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Shrimp shells Oct. 13th, 2008 @ 09:14 pm

First things first. This must be the best result of the financial crisis to date: LOLFed.

Continuing my unintentional running theme, shrimp, tonight I made risotto with a homemade shrimp stock. It came out OK, but that's a huge improvement over the last time I tried to make shrimp stock. We've been awash in shrimp lately because one of my coworkers owns a boat and generously brought in a cooler full of her first shrimp catch. Everyone got a big bag of shrimp but there were still several bags left at the end of the day. I took on the challenge and brought home my shrimp bounty. We used some right away and froze some for later.

So far our shrimp have yielded:

  • quasi-disastrous popcorn shrimp (for batters you mix the wet and the dry, for breadings you dip in wet then dip in dry),
  • salad with garlic sautéed shrimp and chèvre, dressed with olive oil, lemon infused vinegar, salt and pepper,
  • cocktail shrimp with Old Bay,
  • fettuccine and sautéed shrimp in a cream, Chardonnay and Dijon mustard sauce,
  • fettuccine with sautéed shrimp and a plain old cream sauce,
  • fried shrimp with Penney's family, and
  • tonight's shrimp and vegetable risotto.

I sometimes marvel at how often Melanie and Martin have salmon, but really I guess it just comes down to where you live. Plus, I like shrimp more than salmon.

Coconuts and Cashews Aug. 6th, 2008 @ 11:29 pm
Tonight I made coconut shrimp and it came out pretty tasty. Next time I would definitely add more salt and cayenne to the corn starch, they didn't come through at all. Whole Foods only had unsweetened coconut so I bought coconut flake instead of shredded and then ran it through the food processor with some sugar. I liked it, the coconut came out a little chunkier than shredded coconut so the shrimp had that crazy look of flakes pointing in all directions (we were hungry, the shrimp didn't survive for any pictures).

We ate the shrimp alongside a spinach and mixed green salad with cashews, dressed with Briannas Lively Lemon Tarragon. I just feel like cashews and coconut always go together, and Briannas dressing is always delicious. I also have to point out that I despise cornstarch. I dredged the shrimp by hand and my fingers were like squeaky Styrofoam—eww-uhh, I hate that sensation.

We drank a Rosé from Bandol today; Bandol is in the southeast of France, part of Provence, a region generally known for its rosés. It was really tasty—pricey, but I felt it was worth it. The next one on my list is made by Tempier, I'm really excited to try it but haven't brought myself to buy it yet.

We'll probably go on a rosé kick for a little while, we have a bit of a stockpile. Last month we went on a white wine streak. There were some great ones.

2003 Laurentina Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Loré - Italy, Marche, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico (7/21/2008)
My first Verdicchio. I get nuts on the nose, almonds and cashews, plus coconut. It's kind of tingly on the palate, not an explosion of flavors though; just a bit of orange zest. It has a medium mouthfeel on the plate. On the finish it goes crazy with a really rich heavy mouthfeel. Heavy with honey and smooth lemon, some hints of coconut too. This reminds me of a well done oaky Chardonnay with hints of something exotic like Gewürztraminer. Really amazing richness and fruit. (There was some nail polish on the nose upon first popping and pouring, but that blew off quickly.) (92 pts.)

2007 Mas Igneus Priorat Barranc dels Closos Vinyes de Coster - Spain, Catalunya, Priorat (7/19/2008)
Honeyed on the nose, similar to a young Riesling without the petrol. Sea shells and soft minerality on the finish. There's another distinct flavor in there that I can't identify. (50% Garnatxa Blanca, 30% Macabeu, 17% Pedro Ximenes, 3% Muscat.) (91 pts.)

2007 Miguel Torres Catalunya Sangre de Toro de Casta - Spain, Catalunya (7/16/2008)
Strawberry nose. Big and juicy with nice medium body.
Hey, how about that, this one is a rosé.

2004 Soligo Prosecco Millesimato VSAQ Extra Dry - Italy, Veneto (7/13/2008)
Tasting Group July 2008 Meeting - Sparkling wines (Charleston, SC): Sweet and smooth. Medium mouthfeel, which surprised me for Prosecco but seemed appropriate since this is vintage Prosecco. (Original score: B+)

N.V. Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs - USA, New Mexico (7/13/2008)
Tasting Group July 2008 Meeting - Sparkling wines (Charleston, SC): Lemon and plastic on the nose; if I stretch, even a bit of the chemicals from a match. Lemon on the palate with smooth acidity. Nice and crisp. (Original score: A-)

2006 Argiolas Nuragus di Cagliari S'elegas - Italy, Sardinia, Nuragus di Cagliari (7/7/2008)
Definite ChapStick and piña colada on the nose, very beachy. As it opens up, if I stretch, I get some thyme on the nose too. On the palate it's medium-heavy. On the finish it's all tropical fruit and more coconut. There's some definite alcohol on the finish, which moves it closer to very good and away from excellent. (87 pts.)

