There were peanut shells on the floor as we walked in. Everywhere we went in Baltimore in the 90s, well in public houses to be more precise, there were peanuts strewn across the creaky wood. Some, I’m sure, falling into the cracks of the trap doors behind the bars. We were told that they were there to soak up the spilled beer as the night wore on and we bought that.
It became the norm if you were a Balti-morean (supplant –moron if you are in fact a Pittsburgh fan) and it was comforting as you made your rounds throughout town. East, west, north or south…it didn’t seem to matter. The peanut shells crunched under your shoes or sandals and they stood for something — the more shells, the better the establishment.
As is the case in every town, some places are good at food and drink, and others should just stick to one or the other. Try as we might to discern the obvious, there were always variances. However, when it came to the stalwart pubs, you always knew what you were going to get.
Kipling’s was an all-time favorite and I was served a dish so simple yet revealing in the spring of 1992 that I could barely contain myself, as is obvious by the fact that I am writing about it nineteen years later: Steamed shrimp and red onion. As simple as it was, a platter full of steamed shrimp paled in comparison to one that was also served with some of the glorious bulbs thrown in the mix.
My revelation was eclipsed by a trip to Northern California some years later where a restaurant served shrimp and clams, basted in beer, with a super-spicy Chorizo sausage. Could it get any easier?
Presently as I go through my repertoire trying to figure out what I want to cook, what I want to write about and what I care to remember, it brings a smile to my face when I think about the simplicity of this dish. Not only does it bring back great memories, but it also serves as a valuable teaching tool for the simplicity of good taste.
Three major ingredients with a splash of beer make for one serious late-night dish. It’s hard to ask for more than that.
Since we do happen to live on Delmarva, however, I will spare you the challenge of finding a good Chorizo. Hot Italian sausage will do just fine, as I proved this evening in my mission to entertain.
As you go through the recipe, bear in mind one very serious caveat. Where I have ‘cleaned’ shrimp listed in the recipe, there is a certain way to do this, but please be careful. If, and I mean only If, you have good control of knives, use a serrated knife to clean your shrimp with the shell still on. The added flavor is worth the effort but you must be careful.
And as you make this, save the shrimp boil safely and reuse. It will fortify similar to a remouillage (don’t remember? Shame on you) and age gracefully if carefully handled.
So, shrimp cooked, sausage grilled and onions cooked to perfection, you can only imagine the joy with which you will dive into this dish. And if you really want the full effect, have your kids (or grandkids) shell a bunch of peanuts and throw them on the floor. It doesn’t get any better than that…even if you are one of those Pittsburgh fans.
“Balti-Frisco” Style Shrimp
3# 16/20 shrimp, ‘cleaned’
Shrimp Boil (Recipe follows)
2 ea. Red Onion, peeled and quartered
4 ea. Hot Italian Sausage or Chorizo
1 ea. Heineken or other Pilsner
Old Bay Seasoning to taste
Grill the sausages. When they are done (and they are fairly bomb-proof) just keep them warm until service
Bring the Shrimp Boil to a rolling boil (hence the moniker) and throw the shrimp and onions in. *Perhaps you may not want to ‘throw’ but rather gently place the ingredients in the boil. No harm is done when caution is at a premium
Immediately remove from heat and let water slowly cook the shrimp and onions. Trust me, if you like beautifully cooked and tender shrimp this is the way to do it
Remove when cooked, and set the ‘boil’ aside to cool. Freeze until next time or refrigerate if you are going to use it soon
Serve with shrimp, sausage, onions and of course a chilly beer or pinot grigio as you desire. No alcohol? This dish is stunning with a plain sparkling water or drink of your choice. That’s up to you!
for 3# of shrimp
1 c. Cider vinegar
Old Bay to taste
1 whole lemon, quartered
water to cover
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil
Add the shrimp, being careful not to splash any of the hot liquid. This can be a tad painful
Cook for maybe 20 seconds and then remove from heat. The hot water will do the rest
Just let it sit for a spell until the shrimp are just cooked through. This prevents the ‘tire’ effect of shrimp that have been cooked to the consistency of your favorite Michelin. Great on the road…not so great on the tongue