Mardi Gras ended weeks ago. The Carnival that was, is no more. Gone is the feasting… but not the fasting. Days of celebrations and merriment have faded into the solemn and somber days of Lent.
Some people give up pleasures during these 40 days as a fasting sacrifice. As a child in Kansas City in the 1940’s, I gave up sweets one year. Surely, I could do without.
One week and my weakened will gave in. I had forgotten just how good sweets tasted. The next year, JUST candy became my abstinence, not ALL sweets. That didn’t last very long either. The next year, I tried giving up ONLY chocolate candy… so much for that also. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I gave up wearing lipstick.
During the cycle of Lent, my childhood family ate a lot of fish. My mother’s idea of a successful Friday dinner was canned salmon made into patties and fried. Canned salmon was pretty gross in those days, especially the cheap brand that my mother always seemed to buy. It had slimey dark skin clinging to flesh and lots of little white bones throughout.
Once I bit down on a small funnel-shaped bone that looked like an eye socket. I don’t even want to guess where that bone would have been. I still do not eat salmon unless I can see exactly what is inside and would never order salmon patties in a restaurant.
There were no fish sticks or fresh cod to freeze or shrimp to make into a cocktail. Our refrigerator only had a freezer big enough for two metal ice cube trays anyway. Living in the middle of the country meant no fresh fish ever. The only wiggly fish that I ever saw were the ugly catfish my father and uncle caught in my Uncle Fred’s little pond on the family farm. Besides being hideous to look at, catfish also had lots of bones.
One time I caught some crawdads in a creek near our city park. By the time I got them to our kitchen, my mother made me throw them away because they were dead after the bus ride home. Aside from the ugly catfish and dead crawdads, I never saw any fresh, water-born fish.
That is why I got so excited when I saw the shrimp today. The little guys were laying on their bed of ice in the meat case, and I could not pass them by knowing I had this great recipe. I do love shrimp, and this is the easiest and most delicious way to cook them.
Buy a pound or more of shrimp depending on how many people you plan to serve. (A quarter pound of any fish or meat per person is a good gauge). Devein and clean thoroughly. Check the underside of your shrimp because sometimes the veins are there.
ALERT: Do not ever, ever serve your family or guests shrimp that has not been deveined. That is a Number 1 culinary mistake that should never, never happen.
Melt a cube of butter in a 9×13 pan. Slice a lemon and put the slices into the melted butter. Add the shrimp on top of the lemon, stir to coat, and sprinkle ample cajun spice or an Italian seasoning packet over the shrimp. (Either spice works great.) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Do not bake any longer. Shrimp will get rubbery if cooked too long.
These shrimp are wonderful served as toothpick appetizers right out of the pan where they were cooked or a platter. Also, you can cook sliced polenta until creamy and serve the shrimp over that. Cooked grits would also work as a base for the shrimp.
Although Lent and fish easily go together, yummy meals can still stand out as prized dinners for your family and guests. You, and I, don’t have to settle for canned salmon with round, funnel-shaped bones anymore.