When the Cat’s Away

When Teacherman is out of town, I eat shrimp.  This is not to say that I do it stealthily, or on the sly, hiding my illicit shellfish hedonism, but I do only eat it alone.  Teacherman, alas, is allergic to shrimp.  He certainly doesn’t object to me eating shrimp, or to having it in the house when he’s there, but somehow, even though I occsionally eat meals alone when he is in town, I only make shrimp when he’s away.

In any case, he is off on a weekend teaching jaunt to Cleveland, leaving me with several meal to insert shrimp into, should I desire.  Given my current budget, I decided that two crustaceany splurges were in order, and tonight was the first of them.

My meal was relatively simple and entirely gleaned from other resources–Friday night after a full work week and an ill-starred concert the previous evening is no time to get elaborate, and any ‘creative’ excursions made in such an exhausted state can only end badly.  To that end I took up a recipe I’d been saving for just such an occasion, one from March’s issue of Bon Appetit: Shrimp and Scallop Posole.  I was immediately attracted to the recipe, since not only did it include both shrimp and scallops, which I love (and which, for the record, Teacherman is not allergic to), but also salsa verde, one of my absolute favorite things.  I have happy memories of childhood visits to my father’s parents in Albuquerque, and, though I’m sure I scorned it at the time, in past years my love for southwestern green chile salsa has become rather boundless.

In any case, the meal is easily made.  I have never had “real” posole, so I don’t know how this compares thereto, but it is quite good, nonetheless.  It starts as most soup recipes do, sauteing onions and garlic until soft, a procedure that always seems to take me much longer than recipes indicate, no matter how high or low I turn the heat.  After 5 (or 15 minutes) of softening, one adds a little lime peel, a diced sun-dried tomato or two, salsa verde, and enough clam juice to make it soup-like. 

At this point one is also supposed to add a can of hominy.  Hmm.  The recipe calls for one can of hominy for six servings, and I was reducing quantities of everything to feed one.  Did I really want to open a 15-oz can just for a few tablespoons?  Instead, I dumped in a handful of frozen corn; not quite the same, but the flavors are similar enough that I don’t think the recipe was ruined.   After that has simmered away for a few minutes, one adds in the shrimp and scallops, along with a handful of cilantro, and lets the shellfish cook until done (something which always takes me much less time than recipes indicate, no matter how large my shrimp are.  This time the recipe called for simmering the shrimp for 5 minutes, and my extremely jumbo specimens were done in about 2).

The finished soup was surprisingly molten, so I let it cool for a few minutes, while I quickly sauteed another serving of shrimp for a cold Thai salad tomorrow.  When the posole was cool enough to eat without lasting oral damage, I dove in.  It was exactly what I had been hoping for.  One might think that the shellfish, corn and sun-dried tomatoes, each with their own particular sweetness, would compete against each other and end up cloying, but the spicy acidity of the salsa verde cut neatly through each one and somehow tied them all together into a balanced whole.  The salsa also thickened the posole to a much more substantial consistency than the brothy soup in the recipe’s accompanying picture.  As someone who prefers soups so reduced that they might as well be a kind of medieval pottage, this thickness was quite welcome. 

The soup may not be fancy or difficult to prepare, but it’s not unattractive, either, with its bright pink shrimp, off-white scallops and red and green flecked depths.  I can easily see it making regular appearances at my solitary shrimp feasts.  Who knows: some day I might even make it with nothing but scallops, and serve Teacherman a meal he would otherwise never know he was missing.

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Published in: on April 20, 2007 at 6:58 pm  Comments (1)  

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