We have received some gorgeous shrimp from our CSF, which much to our dismay made its final delivery for the season on Thursday.

I especially love the green tints in the tails. Fairy wings must look like that.

The bounty of shrimp has led to a recent cooking extravaganza. In preparing them, I’ve referred to an old and dear favorite of Southern cooks, Charleston Receipts, for ideas. My copy, the 1973 edition, was snatched from the jowls of death while I was in college, grabbed from a pile of cookbooks a family friend was tossing out.

It’s easy to see why a suburban housewife would not want this filthy thing lurking on her tidy shelves. The cover isn’t even physically attached anymore. Still–how could someone throw away a book with 28 “receipts” featuring shrimp?

I’m quite fortunate to have help whenever we cook shrimp. Louise waits patiently in this exact position throughout the process, ready to clean up any stray bits that might happen to fall on the floor.

(Note: Those hideous Birkenstocks with socks are reserved solely for the home. I am more embarrassed than Tiger Woods at this unexpected revelation of my secret life.) 

Neither of these recipes comes from Charleston Receipts, exactly, but some of those dishes served as inspiration. You’ll note these two dishes are very similar–we had fresh jalapenos to use up!

Shrimp with Black Eyed Peas

This dish was actually better the next day.

Serves 4 as a main dish supper or 6 as a pre-dinner soup

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium jalapeno, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. black-eyed peas
6 cups or more water
2 medium bay leaves
Kosher salt to taste
1 1/2 c. crushed tomatoes (canned)
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. half and half or milk
24 medium shrimp with tails

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium high heat. Saute onion and jalapeno in oil until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir. Add peas with enough water to cover them by an inch or two. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low (but high enough to keep liquid at a simmer). Add bay leaves, salt, and tomatoes. Cook, covered, for about 45 minutes or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed to keep peas covered. (Bring to a boil again if you add water, then reduce heat back to low.) Once peas are tender, whisk together flour and cream until flour has completely dissolved and no lumps remain. Add to peas and mix thoroughly. Add shrimp. Cover and cook for a few minutes until shrimp has turned pink, stirring frequently to keep sauce from sticking. Serve with rice or cornbread.

Shrimp with Black Beans and Rice

Serves 2

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 jalapeno, minced
3 -4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 1/2 c. water (approximate)
1/2 c. dry brown rice
Salt to taste
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 c. crushed tomatoes
1 can black beans
Half and half or cream

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium high heat. Saute onion and jalapeno in oil until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir. Add cumin and coriander and stir. Add water, rice, salt, bay leaf, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to a simmer; cover and cook until rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Add beans and cream and cook until beans are heated, a few minutes. Add shrimp. Cover and cook until shrimp is pink, 4 – 5 minutes. Serve with cornbread.

Clammy Disaster

Fred and I received some beautiful clams from our CSF yesterday. We’d made a wonderful recipe with them just a few weeks before, simmering them in white wine, shallots, garlic, and a bay leaf, adding fresh parsley and butter at the end. Here’s how that dish turned out.

But yesterday we were out of white wine, and I’d just gotten the last of some pre-frost jalapenos from a colleague’s garden. So I decided to improvise and make a spicy broth.
We had red wine, beer, and turkey broth to serve as possible broths. I chose the beer, an India pale ale, thinking it would be the best complement to the jalapenos. I added shallots, garlic, a bay leaf, and some diced potatoes, bringing the ingredients to a boil and cooking until the potatoes were tender. All was going well. Everything smelled fine, a nice robust simmer of shallots, garlic, and jalapeno. I tasted a potato piece or two–they were tender and tasty enough.
Then I added the clams. Without washing them.
Fresh clams are not a regular part of my repertoire. I’ve opened plenty of cans and made a quick linguini dish with them, but I’ve rarely been willing to spend the money for fresh. I’m also a bit squeamish about cooking things that are still alive. So perhaps I can be forgiven for forgetting that clam shells are covered in an invisible grit. Invisible, that is, until it has sloughed off into your broth.
After the clams had steamed for about six minutes and were all opened, I ladeled them into bowls, poured the broth over them, and proudly presented them at the table. We dug in.
Fred took the first bite. This is sometimes followed by an exclamation of, “Honey, you are an excellent cook!” or “Wow!” He is very easy to please. There were no comments this time.
I scooped a clam from its shell. It was tender though not as flavorful as our earlier batch. I speared a potato. It was not obviously bad, but it lacked a certain richness. Then I tasted a spoonful of the broth.
Fred was eating silently, seemingly content. I wrinkled my nose.
“This is disgusting!” I exclaimed.
Fred put down his spoon. “I thought I noticed a metallic taste,” he said.
That comment proves without a doubt that Fred is a saint. The broth tasted like liquid tin foil, with sand added for texture. The jalapenos contributed a spicy note.
“We can’t eat this,” I said. “It’s awful.” 
Fred looked relieved. I suspect he would have eaten the entire bowl without complaint. I picked the bowl up and carried it away. He dove in to his salad. 
Not wanting to throw out an entire batch of fresh clams I drained off the broth, noticing that it was the color and consistency of a dirty pond. I rinsed the clams and potatoes multiple times. I took out the turkey broth–prepared over Thanksgiving–from the freezer and made a quick soup with onions, garlic, butter, more potato, herbes de Provence, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, and cream. I added the clam/potato remains back in and served it back to Fred, who had temporarily retreated into the study to look at Facebook–perhaps hoping to forget the horror of what he’d eaten earlier.
The soup was edible if not spectacular. We were able to determine that the metallic flavor actually came from the beer–I’m not sure why, since I’ve made beer-based dishes before without that effect. Fred thought it was the particular characteristic of an India pale ale, but we may never know for sure.
And the potatoes still tasted like tin.