Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fun with Shrimp

Fun with Shrimp, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
...Not! The gumbo was a hot mess...but it's all about the journey right?
I needed some distance to reflect on my labored and unfortunate attempt at preparing my first gumbo, to evaluate if I'd ever want to go there again. Whether I do or not it seems that my little kitchen debacles need as much reflection as the successes, even more so.
A few posts ago I wrote about my Test Kitchen Dummy requesting gumbo when I pressed him for something special to make him for his birthday.
I chose this Alton Brown recipe, compelled by his use of  whole shrimp and baked roux. A good fish stock using all that shrimp detritus seemed like a fine idea. No short cuts for this gal when all fired up to attempt something new and strange to the little kitchen. It's all about the journey right? What better way to introduce myself to the uncharted territory of preparing shell fish.
As I had mentioned in the Gumbo post, I google the crap out of every new adventure. Yet, as I stood there over that 2 pound bag of fresh shrimp, roux already baking in the oven, I had no idea what to do with it. Hadn't googled that part. No internet in the little kitchen. Too late to turn back now.
I did know, after watching an episode of Simply Ming ages ago, that fresh shrimp needs to be kept cold while you work with it. So at least I had bowls of ice at the ready. Yay me...uhmnn... Ming!
Now what? I examine a shrimp. Cut the head off or pull it off? I try pulling it off and I'm wincing at the mess already...and all that orange ooooze...BLECH! Do I rinse that off? None of the cookbooks I yanked out mentioned the ooooze. Pull apart the shell and pull off the legs. Uh...check. On to the de-veining. Well, It doesn't take a Julia Child to realize THAT is not a vein. Stop. Consult Bittman and my Cooks Illustrated bible of 2000 recipes. Oh and there's what seems to be a perfectly good recipe for Gumbo right there. Too late to switch gears now. Ok... make a slice along the bottom and pull it out. More BLECH!  What the hell have I gotten myself into?
Alton instructs to clean the shrimp during the 90 minutes the roux is baking...took me a lot longer than that so the recipe's 3 1/2 hour prep/cook time took closer to 5. It's all about the journey.
I couldn't journey into the stock until the shrimp were cleaned and the stock then needed time to reduce. It was late and I was hitting the wall. The journey was growing tiresome. That's when I screwed it all up. I got impatient (I was tired) and I just strained and dumped all the stock into the pot before it was sufficiently reduced. I didn't look back at the recipe  and use the slow pour whilst wisking technique (I used a wooden spoon 'cuz I forgot to switch) necessary to  create emulsion. I forgot I was emulsifying.
Needless to say, the Gumbo was not only watery because the ratio of stock to roux was off, the roux didn't emulsify into the stock so there were tiny globules of roux floating in the stock. It was a hot mess.
Yet, when all was said and done, it didn't completely suck. The texture was way off, but it actually tasted surprisingly good, or so I had convinced myself and keep from hurling the  whole disappointing pot against the wall and curl up into a sobbing heap on the floor. It's about the journey.
I was to drop off the next day. The upside is that it was never meant to be consumed that night or served for guests. I had no idea how this was going to turn out in the re-heat and almost called the whole thing off. I didn't. The next day my TKD called to thank me for the amazing gumbo. I thought he was kidding but he wasn't.

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