Here’s the thing: my family and me…we’re totally not normal.
We don’t know what it means to do anything in small-scale. Everything is always dramatic, abundant, overflowing, and to-the-max. We play hard and hardly work. Parties are planned years in advance, sometimes two, sometimes three. The menu is scrawled, scratched, and scrawled again. The grocery list four pages long.
Oriental Trading Co. is our BFF. Our latest bill included a myriad of items including: neon gangster hats, LED-activated sunglasses, shiny ties, and little silicone finger rings that light up only sometimes and constrict your finger so bad you think you might pass out but who cares because you’ve already had 5 shots of tequila and it was bound to happen anyway (?).
We like to party.
We like to eat.
Food has always and will always be the nucleus to my family. It brings us together time and time again. Should you ever cross our paths, a warning: you may gain a pound or 2 (hundred) from everything we throw at you, but we usually wash things down with a couple glugs of the finest Don Julio and dance for a few hours following, which kinda constitutes for diet and exercise right?
In my diluted mind at least.
Last week, my family came to visit from California, Boston, and Florida and stayed at our place for our annual Labor Day party. We had so much fun. Here’s just a few shots of what happened (special thanks to the people that actually remembered to take photos during the fiesta, I’m so horrible at it, looking at you Dolores!) —
This may be the one and only photo I took the entire evening: Choros a la chalaca, Peruvian-style mussels with a jalapeno red onion salsa.
[insert lots of great pictures of all the food we cooked and ate here. I’m a major loser and forgot to take them.]
And the drinking begins. Me with some of the sweetest girls on earth: Dolores, Christa, and Brittany.
The silly grin on my face while holding a stick lighter truly concerns me. Not sure what to say really. Meanwhile, my sister Elaine prepares shots: Flaming B-52’s.
Shots lined up and I’m obviously excited about something. Wait a tic, where’s my lighter?
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my uncle Victor, or more fondly referred to as “General Morgan,” a moniker placed for his love of the spiced rum, and pretty much any other alcoholic libation, including shots licked with flames in which you suck wildly from a straw before the whole thing combusts across your once-perfectly-unmarred-face. All visions of near death aside, this is one tasty drink.
Remember that last bit about me and my family not being normal. Yeah…
And just to show you those rare occasions where we can get our act together and actually have some semblance of normality, a family picture. Me, with my husband Jason, our dog Bailey, my sister Elaine, uncle and aunt Victor and Ani, my parents Tony and Veronica, and my in-laws Bob and Jill.
I love them so.
About the shrimps:
I wish I could tell you some inspiring, long-winded story about how I came to make this meal with said shrimps. Like maybe I fished them myself, with mine own hands, or maybe how I uncovered this recipe passed down from my ancestors by way of hieroglyphic scroll found buried in a secret compartment of my wine cooler.
Instead, I’ll give you the honest truth. People still appreciate that, right?
I found the shrimps in a plastic bag in the freezer. The noodles were squished in the back of my pantry. The red curry paste in the bottom shelf of my fridge. I was lazy.
Forthcoming: my laissez faire approach to cooking with as little effort as possible proves supreme again. You’d think I do this all the time or something…
Since I had evaporated milk handy, I went ahead and used that as the base for the sauce, but a can of coconut milk would be a welcome and tasty substitution, but would advise reducing the amount of brown sugar slightly because coconut milk can have a verve towards sweetness. Also, this pasta dish is really at its best cooked and served immediately. But, if you must, and have much more self-control than I could ever muster in this lifetime (I started eating this straight from the pan), please reserve the sauce separate from the noodles and mix together when it comes time to eat, otherwise it will turn into a hard, clumpy mess. No bueno.
Shrimp and Noodles with Red Curry Sauce
Serves 2 very generous portions
12 medium shrimp; shelled and deveined
Pinch of all: Chinese 5 spice, salt, pepper, ground ginger
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 can evaporated milk
2 heaping tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Splash of heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 package noodles (linguine, fettucine, soba, any will do)
Fresh chopped cilantro for decoration
Lime wedges to serve
Begin boiling the water for your noodles. When it comes to a bubble, throw in a generous helping of salt to the water and then chuck in the pasta of your choice. Stir and keep an eye on it while you do the rest.
Start by seasoning the shrimp. In a small bowl, mix the shrimp with a few pinches of chinese 5 spice, salt, pepper, ground ginger, and a splash of canola oil. Heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat and toss in the shrimp, cooking on both sides until pink and just cooked, remembering that they will continue to cook slightly when you toss them back in with the pasta sauce later. Set shrimp aside.
In the same pan, pour in the evaporated milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, garlic, and brown sugar. Use a whisk to help incorporate the red curry paste into the milk — sometimes the paste can be stubborn, keep at it. Let it come to a slow bubble and give it a taste. If you’d like, add a pinch of salt and pepper, but since the fish sauce is already quite salty and there is some heat in the red curry paste, I decided to forgo it. Do as you will.
When the pasta is just about ready, add a splash of heavy cream to the sauce for extra richness and then because everything is better with butter, toss in a nub of butter at the very last second, stirring to melt, before tossing shrimp and noodles into the sauce for one last jubilee before eating it. Mix it about lovingly, turn off the heat and serve with freshly chopped cilantro and lime wedges.