The devil you say!


March rolls by and brings with it a new monthly recipe. My Cooking Challenge, now in its 15th month, is giving me fits this year. Will my bad trend continue? Maybe I should give up this cooking thing altogether? The devil you say!

Yes, my first recipe this year, prime rib, was a historic disaster. And, while I can blame the meat thermometer, I must also blame myself. Trust is a must or your game is a bust. My buddy used to tell me that in bowling (trust the hook), but it applies in cooking, too.

The second effort, Kalbi, is still under evaluation by me. No, it did not taste like I thought it would, but yes, it did come out exactly as the recipe described. Confused menu choice does not invalidate a successful recipe.

But, ah, my March recipe. That seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Or devil in this case. The devil you say, indeed!

As with most of my cooking adventures on this challenge, there is a tale to be told. So let’s get to it, shall we?

The devil you say!

I have, for some time, wanted to cook a fra diavolo dish. As you might guess from all the devilish mentions, “fra diavolo” means “devil monk” in Italian. While my lifestyle might resemble a monk, it’s the diavolo that holds the real interest for me.

Basically, it’s a spicy hot (sometimes super spicy hot) red sauce used, most commonly, with seafood and pasta. You all know I love spicy hot. Case closed.

The sea(food) of love

My original thought was for a seafood fra diavolo. This is how I first became aware of the dish, a long time ago in a fancy Italian restaurant.

Since then, I have been mostly meh about the diavolo I have been served in other places (the old restaurant is long gone).

But, after my recent excursions into seafood paella, I am still looking for more dependable mollusks (clams, mussels, etc). However, I can always find good shrimp, so that’s my go to shellfish.

The Gary Johnson dilemma

A snag in the recipe appeared early on. Aleppo pepper flakes. From Aleppo.

Much like the unfortunate presidential candidate, I did not know where Aleppo is located. Not the city (sorry Mr. J), but the flakes.

I researched substitutes and was unable to find them either. That’s when good ol’ Amazon stepped in to save the day. Much like the seafood base for my paella, I found a nice packet of Aleppo flakes online.

Note, these were actually from Syria. Apparently, there are Aleppo flakes from Turkey (even though there is no Aleppo in Turkey – maybe they are Gary Johnson brand?)

Boil, boil, toil and trouble

Trouble all right. I stink at boiling water.

Hard to believe, after 30 years of cooking for myself, but I still seem to walk away at just the right time for water to overflow onto the glass cooktop. Jeez. Thank goodness I learned that trick with an angled razor blade.

Grilling, baking, sauteing and food processing I can do. Boiling water still surpasses me, apparently.

A tale of no tails

Someone will one day explain to me why recipes call for shrimp with the tail on. Is it for appearance? Cooking requirement? I don’t get it.

Here, you have a nice peeled and deveined shrimp and then you get to this annoying tail at the end which still has a shell on it. What’s up with that?

Smoke gets in my eyes

During the process of sauteing the shrimp, however, I did manage to create mustard gas. Or something pretty effectively close.

The heavy pepper mixture I created and high heat used to “sear” the shrimp, created a slow buildup of smokiness in my home.

My sole focus was on the shrimp (delicate – never want to over or under cook them). My first clue was my uncontrollable coughing. Looking up, I could see a smoky cloud around the house. Dur.

Opening the front and back sliding doors and turning on some ceiling fans eventually cleared the air. Not before teary eyes and more coughs. Dur. I’ll use more oil next time.

Every breath I take

So, the actual concoction takes very little time to make. When I make it next time, I’ll just stay focused and there won’t be the drama. But, finish it did and the taste?

Awesome! Nice and hot, just like I prefer. Not only did the sauce clear my sinuses, it’s possible it may have disintegrated them entirely.

So, the recipe for March is a smashing success. It renews my faith and enthusiasm for keeping this challenge going. I look forward to April’s adventure.

Give up the cooking challenge just because of a couple of so-so’s this year? The devil you say!


2 Responses to “The devil you say!”

    • JMD

      I’ll have to thank Dad’s genetics, but I never get heartburn from spicy food. Now, yeah, one day I may find my stomach lining has been burned away, but until then – have at thee!


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