Tonight, after a long absence, I returned to the Cheese School of San Francisco for a class about Portuguese Cheese and Wine. I enjoy subjects like these, focused and unfamiliar to me. I’ve tasted many different cheeses over the years, but I can’t say that any have been from Portugal.
It’s been on our todo list for a long time to put together some kind of emergency kit. It all started with a trip to the Container Store a few weeks ago. While we were there, we decided to buy an extra 41.2qt watertight tote for that emergency kit we’d always been talking about.
Lately I’ve been trying to cut back a bit on my weeknight alcohol consumption (mostly for the sake of calories), which means occasionally I end up with an opened bottle of red wine or two, especially after having friends over. So as to not let good wine go to waste, I’ve been using the excess in an adapted version of Alton Brown’s recipe for Coq au Vin—literally “rooster with wine” in French. Generally I’ve broken the recipe up over two or three (or four or five) days, depending on our dinnertime schedule. On the surface, it sounds like a significant time investment, but it’s really all about the convenience of doing a little bit each day to bring the dish to completion. Often on the first day, I’ll cook two dinners in parallel, starting with something easy, like a quiche, and then once it’s in the oven, I do all the initial prep for the coq au vin.
Last night I read an article about poaching shrimp in a butter emulsion called beurre monté, in order to impart the richness of lobster. Sounded simple and fun, something I hadn’t done before, so tonight I stopped at the market to pick up half a pound of shrimp and some salted butter. Making the sauce was easy: simmer a few tablespoons of water and then whisk in an obscene amount of butter. Then drop the shrimp in, peeled and deveined, and poach till they turn pink.
Couscous seemed the most natural accompaniment, so I boiled water to rehydrate a quarter cup each. We also had some arugula that wasn’t going to last forever, so I put the good bits in a large bowl along with a handful of pine nuts, and a healthy amount of cheese grated from the ends of two different types. I whipped together a quick vinaigrette with the juice of a meyer lemon, some olive oil, salt, and pepper and combined everything together with the couscous, which had cooled slightly.
I served the couscous salad in our deep plates with a ring of the butter-poached shrimp on top. It looked lovely. They did taste faintly of lobster, but more than that, the dish as whole evoked a lighter, more refined version of shrimp and grits, the classic southern dish. I think it was the grated cheese. Maybe next time lardons?
I heat up two pans over medium heat, one a 10 inch stainless steel skillet large enough to fit a fajita-size tortilla, which in my case happened to be organic sprouted wheat, but really could be anything. The other is a 9 1/2 inch nonstick crepe pan that I picked up at Crate and Barrel ages ago, and which I believe has never met a crepe—but it’s my favorite to cook eggs with, due to its large, flat, non-stick surface. I lubricate the pan with a small pat of butter because even Teflon could use a little help. Meanwhile I beat a single egg in a bowl with some salt (currently Angelo Garo’s seasoned Omnivore Salt) and a few healthy twists of the pepper mill. As it happens, our stove is not perfectly level, so liquids have a slight tendency to roll towards the back of the pan—but I use this to my advantage, as a single beaten egg, without any additional liquid, isn’t enough to cover the entire surface area. So as I pour it in a line across the pan’s equator, it predictably flows towards the back edge, creating a perfect half-circle. Once the egg begins to set, which happens very quickly, I turn the burner to low and position the pan so that the least cooked area is directly over the gas. Meanwhile I flip the tortilla over in the other pan and grate some good melting cheese on top. If I had some ham or prosciutto on hand, I’d add a slice of that here as well, but this morning I did not. Once the egg has cooked just enough to hold together, but still creamy on top, I slide it onto the tortilla, and when I’m ready, I slide the entire tortilla-plus-egg onto a plate. I dress it up with a small bunch of peppery arugula, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. I fold the non-egg third of the tortilla over the egg and arugula, and I fold both sides in towards the center, creating a secure pocket to ensure that none of the creamy, oily, peppery goodness drips down my fingers and onto the plate.