In a gesture so romantic I mentally awarded him the Boyfriend of the Year Award, Stuart cleaned my apartment Monday afternoon. At home, sick, and presumably even more disgusted by my apartment’s state than I, he went to town on my kitchen. He scrubbed counters, organized cabinets, washed dishes, and cleaned out my fridge. Through this last harrowing task (guys, it was bad) he discovered a huge chunk of Parmesan cheese we both thought had been lost or eaten. If you’re living in Korea, you know that losing cheese, especially one as coveted as Parmesan, is criminal. He knew we needed to incorporate it into dinner.
By the time I came home from the gym I was capital H Hungry. When that’s the case, I have to eat immediately or become a total asshole. Knowing this about me, Stuart suggested a quick meal: shells and shrimp.
This post won’t be perfect. Stuart cut himself while deveining the shrimp. Garlic got a little burned. We didn’t have white wine for the sauce. Stuart insists the shrimp was the tiniest bit overcooked. However, despite these problems, we still ended up with a great meal. One of the hardest things for many novice cooks to accept is that they will fuck up meals. Yes. I said fuck up. You will burn chicken. You’ll chop vegetables so poorly that it will look like someone with a blindfold and gloves did the job. At some point, though, you’ll realize that one or two messed up meals doesn’t mean you’ll always be bad at it. And once you get really good at cooking like Stuart, you’ll be more forgiving when you occasionally burn garlic.
This meal isn’t vegetarian, but it is gluten free. If you are vegetarian you could easily sub vegetables or even tofu for the shrimp.
This meal can be made in 20-30 minutes. When you have a hungry tyrant on your hands, you can’t go wrong with cream, parmesan, and seafood.
- 1 pound (about a half a kilo) of shrimp. If you’re in the states, go with the cleaned variety. If in Korea, buy fresh and get ready to make a hot mess in your kitchen. You’ll need a paring knife and nimble fingers.
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 1 lemon
- White pepper. Easily found in most grocery stores.
- Parmesan cheese. You can find it in large quantities at Costco. Buy it. If you don’t have a membership, get one. If you don’t want a membership, befriend someone who will take you with them.
- A few glugs of olive oil
- 1 box of pasta. We used quinoa pasta shells. I don’t remember how we got these, but they’re from the States. I either brought them back with me or they came in a package from my mom.
- 1/3 cup cream (LOTTE MART! THANK YOU!)
- ¼ cup white wine (we didn’t have this, but it would be delicious)
- Chopped parsley for garnish (Parsley is common and cheap. You can buy a ton for about 500 won, or 50 cents for our American readers.)
Quinoa pasta is one of the best gluten free alternatives on the market. Higher in protein than even whole wheat, quinoa is a South American grain that has become popular recently. The pasta doesn’t fall apart and has a great but malleable flavor. Add pasta to boiling water, bring to a boil again, and cook uncovered for 4-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Here is Stuart’s bloodied finger. If you think your food is never exposed to bodily matter when you eat at a restaurant you’re living in a dream world. Still, be careful with your knife! You’ll need to dig your knife .5cm deep into the shell, crack open the peel, and pull out the main vein. If you have access to uncooked but peeled/deveined shrimp, by all means, buy them. It’s a bit tedious to peel and devein them, but don’t be afraid. It’s not too bad.
This is what burning garlic looks like. Don’t let yours do this. Ours burned since we decided at the last minute to throw in onions as well. Instead, throw your garlic, onions, and glug or two of olive oil into the pan at a medium-low heat. The garlic should “sweat” and be a little on the translucent side.
(Confession: I didn’t realize that browned garlic was such a no-no until I met Stuart. I have burned the hell out of garlic and still eaten it. Oops.)
When the onions have softened a bit, throw in your shrimp. They’ll immediately turn that gorgeous pink color and shrivel up. Add salt and white pepper. Don’t be shy with either. Now add your lemon. Squeeze the hell out of both halves. You’ll want the citrus to balance the cream when it comes into play. Stir the pan and smell the goodness.
Now for the big guns…
CREAM! You can find cream at Lotte Mart as well as foreign food markets. Since finding it a few months ago, Stuart and I have been incorporating cream into a lot of our meals. I didn’t use cream much at home, but with limited access to dairy in Korea I am embracing this special find.
Add the 1/3 cup of cream to the pan. If you’re using white wine (I’d recommend something dry like Sauvignon Blanc), add it shortly thereafter. When the cream is integrated into the mix (within a minute), stick your spatula in the pan and taste the sauce. You should produce an eye-rolling “oh my godddd” and have to restrain yourself from eating it all out of the pan.
Stuart demonstrates proper tasting technique. If cooking for people who might not want your germs all over the cooking utensils, use a clean spoon.
When the cream has calmed down a bit and the sauce tastes like the flavors have blended properly, turn off the heat.
Drain your pasta. Throw it in the pot with the sauce, add about ½ cup of grated parmesan (you’ll need a cheese grater, which can be easily found at any decent-sized grocery store in Korea.), and give it a toss. Now, into the bowls!
Finally, add some more parmesan and some chopped parsley on top for garnish.