V-day came and went,
Here’s the recipe I should have sent.
It was an icy cold, blustery night. Snow drifts nearly two feet high covered most of New York City and more snow was still falling. I was at Scotch’s apartment in Astoria, Queens waiting for his flight to arrive from Edinburgh where he had attended a birthday gala for his dad and aunt.
It’s a miracle his flight made it in through the blizzard. It was to be our first Valentine’s together as we had only been dating for 6 months. Scotch had booked a table at a fancy restaurant in Manhattan and always the optimist, he had high hopes that we could still make it into the city. But by the time his flight landed, the blizzard had caused a shut-down of most train lines and businesses were encouraged to close early so people could get home safely.
We decided to brave Mother Nature by foot in search of any restaurant that might still be open. A few blocks from Scotch’s apartment, we found a Thai restaurant that was open for business. We gladly rushed through its doors for some warmth from the freezing cold. It wasn’t the most romantic place for a first Valentine’s dinner but it was an adventure we wouldn’t soon forget and at least we could spend it together.
I can’t remember what we ordered (knowing me, most likely something with seafood) but I do remember having to unexpectedly pay for the meal because the restaurant did not accept American Express and Scotch had no other credit cards nor cash on him. I also remember the beautiful long-stem red roses that he had sent to my house earlier (this was before he knew my favorite color was yellow).
I can’t believe that was 10 years ago. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday. Other times it seems like an eternity ago.
These days we try to avoid the hype and commercialism of of V-day by staying at home and enjoying an indulgent home-cooked meal and a bottle of bubbly.
I made this Shrimp Mac ‘n Cheese recipe based on a Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese recipe (from epicurious) as I didn’t want to shell out dirhams for live lobster. The essence of this dish comes from the shrimp stock. You can certainly just throw cooked shrimp into a regular macaroni and cheese recipe but sautéing the shells and making the shrimp stock will give the final dish a much richer seafood flavor.
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- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 500 g (1 lb) large shrimp, peeled, deveined, shells reserved
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup scotch Whisky or Cognac
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 10 ounces (280 g) or Emmental or Cheedar or a combination
- 8 ounces elbow, cavatappi or amori pasta
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large pan over medium high heat. Add the shrimp shells to the pan and sauté 5 minutes.
- Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaf and sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in Whisky/Cognac.
- Add 2 cups of water to the pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 45 minutes. Strain the mixture into a large bowl while pressing down on the solids to extract the liquid. Discard the solids and set the stock aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same pan over medium high heat.
- Add the shrimp and sauté until 3 minutes until just opaque. Cool slightly and coarsely chop the shrimp.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute.
- Add the shrimp stock and cream and simmer until the sauce is reduced to 2 cups. Add the cheese and stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
- While the stock and cream mixture is simmering, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain.
- Stir the shrimp and pasta into the sauce. Stir over medium low heat until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a small baking dish and bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbly and browned. Enjoy!