Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Thing to Do with Shrimp Heads

The squeamish ones, those who did not eat the heads from their fried shrimp at dinner on Friday night - stir fried whole shrimp in XO sauce and Thai coconut soup - have done us a favor. They left us with the most flavorful and delicate part of what I believe is an occasionally misunderstood ingredient. I think that shrimp are misunderstood because the rich and tender bodies are only half of the point.

Some folks have a hard time eating faces, but if you look around the world - from broiled salmon head and hamachi kama in Japan, to headcheese in France, to halibut cheek in China, and to whole roast pork in...well... everywhere - you will find many sumptuous and memorable flavors. All well worth the "look your food in the eye" factor.
Asian Shrimp Bisque 2
The "look your food in the eye" factor is the very center of what I call The Diner's Dilemma, which is: How am I to feel about the living creatures that I eat? I still don't really have a comfortable answer for that, so today I like to use the Native American response: Use every part of the animal to the best of your ability and treat the animal (the ingredient) with respect. Also, I enjoy every morsel. Waste not, want not and all.

So, with the moral issues out of the way, the shrimp heads sauteed momentarily at the bottom of a stock pot with ginger, scallions, half an onion, coriander seeds, galangal, five spice powder, a bay leaf, garlic, two teaspoons of XO sauce and 3 quarts of water. This was gently boiled for 2 hours, adding water every 30 minutes or so when the contents had reduced by half.

Asian Shrimp Bisque 1This boiled down to about 1 quart of lightly flavored broth which was strained through a chiniose. After straining the solid remnants were pressed to force the remaining liquid back into the pot with the rest of the broth. To this was added about 2 cups of half-and-half. It should have been heavy cream, but healthier aspirations won out. This reduced by one quarter then finished with two tablespoons of butter and was set aside for a few moments before service.

Pan-fried chicken dumplings went into a wide, shallow bowl followed by the soup and a garnish of sliced scallion.

The soup was light and flavorful. The shrimp heads definitely polished an unique facet in the flavor and the herbs and spices were pretty well balanced, being warm and savory and not too bright. A roux and some heavy cream would have made it a solid wintertime soup but it was nice for a warmish fall afternoon. Next time it will get sauteed shrimp for some variety in the texture.

Total cook time was 2.5 hours. Total work time was 25 minutes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Drinking Wine and Good Beer

A lot about wine and good beer is tradition and vintage and process and knowledge and expensive.

Much, much more about it is flavor and alcohol and, actually, pretty cheap.

All I really have to say about wine and good beer, other than what I like or don't like on an evening-to-evening basis, is that if you drink it from a glass, sip it in quantities big enough to paint your entire palate with its flavor. Don't go just gulping it down and wasting the gentle notes. Don't just imbibe so gently that you don't get to know the thick end of it either.

Wine and good beer are delicious and nuanced things. Try drinking it in varying sizes of sip and see what new flavors pop out. There are layers and layers of different flavors in every bottle.

Buy one bottle cheap. If you like it, go back for more because sometimes there's a limited supply of the great cheap stuff.

Also, if you're going to drink wine or good beer straight from the bottle, chug it. And, don't share.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dinner Tonight - 8.18.09

I got home from work this evening and found the king oyster, cremini and bunapi mushrooms in the fridge along with baby eggplant and baby broccoli. We're eating lots of babies here at The Lang House. In the freezer were 6 frozen shrimp (15-21s). The pantry had quinoa - the sole grain component of the evening and a whole one at that.

With this we made four dishes:

Quinoa Pilaf with Caramelized Onions, Garlic and Bunapi Mushrooms.

From Dinner 8-18-09

Starting in a 12 inch non-stick pan with olive oil over moderate-to-high heat and after sauteing minced garlic we added the bunapi mushrooms; cooking them until golden and soft-but-chewy. Then the left over caramelized onions from Spanish tortillas that we had over the weekend went in with some of the oil they cooked in. Last the quinoa is tossed in and the heat is turned way up. We salted and tossed the pan then fluffed the quinoa on top and let the bottom fry to a golden crisp. It was then tossed again and served.

