It is not often that someone calls me to help out with their parties. Usually I am cooking them myself or traveling to Virginia to work for friends up there, but when a friend recently called me for some aid, I jumped at the chance.
With a beautiful menu on hand, I found myself midday Saturday working for Guy Bayshore, prepping for the soiree. It was imminent that I would have had a great appreciation for the effort that he had put into the design and purchasing, as I remember his work at Solstice General Store.
Cheeses were purchased from an artisanal shop in Alexandria, and Bison purchased from a farm in Hurlock. Duck was flown in from a farm up north and the Coppa, Toscano, Serrano, et al were bought at a store which had taken great care to shingle the meats in a painstaking fashion. The latter made my life infinitely easier as I peeled them apart and set up trays to be served with Raclette.
As we finished the prep, we found ourselves at the museum of a house in which the party was held. A local dilettante and fine patron of the arts was our hostess, and the gala produced an A-list of Eastern Shore artists and friends.
As people one-by-one came to me to tell me how great the food was, it was my pleasure to direct them to Guy as he was the mad scientist behind the function. Not being the ringleader of an event like this was refreshing, since I was just there to work and enjoy; yes, you can do the two simultaneously.
As luck would have it, I knew a fair number of guests and as I rubbed elbows, I was confronted by a gentleman who had cooked my pumpkin bread recently, much to his chagrin. I had forgotten to include flour in the recipe (note apology in previous article), and his bread ended more like a bowl of stewing pudding. Somehow I don’t think that was the intended effect.
Laughing at the matter, I was approached by another gentleman, Sterling Rutherford, who shared with me that he ‘knew me from somewhere’.
Concern raced through my head as I thought inwardly ‘oh, boy; I hope he didn’t try the pumpkin bread’ when he snapped his fingers and shared that he reads my column, and has made one of my rockfish dishes for guests to great aplomb on several occasions.
Flattered and relieved, I thanked him kindly and was elated to know that, if nothing else, people are trying these recipes. It makes it feel as though it is not all done in vain, any writer’s greatest concern I imagine.
Three oysters were brought in, one from Chincoteague (as salty as I remember them from youth when I shucked them by the bushel), Wiley Points (Maine) and Island Creeks (Massachusetts). Knowing that I can shuck a shell, Guy had me on that station throughout the party once set up was completed.
As I shucked away, a guest started shaking his head and said “I can’t remember the last time that I saw someone shucking without a glove on”. I laughed and shared that it was how I’ve shucked since 1984 and as stupid as it may be, the glove just slows me down.
We then talked about McGarvey’s saloon, my second job in the business in 1984 and the Tuesday nights on which Heidi and I would shuck bushel after countless bushel of the blasted things. How I don’t have carpel tunnel I’ll never know.
As I went over the menu on the drive home, one dish stood out for its simplicity and absolutely stunning result; the honey-chipotle shrimp, a specialty of Guy’s. With his blessing I was able to share it today, as he learned it from another chef years ago. Most of the time, this is how we do it; we ape our way through this mess.
Good at first and then amazing as time goes on and the flavors marry, they are a required addition to your party repertoire.
So with no menu to write and an article done, it’s now time to watch some TV and finish the rest of these shrimp. That’s a good day.
2# Jumbo Shrimp
1 c. Honey
1 Tbsp. Fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 Tsp. Black pepper, ground
2 Tbsp. Adobo sauce from Chipotle peppers
2 Chipotle chilies, finely diced
2 c. extra virgin olive oil
- Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on
- Combine the honey, thyme, salt, pepper, Adobo and chilies in a bowl
- While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil, creating an emulsion that will stabilize to act as a marinade for the shrimp
- Add the shrimp and marinade to a large and sturdy zip-loc bag and toss to coat
- Let sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours
- Place on a baking pan in a single layer and bake at 375° until they are just barely cooked through
- Let the cool enough to place bag into a clean bag and refrigerate
- This can be done up to a day ahead. As written above, they get better with time (of course notwithstanding the fact that when spoiled, they do not taste as pleasing)
- Simply serve shrimp chilled with lemon wedges