The refrigerator in Matt and Nathaniel's kitchen is a dangerous place. With three or four people contributing to its contents, the refrigerator becomes a jungle in which items are routinely misplaced, lost, or forgotten. Produce vanishes, then reappears looking considerably worse for wear. Leftovers develop sentient life and stage hostile takeovers. (Thus far, none have succeeded.) Condiments breed, producing hordes of half-empty jars of pickles and mustard. Food may very well be safer outside the fridge than in it.
The freezer isn't much better. Everything keeps, so nothing gets thrown away. My latest effort at tidying up revealed half a pint of Cherry Garcia ice-cream, the heel of a loaf of bread, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of vanilla vodka, another bottle of vodka, several packages of frozen spinach, a yogurt container full of squash stew, a Ziploc bag of parsley stems, and a Tupperware container of what I initially thought was tomato sauce, but then realised was leftover crazy water.
Crazy water. Acqua pazza. As in pesce all'acqua pazza, which is a Marcella Hazan dish I learned about from Matt. I'll probably write about it in greater detail when tomatoes are in season again, but the short of it is, you take fresh tomatoes, chop them up, and simmer them with water and garlic and chili flakes and flat-leaf parsley until you have a spicy, stewy broth in which you poach fillets of white fish. Then you serve the whole mess over rice, with lots of crusty bread to mop up the juices.
The last time we prepared it, we ended up with more crazy water than we needed, so I poured the leftovers into a Tupperware container, stuck it in the freezer, and proceeded to completely forget about it. Several months later... well, see above.
I decided the best way to get rid of it would be to make another dish in which you serve the whole mess over rice, with lots of crusty bread to mop up the juices. Shrimp étouffée fit the bill nicely. Score: Adele, 1. Freezer, 0.
Now, does anyone have a recipe that calls for frozen spinach and lots of vodka?
This is loosely inspired by Jambalaya's recipe for crawfish étouffée, but it is not, and in no way pretends to be authentic New Orleans cooking. So Kathleen, if you're reading this, don't kill me.
(Serves one, with leftovers)
First, you'll need a pound of raw shrimp. Frozen shrimp are fine, though fresh shrimp are better. Defrost the shrimp, if necessary. Peel the shrimp. Set aside.
Cut a small yellow onion, a small green bell pepper, and a few ribs of celery into fine dice. Mince three cloves of garlic.
Heat a generous slice of butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Add two tablespoons of flour and stir until the mixture turns a light shade of brown. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Season with generous dash of paprika, a generous dash of black pepper, and a sprinkle of cayenne. Add a pinch of salt. Throw in a bay leaf. Stir.
When you can smell the onions, pour in a splash of white wine. Let the fumes cook off, then pour in a cup of leftover crazy water, or a cup of fish or shrimp stock. (Don't have fish or shrimp stock? Use water and add a dash of Worcestershire sauce.)
Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat so that it's at a steady simmer. Add your shrimp and cook until they're pink and tender. Stir in the juice from half a lemon, and a handful of finely chopped parsley. Remove from heat. Serve over rice, seasoned to taste with Tabasco. Accompany with crusty bread.