Friday, July 3, 2009

In the Summertime when the weather is high...

my London mini-shrimp shrimp-boil;
still scoring rather high on the yummers-scale.

...I've got shrimp boils, I've got shrimp boils on my mind!

**Apologies to Mungo Jerry for bastardizing his classic song, but it's just so apropos. For the record, though, I don't know how the song is any more "bastardly" by substituting "shrimp boils" for the word "women." Yeesh Mungo, you sure got a way with a hell of a lot. For starters, your name, the boots, your moustache-toting-mulleted band members, mesogonistic songs about getting laid...but really your unbelievable luck at not being run out of town can all be summed up with two words: mutton chops.

For the past, oh, lifetime, I've been telling every single person that will listen and is likely to buy me a present that the only thing I ever wanted for my birthday was shrimp. Big, juicy, delicious, gigantic shrimp.

I think I've mentioned before that I had a small obsession with everyone's favorite seafood chain (besides Long John Silver's, of course - because who can get enough of those crunch extra bits that come with the fish and fried clams?!) Red Lobster (please, enjoy that commercial just one more time!) as a child. That, coupled with my lack of proximity to the seaside, my mom's claim and directly correlated unwillingness to cook shrimp because "cooking seafood stinks up the house," ensured that by the time I was 18, I had a full-blown obsession with eating shrimp. And once I was old enough to have my own income, I felt no guilt whatsoever going to my favorite fish monger Kenny at the awesome Agata & Valentina in the Upper East Side for the extra jumbo shrimp that cost $30.00 a pound.

After the first time I ate those shrimp I told Matt that my new birthday wish was no longer going to Red Lobster, but getting a gigantic bucket full of those extra jumbo shrimp, boiled and ready to peel given to me. And then eating them all in one sitting and not sharing a single one with anybody else. (Yes, I do know I'm a brat.) This has still not happened (ahem).

I find summer in London a time of particular difficulty in the shrimp department for a couple of reasons all leading to the ultimate conclusion that summertime is the perfect time to break out the spices and make a damn good shrimp boil, or else life is just not worth living.

* * *

Top 3 Reasons Why Summertime in London is Difficult in
the Proverbial "Shrimp Department"
because I apparently have a shrimp department in my head

3. Where the hell's the seafood?!
For an island, there's a surprising lack of good seafood here (maybe because they ship it all to France?!). Unless by "good seafood" you mean battered and deep fried cod or tiny "prawns" slathered in mayo. *gag* As far as shrimp, er, prawns, they are small. Small, small,small. I don't care how you change the name - king prawns, tiger prawns, jumbo prawns, they all boil down to one thing: crappy quality and inferior size. And they cost an arm and a leg.

2. Where the hell's the fishmonger?!
Unlike in New York, London seems to have a sad lack of fishmongers. Yes, you can find the odd fishmarket here and there - either in ethnic parts of the city or in extremely high end ones - places where there's a real fishmonger who knows what's what and is willing to explain it to you. But in general the fish departments at supermarkets offer old, pre-frozen glazy-eyed fish. Or worse yet, they don't sell raw shrimp! Yep, almost everything is pre-cooked. What's with that?!

1. Where the hell are the shrimp boils?!
Ok, so I'm not that shocked that they don't exist here, but I still have to complain. Given that most people in the UK think food with a dash of paprika is "spicy," I'm not surprised the Louisiana-spicy-as-all-hell-yumminess hasn't caught on in this neck of the woods. Nevertheless, I have made it my business to take advantage of the summer deals on raw prawns at Tesco by declaring Fridays Shrimp Boil Day. Hey, I'm a good Catholic girl. And besides, what's a little more heat in a heat wave? :)

* * *

Shrimp Boil Yumminess
pronounced "Shrimp Bowl" if you're from Texas

Serves 2

8 tbsps (or to taste) of Louisiana Crawfish, Crab and Shrimp Boil Spices
*you cannot buy this in the UK!
1 to 1 1/2 lbs jumbo shrimp (peeled or unpeeled)
2 ears of fresh corn, halved into 4 cobbettes
1lb baby new potatoes, washed
4-6 cloves garlic, whole unpeeled
2 medium yellow onions, quartered
4 tbsps butter
Tabasco sauce, to taste
2 lemons, halved

1. Place the garlic, onions, potatoes, butter and spice mix into a large pot and fill with water until all ingredients are covered with extra broth on top. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and mix until the spices are dissolved.

2. When the potatoes are almost tender, add the corn and leave to boil for another five minutes.

3. Just before you are ready to eat, add the shrimp to the pot. Allow to cook for five to eight minutes (don't overcook the shrimp!) and then immediately remove from heat.

4. Using a collander, drain the ingredients. Roll out some newspaper, get a roll of paper towels and pour that spicey goodness out straight on the table!

Serve with lemon wedges, tabasco sauce, some crusty bread and a nice cold beer.

Best eaten with greedy, grubby little hands and followed by a nice big slice of fresh watermelon or some scooped out cantelope, in the true spirit of summer.

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  1. Brenda, you are obsessed. Also, I've noticed that you either write about what we talk about or talk about what you write about. I must pay closer attention to the dates of your posts and how the correlate to our more frequent meetups these days!

  2. Ewww. I'm going to have nightmares about the hair carpet on Ray Dorset's face. I can't tell where the top of his head ends and face begins... But I'd still let him take me to dinner in the summertime.

  3. Ah you poor girl, I know what its like to have a craving for food and not have it satisfied. Happy Birthday to you and may your wishes come true.

    Hey at least you do not have to share the shrimp with one man in your life just yet.

  4. Oysterculture - yeah, sadly, no summer birthday for me. I'm a "day after Christmas" baby. Just thought I'd take the opportunity to complain about never getting shrimp for my birthday. :)

  5. What a wonderful Christmas gift for your parents and probably not so lucky for you, I bet you had a lot of combo Christmas/Birthday gifts.

    As far as complaining - I agree you need to take every opportunity afforded you, as you never know when the right person is listening. =)

  6. Oh! Has it been that long since I last visited here? Many apologies but I think I'm finally starting to catch up.

    I'll join you in the shrimp-love (actually, it's overall seafood-love for me!) There's no denying the shrimp look mighty shrimpy compared to the potatoes and cobs above but it's all good!