Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shrimp and Avocado Salsa

I am happy to announce that a request has been made (via Facebook) for the shrimp and avocado salsa recipe! Well, this one is almost a complete hijack from Thomas Keller's "The French Laundry Cookbook". If you want to flip through pages of amazing photographs, very detailed recipes, and extremely thought-out techniques; this is the book for you. Actually all of his books(Ad Hoc, Bouchon, and Under Pressure) are equally amazing. Anywho, back to the point...

There are no photos of the process since I made this dish a couple of years ago, and just recently found the photo in time for my blogging debut.

Your grocery list: 6 shrimp, 1 avocado, 1 red onion, 1 cucumber, oil, 1 lemon, salt, and pepper.

Shrimp are sold with numbers in front of them like 150/200 or 16/20. This denotes how many shrimp are in a pound. So 16/20 means 16 to 20 shrimp will be in a pound so they are much larger than the 150/200 count. They sell some shrimp that are U10 which means a pound contains Under 10. These suckers are big and you might be able to throw a saddle on one and ride it to work. Your standard grocery store sells shrimp that have already been veined, but most likely still have the shell on. For this recipe remove the shell, including the tail part. If you are careful with the tail part you can keep the tail on and end up with the cute little curly-Q of a tail like in my photo.

Avocados are fickle and after 7 years of a Mexican restaurant and a bazillion gallons of guacomole they are still tricky to me sometimes. The time window between beautiful light green flesh and poopy, stomped banana-looking hot mess can be pretty short. Squeezing them gently is the way to go and pushing on the tip-top where the stem was is the best place to do so. Hard equals baseball, soft equals ripe, and mushy/dented equals the pillaged banana. To play it safe, I usually buy two.

Finely dice the red onion, cucumber (skinned and seeded), and avocado. You want twice as much avocado as the red onion and cucumber. Place in a bowl, add a touch of oil, and squeeze some lemon juice over the pile (prevents the avocado from browning and "brightens" the flavor of the salsa), and gently mix. If you go at it like a caged gorilla your succulent little dice of avocado will become guacamole-ish. It will still be tasty, but nowhere near as photogenic. Salt and pepper to taste. If I was a television food show host that would just say: SAPTT, but I am not. Put bowl in fridge.

TK (Thomas Keller for those of you who don't know him like I do) gently poaches his shrimp in a court bouillon and then cools them in it to intensify the flavor. Court bouillon is fancy talk for seasoned water. The list of ingredients for it is twice as long as this entire recipe, so I sauteed my shrimp. Shrimp cook super fast and are done well before people usually realize, so they end up with over-cooked, rubbery shrimp. I took a non-stick pan over med-low heat, added some butter, and gently cooked the shrimp. Low heat gives you a greater window of correctly cooked shrimp than say, a blowtorch, would. Shrimp are cooked when the ridges on their back curl open, they turn pinkish instead of bluish, and are firm to the touch. Literally this only takes a couple of minutes per side if that.

Let them cool, if you want, and then spear them onto the tines of a fork and add a dollop of avocado salsa. Now you admire your work, enjoy each bite, and then wonder why you just made all your forks dirty for this one dish.

A shrimp purchasing side note: more than likely your local grocery store carries frozen shrimp in bags and also some in a display case with the other seafood. They are the same shrimp in both places. The grocery store just goes through the pain-staking task of thawing the shrimp, and thus reducing how long you can keep them. I buy the frozen, keep 'em in the freezer, and take out only what I need.


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