2006 Sitios de Bodega Rueda Con Class - Spain, Castilla y León, Rueda (7/2/2008)
Nearly the same notes as before. Medium-light mouthfeel. Tangerines and limes on the palate with a smooth transition to the finish. Nice hint of grassiness on the finish. (89 pts.)

2007 Cave de Pomérols Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul-de-Pinet Hugues Beaulieu - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul-de-Pinet (6/27/2008)
Melon attack on the nose, especially as I bring it to my mouth. More melon on the palate. Midpalate and finish are dominated by a big kick of acidity that's well integrated. The finish has little hints of lemon too, like a San Pellegrino Limonata. (87 pts.)

Cream and shrimp, oh and butter Jul. 15th, 2008 @ 11:08 pm
Things have been crazy! Lightning struck a tree in our front yard. We had to have the tree removed, which is no good. Trees provide awesome shade and you don't miss it until it's gone. Plus, tree removal is expensive. Our chimney cap is having issues too, it's not really fulfilling its primary job of water diversion. It's possibly related to the lightning strike as well (that's my neighbor's theory at least; his chimney cap has big charred holes in it).

Home repairs aside, I did the cooking today. I made fettuccine with shrimp in a cream sauce. We like making shrimp and pasta, either something light with garlic and oil or something rich with cream. Tonight we went for the rich version. I can never remember the recipes I've used for cream sauces, and this one turned out pretty well. It was very creamy, on the verge of pasty but without becoming glue (if you know what I mean).

This recipe looks long but it's actually pretty easy. The key is getting some good bits of shrimp stuck to the pan before adding the cream.
  • 2/3 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp plus 2 tbsp
  • 1/2 lb long thin pasta
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parsley, chopped
Salt and heat the water for the pasta, I recommend fettuccine or linguine. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pan (preferably one that lacks a non-stick coating). Salt the shrimp then add them to the pan. Cook on medium heat until they just begin to leave brown residue on the pan (they call that fond), the shrimp should be pink on the sides but not on the tops. Flip the shrimp and cook for another 30 seconds or less. Use tongs to move the shrimp to a plate, leaving the the fond and any remaining butter in the pan. Add pepper to the shrimp. Add the cream to the pan.

The water should be boiling and ready for the pasta. Boil the pasta for one minute less than the package instructions.

While the pasta cooks, gently whisk the cream to remove the fond from the pan. When the cream comes to a medium simmer add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and integrate that with the cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Incorporate the milk with the butter and cream, bring to a heavy simmer and whisk to slightly reduce.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce (it may be a good idea to reserve some pasta water in case the sauce is too thick). Combine the pasta and the sauce then add the shrimp, any juices they left on the plate, and the chopped parsley. Toss to combine, allowing the pasta to finish cooking from the heat in the pan.
We went with red wine tonight and it coordinated just fine with the creamy shrimp (though, I wouldn't say they were a perfect match). I've always enjoyed Gamay (the grape used in Beaujolais) when I've had it. We don't drink Beaujolais often, and that may need to change.
2007 Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais (7/15/2008)
Very interesting nose. The first thing I get is a candy sensation, cream and strawberries. It smells like Pop Rocks with a drop of water, or maybe a strawberry Italian soda. As I bring the glass in for a sip I get a red licorice aroma. Light on the palate, a bit watery on the midpalate, and more strawberries on the finish. It leaves a bit of a feeling like a big rosé, with round, soft acidity and fruit. (88 pts.)

Our House Jun. 5th, 2008 @ 01:35 am
Mealnie's post encouraged me to consider how I feel about our house. The short story is that I like it: I like having space and I like our location.

I really like our house. Overall, I think the most important thing is that we found a great neighborhood. There are lots of big trees and bushes. The yards are bigger than a lot of newer, cookie-cutter neighborhoods, and we can enjoy our backyard without feeling like we're on top of our neighbors. It's close to my job and somewhat close to Penney's job, and we're always going in the opposite direction of the heaviest traffic. We're close enough to downtown that we never view it as a hassle to get there.

Around the house, I feel like there's just enough maintenance work without it being a burden. There are some things that get put off, like coming up with a plan to keep our lawn healthy and spending money to have someone trim dead branches from our trees. In general, the maintenance is pretty easy: mowing, raking, cleaning out flower beds. I feel like there will always be little things to do, like fixing molding, repainting our scuffed hallway walls, and buying new window shades. There are big projects I have in mind too: remodeling our bathrooms and modernizing our kitchen and appliances. There are some annoyances that we'll probably never change--I really wish we didn't have blown ceilings.

