I wasn’t taught to fast as a child; it wasn’t part of our tradition, but was something those interesting Catholics down the street did. I was happy as a clam about that because it meant I got cheese pizza on Friday nights at my Catholic girlfriends’ houses. This was so cool because, 1) to “give up meat” seemed a neat thing (foreign) to me and 2) There was no pizza, aka “junk food,” at my house.
Somehow, as an adult working at my FRIDAY FISH blogposts, I’m more and more content to feel the difference in my life–the decided, intentional movement away from meat and toward the hopefully healthier fish– and a healthier Dave (husband) and me. Perhaps I’m just channeling my younger self, but it isn’t so much about fasting per se (giving up meat on Fridays in this instance), but rather deliberately turning toward something new. And even during the rest of the year, I do find I am changed in my cooking preferences and attitudes; there’s a transformation of sorts. My cooking horizons are broader over these last five years and I’ve nearly eliminated what I’ve for a long while labeled, “fish fear.” That’s an American attitude that is more about not knowing how to cook fish (or maybe the fear of buying it or having it go bad) than being afraid of the physical specimen–ewww. Note that I grew up fishing and cleaning fish, so the ewww factor isn’t mine, but is that of students and friends. Instead of facing the fear head on and grilling a nice fillet for dinner –because you needn’t buy or cook a whole fish in today’s world– many Americans are stuck on fish sticks and canned tuna at home. Funny enough, though, they’ll easily order the salmon or sea bass at a restaurant if they’ve the cash for it. What’s that about? Let’s talk about getting brave at the stove.
If this is you, I encourage you to take the leap into the water for fish. (I know…) What do you have to lose? You, too, can venture out into the hypothetical wilderness and roast a side of salmon, sauté a mess of scallops, or just boil a potful of shrimp. The chief rule for fish and seafood is only this: don’t overcook it. The timing for cooking fish usually means around 10 minutes per each inch of thickness. Double the time if you’re cooking frozen fish. More on that another post. In order to make cooking fish work in your kitchen, you must first set the table and second, make the salad or whatever side you’re having. Last, but not least, is cooking the fish–which is the original fast food and takes no time at all. Shrimp are often cooked in about 2 minutes. An entire side of salmon can be on the table in under 15. Think about it. No getting dressed, driving to a restaurant, waiting for a table, sitting there while your server is busy with others, no big bill… Nope. It’s just you in your jeans and comfy shoes at the stove and dinner can be nearly instant–and even gorgeous (see below)– if you so choose.
If procrastination is your thing, I’ll let you off the hook (geez) this time and offer you one more oh-so-easy FRIDAY FISH dish. This week’s skillet ditty features cook-friendly frozen shrimp (tail on/shell off) which you might as well buy unless your kitchen sits on a coastline that features fresh shrimp. (If that’s the case, lucky you!!) Eagle-eyed inland grocery seafood counter watchers will tell you the clerks saunter to the frozen food case, grab a few bags of frozen shrimp, take them back, tear them open, and dump them into the bins behind the glass counter. You might as well pick up those bags yourself and maybe even save a few pennies? If you keep good-quality frozen shrimp in your freezer, you’re always ready for dinner. (Scroll down for some more easy shrimp ideas like oven-roasted frozen shrimp you can dip in your favorite sauce.)
If you feel like a bit of fast and happy cooking, stir up my tasty all in one pot SHRIMP + ASPARAGUS RICE, which is mostly a rice pilaf with shrimp tossed in at the end. In fact, this dish is a bit saucy and feels or serves something like risotto. It’s versatile, so switch out the veggies for things you like — choose to add a little bit of any of these: peas, corn, spinach, fennel, chopped green beans instead of what I’ve listed. Swap the herbs for your favorites, or end with a drizzle of Sriracha or a sprinkle of grated sharp cheese. For instance, go southwest by using oregano instead of thyme and bay, chili powder and cumin in place of the cayenne, and corn +/or pinto beans for the veggies. The Cheddar cheese topping would be perfect for that. The point is always to make your meal your own and maybe to use what’s in your fridge or on your counter, too. Round it all out with a side of steamed vegetables or a crispy salad should you need more. I hope you try this:
one-pot shrimp + asparagus rice
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- Medium yellow onion,diced
- 1 large stalk celery with leaves, very thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup long grain white rice, well-rinsed
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
- Bay leaf
- Handful fresh parsley, minced, divided (half for pot and half for garnish)
- 15- ounce can diced tomatoes–pureed
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- ½ pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- ¾ pound large frozen shrimp tails on/peels off
- 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
- In a deep 12-inch skillet with lid or a 5-quart Dutch oven, melt butter over medium flame. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic; sauté until softened – 10 minutes or so. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, dill, bay leaf, and half the parsley; stir. Pour in tomatoes and broth or water. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook 10 minutes and add asparagus; stir and cover again.
- Cook another 10 minutes and stir in frozen shrimp. Cover once more and let cook 3-5 minutes or until shrimp turns pink, is just barely opaque, and rice is tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with reserved minced parsley and some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
WINE: I hear a grassy Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc (SB made in the U.S.) calling this dinner. Don’t buy a New Zealand SB; it’s too citrusy.
Want shrimp another way?
What if you did nothing but roast a slew of shrimp in the oven and meanwhile made a green salad or stirred up a little sauce and sliced a few fresh tomatoes? Check it out…
ROAST THE FROZEN SHRIMP IN THE OVEN LIKE THIS:
I buy frozen shrimp in a big bag from Costco as I live in a land-locked area. If you live where shrimp are fresh, adjust recipe accordingly or use this recipe, excluding sauce, etc., of course!
- 1 pound large/extra large frozen shrimp with tails, unpeeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit if you haven’t done that already. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place frozen shrimp on the sheet in single layer. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and peppers. Toss well. Roast in oven for about 7 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and carefully tip tray into the sink to remove excess water. Return to oven and cook another 6 minutes or so or until shrimp is pink and just barely firm. Do not overcook. Remove from oven and set aside until needed.
Note: Some frozen shrimp can be thawed by running it under cold water in a colander for two minutes or so; check the package. If this is the case for your shrimp, do that and skip the step of removing the shrimp from the oven midway through cooking to tip out the excess water. The shrimp will cook in much less time–perhaps 8 minutes total.
THINGS TO READ and SEE…
Interested in cooking along with the SAVEUR Cookbook Club? The selection for April is SMALL VICTORIES by Julia Turshen. See what others are cooking/ join club + cook via facebook or read about it on SAVEUR’s website.
“The Hidden Catastrophe of the Midwest’s Floods,” Tom Philpott (MOTHER JONES)
“A Guide to Ancient Grains,” FINE COOKING
“The Answer is Cooking” (5 videos) EPICURIOUS series of very short videos that explain how cooking at home helps our environment.
If you want to see other years’ fishy posts, just type Friday Fish into the search box. Likewise you can type Fish or Fish and Seafood. Try Shrimp or Salmon for more specific searches. You can also follow a blog I wrote during one entire Lenten journey: Praying in St. Paul if that’s your thing.
Let me know what you’re cooking as spring approaches?