Monday, January 30, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jacob: A New Culinary Series

I was looking over my past posts and realized that I haven't done a cooking feature in a very long time.  I love trying out new dishes and sharing my culinary success stories with others, so I decided I would start a new series:  In the Kitchen with Jacob.  You are probably thinking, "Great!  But, who is Jacob?" Well my friends, Jacob is the proper name for my Hubs.  Given that he is a far more superior cook than me, I decided to let him author this series.  So, here goes...

For the inaugural post, I thought I would share with you the recipe that won me a wife.  We had not been dating long when I asked her if I could cook for her.  When she said yes, I decided to pull out what was possibly the best, and most involved recipes in my repertoire.  I’ll share with you not only how I make it, but also a few subtle date night tricks that, until now, my wife never knew I considered so carefully that night.

Image courtesy of Closet Cooking

Fettuccine with Shrimp & Garlic


4 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for finishing

3 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, or large shrimp halved

½ tsp. grated orange zest



½ cup dry white wine

14½ oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped

8 oz. dried fettuccine or spaghetti

3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

How to Make

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta.  In a large skillet over low heat, combine the olive oil and garlic.  Cook gently, stirring, until the garlic is just fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 2 to 4 minutes; don’t let it brown or crisp.  Add the shrimp and zest; season with salt and pepper.  Raise the heat to medium high and sear the shrimp quickly just until they turn bright pink, about 1 minute on each side – they don’t need to be cooked through at this point.  Add the wine and let it simmer for 1 minute.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook until heated through.  Set aside over very low heat if the pasta is not yet ready.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta until just tender.  Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta.  Add the pasta and half of the reserved cooking liquid to the skillet.  Gently simmer for a few minutes so the flavors meld and the pasta can drink up the sauce.  Stir in the parsley, taste for salt and pepper, and serve warm with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

I usually serve this with orange slices and garlic bread.

A Few Comments and Tips

You don’t have to be a classically trained chef (as I certainly am not) to know that the fresher the ingredients, the better the dish.  I had a jar of chopped tomatoes that my father grew and jarred himself.  I also had access to fresh, whole shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico (this was before the BP oil spill).  Everything else was gathered from the supermarket that afternoon.  However, I’ve made this dish before with packaged shrimp and canned tomatoes from the supermarket and the results didn’t meet standards.

They say don’t cook with wine that you won’t drink.  Because I was cooking on a budget in those days, I went with a pinot grigio from Yellow Tail.  This is an Australian brand that typically only costs about $12 per bottle.  For us, it worked.  You’ll only need half a cup for cooking.  The rest you can serve chilled with your dinner…which brings me to my first date night tip.  After half a cup of the wine is used for cooking, there’s not a lot left to share between you and your date.  Once it’s gone, don’t open another bottle.  You don’t want your date to wonder if you have a drinking problem.  At the same time, it’s good to show that you can stop after a glass or two.  It may seem silly that I feel the need to even comment on this, but for any guys that might be reading this, never forget that a woman will watch you and analyze everything little thing you do.  Then they’ll discuss it with their friends.  Don’t think for a second that her friends won’t accuse you of trying to take advantage of her!

I chose not to peel the shrimp before the date started.  It takes a long time to peel and devein such an amount.  This gave me an excuse to extend the date a little longer.  If it’s fresh, there will be no unpleasant odor.  But even if it’s a problem, it will soon be replaced by the sweet fragrances of the wine and orange zest cooking in the pan.


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