More Cowbell

image from

While I’m away on my imaginary vacation, I’m leaving the pantry stocked with posts from Exit 51 that would have been part of the Flashback Friday series. The following originally appeared on 6/10/09 at Exit 51

More Cowbell

I love the Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken about the rock band and the cowbell.

The point is that while what the band was doing was good, it would have been even better with more cowbell.  Do you ever have days like that?  Days where you’re in a groove, doing your thing, and you just know that if you could have a little something extra it would be phenomenal.  Yeah, you need more cowbell.

More cowbell can be anything – a steady breeze on a balmy day, all green lights on your way home, a leisurely nap on a lazy Sunday afternoon – anything that puts whatever you’re doing over the top.  The French have a phrase for it – je ne sais quoi – literally meaning I know not what.  Because sometimes, it’s something you can’t quite put your finger on.  Other times though, you know exactly what that cowbell would be.


Many of my more cowbell moments tend to pop up in the kitchen.  More specifically, on the plate.  We will be settled in, ready to feast, and after a bite or two, I will get a puzzled look on my face.  This look should not be confused with the one that means ’something went horribly wrong here”.  That’s an entirely different visual that usually involves puckered lips, crossed eyes, and wild shaking of the head.  Those moments, thankfully, do not happen that often.

No, the puzzled face is my indication that I need more cowbell in whatever I’ve fixed.  Like the Baked Shrimp in Tomato Feta Sauce.  I found the recipe at simplyrecipes and once I saw that it met my criteria for weeknight cooking (minimal ingredients that I tend to have on hand and prep & cooking take no more than one hour) I put it on the menu straight away to test.

So Baked Shrimp day arrived.  Things were going well; I heated the oven, peeled the shrimp, chopped some shallots (because there were no onions to be found) and fresh dill, opened the diced tomatoes, and prepped the feta.  The frying pan went on the stove where the shallots got to hang out by themselves since the garlic, knowing its time had come, must have run off with the onion.

The tomatoes joined the shallot in the frying pan and bubbled away for ten or fifteen minutes to cook down.  Then everything else got stirred in and the oven took over.  Fifteen minutes later, we’re plated and ready to go. When it was time to dig into the dish, I could have sworn that Christopher Walken was sitting next to me saying “I’ve gotta have more cowbell”.  Because despite the creamy goodness that is shrimp bathed in melted feta and tomato juices, it could be more.  The dill just didn’t work for me in this dish.  I think I’ve been hitting the pickled carrots and asparagus too hard.  Instead, I think this needs a little heat in the form of crushed red pepper flakes.

Now there’s some cowbell for you.

Baked Shrimp in Tomato Feta Sauce

Adapted from

BAH Note: Serve this with some crusty bread as a main course or with a light salad for an easy brunch.  Leftovers, if there are any, can be reheated in the microwave on 50% power.  The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon fresh, or 1 teaspoon dried, dill.  If you think you might like it, go ahead and add it in.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium size raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in a large ovenproof  skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 to 10 minutes until the juices slightly thicken.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat.  Stir in the parsley, shrimp, and feta cheese.  Plan pan in the oven and bake for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.

Garnish with additional feta and serve hot.

{printable recipe}

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