August 27, 2009

Basics: Working with Shrimp (Jennie-style)

Posted in Basic Techniques tagged at 6:34 pm by jenniec00ks

This is by no means the only way to work with shrimp, but it’s just how I do it to keep things as inexpensive and simple as possible.

Shrimp Facts:

1. The U.S. has standardized the packaging of shrimp.  You will always see a “shrimp count” on the package, and sometimes a relative name to go with it (“large, small, jumbo”).  The “shrimp count” is the approximate number it would take that size of shrimp to weigh a pound.  For example, (some) “Extra Jumbo” shrimp are labeled “16/20” and it takes 16-20 of thses shrimps to comprise a pound.

2. Typically, the smaller the shrimp, the smaller the price.  Unfortunately, the greater repetitions of peeling you must endure.

3. The more processing that has been done on the shrimp, the more expensive it is.  Processing ranges from: Raw head-on, raw head-less, raw deveined shell-on, raw deveined and peeled, cooked tail-on, cooked peeled.

4.  Raw, whole, fresh shrimp have the most flavor.

5. Shrimp have a black string-like thingie down the back – it’s a digestive track.  It does not HAVE to be removed, but usually is because it’s gritty in texture and aesthetically unappealing.

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Shrimp Rules, Jennie-style:

1. Raw 31/35 or 31/40 ez-peel shrimp (usually correspond to about “Large”) are the most cost-efficient for the amount of work needed to be done.  “Ez-peel” shrimp are raw and sliced down the back to make them easier to peel and usually the vein is removed.

2. If the shrimp in the case looks good & inexpensive and you’re going to use it in the next few hours, go ahead and get it.  But I always, always, keep a FROZEN 1 or 2 pound bag of 31/35 ez-peel shrimp around.  In Texas & Atlanta, I try to keep the cost to no more than $5.50 per pound.

3. To thaw shrimp, soak them in COLD water for 5 minutes, then peel/wash them under running cold water (the running water makes it easier.)

4. Unless you can throw out the shells somewhere far away immediately, pour some boiling water over them and tie them up in a plastic bag until you can throw them out.  An alternative for the extra savvy, you can freeze them raw and wait until you have enough to make shrimp stock.

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August 15, 2009

Basics: Roasted Red Bell Peppers

Posted in Basic Techniques tagged at 7:20 pm by jenniec00ks

I know you can get these in a jar, but for that extra special occasion, try roasting your own.  They’re truly amazing.  This is the broiler method, as I’ve never had a gas stove.  You can rinse the peppers if you’d like, but make sure they are completely dry before roasting them.

roastedredpepper 001Just put the whole pepper as close to the top heating element as possible without touching it.  I also rolled up some foil and stuck it in the doorway to keep the heating element on all the time.

roastedredpepper 002Each side only takes 1-2 minutes to blacken, so I’d stay near the broiler.  Use tongs to rotate the peppers approximately a quarter turn to blacken all sides.

roastedredpepper 003When they’re fully blackened, put them in a paper sack.  Alternatively, you could put them in a bowl and put some plastic wrap on top.

roastedredpepper 004After about 15 minutes, they should be cool enough to handle.  The left one above could be a little more blackened.  Just pull on the skin and it should slip right off.

roastedredpepper 005

That’ll make them nice and pliable to slice right up.  =)  Enjoy!

August 13, 2009

Basics: Dicing an onion

Posted in Basic Techniques tagged at 9:00 pm by jenniec00ks

prep-010Cut off the top and bottom of the onion.prep-011Make a shallow cut down the side.prep-013Peel the papery layer off the onion. If the layer underneath doesn’t look so good, then you can pull that too, but it’s not necessary.prep-016

Cut the onion in half and lets start dicing! We’re going to make several cuts in 3 different directions.prep-017Step 1. Leave the onion connected at the end farthest from the knife (the part where my fingers are holding the onion)prep-021Another view of the onion after step 1.prep-022Step 2. The cuts are horizontal, with the knife parallel to the cutting board. Keep your fingers out the way by pressing down on the top of onion.prep-030Finally, make the third cut and you’ve got nicely sized pieces 🙂prep-032Since they’re still connected at the edge, I give that extra piece a rough chop; holding the tip of the knife steady.

Basics: Dicing a bell pepper

Posted in Basic Techniques tagged at 5:13 pm by jenniec00ks

lasagna 005Turn the bell pepper upside down (stem side down) and cut about halfway down.

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Pull the bell pepper apart to expose the seeds.lasagna 008

Pull the seeds out and the top around the stem should come with it.lasagna 011

Cut each half into strips from the inside out, makes it a little easier I find.lasagna 012

Then collect the large strips and hold them together to make a cut through all.

lasagna 013Voila!