Cook the Shrimp


Part of the fun of planting our roots here in the Russian River Valley has been getting to know all of the fascinating people that are part of its community. A couple of weeks ago, I’d been invited to a luncheon of the Russian River Valley Girls, a group of women who are active participants in grape growing and winemaking. I was excited and nervous, hoping I would make a good impression and not make a fool out of myself. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

The potluck lunch was at the home of Mary Radu on Vine Hill School Road. They have a new vineyard and a peach orchard of over 90 trees that keep them on their toes this time of year. We were asked to bring food that would go along with a Mexican theme. I’d decided to bring the beautiful lime-and-ginger-marinated shrimp appetizer my daughter had served at a party here at the ranch a few weeks ago. I’d planned my shopping trip very carefully and timed the preparation of the dish so I wouldn’t over- or under-marinate the delicate shrimp. The recipe calls for cooked shrimp, but my daughter had advised buying raw shrimp for freshness and then cooking it just prior to mixing in the ingredients. That was my plan.

I followed the recipe to the letter, including the final instruction, which was: “Add the shrimp.” Unfortunately, it did not read, “Cook and add the shrimp.” I proudly sat out my dish with the other wonderful dishes at the luncheon and, remembering how good it tasted previously, was surprised when the other ladies weren’t taking from the platter. I enthusiastically served myself and tucked into the first bite of shrimp. Imagine my amazement when what met my lips was gray and slimy. I couldn’t imagine what had made it so different from the shrimp appetizer my daughter had prepared.

Gray shrimp, instead of pink, should have been my first clue.

After figuring out that I had failed to cook the shrimp, I snuck into the house to remove my dish from the table. Then I sucked it up and made a red-faced announcement to the gathering: “Um, I wouldn’t suggest eating the shrimp.” The group took my announcement with such good humor, grace and sympathy that it made me look forward to attending the luncheons in the future.

I’m a killer baker. This blueberry pie recipe from Cook’s Illustrated will grace the table at my next attendance.  I do plan to cook it first.