An astonishing thing happened today. I had a date (a cooking date, no less) with a handsome Frenchman and *he stood me up.* I kid you not. This has never happened before. I looked cute and had shaved my legs, for heaven's sake. I'm still sad and mad and thrown... but forgive me, dear reader. This is a food blog. I will not prattle on about feelings when there is cuisine to be discussed.
The plan was to go to the Hollywood Farmers Market, one of my favorite spots in L.A., then return to my place to cook. He was going to teach me how to pronounce the names of French recipes (hablo Espanol), and I would teach him how to make spinach risotto topped with an elegant shrimp scampi. Trés magnific, no? Cooking is sexy, French is sexy, and I have desperately wanted to know how to say bourguignonne for many years. Seriously.
I will spare you the depressing details, suffice to say I was a class act, he is fired and I should have listened more closely to my English grandfather's rabid denouncement of all things Frog as a child. Oh well. Maybe you were right, Grandad.
So as my icky day came to a close, I realized I still had a pound of thawed shrimp in my fridge waiting for some action. Raw shrimp (as with all creatures of the sea) should not sit in the fridge more than a day. The meat is too delicate. Far better to cook it the day you bought it and eat leftovers the next.
***A note on frozen shrimp: unless you have the good fortune to live in South Carolina or Louisiana, the shrimp you buy has been previously frozen. Most shrimp is flash-frozen on the boat or at the dock right after it's caught, then shipped halfway around the world. Even if it's "fresh" on ice at the fishmongers or grocery store, odds are good you're looking at thawed little suckers. I prefer to buy it raw and frozen, then thaw it myself under running cold water; that way I know exactly how long it's been sitting around (10 minutes, versus all day at the fish counter).
I couldn't bring myself to make the lovely risotto I'd planned, but instead walked to my corner grocery store and bought a lemon and some Italian parsley, and watched the sun set. Back at home I boiled some Italian spaghetti, then made my shrimp scampi. I sautéed garlic in some olive oil, then stirred in the thawed shrimp. When they were almost pink, I added some salt, lemon zest, the juice of half a lemon and some not-great Chardonnay (it was all I had). Stir stir stir. Let it reduce a little. Then I poured the pasta into the pan, along with the chopped parsley and a knob of fantastic Irish butter. Used tongs to mix it all up, and voila: Stood-Up Scampi fit for a queen. I put Michael Penn's newest CD on the stereo, lit a candle, and poured myself a glass of the suspect Chardonnay. I used the tongs to swirl the pasta into a pretty cone shape in the rimmed bowl (I learned that watching Lidia Bastianich, she's so cool), and invited the Goddess to join me for dinner.
And you know, it was delicious. The shrimp was tender, the pasta firm, and the bright lemon flavor was balanced by the mellow garlic. Fortunately the conversation was witty and engaging, the candlelight gave everything a soft glow, and the cook! Well, let's just say anyone would be lucky to share a meal with this lady.
serves 3-4, or 1 with great leftovers
1/2 pound good spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 big cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 pound shrimp, thawed, rinsed, shelled except for tails
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (add more if it makes you happy)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus some for sprinkling
2 tablespoons butter (the best you've got)
In large pot of salted water, boil spaghetti until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain.
Meanwhile, in large nonstick skillet sauté garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp, sprinkle with salt and sauté until nearly pink, about 3 minutes. Add lemon zest, juice, and wine; simmer until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour in pasta, chopped fresh parsley, and butter. Using tongs, mix until butter is melted and pasta is incorporated into sauce. Serve warm in rimmed soup bowls, sprinkled with additional parsley.