Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Halve Your Lemon And Eat It Too

I love shrimp. I will eat them prepared in any fashion, at any time, and nearly at any place. This personal declaration comes after much deliberation on my part, reminiscing about dishes I have made over the past several months and recent meals ordered in and around the gastronomic mecca that is New York City. I realized that over the past year or so I have garnered an affinity for Penaeus, the genus of prawns encompassing all the shrimp species we know and love. Whether pink, red, brown, grey, or pale white, these tasty crustaceans are most definitely good eats. I particularly love the sweet rock shrimps served in high-end Japanese restaurants and the bite-size grey shrimps found at any portside fish market in Northern France. I had a craving for my preferred shellfish a few days ago and needed to ease my crustaceous jonesing with a home cooked meal. Mike and I skimmed a few cookbooks for potential dishes before we hit an intriguing recipe in Alice Water’s chez Panisse book. The pan roasted scallops with Meyer lemon relish was to good to pass up even though I was craving shrimp and not scallops however delicious they may be. I often use recipes as a starting point just to get my ideas and flavors in order before improvising in the kitchen. I simply substituted grilled shrimp for the roasted scallops and served the relish as an accompanying sauce alongside a watercress salad tossed with olive oil.

Meyer Lemon Relish

1 Shallot, finely diced
1 tbls. Meyer lemon juice
1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup Quality olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Dice the shallot into uniform cubes and marinate in a small bowl with Meyer lemon juice and a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes. Cut the Meyer lemon into manageable wedges, removing seeds and the white pith holding each wedge together. Slice the wedges into long strips and dice, peel and all, into uniform cubes mirroring the shallots. Combine the diced lemon with the shallot mixture and add the olive oil, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well and serve immediately with shellfish, fish, or roast chicken. Makes about a cup.

Whenever I grill shrimp I like to leave them unpeeled in order to crisp the shell on high heat without overly cooking the tender flesh within. This is ideal for infusing the shrimp with a smoky flavor and also allows you to marinate them with a little acid without running the risk of cooking them. I marinated fresh gulf shrimp in olive oil, Meyer lemon juice, thyme, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper for about a half hour. I then grilled them on high heat for about 2 minutes per side; nicely charred on the outside with firm tender interiors. They are fun to pick apart on the plate because after all it is always nice to get messy with your food at the table. The Meyer lemon relish added a citrusy bite to the dish and goes perfectly with other shellfish. Meyer lemons grow all over California and I have a number of friends with trees in their backyards next to swimming pools. They are much sweeter and more flavorful than ordinary lemons and are becoming increasingly available at fancy grocers in the city. Unfortunately this dish cannot be substituted for with regular lemons, the flavor just isn’t there. I also sautéed some fresh greens to nibble on as a side dish. Spicy broccoli rapini is a snap to make, a delicious vegetable side dish that could be tossed with pasta for a quick dinner. Just sauté the greens in a little olive oil on medium heat until wilted, remove from the pan and sauté some sliced garlic and chili flakes. Toss the rapini back in the pan when the garlic has browned slightly and mix together for about a minute before serving. This was truly a wonderful and fairly quick meal, just one of many shrimp inspired posts to come. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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