Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Tasty Rice at Last

Eventually I'll learn to cook basic staples. Last night I did pretty well with rice, at least regarding flavor. I cooked it the EXACT amount of seconds the recipe said to cook it EXACTLY for and it was a little mushy (rice cooker time for me) but it was oh so good.

I made good rice because I got a new refrigerator. Having a new refrigerator that holds a regular temperature and holds the same temperature throughout its compartments is a good thing. I recommend it. My new refrigerator has a bigger freezer section than my old one, but really it's the fact that I can rely on things in the freezer to stay hard frozen as long as I leave them in the freezer that is the key issue here.

What I've been doing is saving shrimp shells in two layers of ziplock bag, adding to the stash until I had what seemed like enough to make stock. You don't want to do this with shrimp shells (and tiny bits of shrimp) unless you're pretty sure the hard freeze will remain hard. The reason I accumulate shrimp shells is my dirty little mealtime secret: One of my frequent regular staple meals is frozen pizza.

But frozen pizza is crap, right? As a book I read 30 years ago pointed out, the Dairy Council's claim that cheese freezes well rarely includes the rest of the proposition, which is that it does not thaw well. Frozen pizza is cardboard bread and bad cheese and icky ingredients. Which is why you have to get the absolute cheapest plainest thinnest most basic frozen pizza imaginable (which is often hard to find), a simple thin crust with not much cheese (when I am Food Emperor the notion of "double cheese" pizza, either frozen or in a bad pizza chain, will be anathema and its execution will be punishable by instant coffee). With such minimalism, there isn't much to go bad.

Then you add your own ingredients: maybe good anchovies stored in olive oil, or mushrooms sauteed in chopped onion and garlic with pepper and oregano, or goat cheese spread over the frozen pizza, or mostly-cooked pieces of Nueske's bacon. Top it off with fresh-ground pepper and good oregano, maybe with some red pepper flakes. Cook this on a pizza stone and finish it off in the broiler and pour yourself a nice glass of big red Australian wine and I think you're doing just fine.

I like shrimp pizza. Shrimp gets a little dried out cooked on a pizza, but if you cover it with a little goat cheese or even, sometimes, the good Nueske's bacon it works out. So I keep bags of frozen shrimp in the freezer, sometimes pre-cooked and sometimes requiring cooking (I cook them up with bay leaf and peppercorns). That's why I was able to accumulate a bag of shells.

One evening a few weeks ago I made my first shrimp stock, from a recipe that told you to leave the onion skins on which gives the stock a nice amber color. Halfway through cooking the stock it tasted like lovely shrimpy light broth. The finished stock, however, tasted too intense to eat as bouillon. I froze it. Because now I have a good freezer section.

My four cups of frozen stock were exactly what my rice recipe called for, and that's what I made last night. I mentioned to my mother last week that I had made my first shrimp stock, and I planned to use it to cook rice and maybe add some vegetables or shrimp to the dish. She suggested I just cook myself a nice piece of fish and serve it with the shrimpstock rice on the side and I thought, "Yes!".

I stopped at the nice market on the way home last night to buy rice and fish. They had wild Alaskan Coho salmon, which was a tad pricey but I'm only one person and don't need that much. I cook salmon according to the suggestion of an elderly woman I met at a supermarket checkout line: paint it with mustard and bake it on high heat. I use a little butter and lemon as well, and it's so so so good. Yum.

The shrimpstock rice was delicious and perfect with the salmon, even today reheated at work in the microwave. The rice would in fact be good as the basis of a main course, mixed with pieces of fish and some vegetables. I drank some inexpensive white Bordeaux with it (which is not so inexpensive as it used to be two years ago, but still only about $7 or $8).

I think this is beyond Betty Crocker.

Oh, and to gild the lily: This nice supermarket carried Izzy's Ice Cream! (Izzy's is a top-notch if not the top-notch local ice cream place and they recently started to market their ice cream in some local supermarkets.) I bought a pint of mint chip, and some hot fudge sauce (with no high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list, thank you very much). I recreated what used to be my favorite dish at Bailey's Ice Cream in Harvard Square 30 years ago: A simple scoop of mint chip ice cream coated with bubbling hot fudge.

If I get up the nerve, maybe I'll cook up a meal like this for company someday.
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