Thursday, April 30, 2020

Roasted Shrimp & Potatoes (with green stuff)

After my normal Friday bread bake for the neighborhood, the oven was still plenty hot for me to cook some dinner. Easy to say, but you do need to have some idea of what you’d like to cook and actually have the ingredients to follow the idea through...who said cooking was easy? In addition, I wanted something simple after baking 24 loaves of bread...some might say I was being lazy, but I was just hungry & pooped (well, and a bit lazy 🤔).

I started looking around for something to cook and miraculously I came across some frozen pork belly all sliced up and vacuum packed--Jackpot. OK, now with bacon (basically) at the ready, I’m pretty convinced that you could make something tasty out of darn near anything that would be safe to consume and couldn't walk away fast enough. Next to the pork belly was a bag of frozen, peeled, tail-on shrimp...Jackpot! (As Susan once said loudly in Costco when she found 1.75 L bottles of Hendricks Gin..."Look, what the good Lord has provided!") Now to flesh the dinner menu out (boy, that sounds a bit morbid in this context), I needed some carbos for bulk (fiber for those self-appointed culinary elitists). Looking into some of the baskets in the pantry, lo & behold...I spied a bag of small red & Yukon gold potatoes peeking back at me with all those cute little potato eyes--Jackpot #3 (maybe I should be headed for Las Vegas instead of fixing dinner).

At this point I knew that the “proper & balanced diet” police were going to step in and take away my dinner plans if I didn’t add some green stuff of some kind pretty soon 👮. Now, I really like most salads (without tomatoes or cucumbers thank you!), but I was holding in my lazy/pooped pattern for dinner and Lordy! Lordy!, I’d already been working really hard foraging for this dinner and just wanted something easy & simple to make it at least look healthy. Voila! I discovered a small bag of "organic" baby spinach leaves in the crisper (triple washed already–yahoo!)

Cut potatoes, face down & ready
The evening meal was now coming into focus. One pan, one Julia Child’s kitchen mess here tonight. I sliced about six of the little potatoes and put them in an oiled steel pan, cut side down. I let the frozen shrimp thaw in a small bowl with some lime salt (and wandered a bit in the garden looking for some evidence of luck). It didn’t take long for the shrimp to get mostly thawed, so I took the pan of spuds out to the den and placed them in the oven (at about 475°F now). I didn’think it would take more than 15-20 minutes for the spuds to cook and get some of that brown & tasty crust on the cut side.

As soon as the potatoes were cooked and browned, I moved them onto a plate.

Adding a little more oil in the pan, I tossed the shrimp in and stuck ‘em into the oven. Didn’t take more than a minute or two to cook them on each side. I was able to watch them and flip ‘em over pretty quickly so they didn’t toughen up.

When I thought they were almost done, I pulled the pan out and tossed the baby spinach on top guessed it...back in the oven. I just wanted the leaves to steam a bit and absorb some of the shrimp flavors.

It only took a couple of minutes more to wilt the spinach...I will say that if anybody had stopped in at that moment they would have thought I’d absolutely lost my mind frying up a batch of wilted, green leaves (certainly didn't look like spinach anymore).

I brought the pan & cooked potatoes back into the house for plating. I thought about being proper and transferring to my dinner plate with a spatula...but remember I was not channeling Julia Child for this meal to fill the dishwasher. The quickest and easiest transfer method was to just up-end the pan on my plate, so the shrimp were on top of the wilted spinach. The hot shrimp juices and remaining flavored oil gave the spinach even more flavor as they flowed down and over the greenery. A sprinkle of potatoes on top rounded out the volume factor with a toasted baguette slice added for atmosphere & crunch. To give the dish even a little more pizzaz, I added some Petits Poivrons (Sweety Drop Peppers) for color. Not quite as flavorful as Peppadews, but still give a nice pop & flavor to a dinner.

This simple dinner was exactly what I was hoping for...tasty, easy, &, what’s for dessert...(burp)?

Oh crap! I forgot all about the pork belly slices...I wish I had a great excuse here, but the fact is I just totally spaced it. This is probably where some smart-a** foodie would remind me that "mis en place would have prevented this grievous error"...but I didn’t even make it to the mis en place step. However, the oven was still hot and I had quite a few little potatoes left in the bag...hmmm...

OK, follow up plan is to wash up the little spuds, dry them and plunk them in a Dutch oven. Add EVOO, salt, pepper, and cut up pieces of the pork belly slices (AKA lardons at this point) and I’m Bon Appetit bound again. I tossed ‘em all together and planted the covered Dutch oven in the WFO. After about 25 minutes at 475°F, I pulled the pot out and stirred everything. I was hoping most of the pieces of meat would drop to the bottom of the pot and they did. Back into the oven for another 25 minutes and the lardons got some color to them and infused a whole lot of goodness into the little potatoes. I took the Dutch oven out of the WFO and brought it inside to cool. I planned that these tasty little treats would adorn my dinner entrees for several upcoming meals.  😎

I am now a firm believer in having roasted red & gold small potatoes available at all (or most) times. I use them to make my favorite pesto potato salad, hearty breakfasts with eggs, as a whole wheat bread “additive” to help keep in moisture, and--of course--for just plain snackin’ -- Yumm!

Now where was I? Hmmm...oh yeah,  ...burp, dessert!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A New Decade Starts in California (Part 2 of 2)

As I mentioned in the previous post, my last full day in Carlsbad involved quite a journey up the coast. I wanted to get to that Oceanside pier and it didn’t look all that far. I mention this, because on the way walking back “home”, I got a text from Layne wondering what my schedule/arrival time would be for the Newport Coast Villas where they had just checked in. I sent back that I wasn’t really sure yet, and I was just now starting to walk back to my timeshare unit in Carlsbad.

