, I had a fish broth simmering. 30 minutes later, I picked the heads and large shells out and started reducing it (it got reduced by half). Aleister, punk-ass that he is, just smelled the heads a lot and meowed like, "Mommy, Daddy... What do I do with this?" We ended up taking them away since he didn't want them. Well, there's still one in his bowl because I'm curious if he'll get curious enough to try it, but I won't hold my breath. Anyway, I got out my seam ripper and I cleaned the shrimps, which wasn't terribly unpleasant since I'd already had heads to deal with.

So, to make a long story short (too late!), the meal was delicious, although in fairness I made it way, way, way too spicy. I'm going to put the recipe up just like I made it, but if you're not highly tolerant to spicy foods, cut the chile in half at least. Hope you enjoy!

1/3 (ish; it was somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2) teaspoon crushed chile flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sliced shallot
pinch salt
4 diced kumquats (I cut them in eighths lengthwise and then sliced them thick)
1-1.5 tablespoon shrimp broth
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 shrimps, processed
8 ounces spaghetti
salted water

Put the chile flakes and olive oil in a small skillet. Over low heat, infuse for 15 minutes. Boil the salted water. Add the shallot to the chile oil and fry on medium heat for 6-7 minutes. Cook the spaghetti (I cook it 6 minutes, you cook it like you like it). Add the kumquats, lemon juice, pinch of salt and shrimp broth to the shallots. Simmer on medium heat for 3 minutes or so. Add the shrimps and cook them 2 minutes per side. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot. Dump the shrimp and such in the pasta and stir it around. Get some milk in case it's too hot, or if you're like me and you don't like milk, find something else to drink (Simply Apple apple juice appears to work well). Serves 2.

Oh, I forgot to take the picture again, as per often. Sorry 'bout that.

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