Week five of the 50 Women gamechangers is here again and this week, there are sure to be more folks joining in ... look over on Mary's website -
M F K Fisher was a complete unknown to me before this last week. I have been having a time doing some research on her and her body of work. So what do I think? I think she was a smart lady who never wanted to be stuck in the kitchen, but who wanted to know her way around it and a world of different cuisines. I also think she loved her travel, her circle of intelligent friends, and her ability to write about her passions and get away with making it earn her living. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm seeing her as the Dorothy Parker of the culinary world - smart, witty, talented, attractive, and somewhat of a bon vivant. I mean look at this woman ... doesn't she just ooze style and charisma? No shrinking violet, that's for sure!
Among other works, she published a series of essays called An Alphabet for Gourmets ... a set of writings that run the gamut of serious, tongue-in-cheek, humorous, politically edgy (for the times - 1940's), and knowledgable. All in all, they give wonderful commentary on food and all its physical, emotional, cultural, social, sexual, comical, and chemical connections with us as cooks and consumers. That is definitely simplifying things and I'm sure Ms. Fisher would put me in my place for simplifying the whole deal, but hey, I wanted to cook and not read , read, read.
Instead, I referred just a bit to Fischer's 'W is for Wanton' when making this evening's dinner - Spicy Wok Shrimp with Coconut Rice. I wished there was a curry element to the dish so as to be completely authentic to her essay, but alas, no. Instead, SB and I spent dinner conversation on the smooth, subtly sweet, spicy chili coconut sauce that surrounds the shrimp and the nice lime burst of flavor that surprises you every bite or two ... delicious. I was wishing that I'd done a little something with the mango on my countertop ... perhaps a nice salad to go with this softly sweet rice treatment, tender-crisp broccolini and popping fresh shrimp. Oh well, perhaps next time!
Here's to Fisher and her simple fresh approach to food, love of traditional yet uncluttered recipes, and her biting sense of humor ... check out some of her articles and essays, not to mention her books on her approach to cooking and food.
This is not a fussy dish. The shrimp is tossed with a hot spicy Thai pepper sauce and some salt. It sits for a bit while you wash some rice and make a coconut milk, sugar, and salt solution with some water for the rice's steaming broth.
The broccolini gets sliced into small inch-long pieces and then gets a brisk stir-fry in just a bit of oil. Just as it turns a brilliant green, a bit of chicken broth gets added to steam it to a nice tender-crisp, the shrimp get added and cooked fast.
This fast fry gets a coconut milk, chicken broth, cornstarch sauce added to make a smooth creamy coating that melds with the thai chili sauce to make a spicy addition to the salty seafood and crisp green veg flavours.
The result is a slippery smooth sauce that coats the shrimp, broccolini, and provides additional sauce for tossing into the rice, once the dish is plated.
Cilantro (my additon) gets tossed with the coconut milk steamed rice and then lime slices provide a nice squeeze of citrus tang - icing on the cake, so to speak!
A note ... I halved the recipe for everything but the rice and its steaming broth ... I'll have a bowl of leftover rice for my breakfast, but no leftovers of shrimp and veg. You can do what you will.
Gourmet's Spicy Wok Shrimp with Coconut Rice
1½ c. long-grained rice, washed and drained1½ c. water
1 tsp. sugar
¾ tsp. salt
1 c. unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat)
1 tbsp. peanut oil
1 lb. broccolini, washed and trimmed into one-inch pieces cut on the diagonal
2 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (20-25 count/ lb)
¾ tsp. salt
2 ½ tsp. Sriracha thai chili pepper sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
½ c. chicken broth
½ c. coconut milk (not low-fat)
Making the Dish:
1. Wash the rice and place it in a deep saucepan with the water, sugar, salt, and
1 cup coconut milk.
2. Bring to a boil partially covered and then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover snugly and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for another 5 minutes.
3. While the rice cooks, place the cleaned shrimp in a bowl with the Sriracha sauce and salt. Set aside.
4. Prepare the broccolini and have it ready near the wok.
5. Make a thickening sauce with the chicken broth, ½ c. coconut milk, and cornstarch and have it near the wok.
6. About ten minutes before the rice is ready, heat the wok over high heat and add the oil, swirling to coat the sides.
7. Stir fry the broccolini until it turns bright green, then add about 2 tbsp. water and continue to stir fry to steam it to tender-crisp – about three minutes.
8. Add the shrimp and its juices and continue to stir fry for 2 minutes.
9. Swirl in the thickening sauce and stir to thicken, making a smooth coating for the shrimp and veg – about three more minutes.
10. Turn the dish out onto a warm dish, turn the rice into another dish and fluff freshly chopped cilantro into it with a fork.
11. Serve with lime slices for squeezing over the plate.
People ask me: "Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way the others do?" . . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.”- M.F.K. Fisher