Rushed

Mustard Roasted Shrimp

The following originally appeared on 5/27/09 at Exit 51.

Rushed

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, there are just days when time is not on my side.  I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to get it done.  Or cosmic forces conspire against me and suck huge chunks of time out of my grasping hands, never to be seen again.  A trip to the grocery store that should take 30 minutes turns into an hour.  Too bad life doesn’t come with rollover minutes, like in the AT&T commercial.  I’d definitely pay for that upgrade.

The problem with poor time management is that something ultimately suffers.  You cut corners, trying to wedge a square peg into a round hole, and the end result isn’t exactly the right fit.  It will do in a pinch but you know you could do better.  That’s how I feel about Mustard Roasted Shrimp.

The clock was already ticking when I set out to make the shrimp.  Dinner had to be done and I had to be out the door in little more than an hour.  So the notion of marinating the shrimp in mustard, olive oil, and tarragon for an hour in the fridge was immediately dismissed.  And soaking bamboo skewers so that the shrimp could be  broiled?  That would have to wait for another day.  These need to be in the oven NOW.

Did you ever notice that when you’re trying to hurry, even the simplest tasks get complicated?  Like peeling shrimp.  Sure, the package says EZ Peel but should it really take twenty minutes to peel two pounds of large shrimp?  In tv land there would be an assistant to instantly transform them into peeled and cleaned morsels.  In my kitchen, there’s just the cat sitting there looking mildly interested in me dropping one of those morsels on the floor.

By now, my hour is down to about 40 minutes.  Sorry shrimp but the best I can offer you at this point is a short stay in the marinade out on the counter.  The oven gets heated, sheet pans get prepped, and the timer ticks down to less than 30 minutes.

Finally, the shrimp go in the oven.  At this point, I stop looking at the clock.  It will take as long as it takes and since my superpower to stop time has yet to develop, clock watching isn’t going to do me any good.  As soon as I start to smell the aroma of hot mustard, it’s time to turn the shrimp over.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, I can’t turn the clock in my head off.

At last the shrimp is bright pink and the mustard marinade is just starting to brown on the sheet pans; time to come out of the oven.  Sprinkle a quick pinch of salt and onto the plate we go.  In the five minutes or so that I have to actually eat, I keep thinking how this is ok but it could be so much better.  Each bite mocks me with flat flavor.  Even the next day, the leftovers lay there on the plate, not living up to their full potential because of me.

I take full responsibility.  I rushed what could have been a very good thing.

Broiled Shrimp with Mustard and Tarragon

Adapted from Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh

  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 wood skewers, soaked for 30 minutes

Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl to combine.  Add shrimp; toss to coat.  Chill 1 to 3 hours.

Heat broiler and line sheet pan with foil.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.  Season with salt and pepper.

Broil shrimp until cooked through, approximately 2 minutes per side.

BAH Note: I’m including the comments from the original post as well.

on 2 June 2009 at 6:13 pm missmobtown said:
I blame Bon Appetit — labeling something as “fast, easy, fresh” when it needs to sit for an hour? Or three? Come ON.

on 3 June 2009 at 7:04 am pmf1852 said:
Indeed, not the quickest meal in the book. We made it again last weekend. Oddly enough, letting it sit longer really didn’t make it taste much different. I think the key is to definitely cook it with high heat. I may have to get over my fear of the broiler and see if that turns up the flavor.

on 27 July 2009 at 8:28 pm Lara said:
Ok, I tried this tonight and both my husband and I thought it was very good but the flavor almost overpowering. Next time I will use less mustard and perhaps half of the marinade recipe. A good make ahead and a great little appy!

on 28 July 2009 at 6:59 am Wendi said:
Would you say it’s a happy appy? Definitely play around with the ingredients to get the taste you like best.

Flashback Friday – Goal Tending

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 8/25/08 at Exit 51

Goal Tending

I refuse to come out and say how much weight I hope to lose on South Beach.  The idea of being fixated on a number is not how I want to live.  Why should I turn a choice to eat healthier into a numbers game?  The scale should be a tool, not a dreaded frenemy. Continue reading “Flashback Friday – Goal Tending”

RealiTV

reality-tv-2008-large-msg-120000952483

The following originally appeared on 6/1/09 at Exit 51.

