Don’t Feed the Orzo After Midnight

COOKING ADVENTURES #71: Lemon Pepper Shrimp with Orzo

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Orzo

Ah, shrimp. One of those foods that almost always reminds me of warm weather, bright sun, and crisp salty sea air. After all of the rain we’ve been getting, I was dying for a sun-soaked day off where I could finally make some kind of shrimp dish. But I also didn’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of time making it. I searched online for several shrimp recipes and eventually came up with this delicious one from a fellow wordpress blog Fit Fabulous & Frugal. I checked out the ingredients and was satisfied when I found that I had most of them. The only thing that I was missing was orzo. I’ve cooked with Orzo once. These tiny little marquise-shaped pastas usually come in a giant plastic container and seem to multiply once boiled in hot water, a reaction akin to something out of Gremlins. And while none of them morphed into mischievous large-earred imps, I had the realization that my ratio of shrimp to orzo was just a little bit… off.

Invariably, every time I make some kind of shrimp dish, I refer to shrimp as “trimps”. This harkens back to one of my favorite comedy films, The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and Gene Hackman. During one of the many famous dinner scenes, Hank Azaria’s character Agador Spartacus, grabs a bowl of shrimp and shouts after an angry Robin Williams, “Wait! There’s trimps!” Not sure why this has stuck with me all these years but if I start referring to the shrimp as “trimps” at any point in this Cooking Adventure, at least you will not be totally confused.

Mid-Afternoon last Monday, I went to my kitchen and compiled my ingredients in order to make the Lemon Pepper Shrimp Orzo. I first grabbed a pot from under the counter and filled it with some water, sprinkled a hefty dose of salt in, and brought it up to a boil. Seeing as how it usually takes my stove top an eternity to heat up, I figured I’d have enough time to get my shrimp ready. I turned to my skillet and quickly dribbled some oil into it, following my usual pattern of cooking. One look at the directons however told me that I wasn’t supposed to use oil, but butter instead. I groaned, quickly grabbing a paper towel and trying to mop up the oil. Once it was mostly out, I took a couple tablespoons of butter and dashed it in before turning up the heat to medium-high (like the directions told me to do) to low to allow it to melt. I pulled the bag of frozen shrimp from the freezer and set it down on the countertop.

I have a usual MO for cooking shrimp. I take a bowl of hot water, pour the frozen shrimp into it in order to thaw them quickly, then pull of the shells on the tails and cook them. I had just finished filling the bowl with water when I remembered that I was supposed to have garlic chopped for the pan once the butter melted. Quickly wrenching a couple cloves off my garlic bulb (sounds particularly violent, doesn’t it?) I grabbed my santoku knife and began hastily mincing the garlic. Within seconds of tossing the little bits of garlic in the pan, I heard the roiling of water. I turned and found that the water in the pot for the orzo was already boiling! Still half-confused by my stove top’s newly discovered timeliness, I rushed to the cabinet and grabbed my tub of orzo. I was supposed to measure a cup into the pot. Of course, I just dumped what I suspected was a cup into the pot and then a little bit more just in case. Then I returned to the “trimps”.

Or at least, I would have had the butter not already melted and begun to burn in the pan. Instinct made me rip open the bag of shrimp and toss in ice coated clumps of the little crustaceans directly into the pan. I knew the tails were still on. And I knew that if I cooked them this way, I’d have to go through the painstaking process of pulling off every single one of them before I could eat my meal in peace I took my stir stick and pushed the shrimp around in the pan, allowing the ice to crumble away and leave the pink shrimp to their fate in the skillet.

After all of that hustle and bustle, I found myself suddenly with nothing to do but wait. I watched both the orzo and the shrimp closely, stirring the latter from time to time. After about three to four minutes of letting it cook, I went to the fridge and snagged a lemon, cut it in half and squeezed one into the skillet, managing to populate my skillet with unnecessary lemon seeds in the process. Imagine how much fun I had digging each one out. Then after adding a few good shakes of pepper and salt in, I took the pan off the burner.

About this time, the water in the orzo pot began to boil over as Gremlin-orzo is apt to do, bubbling in a frenzy as it soaked my burner. I determined that this was also done and removed the pasta from the burner. Just before I combined the two items, I checked the directions once more, having the distinct feeling that I was missing something. Sure enough, I was supposed to add parsley to the orzo and stir it in. Of course, fresh parsley is required but since I use a sprig of the stuff and then let it dehydrate in my fridge for the next five months, I used dried. It’s at this point that I realized I had way too much pasta versus the twelve shrimp in the pan. All of that ice made it really hard to see how much I had actually added. Bummer.

I dumped the buttery, lemon garlic-infused “trimps” in with the orzo and stirred them together until the kitchen smelled like a Mediterranean dream. I suddenly wanted to be on the coast of Greece, over-looking a tropical blue sea and enjoying my dinner across the table from a handsome guy. Unfortunately, reality forced me to sit on my red naugahyde couch with the foam spurting out the sides of the cat-clawed cushions in an oppressively humid room beneath a shuddering ceiling fan. Oh well.

The orzo was full of flavor if not one too many pieces of parsley that decided to stick in my teeth. As suspected, every time I got a “trimp” in my mouth, I’d have to pull it out and bite off the tail before I could continue. This made dinner take twice as long to eat but honestly, the shrimp was worth it. Since I don’t get to have it all the time, I figured working for it is probably the least of my problems. And this is definitely a dish that I will be enjoying again… although next time, I’ll be sure to take time beforehand to thaw the shrimp.

Next time on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be attempting a sweet summery dessert recipe proported to be “ridiculously easy”. Peach Crunch Cake is this week on Cooking Adventures. Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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