Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jacob

In consideration of Valentine's Day and keeping with the "romantic" theme of my Shrimp Fettuccini post, we've decided to share the recipe I prepared the night I proposed to Sady.  It's another shrimp recipe and, to be perfectly honest, there's nothing romantic about it (at least not in my mind).  But, somehow, the night unfolded the way it did and now we associate this recipe with that very significant event in our lives.

I'll set the scene very quickly.  It was early January and we were at my parents house.  My little sister had flown in from Dallas.  She and my mother were planning her wedding.  My best friend from high school was also in town.  We all decided it would be fun to invite him to the house and I would cook for everyone.

Before I go any further, I want to clarify something because this is taking shape as a strange engagement story and it's only going to get stranger when I reveal the recipe.  At this point, I still had not considered this to be the night that I propose marriage to Sady.  Having cleared that up, without further ado...

Image courtesy of Seoul Eats

Hot & Sour Shrimp

This recipe is involved, messy, and time consuming.  I would recommend peeling the shrimp and preparing the batter ahead of time.  That day, I multiplied this recipe several times (for reasons I'm not going to explain) and it took most of the day.  Just like with the Shrimp Fettuccini, I began with fresh shrimp from the Gulf (pre-BP oil spill).  And, just like with the Shrimp Fettuccini, it took a very, very long time to peel the shrimp.  The directions do all of the cooking in a wok. I recommend, however, frying the shrimp in a pan (or a deep frier if you've got one). Otherwise, because of the wok's concave shape, you'll be frying shrimp all day.  I'm also aware that most people in this country don't own woks.  Don't worry, a pan will work just fine.

Let's begin.  This is a two-step process.  We start with the batter.

Ingredients and Preparation of Shrimp Batter

1/3 lb. shrimp
1 egg white
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp. cooking wine or sherry
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Place the peeled shrimp in a large bowl.  Put 1 tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. water on the shrimp and gently work the salt-water solution into the shrimp.  Rinse the shrimp.  Continue rinsing until the water is clear; drain.  Add the wine and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt; mix.  Add the remaining 2 tbsp. water and mix.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Add the egg white and mix.  Add the cornstarch; mix.  Add the oil; mix.

This is a good stopping point if you're preparing this ahead of time.  Seal the bowl and place it in the refrigerator until you're ready to begin cooking.

Ingredients and Preparation of Hot & Sour Shrimp

1 c. cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying
2 tbsp. chopped green onions
1/2 tbsp. ginger root, chopped
1/2 tbsp. garlic, chopped
1 tsp. hot chili paste (adjust or delete as you desire)
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. vegetable oil

In a separate bowl, combine and mix the sugar, soy sauce, and white vinegar.  Set aside.

Add the cornstarch to the shrimp and batter mixture in very small increments mixing continuously to avoid clumping.  Heat the vegetable oil in the wok to medium heat.  Deep fry the shrimp for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the outside is crispy; drain and remove.  Remove the oil from the wok.

Reheat the wok then add 2 tbsp. vegetable oil.  Add green onions, ginger, and garlic.  Stir fry until ingredients are fragrant.  Add the sugar, soy sauce, and white vinegar mixture.  Bring to a boil then add the shrimp and sesame oil; mix.  When the sauce thickens slightly and begins to coat the shrimp, remove and serve.

If you still have the energy for it, have a seat and eat.

Back to the engagement story...

My friend left after dinner.  Soon after, my sister and parents went to see a band they were considering for my sister's wedding reception.  That left Sady and I alone at my parents' house.  I took a quick shower to remove the shrimp stench from my body and cornstarch from my hair.  When I finished, I found Sady watching television while sitting on the hearth of the brick fireplace where a fire had been burning all night.  I took a seat on the loveseat across from her.  She looked over at me and asked me to come sit by her.  On a whim, I dropped to one knee, apologized for not having a ring and for not first receiving her father's permission, and asked her to marry me.

And thus, ladies and gentlemen, we have the story of how hot & sour shrimp became the emblem of our marriage......

She said yes, by the way!

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