Throughout the walk back down the coast, I would get updates from her, saying: “We’re waiting for the room to open up...”; “Headed down to the pool area for a wine & cheese social...”, “Good selection of beers at the social as well...”, etc. I thought at the time that she was keeping me updated on things that really didn’t matter to me since I was still walking south towards my condo unit and didn’t bother responding. When I finally got home after dark, I texted her back saying I figured I’d leave about 10 on Sunday morning and would arrive early afternoon (planning to get my steps pretty much under control before martini time). I know you may not believe that there can be stunned silence while texting, but I swear for this one it existed. Layne responded with relief, because they had expected me to arrive Saturday afternoon, not Sunday, and were getting very worried about me getting stranded on the beach or being rolled by a criminal ocean element. We laughed pretty good about it later...after Sunday martinis of course.

The weather started out cool & damp at the Marriott’s resort complex (red x marks the spot), but being reunited with my friends and being a short distance from the was awesome. We were pretty lazy for the week and as the weather started improving we got out a little more each day. The resort provides a shuttle up to Fashion Island (a large open air mall complex in the Newport Center) and a little south to the very relaxing Crystal Cove area.

We took the shuttle up to Fashion Island one day to get some “supplies” at Whole Foods and coffee at the Nespresso shop. Just walking around the shops was fun as there are lots of water sculptures and other places to sit and just enjoy the views. Fortunately we had to wait a bit for the shuttle back after shopping and (also very fortunately) The Back Bay Tavern inside the Whole Foods store was willing to serve us adult beverages...just in time I might add! Another day we drove (up a bit farther than the shuttles would take us) to the Balboa Peninsula and wandered the beaches of the area. After walking out the Newport Pier, we watched a pod of dolphins (porpoises?) play very close to the pier. They were having a great time jumping and making a real show of being there for us. As we headed back to the car, we decided a bit of nourishment would be in, at Baja Sharkeez we took the opportunity to have some nibbles & drinks before heading home.

As the weather continued to improve, on our last day we took the shuttle down to Crystal Cove and walked the beach before settling in at a table with a view at the Beachcomber Café. Jim had their special seafood laced Bloody Mary to go with his lunch, while Layne and I just watched in awe (as we dug into our lunch plates stacked with generous portions).

The Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas is certainly one of my favorite places to stay. But on Saturday we packed our bags down to the cars and headed for Marriott’s Desert Springs Villas (in Palm Desert). Layne’s brother John and his wife Jan had introduced Jim & Layne to some extremely large and tasty strawberries out in the valley. The strawberries were sold in limited quantities to customers and with three of us in the car, we came home with plenty of “red gold”. Jim fixed Layne and I fruit and a lite breakfast every morning and frankly I got pretty spoiled! We tried to avoid making huge dinners and for the most part we succeeded...but with Layne being a fabulous cook, I must admit to overeating several nights...burp, yumm, burp!

I even got in the act and baked some bread and then used their new Insta-Pot to make a couple cans of Boston Baked Bread...Jim had never had that in his childhood, so now that pleasure void has been filled! They brought out a game called Oh Snap! at one point and it was really fun. Apparently it is an old game that has been rebranded and slightly redesigned. (I promptly ordered one when I got home.)

Of course, Layne’s favorite dish for company (nicoise salad) came out when John & Jan joined us for dinner one night. Not only tasty, but really a beautiful presentation when she does it for us.

I loved walking around the resort both inside and outside the “compound” in all my steps without problem every day! Lagoons were well maintained and there was a bunch of white pelicans that roamed the various waters. (“A group of pelicans has many collective nouns, including a “brief”, “pod”, “pouch”, “scoop”, and “squadron” of pelicans.” Note: I shamelessly copied that sentence from the Internet...first site I found...and whatever happened to flock?)

The resort has quite a few flamingos (a flamboyance, if you care...again, I think flock or bunch would work just fine.) out near the main entrance to the JW Marriot Desert Springs Resort & Spa building...but they’re old news...

After a fabulous goodbye dinner at Sherman’s Deli & Bakery with the Malicks, I packed up my large piece of carrot cake from the deli and half a corned beef sandwich (thanks Layne!) and headed back to Roseburg.

I basically took the same route home, the first day following Highway 10, then the 395 North to Kramer Junction, West on 58 to Bakersfield. Overnight there, then I-5 North and West 580 to Petaluma. Next morning I was off to Eureka on Highway 101. Had a wonderful walk along Humbolt bay...there’s an awesome trail that’s just uplifting to walk. (I had put in some pictures along that trail in part 1 of this long winded post set.) The next day I continued up the 101 and had terrific beef sliders & garlic/Parmesan fries for lunch (and a great porter) at SeaQuake Brewing.

Really enjoyed the walk around the coastal pathways in Crescent City (to wear off my beer and settle my fries) before making the jaunt back to I-5 via the curvy, narrow, and visually exciting Highway 199. I love the road, but primarily because it was basically deserted when I was driving it and road conditions were dry with sunny skies overhead...probably a nightmare at times with truck traffic and poor weather.

Exhausted and happy, I arrived home, turned on the water, water heater, brought the heat pump online to warm up the house, turned on the propane stove, unloaded the car, stacked the pile of mail on the kitchen table, and guessed it...a beer!

...and look, spring flowers awaited me the next morning in my yard (well, the bearded iris-top right- were in Bakersfield, but I was still amazed to see them blooming in February!)