When I first discovered sour cherries a few years ago at the Farmer’s Market, I was blown away by how delicious they were. I was also unbelievably disturbed that I had managed to live and eat in the world for over 30 years having never had the pleasure of enjoying a sour cherry. Gorgeous, aren’t they?
I ADORE sour cherries. I was so enthusiastic that first season that I recall practically chasing down my neighbor at the market and gleefully giving her a handful from my basket to try. Right then. I wanted to share my gastronomic delight. Well, she hesitated, popped one in her mouth and then — oh my — she SPIT. IT. OUT. What? What? What? Her mouth puckered and contorted and she gasped and spit out my beautiful, precious sour cherry. To this day, after watching her face sour, my husband still refuses to try one. Sheesh.
Apparently, sour cherries are for pies as their sour pucker needs to be heavily doused with sugar. Clearly, my taste-buds are wacky. Yes, I have since made a pie out of sour cherries, but I honestly prefer them as is and will continue to enjoy them solo during their fleeting season.
For those who prefer a sweeter fruit, the blackberries are in full swing at the Farmer’s Market as well. Unfortunately, my husband does enjoy these which means I have to share.
We could not put our chopsticks down last night.
We didn’t even want to eat rice with this luscious, saucy shrimp (which is unheard of in my household given my husband is a rice freak) as we didn’t want anything to compete the phenomenal flavors.
This was certainly the most outstanding Vietnamese dish I have ever created in my own kitchen. It even rivaled some of the better menu items I have enjoyed at restaurants. This is the kind of meal that would make me return to a restaurant week after week because there is no denying the craving for this dish once you have had the pleasure of devouring it.
Vietnamese Caramelized Lemongrass Shrimp
Adapted from “Vietnamese Home Cooking,” by Charles Phan. This recipe will work without shrimp heads, but Phan says the heads add richness to the sauce. The recipe also calls for homemade roasted chile paste (there is a recipe in the book), but you can also purchase jarred roasted chile paste.
- 2 pounds medium head-on shrimp in their shells, or purchase peeled and deveined shrimp if you wish
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
- 2 Thai chiles, stemmed and halved on the diagonal
- 1/4 cup finely minced lemongrass
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 2- by 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely julienned
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons roasted chile paste
- 1/2 cup caramel sauce
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
- — Steamed white or brown rice
Instructions: Use scissors to remove the sharp spike at the tail of each shrimp and the spike in the center of the head. Cut off the eyes and discard, then separate the head from the body. Set the heads aside. Peel each shrimp body, removing the tail segments, then devein. Sprinkle bodies with the pepper; set aside.
Pour the oil into a 2-quart clay pot or high-sided skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots, chiles and reserved shrimp heads and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and chile paste; cook, stirring, about 1 minute more. Add the caramel sauce and stock; stir to combine.
Add the shrimp bodies, and toss to coat with the aromatic ingredients. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes, until the shrimp are bright pink.
Serve directly from the clay pot, accompanied by steamed rice.