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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Before The Turkey

The last few days before Thanksgiving can be a funky time for food.  We're all thinking about roast turkey, side dishes, and desserts.  Not only are we thinking about them, we are usually prepping them for the big day and getting everything organized. I don't want to eat anything on those funky days prior to the big meal that has anything to do with the flavors of Thanksgiving.  I want to anticipate the aromas, textures, and tastes of Thanksgiving while waiting for the actual day to unfold itself in gutteral gluttonous glory. 
Retaurants and fast food chains can be tricky during the funky days, offering turkey, cranberry, and dressing sandwiches.  Pre holiday offices parties can also pose problems for the pre-Thanksgiving-day-meal taste avoiders with their joyous holiday potluck lunches.  Why can't everyone just wait?  There is nothing better than those first bites of the Thanksgiving meal.

It takes will power.

We have been strong.  A few nights ago, I prepared an appetizer buffet for Arts & Appetizers, an event sponsored by the Lexington Opera House.  It lasted through our dinner hour, so we ate a few nibbles from the buffet: Teriyaki Meatballs with fresh ginger, sesame seeds, cilantro, and pineapple; smoked salmon with capers, minced egg yolks, minced egg whites, minced purple onions, and capers; and Salmon Caviar-topped new potatoes with sour cream.  Later that night we ate cheese on crackers while watching  television.

A couple of nights ago, we ordered out for chinese delivery and devoured plump thick steamed pork dumplings with a sweet soy sesame dipping sauce.  I loved taking  small bites from the ends of the dumplings, pouring the dipping sauce into the cavities, and eating them whole for  porky dumpling-sauce-filled  mouth explosions. Yep. Messy.  So good.
Thaksgiving flavors averted.
Last night, I needed to clear space in our refrigerator and freezer  for the upcoming Thanksgiving leftovers.  I had a bag of lemons, heavy cream, purple pearl onions, a scraggily green pepper, grape tomatoes, and fresh pasta from a meal that never materialized.  Jumbo shrimp was occupying valuable space in the freezer, so I pulled it out to thaw.  The ingrediants practically cooked themselves.

It was an embarrassingly simple no recipe recipe.

I prepped everything in advance knowing the actually cooking would go fast.  Stir fry fast.  I diced the pepper, split the tomatoes,  peeled the purple onions, thinly sliced  garlic cloves, and set  them aside. Before juicing two lemons, I pulled thin zest strips from the skin  to use as garnish.

I sauteed the onions, peppers, and garlic in butter until translucent.  After they had softened without browning, I tossed  the halved grape tomatoes into the pan to break down and release their juices.  Once the tomatoes  collapsed, I  poured in 1/2 cup of lemon juice along with thinly sliced lemon wheels and let the lemon juice reduce before adding 1 cup of heavy cream,1/2 cup of parmigiano reggiano (rule breaking),  minced parsley, salt, and pepper. 

While the lemon cream bubbled away, I got a cast iron grill pan smoking hot before carefully placing the seasoned, peeled, and deviened jumbo shrimp onto the smoking grill ridges. The shrimp crackled, spat, and popped as it sizzled over the high heat.  Before turning the shrimp over to mark the other side, I tossed fresh linguini into the cream bath to simmer, absorb, and finish cooking.

I pulled the shrimp from the heat, twirled the linguini into large pasta bowls, and wedged the shrimp around the pasta.  I tumbled a few whole grape tomatoes around our plates along with  thinly sliced lemon wheels for bursts of freshness.  Fleur de sel, lemon zest,  and parsley finished it off.

The pasta totally absorbed the creamy lemon sauce.  Each linguine strand was gorgeously coated with buttery lemon alfredo sauce. Interesting.  I didn't realize pasta could absorb that much sauce.  It wasn't swimming in a cream bath, it became  the cream bath. Weird.  Though rich, it wasn't icky rich.  The fresh lemon juice lightened and brightened it.  The tomatoes added very sweet acidiity while the tiny pearl onions popped with quiet  pungency. The seared shrimp snapped when bitten, revealing moist briny meat.
Unbelievable good.  Slurpingly good. Linguini strands slapped our cheeks between bites of shrimp. Creamy lemony cheesy facials.  Wet naps? Nope. Tongues were made  for licking.
We  survived the final Thanksgiving preparation days without tasting Thanksgiving flavors.

We can't wait for tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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