They say good things come in small packages. Whoever said that is thinking of small, light blue boxes that say Tiffany's on it - or they're referring to how cute their teacup Cock-a-poo looks in their palatial Park Avenue penthouse. I don't mean to stereotype, they could have a Shug, Silky Cocker or Shocker instead (those are actual designer breeds according to this website - the jokes are overwhelming me). Now here's the irony - I have a 65lb pitbull in a 400sqft apartment - she takes up a third of my bedroom - are you laughing yet? That makes one of us.
On a cold and rainy day like today, where we're both trapped indoors, fighting each other for space on the couch - the size of my living quarters really irks me. Now don't get me wrong - I like my apartment. It's cute and in a great location. I can shower, make my bed AND do my dishes all at the same time. I don't like clutter, so I actually like the fact that all of my personal belongings can fit into a space that most would consider a master bath. Plus, if I needed to flee the city, I could hail a cab and leave very little behind. It's almost comedic how New Yorkers chose to live. Well, it's funny on all days except the first of the month when we cut a check that could pay the mortgage on a plantation in Kentucky. But we don't want to live in Kentucky! And we pride ourselves on our ability to handle misery.
My Mother has a great sense of humor about the size and condition of the apartments I have lived in. Never being a city dweller herself, I'm fairly certain every apartment has horrified her upon entering. Yet every time she walks in with a smile and a few space saving ideas to make my tiny cell into a home. This past Christmas she surprised me with a handful of teenie, tiny housewarming gifts - a set of miniscule spatulas, which are surprisingly helpful for getting the last bit of peanut butter out of the jar (which unfortunately for Nike, used to be her job), a set of nesting measuring bowls, and two itty bitty crockpots - okay they're ramkin, but I like to pretend I cook mini-meals in them for very small people. She says it's fun shopping for my apartment - sort of like furnishing a dollhouse. But at least dollhouses had plastic dogs that didn't need to be walked on a day like today. Speaking of the gem, today Nike is providing the backdrop for my picture. I thought she could provide some 'scale' for how small the items are - such a ham:
Speaking of small things, I have discovered new and improved ways of cooking shrimp (how's that for a segue)! Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich...Well, one thing dear Bubba forgot was roastin' and poachin' shrimp. The best shrimp I've ever had was in Spain as a tapa - gambas al ajillo.
My favorite version is in the Bowery at Sala, where it's poached in garlic infused olive oil and served with a crusty baguette for dipping. I tried recreating the dish at home many times, but I could never get the same texture. I never got that 'pop' that I love about gambas al ajillo - a similar sensation to biting through the casing of a good sausage. Luckily I caught Tyler's Ultimate Spanish Tapas (which is an excellent episode - great recipes), and learned how to slow poach shrimp in hot, garlic infused olive oil. Long gone are the days of chewy, rubbery, overdone shrimp. It was easy and fantastic. I urge you to give it a try - you'll be surprised how much better the texture is than grilling, sautéing or boiling shrimp. For the nights were you can't have garlic breath - infuse the olive oil with basil, chives, rosemary, fennel, thyme, parsley, or curry! Mix it up.
Garlic Poached Shrimp:
- 1/2 cup or more of olive oil depending on the size of your skillet
- 4 garlic cloves: 3 whole, 1 clove minced
- 1lb of raw, deveined shrimp with the tails on
- 1/4t. red pepper flakes or more if you like it spicy
- Coat the bottom of a skillet liberally with olive oil - about a 1/4 inch up the side of the pan.
- Set over low-medium heat.
- Add 3 whole garlic cloves and the red pepper flakes.
- Allow to cook slowly, infusing the olive oil, but being careful not to burn them.
- Remove garlic cloves and crank up heat to medium-high or until you see the oil start to ripple, but not smoke.
- Turn off heat completely, remove from heat and add shrimp and the minced clove of garlic.
- Turning them over halfway, cook until they are pink and opaque, about ten minutes.
- Serve with crusty bread and a glass of rioja!
Another method that achieves a similar texture to poaching, is to roast the shrimp in a 425° oven for 5-7 minutes until pink and opaque. Sprinkle raw, tail-on shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread evenly over a baking sheet. Turn the shrimp over halfway through cooking to ensure they cook evenly. I like to add a little lemon zest to the shrimp before cooking and then finish them with a squirt of lemon before serving.