It’s easy to say that we’ll save money by not eating out as much, but the truth of the matter is that after a day of school and/or a day of work, sometimes I come home and I don’t want to cook anything. Or I run into situations like last week when, even in November, it was in the upper 80s and cooking in our little apartment would be unbearable. (Our go-to meal that week was bun thit nuong at Le Saigon, just down the street from our new place! It doesn’t really meet the authentic hole-in-the-wall standards of the Vietnamese restaurants in San Jose, but it’s the closest and it’s three blocks from us with outdoor seating.) Writing down a whole week’s worth of meals really helps because I can plan the grocery shopping in one go, so even when I’m tired, at least I don’t have to run around and pick up a lime or a can of tomato paste or whatever teeny little thing is sometimes missing from the pantry yet crucial to the recipe.
Tom and I picked up this chalkboard at an office supply store in San Jose for about $50. I really wanted to paint one of the walls with chalkboard paint, but we never got around to it. Not only were we renting, but the walls had a texture that might have been difficult to layer with that paint.
I didn’t plan a menu for this week because it’s a short one (we’re leaving Thursday morning to go to a friend’s wedding in St. Louis), so I was kind of stumped because I didn’t want to make anything that would result in leftovers sitting in the fridge for the next four days. (Monday was Korean BBQ night at Gui Rim; Tuesday was bacon wrapped asparagus, green beans with Hollandaise sauce, and leftover potato leek soup.) Luckily, the ingredients I had lying around chose the portion size for me. It was probably inspired by the shrimp and grits from Bayonne, so I looked at a few recipes, but since I didn’t have everrrrything, I kind of made it up as I went along based on the common herbs and spices I saw in the four or five recipes that looked good. I didn’t measure out anything because I was just using up what I had, so I estimated the measurements.
SHRIMP & POLENTA
Half a roll of Trader Joe’s organic polenta
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Provolone, shredded (most recipes use American, cheddar, or Jack)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Maybe 1/2 T butter if it’s not creamy enough
salt & pepper
I put everything in a pot over medium heat, using a whisk to break up the polenta and mixing the other stuff. Yeah… not very culinarily sophisticated. Season it until it’s fucking delicious.
bacon fat, about 1 Tb (I have no idea how much I used… it was leftover from when I made potato leek soup)
8 LARGE shrimp (I used some frozen wild blue something or other from Trader Joe’s, leftover from linguine in fire-roasted tomato sauce), peeled, deveined, tail-on (I actually don’t prefer tail-on because it’s a pain to get that last little bit of meat, but it’s prettier)
1 T butter
Mix of paprika, chili/cayenne pepper, dried oregano, thyme (from my brand new thyme plane from OSH!), seasoned salt to coat shrimp
1 small shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green onion/scallion, diced
1/2 T tomato paste (just to give it body; this was also leftover from the linguine recipe)
Melt bacon fat & butter in a pan. It will probably smell awesome. Don’t worry, it will get better. Mix some vaguely Creole-ish spices together. I’ve never made Creole food, so I looked up a bunch of recipes to see what kind of herbs and spices matched best, and what’s listed above is what I had in my pantry. I mixed it together in a shallow bowl, patted the shrimp dry, and coated them one by one before placing them in the bacon fat and butter on medium high. After a little while, I added the chopped garlic, shallots, and green onion and turned the shrimp. Sauteed them for a bit, added a little tomtao sauce for extra flavor. When the outside of the shrimp were looking nice and dark with pink peeking through, I turned off the heat.
Divide polenta into two shallow dishes, add shrimp, them pour on extra fatty juicy stuff from the pan. Garnish with more green onions. Eat it. Use some bread to soak up the extras.