Asparagus and Gulf Shrimp Meunière
[written Friday after my last exam] I just finished writing about British literature for two hours straight. That’s five written pages covering nine works from a collective list of 94 short stories, novels, poems, and manifestos taken from three and a half months of class, in case you were wondering. I don’t want to whine, I really don’t, but my wrist hurts, my brain is fried, I’m hungry, and I don’t want to go to work in an hour. But at least my finals are over. For better or for worse, to pass or to fail, they are over. And so it’s back to blogging…
Ahhh… blogging. That’s more like it.
Asparagus and gulf shrimp meunière; I made this a week or so before the misery of finals and I won’t lie to you, it was kind of a disaster. That’s not to say it didn’t start off as a great idea, like I suspect many disasters do, or that it wasn’t quite tasty how it turned out, but there was disaster involved all the same.
Imagine, if you will, an early spring morning trip to Whole Foods, intended to be a break from the boringness that Publix, a medium-quality chain grocery store, stationed in the southeast United States, with a basically void selection of quality meat, fish, and produce, has to offer. We set off on this adventure to Whole Foods with no immediate plan, list, or idea of what food we were getting.. no, no, I like to feel what I want to cook. It has to come to me like the Ten Commandments came to Moses from the burning bush. If the produce ain’t talking then I ain’t buyin’.
As it were, there we are, standing in the middle of Whole Foods wondering, no, begging, for something to come to me. “Maybe we should have organized or made a list before we came,” is Brittany’s usual rhetoric after a few minutes of my meandering around pretending to be waiting on some magical moment. By the way, when I say inevitably, I mean this happens every time we go food shopping. You see, Brittany likes structure and order and for each event to be planned to perfection. Me? I thrive in chaos. I can’t stand to be organized. My life is an absolute wreck; my apartment’s a mess, the dishes are never clean, important papers are never put away, I can stay up until 5 in the morning and sleep untill 6 in the afternoon, just as the sun is going down, and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t get stressed. I get creative. And luckily, I’m the one that can cook.
And so, there we are, standing in the Whole Foods produce section aimlessly messing around with some oranges (did I mention I was still awake from the night before?) when, like a light bulb finally turning on after a power outage, the ideas began to flow. It started with the watermelon radish, watercress, and cremini mushroom salad with a honey-sherry vinaigrette. Then came the green beans with shallots, sherry vinegar, parsley, and bacon (coming soon) quickly followed by a hoagie roll with grilled Italian sausage, Diijon aioli, and arugula (also coming soon). And finally, the star of the show, the one everyone’s been waiting for, the asparagus and gulf shrimp meunière, which I had yearned to try for months after picking up my copy of Frank Stitt’s “Southern Table,” an ode to his Birmingham-based and nationally renowned, Highlands Bar and Grill. In a matter of seconds I had improvised the ‘blog menu’ for the following week. Unfortunately, when this happens, it all happens so fast that I just start running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off (pretty morbid for a saying, huh?).
But, like I said, this all started with a good idea and ended in disaster, remember? Although, technically, it isn’t my idea. It’s Frank Stitt’s idea, but it’s a good idea all the same. The asparagus: thick, tender, and light enough on the palate to allow the gulf shrimp, in all it’s sea-tasting brininess, to shine through. The entire dish is brought together by the tangy lemon bursting through the rich butter sauce scattered with green onions, garlic and white wine, known as meunière. The dish is the epitome of spring, through and through.
That is, it would have been, if only I hadn’t overcooked the shrimp, let the asparagus go cold, and turned the sauce into a gloopy, coagulated mess scattered with overcooked (read: nearly burnt) green onions and garlic. Was this the result of the complete chaos and disorganization of a photo shoot, a blog post, and a meal going on at the same time? Maybe. Alright… yea, it was.
What can I say? Maybe I’ll learn one day.
Asparagus and Gulf Shrimp Meunière Recipe:
Adapted from Frank Stitt’s “Southern Table”
Before we start, aside from my screw-ups, this meal was great. But it was definetly a “restaurant dish,” meaning that it’s small portions and not very filling. When we have the chance to make it again, we’re going to throw in on some angel hair pasta for a more hearty, home-type meal.
- 16 jumbo asparagus spears, tough (bottom) end cut off
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 to 3 spring onions or 2 small Vidalia onions, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1/2 pound shrimp (you could also substitute crawfish tails or crab meat)
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Boil the asparagus until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
In a medium saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium-heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the shrimp and white wine and simmer until the wine is reduced by half (we had to add more wine, so don’t be afraid to do so). Add the lemon juice and slowly whisk in the remaining butter piece by piece. Season to taste with hot sauce, salt and pepper.