Greetings friends!!! Before I begin with this week’s culinary anecdote, I want to start with a few announcements. First - it is important for you to know that as I sit down to write this missive, I am late for my deadline. Despite my best intentions, the day has run away from me… So, to the lovely ladies at the Fallon Post: Please accept my most sincere apologies! This week has been a whirlwind of excitement--the skies have cleared (a little), the heat has broken (briefly), and it seems like there is much to look forward to on the horizon.
I was delighted to read Farmer Jaime’s article last week about cocktail gardens! I especially appreciated her mention of lovage--my husband gets a starry look in his eyes as he reminisces about the epic potato salad I crafted with Jaime’s lovage as an essential and irreplaceable ingredient. Unfortunately, that potato salad (like many of my culinary creations) was born at a particular time and place. It included ingredients that just happened to be available in my fridge at the perfect moment (lovage, homemade Caesar dressing, etc.) and thus is not easily replicable on demand, much to my husband's chagrin.
Today is not the day that I share my potato salad secrets. Instead, I want to equip you with an extremely easy recipe and technique that will allow you to utilize the myriad of fresh ingredients that can be harvested from a cocktail garden. AND I want to tell you about a truly spectacular dinner that I cooked up last Sunday night.
A great technique to capture the flavors of herbs, fruits, veggies, and flowers from your garden and serve them up in a beverage is to make a simple syrup. At its most basic, simple syrup is a mixture of equal parts sugar and water. All it takes to make simple syrup is to measure 1 cup of sugar into a saucepot, add one cup of water, and heat, stirring regularly until the sugar is dissolved. Simple syrup can be used as a base for lemonade (just use lemon juice), as a way to capture and preserve the floral flavors from a summer garden (add lilac petals, rose petals, or the edible flowers of your choice), and to add a kick of cucumber or mint to a G&T. Add your chosen flavoring ingredient to the sugar & water base and let it all steep together for 15-30 minutes then strain out the solids and let cool.
If you are a shrimp-eater and in the mood for a quick and easy dinner that will make your taste buds do backflips in delight and ecstasy, I have a perfect dish for you! I knew that this Salt and Pepper Shrimp Sandwich was going to be a winner at first glance. But the fireworks in my mouth have caused me to designate it one-of-a-kind. It was so good that I ate it without stopping to take a photo! So good that part of my delay in completing my contributorship responsibilities for the Post in a timely and respectful manner is due to a provisioning trip to gather ingredients to make this dish again tonight!
The shrimp in this recipe are briefly soaked in milk, coated in cornstarch and lightly fried. The breading is light, crunchy, and the perfect base for a generous seasoning of salt and mixed Sichuan pepper. A lightly toasted bun with garlic aioli is the vehicle to shovel mounds of crispy, salty, spicy shrimp into your mouth, garnished with fresh cilantro and sliced Fresno chiles. And That’s It! It is a remarkably simple dish - but the tastiest ones often are.
Salt and Pepper Shrimp Sandwich
- ⅓ lb of shrimp per sandwich (3 sandwiches = 1lb shrimp) - size doesn’t matter but I used 21-25 ct shrimp. Peeled and Deveined
- 1 T Salt
- 2 T Sichuan Pepper Mix (a mix of black, red, white, and Sichuan peppercorns--this mix is available in a grinder at Safeway)
- 1 cup whole milk - preferably Sand Hill Dairy
- 1 cup cornstarch
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 Fresno chiles (they look like red jalapenos) - thin sliced
- ½ cup cilantro leaves - roughly chopped or picked into 2” long threads
- ½ c mayonnaise
- 2 cloves of garlic - minced
- Your preferred sandwich or hotdog bun
- Combine together salt and ground pepper mix. Season shrimp liberally with salt and pepper mix and soak in whole milk
- Drain shrimp and coat well in cornstarch - pressing to adhere.
- Heat 1” of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until a thermometer reads 350 degrees (alternatively use a home fry basket).
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and garlic.
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spread garlic aioli liberally on your buns and toast them in the skillet until golden brown. Transfer to plates.
- Working in two batches, fry shrimp in oil until crispy and cooked through, turning about halfway through--about 2 minutes. Transfer cooked shrimp to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and season with more of the pepper mixture.
- To assemble - smear some more garlic mayonnaise on the toasted buns, then divide shrimp evenly amongst the sandwiches. Top with sliced Fresno chiles, cilantro, and more pepper mix. Serve with lime wedges.
Kelli Kelly -Slinger of Produce. Slurper of Dumplings. Person of the Bean.