Just a collection of random food thoughts that have gone through my head in the last 24 hours or so.
1 – Those who buy whole wheat pasta hate life. ~ Unknown
For a year+ I’d eaten whole grain or whole wheat pasta. It doesn’t taste as good, but I thought it was a small price to pay for eating healthier. This was dumb because in many cases the pasta was accompanied by elements that weren’t close to healthy. Proteins, sauces, bread, a bottle of wine…
Fuck it. From now on I’ll bike an extra mile or two before dinner. The taste is totally worth it.
2 – Want an underrated kitchen appliance? How about a coffee grinder used specifically for your spices.
I picked this up a year ago and it’s proven to be one of my favorite little gadgets.
I used it to grind all spice, peppercorns and crushed red pepper often. Believe me, it makes a big difference in your meals.
3 – If you’re not keeping a coffee cup or jar with rendered bacon fat in your fridge, you’re missing out on one of the most useful ingredients I can think of.
4 – Speaking of things I’ll never not have in my fridge or freezer, a big favorite of mine is a huge bag of shrimp. Note: not talking the $12.99/lb variety found fresh in the seafood section. Nope, I’m talking about the small, headless, farmed and deveined kind that are found in bags in the frozen food section.
Honestly, I’m not overly wild about the stuff. If you’re giving me the choice between a good burger and seafood, give me the beef.
But I can’t deny that shrimp is ridiculously easy to cook, is healthy depending on the preparation and makes for a great vehicle for a lot of flavors. If you get the bulk, frozen variety it’s not even pricey.
A few times in the past month I’ve come home from work, tossed a handful in a bowl of cold water and inside of 20 minutes had a shrimp dish that I would have spent $20 for at a restaurant. All it takes is some prep time to put together your flavors.
5 – If there’s been one big revelation I’ve had with regards to cooking in the last year, it may be the one I’ve had with sauces.
Namely, I don’t buy them anymore.
Tomato, marinara, alfredo…I can’t remember the last time I bought a jar of the stuff. No, not when you realize how it easy it is to make something to go with your pasta, chicken or seafood that tastes so much better.
When you want a good tomato sauce? Pick up some San Marzano tomatoes, simmer them in a pot and add your own spices. Flavor it the way you want it to taste.
If you want a cream based sauce? Heavy cream is your canvas. Add parmesan cheese, butter and freshly cracked black pepper for an alfredo sauce that’s better than anything you could buy in the store. Add curry and red pepper for something with kick. Whiskey and beef base for a rich, darker sauce for on top of that steak.
More than ever I’m looking to control everything I possibly can about my meals. I still have a ways to go (fresh pasta, I’m looking at YOU), but making great tasting meals doesn’t have to be difficult.
On that note, let’s take a look at something I made that incorporates everything above. Last night I made something very quick, very easy, and silly good.
Here’s what I was working with:
10 small frozen shrimp, defrosted and patted dry
Red curry paste
Crushed red pepper
Fresh black pepper
The first step was to heat a pot of water and salt the shit out of it. Industry term. Use at least three tablespoons.
Just before the pasta went into the boiling water, I heated my stainless steal pan on medium. In went the pasta as the small pan was getting hot.
After the pasta goes in the pot, add a teaspoon of bacon fat, two teaspoons red curry paste, a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil to the pan and let it get hot.
The shrimp are only going to be in the pan for about five minutes, so everything has to be timed out. You want your pasta al dente just as the shrimp are heating up. If your pasta takes eight minutes to get to that point, you put the shrimp in the pan when there’s roughly four and a half minutes left.
Let them cook for roughly two minutes on one side, then flip ’em.
Add the crushed red and black pepper. Let them cook another two minutes.
Here’s where it gets fun: drain the pasta, reserving a couple ounces of the starchy water. Immediately add the pasta and water to the pan with the shrimp. Remove the pan from heat and mix everything with tongs or a fork. You want the pasta coated with all the awesome flavors.
PLATE THAT SHIT.
There you go. Inside of ten minutes you’ve made an awesome seafood dish with just the right amount of heat. It’s fucking idiot proof.