Everyone who knows me knows I am small, a shrimp, so to say. But though I enjoy eating some seafood, especially shrimp, I never was able to cook the stuff well, or at least to my satisfaction. They would get overcooked or seemed tasteless, and the time spent processing them was hardly worth the result.
At last, I have prepared a shrimp dish I really thought was excellent. First I should say that I am not used to cooking seafood, except fish, and never saw my mother prepare it because I am Jewish, and seafood, aside from fish with scales, is verboten for Jews who keep kosher. Though I don't follow the laws of kashruth, I feel a bit ambivalent about the stuff. It is just not what I am used to, and, like many Jewish people, I have allergies to certain kinds of seafood--scallops and lobster, which seem to be too rich for me to digest well.
However, after reading Saturday's meager offerings on the food page, I got an idea for a dish. In an offhand kind of way, the writer mentioned a combination of ingredients that sounded very good: shrimp, chives, shallots, and mayonnaise. There was no recipe. I was left to imagine all the various ways to combine these. First I thought of Hong Kong dim sum, which frequently combines juicy, succulent shrimp with mayonnaise, as in shrimp with carmelized walnuts, one of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes. Then, of course, the obvious shrimp salad.
When I had made shrimp salad in the past, it was tasteless and watery, but I was inspired to try it again. First, I combined extremely fresh shrimp, with head off and shell on. I boiled the water and dropped the shrimp in whole, unshelled and uncleaned. Boiling them for only a couple of minutes, just till it turned pink and no longer, I quickly scooped them out and ran them under cold water in a colander, so they would stop cooking, shelled, and cleaned them.
Then I cut up a large shallot very fine, squeezed in a Meyer lemon (my favorite kind because of their sweet spiciness!), and spooned out about 1/2 cup of olive oil mayonnaise. I decided to throw in some capers too, and a few fronts of chopped fresh dill, and scattered the pale green Chinese chives on the top before I mixed the whole thing to produce a lovely salad, which tasted as good as it looked.
On the side, I served some asparagus roasted in the toaster oven with garlic and freshly ground sea salt and some orzo pasta mixed with more lemon juice, parsley, and a taste of olive oil.
It looked and tasted restaurant worthy! I guess watching all those cooking shows is paying off.