Our floorplan is pretty good. Having three bedrooms works well for us. We have an office, which is essential for piling up things like photos, bills, bags, wires, and general office supplies--things you need to keep around but don't want cluttering up your day-to-day living spaces. We have a guest room that's really just for guests (and for folding laundry when we don't have any guests); it's good to have a space that guests can take over without feeling like they're in the way of your office clutter. The office also gives us enough space for an extra bed so we really can have two guests at the same time (my parents and my sister are coming down this weekend) without anyone sleeping on couches. I think it's great that all of our bedrooms are on one side of the house and the other side is just for living and entertaining.

The way the living space side of the house fits together is my only gripe about our floorplan. The living room and dining room are just one big rectangular space. We have couches on one side and a table with four chairs on the other; it seems awkward to not have the rooms broken up in a more definite way. Our family room and kitchen are connected. The kitchen counter extends into the family room with space for counter-height barstools; the only problem is that we don't want bar stools. We've moved our furniture around in the family room (and in the living room) at lest three times (including last weekend) because we still haven't found a configuration that's totally satisfying. With the television, the fireplace, the overhanging counter, our somewhat sprawling couches, and a clear pathway to the back door, it just doesn't all seem to fit. The fireplace is on the back wall; for a while we had the television on the left wall and the couch and loveseat on the right wall at an obtuse angle to each other. That worked pretty well until we tried to use the family room for entertaining (convenient since it's next to the kitchen), we realized that having both couches pointed towards the TV is not conducive to conversation. Now the TV is on the same wall but the couches form a right angle and point somewhere between the TV and the fireplace. We'll see how long this setup lasts. With all of our furniture arrangements, the overhanging kitchen counter just doesn't seem to fit in. I'm not really interested in stools because I don't think we would ever use them, but it looks kind of silly to have a countertop hanging over a couch.

One thing that I consider a lesson learned from the house buying process is that it's important to fully understand any advice you take. I feel like I was naive to blindly take the advice of my parents and my parents' friends that buying a house is always the right thing to do because houses always go up in value. Obviously the downturn in the real estate market is a major shift from the trends of the past several years. Also, I don't actually think we would have saved much money by waiting in the Charleston real estate market. However, the general trend drives home the point that it's good to fully understand advice and big decisions, rather than only marginally understanding the ramifications of those decisions and making big assumptions to fill in the gaps.

Overall, what I'm saying is that I like our house. Mostly I like having the space of 1700 square feet and I don't think we would find that as easily if we were renting. Above all else, location is the most important thing.

Chicken, Quartered Jun. 1st, 2008 @ 08:05 pm
We ate well this weekend. Tonight I quartered then roasted a chicken along with cipollini onions, parsnips, potatoes, kohlrabi, and zucchini (a pentafecta, you could say). I put herbes de Provence under the chicken skin, tossed everything with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then added a bit of chicken stock and lime juice to the roasting pan. It came out really tasty.

I liked what the lime added—the recipe called for lemons, but life gave us limes—it added a rich, slightly sweet flavor to the pan gravy. The only hitch was that for some reason it always takes longer to fully cook chicken than the recipe says it should. We have a thermometer, we wait, we haven't poisoned ourselves yet.
Crispy Brown and DeliciousTo go with the chicken and vegetables, Penney made a summer squash soup. We get vegetables from the CSA every week and the yellow squash is starting to pile up. Soup is the way to get rid of lots of produce, and it was delicious. I think the key is that Penney used celery leaves, heart, and ribs. It was earthy and a bit zippy from the celery innards then sweet from the squash. I'd say it's the perfect spring soup.

It's not spring anymore, at least it doesn't feel like it around here. We turned our air conditioning on today. We didn't run it at all in May, which, to my surprise, actually worked out.

Earlier this week, we successfully made paparadelli and found a good recipe for cauliflower.
Other entries
» Stormy
HailWalking down the stairs on my way to leave work today, I start hearing some strange banging noises. It is a bit late so there's a good chance that someone's doing maintenance in our atrium. Nope, it's hail the size of ping pong balls! Lots of it. I think this is the first time I've seen hail in Charleston. It wasn't that sissy hail-sleet stuff we had while visiting Ferris & Wheeless in Seattle, this was the real thing. It lasted about fifteen minutes and then I headed home. This stuff was everywhere, my lawn was white with hail. And that's about half an hour after it stopped and had some time to melt in the 80 degree weather.
RisottoUnfortunately, hail storms (and tornado watches) mean that Penney is stuck in Indiana, traveling for work. That left me on my own last night and tonight. For dinner, yesterday I continued our adventures in kohlrabi. I made a squash, kohlrabi, and fettuccine cacio e pepe. I chopped the squash and kohlrabi into little matchsticks and used just a bit of pasta water and some olive oil as a sauce. Plus lots of black pepper and a heap of Pecorino Romano (pepe and cacio). I've recently rediscovered fettuccine, it may be one of my favorite pastas.

