The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

Chaguaramas, Trinidad:
December 19, 2010
The Shrimp Report, and Christmas Baking

The coconut shrimp passed with flying colors. (See my December 8th blog.) Not only did Jesse give them a big thumbs up, so did the rest of us. I marinated them in garlic and salt, dredged them in flour, battered them, rolled them in coconut that (extra points here) I had grated myself, and deep-fried them. I hope you’re keeping track of the number of dirty dishes created by the making of coconut shrimp – and the amount of counter space required to dredge, batter, roll, and set before deep-frying. This recipe is a bit of a high-wire act in any kitchen, let alone one the size of Receta’s galley.

Off with their heads: These fresh
guys from the Port of Spain market were
a big reason why the recipe
tasted so great.
But the shrimp turned out perfectly – golden brown, not at all greasy; coconut-crispy on the outside and tender within. Following Wendy’s suggestion, I used coconut oil for the frying, and let me report that it’s wonderful. I also used a tip I picked up watching my dad’s caregiver, who is from Ghana, at work in the kitchen. She uses only a small pot when she deep fries (and she deep fries a lot), and though this means you can only fry a few shrimp at once, it makes it easy to control the temperature of the oil, and to scoop them out the instant they’re ready.

Unfortunately, we neglected to take a photo, so I can’t show you how beautiful the shrimp were. (Next time – and I’m sure there will be a “next time” during the Christmas holidays – I promise I’ll photograph them.) In the meantime, however, I can show you Receta’s Christmas cookies. Holiday cookies were always a big thing when I was growing up.

From Receta's oven so far this holiday season (clockwise from bottom left):
Ti Punch Tarts, Chocolate-Crammed Christmas Cookies, Tart and Sweet Lime Squares, Mini Carrot Cupcakes, Ginger Spice Cookies, and Sugar Cookies.
Mom was known for her Christmas assortment, and my brother and I were her assistants. It was our job to roll the hot-out-of-the-oven butter balls in delicately colored sugar, and the pecan-studded crescents called Greek cookies in confectioner’s sugar, inevitably burning our fingers in the process. And we were responsible for decorating the wreaths, Santas, and trees from her spritz cookie press with bits of glazed cherry and colored sprinkles. (They never kept their shape in the oven, spreading into fat wreaths and obese Santas. Mom claimed this was because she used only butter, never margarine. Taste was always more important to her than appearance in any case.)

I don’t let a tiny galley stand between me and tradition, and I’ve been baking up a storm, choosing what I’ll make based on what I think the recipients will enjoy. So far, I’ve done my Chocolate-Crammed Christmas Cookies, Tart and Sweet Lime Squares, Ginger Spice Cookies, One-Bite Ti Punch Tarts (these four recipes are all in The Spice Necklace), some standard rolled sugar cookies, and mini Carrot Cupcakes frosted with cream cheese icing. (This last recipe is from my Toronto friend Jane Rodmell’s All the Best Recipes .) For old time’s sake, I’ll be making those Greek cookies, and burning my fingers on them, between now and the 25th.

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