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Shrimp with Vinegar Cream
Aug 24th, 2006



One of the interesting things about keeping this blog is that it allows me to step back a bit and notice how my kids' eating habits change over time. I know that someday my tall bird-boned Jay will turn into a ravenous teenager devouring everything in sight. But this is the boy who has been known to return halves of cookies because he was full, who actually will eat only as much icecream as he has room for rather than as much as he can possibly pile into a bowl (believe me he did not inherit this behavior from me) so there will be many small steps on the road to full-fledged teenaged food disposal status. He's starting to take those steps though, and I've got to tell you it's really messing with my routines to actually have to cook him dinner!

Now that sounds silly, after all I cook dinner almost every day and part of the aim of this blog is to document the struggle to find food my kids will eat. But keep in mind that up to now, neither of them have been particularly interested in dinner. Ian eats a lot, but he consumes most of his calories early in the day and is generally not all that into eating by the time dinner rolls around. A few bites of chicken or pork and maybe some rice or noodles and he's moved on to begging for dessert. And Jay has always been the nibbly sort - a bite of this and a bite of that and he's finished, so a plain chicken breast and some reheated noodles would usually suffice for the boys leaving me time to cook something more interesting for the adults. But now that Jay is cleaning his plate at dinner and trying new things and sometimes even asking for seconds I can't fob him off with cheese and crackers or leftovers any more. However his tastes certainly are not diverse yet, so I'm still limited in what I can serve him. This past week for dinner we've had roast chicken with roasted potatoes and broccoli, homemade mac-n-cheese with peas and a separate more adventurous casserole for Jim and me, and pork chops with corn on the cob and green beans. (Oh, and a trip to Burgermaster for cheeseburgers - shhhhh don't tell anyone but I don't cook every single night.) Jay ate every bite he was given, including vegetables, but if you've read this blog for any amount of time you know this isn't how I like to cook. A meat and a starch and a vegetable - aargh! I'm going to have to work on finding a balance between cooking things I'm pretty sure Jay will like and keeping enough variety and spice to keep me from going insane.

Anway, all this leadup was really just to say that Jay is gone for a few days - camping with his grandparents - and I'm free to try some more adventurous dishes. I've got a pile of cookbooks that I've read recently and need to review, so yesterday I grabbed the top one off the pile and took it with me to work. At lunchtime I decided on a recipe and picked up the ingredients at the grocery store - gourmet vinegar, shrimp, shallots, and tarragon - it was fabulous. The recipe came from the great Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher by John Ash which I will review here shortly. Ash's recipes tend to be based on a adaptable technique and this Shrimp with Vinegar Cream is no exception. The vinegar can be flavored with any kind of fruit - he suggests pear, apple, or plum - I found a champagne strawberry vinegar. The fresh herbs that flavor the vinegar cream are left up to the cook to determine what would go best with the vinegar in use. I chose tarragon as in my experience it partners well with cream and strawberries. And the cream sauce is not limited to topping shrimp. Ash suggests spooning it over anything quickly sauteed, like chicken, medallions of pork, or vegetables.

I chose not to include the optional fresh fruit in my vinegar cream and instead added fresh strawberries to my arugula and tomato side salad, dressing it with some of the strawberry vinegar. And rotini noodles (made with a whole wheat blend) served the two-fold function of sopping up the extra cream sauce and giving Ian something to eat for dinner. I loved the sauce, the cream and butter balance the tang of the vinegar perfectly and the tarragon adds just the right note of interest and freshness. Since I only cooked enough shrimp for two I've got plenty of leftover cream sauce and intend to try it out tomorrow over some quickly sauted medallions of pork.

One additional note, Ash does recommend brining the shrimp beforehand. I skipped this step thinking I did not have enough time, but now looking back over his notes the brine can be on for as little as five minutes so next time I'll definitely add this back in. He recommends either soaking peeled or unpeeled shrimp for five minutes to an hour in a liquid brine made of 1/3 cup kosher or sea salt and 1/3 cup brown sugar to one quart of water or using the dry method and coating shrimp with the salt and letting them sit for up to ten minutes. Rinse well with either brining method and your shrimp will be more juicy and firm without tasting salty.


Shrimp with Vinegar Cream
serves 4

1 pound large (16-20 size) shrimp
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots or green onion (green and white parts)
1/2 cup fragrant fruit vinegar, such as pear, apple, or plum [I used champagne strawberry vinegar]
2 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
1/4 cup diced fresh fruit, such as pears, or whatever the vinegar is flavored with (optional)
2 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs [I used tarragon]
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Prepare the shrimp (peel, devein, and brine if desired). Coarsely chop and reserve the shells.

Heat 2 tbsp of the butter and 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a good saute pan over medium-high heat and add the shallots and shrimp shells. Cook for a few minutes until lightly colored and then add the vinegar and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and cook until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit (approx 4 or 5 minutes). Then pour the liquid through a fine-meshed seive into a bowl, pressing down on the solids left in the seive to squeeze out all the yummy goodness.

Return the sauce to the pan and add the cream. Reduce some more until you have the consistency of a light sauce. Pull the pan off the heat and add the optional fruit, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a few more drops of vinegar if you need to balance the sauce.

Pour the sauce into a small pan and keep warm over low heat. Wipe out your pan, add the remaining butter and olive oil, and cook the shrimp until pink. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and serve, ideally with pasta, bread, or rice to soak up the yummy sauce.

-Cooking One on One by John Ash
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© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com