Well, it's that time of year. And I know it is because I heard "All I want for Christmas is You" on XM radio the other day. Ugh! TOO SOON MARIAH! I don't know who summoned you out of your Christmas coffin, but it's not time for you yet!!!
It is however the first week of November, and this is a month for gathering with friends and family, and laying praise to what you are thankful for. That being said, I could think of no better place to start than with my mom.
My mother is the reason I started cooking. Not because she couldn't cook (she cooked well), but because my parents used to entertain... a lot! And it was because of all of this entertaining that I found myself cooking it all. I still have nightmares about her making me de-vein shrimp by the boat load, and whether or not it was easier to peel them raw or cooked. Also, I'm pretty sure that she still has that awful red plastic shrimp tool she made me use that didn't work. Throw it away and use a paring knife, mom!
Anyway, there are 3 food things that stand out from my younger years and as it is the season for sharing, this is my jumping off point.
It doesn't look like much, I know.. But this little jar had a magical spice mixture in it that my mother used to use for fish. This silly little seasoning was so good! You'll see why I liked it so much when you see the recipe. Anyway, the story here is that sometime in the late 2000's, my mother contacted me about this seasoning because she was running out. (Do the math to yourself about how long she had that in regular circulation) So, me.. just the best son of the year, found a spice distributing company on the internet and sent them an email regarding this spice - if they knew anything about it, if the company still existed, etc. Well, this very kind woman named Deborah emailed me back and asked for more information and the ingredient list on the bottle. I emailed her back with her requested information and in a week or two, she send me a recipe for it! This is not where the story ends. I emailed the spice recipe to my mother and I thought this was over. Well - a year or two later, my mother calls me and says that she LOST THE RECIPE! Panic sets in.. I had done so much work trying to take care of this once! I poured back through all of my trashed emails, and to my surprise, I found the woman's name and contact info that helped me the first time. Taking a shot in the dark, I sent another email to the address that I had and don't you know that very nice lady not only responded, but had a saved copy of the recipe she sent me!!! OMG right?!?!?! Well, I assured the very nice lady that we wouldn't shake her down again and that we'd keep many copies of this recipe in a special place. That was in 2011 - I know because I found one of the emails. But not the one with the recipe!!! I HAD LOST IT THIS TIME!!! I spend a couple hours yesterday going scouring through a couple laptops, old removable hard drives, email accounts I haven't thought about in years.. COULDN'T FIND IT! But mom still had it, and she happily emailed it to me. She didn't know it was for this. Here's the Fish Seasoning recipe - try it on broiled flounder!
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground celery seed
1/8th tsp. whole celery seed
heaping 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. granulated onion
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 C. coarse salt (though we found this to be a bit on the salty side - 3 T. might be better)
Mix all ingredients together well and store in a cool dry place.
So much to say about this recipe. A little backstory... my parents used to drag me along with them on these awful long car rides when I was a child. (Because that's how kids like to spend their weekend). Anyway, for some reason when I was in elementary school in northern Virginia, my parents decided to go on some long boring car ride through the mountains in West Virginia *yawn. Anyway, and I have no clue where we were, but we stopped at some five and dime in some dreary mountain town and my mom found this cookbook in a bargain bin in the middle of the store. Now, back to the entertaining thing my parents did.. a lot. This recipe quickly became her appetizer go-to. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've made this recipe throughout middle school and high school - and that brings me to my senior year.
My father had his boss and I think his bosses boss over for dinner one evening. Naturally my mother stayed in the dining room, so I cooked. Now, I can't tell you what any course for any of the gazillion dinner parties my parents had were, but I can very distinctly tell you that they always, and this one in particular, had Whisky Shrimp. My execution of this dish was flawless. I'd made it 100 times. Whisky Shrimp.. cooking with alcohol.. WHO KNEW? BRILLIANT!!! Well, that evening in particular, I made the executive decision that not only was I going to COOK with the whisky, but I thought I'd give it a try - sneak a little taste. I'd sneak up to my room before they were done with their dinner, they'd never know. As it turns out, they did know - that I drank A LOT of whisky because I decided to crash their party and start talking about everything I had been learning about politics in Government class. I thought it was impressive.. a young kid knowing all of that gov't talk. My parents did not. I obviously don't remember the conclusion of the evening after my dad helped me up to my room to go to sleep and put a trash can by my bed. I didn't get into the trouble I thought I was going to for that one... I guess they figured the hangover was punishment enough. I did not drink anymore whisky as I made future Whisky Shrimps. Here is the recipe for Whisky Shrimp. It comes from the cookbook: Entertaining, 1988, Roz Denny.
2 T. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 # medium sized shelled shrimp
2 T. whisky
2 T. chopped parsley
3 T. sour cream
salt, pepper, and ground mace to taste
1. Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes.
2. Add the shrimp and heat gently for 2 minutes. Add the whisky and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the parsley and sour cream and heat through gently. Season with salt, pepper, and mace.
4. Transfer the shrimp with a slotted spoon to 4 individual serving plates. Simmer the sauce until reduced by a third, then spoon over the shrimp. Serve immediately, with thinly sliced whole wheat bread.
I have no idea where this recipe came from, but my mom used to make it from time to time and it was literally my most favorite thing (to this day) my mom ever made. Ever! It's simple and delicious, and nothing more reminds me of home! I begged her for this recipes years ago and she sent it to me (this one I did save!). I tried to put a chef spin on it and jazz it all up and run it on a fall dessert menu a couple years ago, but it just wasn't the same. Maybe if I've been a good boy this year, Santa will bring me one :)
Here is her recipe - just like she sent it to me:
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup oatmeal
Mix and cool
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups flour
Mix and add to oatmeal mixture in a 9x13 cake pan - bake at 350 until done.
Boil one minute:
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
3 Tbsp milk or cream
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup coconut
1 1/2 cereal - rice krispies, corn flakes, or chex