RealiTV

It really should come as no surprise that television takes a few liberties with reality.  If you hit pause on your dvr at the end of most any game show or “reality” competition, you will see the fine print that says portions have been edited.  Well duh. But that distortion of reality is a double edged sword.

One the one hand, who would sit through the unedited hours and hours of footage that it takes to produce a single episode of Survivor or The Amazing Race?  Not me.  But on the other hand, how can we know what happens in the moments that we don’t see?  There’s the rub.  We are given a highly processed view of “reality” that may be skewed in order to shape our perceptions and attitudes.  There’s another word for that – propaganda.  I doubt that the television producers have a sinister masterplan to take over the world via the current season of The Bachelor.  But they definitely are trying to manipulate our opinions to make “better” television.

No genre of television program is immune to the edit.  Not even something as supposedly straight forward as a cooking show.  Think about it, how often do you see Paula Deen or Rachel Ray commit a kitchen foul?  Take a few moments to ponder that?  The Minimalist has an interesting piece about that topic here.

Is it that their skills are so keen that they don’t make mistakes?  Are they the “Heroes” of the kitchen world?  Or is it that their reputations are built upon the assumption that we suspend our disbelief that they are anything but flawless?  If we don’t see any mistakes, then they never happened, right?

Interestingly enough, cooking programs excel in showing us the other side of that picture.  If you stick around to watch to watch the “Who Wants To Be…” type shows, you see another kind of reality.  You see the kind of reality that you can not only understand, but can relate to.  Challenge after challenge, something goes wrong.  Meat gets burned, dishes are undercooked, or overcooked, jars break, people cut themselves.  Some mistakes you can bounce back from.  Other send you home.  Unfortunately, these realities are edited to make us think the contestants are not capable.  When really, they are just human.

So what should we take away from this idea of RealiTV?  At a minimum, we shouldn’t take it too seriously.  Take it as inspiration for what you love to do.  So if you love diy projects, watch the shows to get ideas.  But don’t think that because Ty and his crew can build a McMansion in seven days that you are somehow deficient if it takes you a month to tile your backsplash.  And if your love is cooking, watch the shows for the recipes.  Just don’t assume that your plate of deep fried butter is going to look exactly like Paula’s.  Remember, she’s got a producer, and editor, professional lighting and fancy food stylists.  You’ve got reality and I think that tastes better any day.

Real Simple

Real Simple

The following appeared on 6/3/09 at Exit 51.

Real Simple

I love the idea of leading a simple life.  I just wish I could figure out how to go about doing that.  If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  Sure, there is an entire industry of lifestyle guides and magazines that want you to think that if you buy their products then your life can be as perfect as their glossy magazine photos.  Call me a cynic, but I don’t buy into that. I don’t see how stimulating the economy by buying their stuff is going to change my life.  In a recent moment of ‘what the heck was I thinking’ I grabbed one of those magazines while I was in line at the grocery store.  The only thing I saved was a recipe.

The one area where I do find ways to simplify is cooking.  Because until I learn the secrets to lead the simple life, cooking is the one thing that must be flexible, to fit into my schedule instead of making my schedule accommodate it.  Occasionally, let’s call it rarely, I will go all out on a dish that requires constant tending and fussing.  But I don’t really enjoy that.  It’s no fun for me to stand at the stove counting minutes.  I’d rather set it, and forget it.

So it should be no surprise that I tend to gravitate towards recipes that don’t chain me to the stove.  Especially when the temperatures soar into the 90’s and our entire house turns into an oven, like it did recently.  Despite the ungodly heat, I fired up the oven to 400 degrees for a real simple dinner.  And then I promptly stationed myself on the sofa where I could pretend that the hot air coming from the fan was in fact a delightful spring breeze.  What can I say, sometimes the simple life ain’t so simple.

What is pretty simple, though, is this recipe for Maple Roasted Chicken.  Instead of cut up chicken parts, I used thighs only.  And even though I removed the skin from half of them, there was still a lot of accumulated juices.  Next time, I will make sure all my chicken is naked because all that juice made the sweet potatoes too mushy.  But I bet when we go to eat the leftovers, the defatted juices will make a lovely jus.  How simple is that?

