A Tale of Two Dinners

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As if the first full week back at school weren’t difficult enough already, I decided to cook a full blown multi-component meal for dinner. On a Tuesday night. I can’t really explain why I decided to do something so gastronomical on a school night. While homework needed to be assisted (yes, even for a first grader) and both kids needed to be in bed by a reasonable hour, I still thought it might be fun to cook something satisfying for me and the missus while the kids ate their own separate dinner and went to bed. (My household has learned that the family meal quickly falls by the wayside when school commences. It’s the result of exhausted kids, exhausted parents, divergent bed times, and all the other challenges of the school year). Despite the obvious upsides of family meals, there’s something to be said for breaking it up once in a while, especially after a somewhat unscheduled summer. So a meal for the kids and then a later meal for the grownups is a welcome break now and again.

So they had:
Grilled turkey burgers, cherry tomatoes, and grapes.
Vi, in a quasi-vegetarian move, took two bites of the burger and ditched in favor of the bun (whole wheat. extra mayo)
Desi, in a quasi-proteinarian move, took one bite of the bun and ditched it in favor of the turkey patty.

And we had:
spicy shrimp with pimenton d’esplette, green zebra-cherokee tomato sauce, and wild chickpeas with guanciale, thyme, and bay leaf.
And we ate every last bit of it.

How the heck did this two stage meal happen on a tuesday night?

My wife made the kid’s dinner.

I planned ahead:
While prepping an heirloom tomatoe salad on Sunday, I threw the trimmings, along with onions, garlic, and olive oil, into a sautee pan and made a quick sauce while the rest of dinner cooked. I refrigerated that with the week in mind. I imagined it would sauce pasta well. Instead it sauced shrimp and beans well. It was a bit drab visually so I chopped a cup of parsley finely to brighten it a bit.

I ignored conventional wisdom:
I had some chicerchie, a wild variation of chickpeas that most online and printed sources will tell you to soak overnight. Instead, I took Steve Raichlen’s advice and didn’t soak them. I combined that with a blog commentor’s advice and boiled them fiercely for 20 minutes, before draining and simmering them in what seemd a traditional way: with a chunk of guanciale, a handful of fresh thyme sprigs, a bay leaf, and ton of salted water. For 90 minutes.

I spiced the heck out of the shrimp. With Spanish esplette peppers.

So the components were:

rich porky beans
spicy sweet red rich unctuous shrimp
tangy green heirloom tomato sauce

Oh yeah, and a glass of rioja. Okay, more than a glass of rioja.

It was hectic (tho the simmering beans allowed a good half hour of pre-bed book reading). It was more delicious than if I’d planned it. It was a happy accident indeed. And it didn’t feel a bit like summer. Welcome back to school everyone.
—Hugh

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