Shrimp Smoked Under a Glass with Ponderosa Pine Bark



Memories of my grandparents' home are fading.  It's been more than ten years since they both lived there.  These days, another family wakes and sleeps in that little house off of Rural Route 2.  Nonetheless, my heart believes that my grandparents are still reclining in their matching Lazy Boys, signaling with the word paragraph when one wants the other to take a break from their book for conversation.

I'm left with only fragments, which roughly fit together to make a caricature of that home - the horribly steep stairs with the metallic creak, the pattern on the bathroom wallpaper, fireflies spied from the upstairs bedrooms, a china cabinet filled with delicate treasures, the always active bird feeder, the musty earth of the downstairs pantry, the quarterly chiming of a grandfather clock, the museum stillness cracked only by the mercy of country breezes.

As I write, a concrete piece of that memory puzzle sits on a shelf just above my head.  It is an incense burner in the shape of a log cabin.  I vividly recall being entranced by the smoke puffing from the chimney of that wooden house as a child.  I was convinced there was a tiny mouse inside, warming his toes by the fire.

From time to time, I take that miniature cabin down, and convince the mouse to start a fire.  The wisps of smoke emerging out of the chimney inevitably take me right back to my grandparents' storybook home, where evermore they are napping in their matching Lazy Boy recliners, opened paperbacks on their laps.

There is a good reason why so many cultures mark important ceremonies with smoke.  Its primal appeal connects us to the ephemeral.  Perhaps that's the reason why foods touched with smoke are so soul-satisfying as well.

It's been fun playing around with smoke for Wild Things this month.  Thus far in my kitchen experimentation, I've had quite a few failures.  It's not as easy as it would seem to add smoke to a dish in a way that enhances it, rather than leaving it tasting like a campfire pit.

Then I made this recipe with poached shrimp which are delicately smoked with Ponderosa Pine bark under a glass.  This technique would work well for any little bite of seafood or shellfish, and possibly other meats.  Part of the sensory pleasure of this dish comes from the smoke tickling your nose as you lift the glass which covers it.  The smoke flavors the shrimp as well,  leaving it with just the barest aftertaste of butterscotch-sweet Ponderosa Pine.

The actual cooking that goes into this dish is easy as pie.  It's only the assembling all of the individual bits that's a bit tricky.  I served this as part of an appetizer, with one large shrimp per person.

Shrimp Smoked Under a Glass with Ponderosa Pine Bark

large shrimp
juniper berries
Monarda fistulosa
feral garlic
salt

spicy tomato jam
chives

fresh Ponderosa Pine bark


1.  Clean, peel, and butterfly your shrimp.

2.  Bring a small pot of water to a bare simmer.  Add the crushed juniper berries, Monarda fistulosa, and feral garlic (or poaching herbs of your choice), and a pinch of salt.

2.  Add the shrimp to the simmering herbed water, and leave them just until they have turned pink throughout.

3.  Drain the shrimp.  Plunge them into iced water for a minute to stop the cooking.  Then dry them gently.

4. Wrap the tail end of a shrimp with a chive.  Put a spoonful of tomato jam (substitute jam of your choice mixed with a touch of cayenne pepper) onto an upside-down egg cup.  Gently place the cooked shrimp down onto the tomato jam.

5.  Place a tiny bowl inside a slightly larger bowl.  Surround the tiny bowl with dry beans (or salt) to keep it from slipping around.  Light a small piece of bark on fire, then blow it out so that it is smoking.  Place the smoking piece of bark into the tiny bowl.  Stack two toothpicks on top of the tiny bowl.

6.  Take the egg cup with the shrimp and jam on top, and gently place it onto the toothpicks.  Quickly cover it with a large inverted wine glass.

7.  Make as many as needed, assembly-line style.  Serve immediately.

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Wild Things is a foraging recipe challenge, and you are invited to play along.  Yes, you!  This month's theme is smoke.  If you've got a great recipe which used a wild ingredient and smoke, please send it along to wildthings.roundup@gmail.com before the end of February.

Comments

  1. Wow. No words for this. Beautiful, all of it.

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  2. Now that sounds really refined!
    What a fancy dish!!

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  3. Holy shit Butter... I'm so impressed. You know, I'm kinda scared of smoke and food. Smoking things just makes me think of that smoke flavour that comes in liquid form, and that's maybe why I'm a bit scared of it. But I make so much incense, and imparting THAT flavour to things, or like you just did with ponderosa, I can see how that'd be gorgeous...

    That was beautifully written too. The image of your grandparents napping in their chairs is priceless :).

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  4. I think you'd like the smoke here, Beks. It is very subtle.

    P.S. I want a incense recipe for Wild Things this month!!! Please please please.

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  5. So you could taste the ponderosa smoke on the shrimp despite the other flavors you cooked it with?? So foreign to me it sounds like magic!

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