Saturday, November 08, 2008

New in DC

“Dreamworld” by Robin Thicke

Moves are never short of a few hiccups. Mine should have had me at wit’s end, but with my refreshed vision (my relocation to the east coast largely to blame), I’m tending to take hiccups much less seriously now. My priorities seem to be more in the order that I would ideally like them to be in, and I find myself wearing this constant smile. In short, I feel renewed and alive, and I’m eagerly and pleasantly surprised as I look underneath each new rock in this gloriously different city. As is my nature with almost all things new and unknown to me, my curiosity is near unquenchable. And this city is not disappointing me at all.

This city has got me hooked. From the moment I wake up, slowly uncoil myself from bed, and realize that I’ll be stepping out into a completely new neighborhood with refreshingly brisk weather, lined with cobblestoned sidewalks, trees with changing leaves, shiny Vespas, and parked cars that are settled in for the week waiting to be used for weekend trysts... From the moment that I smell the brewing coffee delicately wafting into my bedroom from my cozy, little kitchen, enticing me to gingerly crawl out of bed and endure the cold slate floor so that I can pour a steamy mug to leisurely enjoy while I ease into my morning… From the moment that I know that I will have to wear a jacket and a scarf to wrap up in while I indecisively pick my way through the neighborhood streets to work, passing ivy-covered row houses, international embassies, the National Geographic Society, at least eight coffee houses…

From these simple, yet new and cherished moments…to that moment when I discover a soon-to-be favorite quasi-hidden watering hole full of interesting people chilling to an interesting deejay nestled in between shelves of dusty books in a small alcove spinning interesting music… Or that moment when a tall, mysterious stranger walks past me with his serious and penetrating eyes, thick wavy hair, pressed dark suit, and dangerously deep dimples, and his fragrance faintly reaches my senses, tickles my skin, and makes me blush. And then that moment when suddenly he appears behind me at the door of that dark lounge and follows me in, with a mischievous smile, escorts me up the stairs, and buys me an extra dry, completely dirty, martini… But this is not about him. This is about me, and I cannot devote my attention to any one person or thing because my attention span does not allow it. Let alone some handsome stranger with an exotic accent and an exotic name. Instead I tuck away a business card with an appreciative nod…and find myself drawn to that moment when I’m seated at a cozy dark wine bar that is walking distance to my place and I discover that it serves my favorite varietal of wine, Montepulciano, by the glass. And as I take my first sip, I feel like I’m suddenly moving in slow motion, and arriving at this comfortable nook in my mind where I can sit for a while and mentally pontificate over silly little nothings.

I am falling for this city, completely falling for it. Others have mistakenly compared it to much larger, more impersonal cities. I myself come directly from one of those. But I am not making the same mistake. DC is very much created in its own image with its own personality, and has its own problems with its own glorious moments (i.e., election night, with an energy that I will never forget; I’ll save that experience for another blog). This city is not trying to be anything else, not that I have seen so far. And while it heavily suggests of the northeast, in many respects it also hints of the south. And that is how I’ve come upon the following recipe. It’s an old dish that I loved and enjoyed years ago, and since moving to DC, I have had the hallowed experience of revisiting this dish, rather multiple updated variations of it because, oddly and pleasantly enough, it is served in so many places here.

Ah, yes. Welcome to DC…or as I find myself feeling more and more like saying: welcome home.

Shrimp Grits

Grits, instant or otherwise

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium white onion, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 pound andouille or spicy Italian spicy sausage, cut in chunks

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken stock

2 to 3 bay leaves

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on

Pinch cayenne pepper, adjust to personal preference

1/2 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 green onions, sliced

Follow the instructions on the package for the grits. Place a deep skillet over medium heat and coat with the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic; saute for 2 minutes to soften. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until there is a fair amount of fat in the pan and the sausage is brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to create a roux. Slowly pour in the chicken stock and continue to stir to avoid lumps. Toss in the bay leaves. When the liquid comes to a simmer, add the shrimp. Poach the shrimp in the stock for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are firm and pink and the gravy is smooth and thick. Add the cayenne pepper, Tabasco and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper; stir in the parsley and green onion. Spoon the grits into a serving bowl. Add the shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.