Sweet Virginia! A Much Needed Road Trip… And Dinner Party!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I lost my patience with the weather in Boston and finally reached my breaking point. I woke up last Friday morning, packed a bag for myself and Truman (the bulldog), grabbed a metal shovel from the neighbor, and carved my Mini Cooper out of a massive ice/snow bank. I didn’t really care where I was going, but I decided to visit a good friend in Alexandria Virginia, who just happens to be the owner of Truman’s best friend, a silver lab named Winston.

With a quick stop for snacks at Walmart, where Truman choked on a Slim Jim (yes, I had to sick my fist down his throat), the ride couldn’t have been sweeter. I legit felt like I had just escaped from prison. So here we are, in Virginia, staying with my buddy who is the biggest “dude” on earth. In other words, cooking is impossible because he has no tools!

My friend asked if I was interested in cooking for him and a few of his friends… and I happily agreed. It’s difficult to cook a full meal when you have zero ingredients in the house, so shopping was a bit difficult because we had to buy stuff like… salt and flour.

Regardless, after six hours of cooking, (yes, six!!) everyone seemed to walk away happy… and full. Here’s what I made and here is one of the recipes I know you can all handle –>

Baked-stuffed shrimp with a seafood sauce, something I had never made before… the sauce that is. VERY EASY! In fact, I’m happy to say I learned how to make it in Culinary School, or the base of it I should say. Baked-stuffed shrimp is easy if you  have the patience and the ability to make a bomb seafood stuffing, which is actually very easy. Basically, you start with chopped onions and garlic that are cooked in olive oil until soft. And of course, salt and pepper at this beginning stage. Then you add any kind of seafood you think you’d want in a stuffing. Remember, you don’t have to follow a recipe if you want to become a creative cook. I mean, I wouldn’t add 8 cups of salmon to a stuffing, but I think you know scallops, lobster, crabmeat, even clams, are the logical kinds of seafood you want to add.

After adding the seafood, you be the judge of how much you want, I like to add a little white wine, about a half cup, for extra flavor. I also add a bit of fresh thyme (about a tablespoon) and a TON of fresh parsley (like a half a cup). I cook that for about 15 minutes and add more salt and pepper.

Finally… add A STICK OF BUTTER… and let it melt! It sounds like a lot but if you’re making say 30 shrimp, you are eating 1/30th of the stick. That’s nothing. Why so much butter? Well… the last ingredient is your stuffing component, which is ritz (I use whole wheat) cracker crumbs and Panko breadcrumbs. How much? Add the crumbs until it’s reached a consistency that sticks together. So… press a little stuffing in your hand and press. Did it stay together in a ball? Yes? That’s enough. Did you add too much breadcrumbs? Just add some olive oil and soften it up. Everything is fixable!

unnamedButterflying the shrimp: On the non-vein side, which you have removed, slice the shrimp down the middle but not all the way through. Place a tad bit of stuffing in the crack to give the heaping spoonful of stuffing you’re about to add something to stick to. Now go ahead, add that heaping spoon of stuffing. Now curve the tail of the shrimp and stick it in the stuffing. (see photo)

Line the shrimp up in rows so they are resting side by side. This way, they won’t tip over and spill. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Yes, I made a huge mess, but from what everyone told me, it was worth the cleanup.

BONUS: I also made a cauliflower casserole with gruyere cheese and buttered Panko breadcrumbs, pan-seared salmon with lemon and sea salt, and asparagus with fried eggs and parmesan cheese. I still get nervous cooking for people, especially strangers, but this was a total success.

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Blanched asparagus with fried over-easy eggs, lemon and fresh shaved parmesan. (Try this instead of hollandaise sauce)
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Pan-seared medium/rare salmon basted in butter with fresh lemon and dill.