Real Simple Maple Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

From Real Simple Magazine

  • 2 small sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into 1 inch wedges
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place sweet potatoes, thyme, and onion in a 9×13 baking dish.  Coat with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Pat chicken pieces dry, season with salt and pepper, and place in the baking dish.

Drizzle the maple syrup over chicken and vegetables.

Roast 55 to 65 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Flashback Friday – Amazing Race (Maryland State Fair)

Flashback Friday

 

The following originally appeared on 8/22/08 at Exit 51.

Amazing Race (Maryland State Fair)

Sometimes in this life you gotta think on your feet.  By nature, I’m a planner.  I like to know how I’m going to get from Point A to Point B in advance.  When I plot out a route, I pretty much commit to it and dislike last minute change of plans.  This is one reason I would not do well on The Amazing Race.  You know the premise.  Put people in situations where they must overcome a series of detours and road blocks to reach their final destination.  The last to arrive face Philimination.  In the most unlikely of settings, I ran my very own Amazing Race – Maryland State Fair Style. Continue reading “Flashback Friday – Amazing Race (Maryland State Fair)”

Customer Service

4-color-silispat250h

The following originally appeared on 6/8/09 at Exit 51.

Customer Service

Last year for Christmas, I asked Santa to bring me a tricked out Tovolo spatula.  I had first seen it in Cook’s Illustrated where it was rated a Best Buy. Since I thought of CI as Consumer Reports for the kitchen, I figured that they had conveyed their Best Buy status after thorough testing and it would be a welcome addition to my utensil drawer.  Although, I am still questioning their Best Buy designation in 2007 of the Chefmate dutch oven.  Staining issues aside, I don’t think a Best Buy product should be showing chips out of the enamel after only two years.  It’s not as though I’m using a  drillbit to stir things around in there. Which gets us back to Tovolo.

It wasn’t as though I NEEDED another spatula.  Yes, I have been known to utterly ruin spatulas.  Like the time I was making candy and the silicone head popped clean off after the hard ball stage was reached.  SFC does his fair share of destruction to kitchen tools as well.  He tends to leave them propped on the side of hot pots and pans.  Both of our pancake spatulas have burns and welts that any self respecting CSI team could match up to our cookware.

So I saw the Tovolo as the best of all worlds.  The stainless steel handle would prevent any more utensil abuse by SFC and heat resistant to 600 degrees would ensure that no spatulas would be harmed in any future candy making foolishness.

It was love at first sight.  You know how right a heavy pan feels when you pick it up?  Solid and sturdy?  You know you’re destined to be together forever.  That was how I felt about my Tovolo.  But then one day, suddenly, it all went wrong.  As I was cooking, I noticed a big chunk missing from the silicone.  I looked closer and there was a second smaller gash and a cut.  This was definitely not good.

So what do you do?  Besides fish through the food and hope that there’s no surprises lurking at the bottom of the pan that is.  If you’re me, you get in touch with the manufacturer.  I hate how disposable our society is even though I know I am just as guilty as the next guy of buying a replacement instead of fixing what I have.  I’m trying to get better about that though.  Have I ever told you that my blender is over 50 years old?  It is and it still works like a charm.

Unfortunately, in this case, there was no fixing Tovolo.  And so I wondered if the manufacturer would stand behind its product or just brush me off with some standard form reply.  Not only did they stand behind their product and replace my sassy red spatula with a brand new one, they even gave me a happy blue one to keep it company in the drawer.  How did they know blue is my favorite color?

Too often it seems like companies forget what customer service is about.  Cheers to Tovolo for keeping it real.

Now, I wonder if I’ll be high enough on Santa “Nice” list this year to score a a new Le Crueset dutch oven because that Chefmate is really making me nervous.

Recharging

I’ve been a bad blogger.  I’ve been cooking. And I’ve been taking photos.  But that’s only 2/3’s of the food blogging equation.  That final step, the writing, has not been happening.  So I’m going to take the month of January to relax and recharge. Hopefully when I emerge from this hibernation in February my head will be full of stories to share.

Until then, I’ll be highlighting old posts from Exit 51 for you to get your regular BAH fix.  I’ll still be flapping my wings over on Twitter, skimming the blogs in my Google Reader, and responding to comments here.