Something about shrimp

Guys, I’ve run out of steam today. It’s a Monday. I didn’t sleep enough last night, I had a nasty encounter at work with a Blue Screen of Death, and Netflix has decided it doesn’t like my roommate’s Wii anymore. First World problems. Grump grump grump.

And, oh, one other thing. Considering that my last post was all mad-sciencey and eco-friendly and fabulously delicious (I’m still snacking on kimchi straight out of the jar), I’ve been really afraid to follow it up with a letdown. So what did I do this weekend? I went to the store, bought some ingredients that I thought looked good, came home…and made a sauce I’ve already blogged about. Whoop de freaking doo.

But before you click the little red X in the corner and make me and all my Monday problems disappear from your life, check out the real reason I decided to do a redux of a recipe that hadn’t quite worked the first time.

This lemon.

Story time: my business trip last week took me to the city where my grandparents live. I spent a good chunk of the weekend at their house, where I noticed that the branches of the lemon trees in their backyard were sagging with huge yellow fruit. My grandmother implored me to take some, since they would otherwise wither and rot on the tree, unpicked. I pulled down this saffron-hued monster, along with its twin, and tucked them into a pocket of my backpack for the flight home. It wasn’t until I landed, exhausted, on Sam’s living room couch that it occurred to me to wonder what in the blazes to do with them.

Of course, then I did what I usually do, which is to jaunt off to the grocery store for dinner supplies and promptly forget about that succulent item waiting at home for its star turn. Once I found my way to the produce aisle, I got so involved picking out the ingredients for my favorite chopped salad–bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, kohlrabi, apple, pear, and Triple Vinaigrette (bonus recipe! howzabout that!)–that by the time we stopped to consider protein, I was wilting. We meandered by the seafood counter, where the only sustainable option that didn’t look like it’d seen better days was some half-frozen wild-caught shrimp, already deveined. I picked up a pound, and at that point, the idea occurred to me to revisit the lemon-caper sauce I’d tried for Valentine’s Day. So…I did.

I was so exhausted that I wanted to keep things simple. Moronically simple. Boneheadedly, halfheartedly simple. No elaborate maneuvers. No brand-new cooking equipment. Teeny tweaks, not major overhauls. I remembered that the sauce last time was skimpy, almost flavorless, so I zested the lemons before juicing them in an effort to add a burst of acidic wake-up. Then I peeled the shrimp, stashing the peels in the freezer for an as-yet-undetermined later use. The shrimp nestled in some warm olive oil, until they started to ripple, curl, and turn pink around the edges. Then, out of the pan. Mentally taxing work, done. Brain, off.

From there, it was just a matter of recreating what I’d done before, with the addition of the saffron-like cloud of giant lemon zest. Olive oil, garlic, capers. Lemon parts. Dijon mustard. Black pepper. Simmer. I was far too impatient–and fried–to give the sauce enough time to thicken properly, moving things listlessly around the pan and willing the bubbles to wriggle up and burst faster, faster. They didn’t. I grumbled. Sam, in the living room, muttered and harrumphed as he shuffled through his tax documents. Dull. Blah. Sleeeeeepy.

Then I tasted the sauce. I must have blinked audibly.

The zest had most certainly made itself known–the liquid in the pan was loud, brassy, slightly bitter, tasting exactly like a lemon fresh from the tree. If I had any other meat but shrimp, I would have panicked at how sour, even vicious, the sauce was. But I knew the shrimp would be smooth and sweet, especially if I finished cooking it gently, oh-so-gently, and spooked at the slightest hint of rubberiness. With the last bit of mental effort I could muster, I tossed the shrimp with the sauce, tossed and turned and tossed, until the last trace of gray had just disappeared. Then I dumped the whole mess onto a plate. Come and get it.

Not much more to say, really. The sauce was great. The shrimp was great. The salad was great. My boyfriend did the dishes. Maybe not quite mad science. But for a drowsy Sunday, I’ll take it.

Shrimp with Lemon-Caper Sauce (serves 2-3)

1 pound wild shrimp, peeled and deveined

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp capers, drained and lightly crushed with the back of a spoon

Zest and juice of two GIANT MONSTER lemons, or four normal ones (for a less aggressive sauce, skip the zest)

1 tsp dijon mustard

Olive oil for sauteing

Salt and pepper to taste

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook for about a minute on each side, until they are pink on the outside but still gray in the middle. Remove from the pan.

Add garlic and capers to the pan and saute for a few minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the lemon juice and zest and the dijon mustard, stirring to combine. Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes, until it’s thick enough to cling to the shrimp. Return the shrimp to the pan and cook them the rest of the way in through in the sauce. Serve warm.

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