December 1st is World Aids Day. Every year, I get out my red ribbon pin, and put it on in acknowledgment and remembrance. But in reality, I remember every single day. I have watched people I love die slowly from this horrible disease, and know that others I cherish still live with it. I have not forgotten. It is impossible for me to forget. I think about the wonderful people both here and now gone, every day.
Unfortunately, at least in the US, the AIDS crisis has taken a back seat to other issues in the public eye. It has not gone away. The drugs have gotten better, but there is no cure. Lack of attention means that people are still becoming infected. In other parts of the world, the crisis has reached epidemic proportions, leaving millions to die needlessly because they don’t have access to education or the type of medicine we have here in the US. The disease also makes millions of children orphans.
So why am I writing about this on a food blog and what does it have to do with Red Curry Shrimp?
A few days ago, someone named @spinachtiger started following me on Twitter. As I always do, I look everyone who follows me, and if they have a blog, I check it out. The blog, www.spinachtiger.com is done by an artist named Angela Roberts. While the blog is lovely, and the food looks delicious, what caught my eye was something across the top banner which said: “Red to Remember.” I clicked on it and was instantly struck by Angela’s writing about losing her brother and her cousin to AIDS in the same year and her desire to give herself and others touched by loss full permission to remember.
I could relate in so many ways and I admired her commitment to raising awareness that the crisis still exists. By the end of the page I had tears streaming down my face and I was agreeing to participate in this food blogging event she created. Please make sure you check out her blog, www.spinachtiger.com on December 8th when she does a round-up of all the participants.
This post is dedicated to my stepfather Bartholomew Miro Jr. who died on May 8th, 1992 due to complications from AIDS.
Bart lived life to the fullest, had a wicked sense of humor, a flair for the dramatic, and oh yes, he loved to eat. One of my biggest regrets is that he never got the chance to eat my cooking once I was working in a professional kitchen. He lost his sense of taste a couple of years before he died and didn’t want to come to the restaurant if he couldn’t taste the food. He adored sweets and I can’t eat a Pinwheel cookie without thinking of him. He liked spicy food and I think he would have loved this shrimp.
I can still hear his laughter when he would stand in front of the microwave and scream “Huuurrrrry!” (this was an old Elizabeth Taylor joke). Not a day goes by where I don’t think “Oh Bart would have loved this song/tv show/chocolate cream pie.” I know he would have been thrilled and blown away by Barack Obama being elected president. I miss him every day and I don’t want people to get complacent about HIV/AIDS. This is still a very serious, deadly disease.
So yes, I remember. Those memories may be bittersweet but they also have a pinch of spice.
1 lb fresh, raw, cleaned shrimp (U26/30)-More on sizes and cleaning below
2 Tbsp. Thai RED curry paste
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 lime (juice from, about 1 Tbsp)
1 tsp. fish sauce (known as nam pla in Thailand or nuoc mam in Vietnam)
Fresh whole basil leaves (1 per shrimp)
6″ bamboo skewers (1 per shrimp)
Notes on ingredients:
Use only raw shrimp for this recipe. Cooked shrimp will become overcooked once it goes under the broiler. If you can’t find fresh shrimp, frozen is ok, just thaw completely first. For the curry paste, I use a Thai brand called Maesri Thai Red Curry which I buy in a local Asian market. The brand of coconut milk I buy most frequently is called Chaokoh. There are a million different brands of fish sauce, but the one I’m currently using is called Tiparos.
This recipe was inspired by one in the December 2008 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I’ve taken some liberties with the original version (which included only curry paste, oil, shrimp and basil). This post is also a contribution to a new website called Gourmet Unbound which is devoted to bloggers who will showcase a recipe from a previous (any) year’s Gourmet Magazine from the current month.
If the shrimp still has the shell on, clean the shrimp (see instructions below) and place in a medium-sized bowl.
Mix the coconut milk with the red curry paste, lime juice, and fish sauce. Pour over the shrimp and combine so all the shrimp is coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat the broiler.
Cook the shrimp under a hot broiler (I used the bottom rack) for 3 minutes, turn the shrimp over and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the broiler and allow to cool until they can be picked up.
Thread a bamboo skewer through the bottom of a basil leaf, skewer the shrimp and then skewer the tip of the basil leaf through the end of the skewer. Serve immediately. I also tried these cold, and while they were still good, they were better when warm or room temperature.
How to Clean, Peel and Devein Shrimp:
Rinse the shrimp in cold running water. They should be smell fresh, like the ocean. Seafood should never smell “fishy” or have any whiff of ammonia (which indicates it’s going bad). Fresh shrimp should be firm, never mushy.
To peel the shrimp: If the head is still on, pull it off. On the inside curve of the shrimp, slip your finger under the shell and pull it up and off. This may come off in one or two pieces. Pull off the tail. Repeat until all the shrimp are done. If you are peeling a lot, you should keep the shrimp cold by sitting the bowl of shrimp in a larger bowl of ice. You can use the shells and head to make shrimp stock to use later if you want.
Once all the shrimp is peeled, rinse again under cold running water. With a sharp paring knife, make a small cut along the back of the shrimp, no more than 1/4″ deep. Pull out the black intestinal vein of the shrimp and discard. I usually do this in the sink under cold running water.
The shrimp I used were “U26/30.” This means there are between 26 and 30 shrimp per pound. Shrimp are sized anywhere from U8 (huge) up to over U120 (very small).
With the extra coconut milk and red curry paste, you could make my Red Curry Noodles with Tofu. That dish would also be good with shrimp substituted for the tofu and/or steamed rice substituted for the noodles.