One of the great things about cooking, is that there are no hard and fast rules. There are some suggestions, like “don’t put the Everclear in the saucepan while you are boiling the jello”, as you tend to burn down the kitchen before the jello shots are finished. Thank you to my sister, Sarah, for testing that theorem for all of us. I would never have thought to, myself.
And there are no real boundaries, except the ones that you draw in your head. And we all have different boundaries. For example, I won’t eat bugs, eyeballs, or anything that was part of the digestive tract of any animal. I don’t care how many times Andrew Zimmern tells me they are delicious. I also won’t eat food from a potluck. Have you seen some people’s kitchens? I think it is safer to eat foods that have been sneezed on by a room full of two-year olds. But I am not opposed to trying raw food, other types of organ meat, or exotic foods that I can neither pronounce nor identify… as long as I don’t identify them as eyeballs, bugs, or parts of the digestive tract. My husband’s boundaries are a little more, shall we say, safe. Have I mentioned that he is a scientist? He won’t eat mushrooms (because they are fungus), or liver (because it’s purpose is to filter toxins out of the body). Also out of the question are sushi (because it is raw) and ceviche (because even though they say the lime juice cooks it, it is really still raw).
My children are even tougher. Rather than tell you what they won’t eat, I’ll tell you what they will eat. Pizza. Pasta (butter only). Chicken, grilled, baked or fried (no sauce or anything touching it). Fried fish. Baked potatoes. Iceberg lettuce, ranch dressing. Rice (steamed, white). Corn on the cob. All you other moms out there–here is the sing along part:
“What is that?”
“It’s yummy, try it”
“I don’t like it”
“How do you know, you’ve never tried it”
“I know I won’t like it”
” Just taste it”
“Taste it, or your grounded until you’re 35” .
I can’t use the “open wide, here comes the choo-choo train into the tunnel” thing anymore, because my kids are teenagers and they would have me held for psychiatric evaluation.
I HAVE resorted to bribery, though. “If you eat 4 bites, I will give you 2 dollars….” I do that because I read somewhere that it takes kids 4 times to accept a new taste. I would like to say I am horrified that I do this, but it DOES work. They have begun to eat outside of their boundaries, because teenagers like money and Ipods.
Cooking under these restrictive conditions can be a bit suffocating to a foodie. There are really only four solutions to this dilemma:
- cook something different for everyone (reprise your childhood dream of being a short order cook);
- cook only foods that fall within your finicky eaters’ boundaries (and die a little bit inside with each meal you cook)
- cook only foods that you like, until Child Protective Services shows up inquiring about your children’s poor health and recent weight loss;
- cook foods that you like and that you know they would like if they dared to try them, and don’t let them know what is really in it (subterfuge)
It’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it? When you chop mushrooms up really fine, and saute them before putting them in the sauce, they look rather like ground meat. And unless they actually see the peanut butter jar sitting on the counter next to the pan of Pad Thai, they would never know….
So came to be the recipe for “Pirate Shrimp”. Because if I had called it “Captain Crunch Shrimp”, nobody would have tasted it. Which would have been fine with me, because they were excellent. But since it is my foodie mission to expand people’s food boundaries, I went with sneaky, rather than forthcoming. Everybody loved them. When I revealed afterward the true nature of the breading, it was too late. They were already sucked in. And bonus points because it is super fast and super simple.
Caribbean Pirate Shrimp
makes 6 appetizer size servings, or 2 dinner portions
- 12 super large shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterflied (leave on the tail)
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s)
- 3 beaten eggs
- 2 cups Captain Crunch cereal, crushed roughly
- oil, 1/2″ deep in a skillet, for frying (or may use deep-fryer)
- Caribbean Sauce, below
Heat the oil to 375*, or medium high in a skillet. Combine flour and Cajun seasoning. Dredge the shrimp in flour, then in beaten egg, then in crushed cereal. Fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. Serve with sauce for dipping.
Caribbean Lime Sauce
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- juice of one lime
- 1 small fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
Mix all ingredients. Serve with shrimp, chicken, fried fish or pork.