Perfect Summer Send Off

I've been celebrating the end of summer with great sales on seafood at the store. Last weekend we hosted our first dinner guests, my Father in law and one of four brothers in law. Not wanting to make Italian food knowing that's what they'd expect, I tried out a new crab cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated. It was a success! Served with pan roasted carrots, creamy basil sauce and a green salad with balsamic roasted mushrooms and onions.

A few days ago I settled on an entire eat-with-your-hands menu of jumbo wild gulf shrimp (poached in old bay broth and served in shell), king crab legs (poached in broth after shrimp were removed) with homemade cocktail sauce and corn on the cob. Served with Victory Brewing Co's Prima Pils, it was a match made in heaven. Shrimp cooking is a very delicate thing. While boiling for 3 minutes yields edible results, a slow poach brings about tender, wonderful results.

To begin, make a court bouillon (quick stock) by sauteing onions, garlic, carrots and celery in some olive oil. Don't dice them nicely, just rough chop. Add a bay leaf, black peppercorns, a cut lemon and some herb stems like parsley. Depending on mood I might add crushed red pepper, coriander, ginger, lemongrass or kefir lime. Add a flavor conductor, like white wine, beer, or store bought broth. Allow the alcohol to cook off, and top off with any additional liquid you may need, usually water will be fine. Bring to a simmer. After the flavors have had a few minutes to marry, turn the heat off. Add shrimp. Cover. Poach about 5 minutes for very large shrimp. Remove and lay on a pan in a single layer so they don't continue cooking too much. Chill and peel for shrimp cocktail or serve immediately for a feast. A casual dish like this really impresses guests and is almost no work. Save this valuable cooking liquid for making paella, bouillabase, or some Italian fra diavolo.

Give the utensils a rest and celebrate the bounty of the sea!

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