Thu 16 Jul 2009
Posted by Bria under Main Dishes
Oh dear. I have become a woman who carries a pile of gadgets wherever I go. It started innocently enough – a small cell phone. Then an iPod. Then a Blackberry. Then a Kindle. Then the cell phone died. Then I got an iPhone.
People, I have a phone that farts on command. Sixteen different ways. I’m not sure if this is a sign that we, as a society, have reached a cultural and technological zenith, or if the other three horsemen are going to be pulling up soon, but it pretty much blows my mind either way.
As I type this, I’m sitting on a plane home a quick work trip to Chicago’s strip mall-dotted suburbs with a laptop on the tray table and a bag at my feet full of the aforementioned cadre of gadgets. How is it possible that I have become a person who travels with four different power cords? Heaven forbid one of these things should run out of juice (really, it happened last week during another even shorter trip, and it kind of sucked). If nothing else, the many feet of cords that fill the bottom of my suitcase would have made it possible for me to rappel from the 11th floor of the Hyatt Lisle should the need have arisen. A sort of modern-day Rapunzel. After all, it’s good to have contingency plans.
It doesn’t seem like too terribly long ago that all I had was a cell phone. A cell phone that did one thing: make calls. It was years before I had a phone with a camera, which I used for nothing other than filling its memory card several times over with candid shots of the cats (Max in a box, Max next to a box, Max thinking about a box, Phoebe eyeing Max in a box with a glint of her trademark evil in her eye, etc.). I eventually started work and received a Blackberry, the life force that sustains every modern attorney. It was equipped with an even better camera, which afforded me the opportunity to take more completely inane cat pictures. One day, however, the world turned on its axis when I found myself in line at Starbucks, realizing this Blackberry had been placed in my hands for the sole purpose of being able to discretely photograph the breast cancer awareness ribbon the Starbucks employees had made by taping packets of Sweet N’ Low to the backsplash behind the barista. That was technology at its finest.
It went downhill from there. Forget an actress’s name while driving to Costco? Google it from the Blackberry. Need a makeshift flashlight to find a misplaced set of keys in the early morning without waking up a sleeping spouse? Turn on any one of the backlit screens and let its anemic glow light the way. And the capacity, oh, the capacity. Between an iPod and a Kindle, there’s enough capacity to fill even the longest, worst airport layover with thousands of diversions.
And then there’s the iPhone, which puts the rest of these things to shame. The same little wad of metal and plastic that cheerfully woke me up on cue this morning (at the unholy hour of 4:45 pacific time) kept me entertained with a dozen games as I waited standby for my flight home (three times) and will help me pick a traffic-free route home from the airport. It’s amazing, really. And a little exhausting when I think back to the days when my purse held only a tiny wallet, a tube of lipstick, and that first single-purpose cell phone.
Sometimes, a little simplicity is a welcome refuge from the complexities we heap upon our lives with such abandon. Or maybe I’m easily amused by things like fried capers.
After seeing fried capers mentioned three or four times in the course of a weekend, I really had to try them. Wow. Just…wow. When introduced to a skillet of shimmering olive oil, they bloom. Literally. They open up into tiny florets as they brown. Briny and crisp, they are delicious by themselves and stunning alongside something equally simple like garlicky shrimp. For kicks, I’ve added fried garlic to the mix here, but you can mix and match the garlic and capers as you please. My garlic was a fantastically weird and wonderful smoked variety – almost a garlic pickle – but plain raw garlic works just as well.
As I’ve mentioned before, I keep bags of flash frozen shrimp from Costco on hand for dishes like this. They thaw in a few minutes in cold water. Once that’s covered, you can bang this whole dish out in about 15 minutes. Marinate the shrimp for a few hours in a bowl in the fridge if you feel like it, or let them have a quick nap in the oil and lemon juice while you fry your capers. Both will be lovely, and refreshingly simple.
Simple Shrimp with Capers and Garlic
Serves 2, double as needed
1T nonpareil capers
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
3T olive oil
Sea salt to taste
12-14 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
Juice from one lemon
5T olive oil
½ cup white wine
3 pinches flour
Black pepper to taste
- Fry capers and garlic in oil
- Set aside
- Toss shrimp in liquids and garlic
- Sear shrimp
- Make pan sauce
Start with the capers and garlic. Rinse the capers and pat them dry on a paper towel. Add the garlic slices to the paper towel and pat them dry, too. Heat the first three tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan (seriously, I used the tiniest skillet – it’s like 6” in diameter) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
Carefully drop in the capers and garlic and let them sizzle away for a few minutes until the capers bloom and the garlic gets brown and toasty. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Set aside.
Place your shrimp in a medium bowl (or if you were force-thawing them bowl of water like I do, drain that bowl and put them back in it). Add the next three tablespoons of olive oil, the crushed garlic, the juice of half a lemon, and a little salt and pepper to the bowl and mix with your hands until the shrimp are well-coated. If you’ve got other stuff going on in the kitchen, you can let this mixture sit for a few minutes (cover and throw in the fridge if it’s going to be longer than 10) until you’re ready to cook them.
Heat two more tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Gently lay the shrimp in the skillet in a single layer. When the tails are mostly pink and you can see a nice little sear on the pan side – about 2 minutes – turn them with tongs and let them finish cooking. They’re done when the white center (where the vein was) has just turned opaque. Transfer the cooked shrimp to a plate and turn the heat down to medium.
You should have some oil left in the pan. If you don’t, add a bit and let it heat back up. Add the white wine and the juice from the other half of the lemon. Agitate with a wooden spoon and let it begin to reduce. After about 30 seconds, sprinkle in a few pinches of flour and stir quickly to fully incorporate. Turn off the heat and add a few pinches of black pepper. Stir in the capers and garlic, and spoon over the shrimp. Serve immediately.
This tastes fantastic by itself if you’re in the mood for something light, but would also be excellent over angel hair pasta.