Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Long Way From the Beach

I don't fancy myself a food blogger, but I do fancy myself a blogger and a food lover. 

Depends on the food, of course.

The other day God must have left his bathtub faucet running because the heavens opened and a torrential rain the likes of which rivaled past hurricanes poured down on my town, eroding soil, washing away tentatively planted seeds, and pelting vulnerable surfaces with hail.

It was fun.

At lunchtime I sloshed through the water-logged streets with pea-sized hail clattering against my windshield, and tried not to get completely drenched when I ran from the car into the house.

Since the weather in Wyoming is supposed to be dry, it's not often we get an ocean dumped on us in one day, but as the years have gone by we have definitely seen more humidity and more precipitation.

I blame climate change.  Or maybe the cloud seeding.  I'm not sure, but I do seem to be erupting in acne every spring and it's pissing me off.

This particular day of tidal wave "gooshing," I'm pretty sure fish were swimming down the gutters and spiny anemones were taking up residence in the "rain pools."

It seemed like a good day to go home, lock the doors, and attempt a beach-inspired dish since the usual mountainous climate decided to mimic beach climate in the middle of hurricane season.

I'm a huge fan of seafood and there is nothing I love more than shrimp.  Big shrimp, little shrimp, cocktail shrimp, butterfly shrimp, you name it.  The only way I won't eat shrimp is fried and breaded, mostly because I'm gluten intolerant, and also a little because it's disgusting and shrimp doesn't need to be breaded to be awesome.

On this horrid, drenched, angry coastline-esque type of day, I decided that some shrimp chowder would really hit the spot.  I'm sort of a slap and dash cook - I like to slap things together in under thirty minutes, and add a dash of this and a dash of that and see how things turn out.  They usually turn out.  Sometimes they are not amazing, but edible.

There are other times it absolutely does not turn out like that awful gluten-free lemon cake, or the gluten free cinnamon rolls I thought would be a great idea.  Also, the first time I attempted gluten-free banana bread.  I added too much xanthan gum and the batter crawled up the beaters, ate the mixer, and took over the counter top.

It was a mess.

I have yet to master gluten-free cinnamon rolls, croissants, bagels, or baklava.  Some things just require that stretchy elastic gluten, and I am not enough of a gourmet cook to pull this off.  Other things like my gluten-free pizza crust are actually pretty good.

Shrimp chowder is not hard to make, at least the way I make it.  It stared with heating olive oil and garlic, with some sliced green onion tops.  I didn't want to go out into the monsoon to actually pull the onion bulbs out of the earth, so I settled for the green tops I saved in my freezer from last summer.

Aside:  my onions have taken over the garden.  One day they popped up in my boxes and have since conquered two boxes and several patches in the front yard.  If someone needs onions, I have them.  I don't even remember planting them.

Next to the chowder I added something around half a stick of butter (I don't measure stuff), and tossed in several heaping spoonfuls of cornstarch.  Roux, here I come!  It got all sticky and gummy to which I added white wine (not half the bottle, but probably a quarter?) and let everything simmer happily.  I use Beringer's or something else cheap when cooking with white wine, though I have been known to dump the glassful I'm sipping into the pot because, well, it's there.

Now came the fun part.  Add the shrimp!  I used raw, unpeeled, untailed shrimp.  So I let them thaw and then peeled off their little armor and pulled off their tails.  When hand-eating shrimp I can just chomp them off at the tail, but in chowder, I don't want tail in the broth.  It puts one in mind of chewing on plastic shavings.  It's weird.

I also added a whole chopped russet potato.  I think one is supposed to use those little red potatoes that go great with Swiss Raclette, but I don't usually keep those on hand (and I don't have a Raclette oven). So russet potato it was. 

I filled the pot with a cup of whipping cream (unwhipped) and two more cups of water, then added frozen veggies.  Then I turned up the heat and waited for some bubblies to show up on the surface to let me know things were simmering nicely.

At this point I threw in the garlic powder (even with four cloves already in there), the onion powder (ditto), a tiny pinch of pepper (I don't like too much pepper, though California Guy might put the whole pepper shaker in), and a handful of unrefined, completely natural, totally organic, was-just-recently-mined-from-the-Great-Salt-Lake-like-yesterday sea salt and voila, the chowder was ready to cook on low heat for half an hour.

It boiled over, of course.  It always does.  I don't know why because I'm not a great chef who knows these things.  I think it has something to do with the cream and covering the pot.  Or not.  Do I look like a chemist?

When it was ready to eat, the lovely smell had completely enveloped the house, so I spooned it up into a bowl and added a perfectly crusty gluten-free roll to go with it (crusty gluten free is not as hard as it sounds - we'll cover those another time).  A tiny bit of the most amazing goat cheese in the world, and dinner was served!

Ah, dinner.  The perfect meal to go with a raging storm outside.  If the weather is going to insist on behaving like the beach, then I should at least have an ocean to look at.  But I supposed this will have to do for now.

Shrimp chowder, crusty bread...mmmmmmmm

Pair it with this amazing Viognier and you have a little bit of heaven on Earth.
Other good pairings are Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Grigios and, if you are into reds more, Pinot Noirs and Syrahs.
I advocate for the Viognier.

Top it off with a slice of White Chocolate Ganache Lemon Tart and we are ready to begin summer.

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