Tuesday night has come and gone again in a blur of activity. To add to the usual excitement, a good friend of ours, who is in town this week, came over for dinner and introduced us to her beautiful baby boy, Anthony. We were so excited to see them and I think both of my girls are now a bit smitten with the new little guy.
So, knowing that Tuesday night was going to be even busier than usual, I grabbed my copy of Pam (not Pamela…that would be a completely different book) Anderson’s cookbook Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers. This is one of my favorite go-to guides for entertaining. Everything is quick and easy, a little bit out of the norm and can be made ahead. That last perk alone makes all the difference in the world to me, especially on a busy weeknight. When I entertain, I don’t want to spend the entire time slaving away in the kitchen. I’d rather spend my time with the people I’m feeding! This cookbook has helped me do just that on many occasions.
I chose a spicy shrimp stew that has quickly become a family favorite. It’s so easy to put together. If you are making it all at once, you can start it and have dinner on the table in less than thirty minutes, easy. If you’re a little more crunched for time around dinner, you can take ten minutes out of your morning and make the base for the stew. Just pop it into the fridge and then about 10 minutes before you want to serve it, heat it back up and add the shrimp. This is what I did last night and it worked out perfectly.
Start by chopping up some fresh veggies…
The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro. I’ve found that cilantro is a tricky herb. Some people can’t get enough of it, others like just a pinch. If you’re like my husband, you flat out can’t stand the stuff. Since my husband was one of the people I was making dinner for last night, I cut the amount of cilantro used in half. He didn’t complain, so mission accomplished! Feel free to add, or remove, the cilantro to your heart’s content.
The dish also calls for light coconut milk. You could use regular coconut milk. Your stew might just end up a little thicker and you’d be adding a few extra calories. However, when you make this, please make sure that you are buying coconut MILK and not Cream of Coconut. Coconut milk is a combination of pureed coconut and water. It has the consistency of regular milk and is used in a lot of Thai curries. I usually find it, canned, in the Asian section of my grocery store. Cream of Coconut is much, much sweeter, thicker and is used in desserts and those tasty frozen drinks you like to dive into on vacation. You’ll also need petite cut, not regular diced, canned tomatoes. They’re there, I promise, right next to the other canned tomatoes.
Saute’ up the veggies, add the tomatoes and coconut milk and the first bit is done. That’s it! At this point, you can put the lid on the pot and refrigerate the sauce until just before dinnertime.
The only step left is to add your shrimp. Shrimp only take a few minutes to cook, so they are great for entertaining. This is, of course, assuming your guests don’t suffer from shellfish allergies! Make sure you check! (I speak from experience.) When the shrimp are pink, they’re done!
I like to serve this over Jasmine rice, from my favorite “I can set the timer early in the day and have perfectly cooked rice for dinner” rice cooker, but it would be very good over noodles or just eaten from a bowl with a nice, crusty chunk of bread for dipping in that delicious sauce.
Thanks to this quick and easy meal, I was able to spend just a few minutes at the stove and most of my evening last night enjoying a good meal, laughing with my friend, and snuggling her sweet, baby boy. A perfect night all around.
SPICY COCONUT SHRIMP STEW
Adapted from Pam Anderson
- 2-3 lbs. peeled and cleaned shrimp (for the 3 adults and two children I served, I only used 1 1/2 lbs.)
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1 1/2 inch long strips
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts kept separate)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (feel free to add less if you aren’t into spicy!)
- 1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 can (13-14 oz.) light coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- Rice for serving, if desired
- In a 5 – 6 quart pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the red pepper, and cook, stirring, until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add the white parts of the green onions, half of the cilantro you’ve chopped up (the rest is for garnish), minced garlic and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 – 60 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer, to thicken it a bit, for about 5 minutes. **At this point, you can take the sauce off the heat, let it cool off a bit and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to add the shrimp. Just reheat, on medium heat, before continuing with the recipe.**
- Lightly season the shrimp with salt. Add the shrimp to the sauce, partially cover the pan and continue to cook. Stir the shrimp frequently and simmer until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the lime juice and add salt, if needed.
- Mound some rice on each plate and ladle the stew over the rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and remaining green onion. Serve with lime wedges.