Just Cremini Mushrooms

From Dinner 8-18-09

Simply, these were made very hot on all sides, saute-style, in a tablespoon of olive oil over moderate-to-high heat. You don't need to, but if you like you can salt them to taste after cooking them to a golden brown. Served cold tonight, they would be great hot too. Maybe with sage butter for fat nights.

Slow Stir Fry of Baby Eggplant with Sliced King Oyster Mushrooms and Shrimp

From Dinner 8-18-09

Eggplants were trimmed and sliced in half. Then, opposite of the cut side, a thick strip was peeled. They were salted and let to drip for 20 minutes, rinsed and then firmly dried. We laid them in a medium-hot, non-stick pan with a bit of olive oil and let them saute for 6 minutes. After that they were flipped and let to cook for 3 more minutes. The cut side, now facing up, was painted with a light paste made of light miso, soy sauce, a little bit of albariƱo wine and a dash of water to loosen it up. Once the eggplant cooked they were set aside.

Next the sliced king oyster mushrooms were sauteed in a dash of soy sauce and a teaspoon of raw sugar until soft and chewy and then set on top of the eggplant in a bowl. The shrimp were sliced into three pieces and marinated in the same paste as the eggplant. The eggplant and mushrooms were tossed together into a 12 inch non-stick pan to heat through and the shrimp were tossed in to the pan to cook for 60 seconds. It was served hot.

The baby broccoli was par steamed and then finished in salt, pepper, olive oil and minced garlic and finished with Shaoxing cooking wine. It was the last hot dish and got eaten too quickly for a picture.

Bottom line? Too many mushrooms! Those dishes were solid on their own - even worth repeating - but not all at once. The quinoa pilaf with a grilled steak. The miso eggplant with white rice. And, the broccoli with anything. Also, three out of four dishes were brown in color - not too much tonal variety there.

All of it went nicely with a 2007 AlbariƱo by Martin Codax ($13.99).

From Dinner 8-18-09

Friday, June 19, 2009

Front Runner for Best Build a Burger Program

Summer is here in DC, and I (having recently moved back home from LA) am working on reacquainting myself with the best burgers in town.

Without that goal in mind, I met a cousin in Cleveland Park for some beer and a chat. We settled on Cleveland Park Bar and Grill if only for the fact that they sell Yuengling on the cheap.

Hidden deep within their Sandwiches and More section resides one very well prepared CP Burger. Now that, in and of itself is not unique.

What is unique is the little italicized copy after the standard "Add American, cheddar, Swiss, provolone, bacon or grilled onions $1 each" that reads "or add any pizza topping."*

Their list of toppings can be found below, but let me make this clear: The sheer quantity of flavor permutations are extraordinary. Meats like speck, prosciutto, and salami are of great quality. Cheeses like asiago, Swiss, goat and others are perfect for pairing. Other toppings - capers, sun dried tomatoes, eggplant - are fresh and serve as excellent sources for creative texture and flavor combinations.

My selection was prepared medium-rare with capicollo and gorgonzola. It was juicy and splendid. The fries were solid - nothing spectacular - but as the standard accompaniment they served adequately.

The burger alone will bring me back, but if you need more coaxing hit the bullets below.

  • Outstanding build a burger program
  • Good beer selection with 12 beers on tap, 22 in the bottle
  • Smart, friendly, attentive and spot-on service
  • Small deck area - try to catch it early
  • Tons of TVs loaded with sports programming

    421 Connecticut Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20008
    Phone: (202) 806-8940

    *Toppings include, but are not limited to:

    Fresh mozzarella, ricotta, arugula, onions, mushrooms, capers, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, sun dried tomatoes, green Sicilian olives, black Gaeta olives, egg, anchovie $1/ea

    Pancetta, salami, capicollo, grilled chicken, Gorgonzola, mascarpone, Asiago, Parmigiano Reggiano, goat cheese, roasted red and green peppers, sliced tomatoes, artichokes $2/ea

    Italian ham, Parma prosciutto, speck, Coppa, mortadella, Italian sausage, smoked salmon $3/ea

    DC Live!

    Stomach Brain is back in Washington, DC.

    Hungry too!

    More to come shortly...