THAI-STYLE SHRIMP SOUP
When my wife has to go out to a meeting so I'm eating dinner alone, I load up on the rare items that I like and she doesn't. One of these rarities is shrimp, and last night, I dragged home a half-pound of fresh beauties and turned them into this simplified but tasty Thai-style soup. The beauty of this item is that you peel the shellfish and use the shells to make a fast but rich and flavorful stock that will then be the base for the soup.
This procedure is highly adaptable and could be altered to accommodate just about anything you've got in the house. Sliced celery would be great in it, for instance; and I really wished I had some cilantro around. The following would be enough for two, I think, but I was hungry and this was all I had for dinner, so I pigged out.
Peel 8 to 10 ounces shrimp and put all the shells into a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Put the peeled shrimp in a bowl, squirt them with a little lemon or lime juice, and set aside.
Add half of a medium onion and a couple of smashed garlic cloves to the shrimp shells and water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scummy stuff that floats to the top, then lower heat and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. (Tip: Leave the skin on the onion, and it will add a nice brown color to the broth.) Strain out all the solids, and pour the clear broth back into the (washed) saucepan.
Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients: Slice one or two fresh jalapeno peppers thin (discarding the ribs and seeds); quarter 6 to 8 large button mushrooms; slice two scallions (green onions) thin; and mix in a small bowl 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1/4 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon Thai hot sauce.
Place the shrimp stock over medium heat, and when it comes to the boil, put in the jalapenoes and mushrooms. Simmer for a few minutes until the 'shrooms are crisp-tender, then add the hot-sauce mix and the shrimps. As soon as the liquid returns to the boil, add about 1 cup dried chuka soba (ramen noodles), and continue cooking just until they soften and float to the top of the soup, taking care not to overcook, lest the noodles turn mushy and the shrimp rubbery. Garnish with the sliced green onions and serve.
This one's a tough wine match, but it went surprisingly well with a German Scheurebe Spatlese; the rich sweetness of the wine played off nicely against the richness of the shrimp and the relatively moderate spicy heat of the soup.