Tonight, it was back to my old standby: risotto. Really, is there anything better than risotto? It's starchy and creamy, cheesy and buttery. Today's was a pretty pedestrian risotto, I just used three yellow squash and bit of basil. I made a dent, but there are still six squash in our fridge from last week's CSA pickup. To accompany my risotto I polished off a Grüner Veltliner that was left over from a few days ago. It was really tasty, a lot better than the first night actually. Maybe it needed some time, maybe it was the food; whatever it was, I'm glad I drank it instead of using it for the risotto.
» Eating well
We sometimes have the problem of trying to figure out what to eat. It seems like it shouldn't be so hard to come up with ideas, we've been eating tasty food for a while after all. Now we've started putting our meals (including recipes) on Google Calendar. I figure that we'll be able to look back at that the next time we're stuck and figure out what to make again. Aren't computers great!

In other news, I got an iPhone. I'm starting to use Twitter too, do any of you guys use Twitter?
» Delicious!
Thanksgiving is over, our guests have gone, Christmas has even begun. Thanksgiving dinner was a smash hit. Over preparation is the way to go. Really, the post-Thanksgiving company was way more stressful than the day itself. Our 3-year-old nephew was ready to go home, but he was fun.

Penney wrote a detailed rundown of everything we made. It's long, but as she says, "at least I didn't put 50 million links in it." Also, she tries to make you think her crust was the best but in the end she admits there was no clear-cut winner.

The short of it is that brining is the way to go. I can now say, "I am a briner." The first time around we followed the recipe and cooked our turkey to 161° F in the breast—underdone! For the Turkey Day turkey we went to 175° F in the thigh—delicious! I would normally think that it would make the bird a bit overdone, but the brine pulled through and everything was delicious. All of the self proclaimed dark meat eaters were chowing down on the oh-so moist white meat.

Carving was really easy this time around. Maybe it was the practice, maybe it was luck. A long knife is crucial.

The pecan pie was delicious. I had made it before so I expected it to be delicious. What surprised me was how not sweet it was; I barely tasted sugar, it was all pecan goodness. We also had Blue Bunny Homemade Vanilla ice cream, yum. It tastes exactly like marshmallows, so weird.

We had turkey enchiladas last night (sans cilantro) and they were pretty good. I really liked how the inside was all creamy without any acidic enchilada sauce. It's crazy how much of a distinct flavor turkey has compared to chicken. There was no mistaking those enchiladas for any other everyday version. (Thanks go to Beau for recommending them.)

Now Thanksgiving is over, the house is clean, and our Christmas tree is up. The tree is relaxing right now, tomorrow we'll adorn it with all our twinkly lights and doo-dads.
» Weekday Update
Thanksgiving is in full swing. We've got three pies down and one more to go. The cranberry sauce is jelling and the turkey brine is at the ready.Pecan Pie

The turkey's going to be delicious. I know because we did a test run on Tuesday. In our Thanksgiving excitement we bought our turkey early last week and popped it in the fridge. Unfortunately, you can't do that on television! The bacteria go wild (we called the Butterball hotline). To avert a turkey disaster we bought another bird on Sunday and cooked the first one early. Good thing too, because it was a little undercooked. The nice thing about making turkey on days other than Thanksgiving is that no one cares if you mutilate the bird and then stick it back in the oven (it's all for leftovers anyway). This time around I'm going to put the thermometer in a different spot and let it go a little longer. If you've ever wondered where the thigh is, let Epicurious be your guide.

Let me just say, I love cranberry sauce. It is by far my most favorite Thanksgiving food. We have three varieties in the works. Two simple ones, one with lemon zest and one with orange zest. The third has some ruby Port and orange juice. Yumm.

Not sure what to make for Thanksgiving? Use the recipes we're using.
» Sick Comeback
We just won our league Ultimate game tonight. We were down 2–8 at half. We were getting close to the end zone and then rushing it like we've been doing for the whole season. Second half we got on a roll, we were making D's, going for early hucks, and sometimes even taking it slow when we were close to the end zone. We chipped away, tied it up at 12–12 and won 15–13. It was awesome.

70 degrees, hardly any bugs, and a comeback—a perfect day for ultimate.
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