Yesterday, I posted photos of an epic grocery trip here in Los Angeles where my friend Malibu Judie and I procured thirty-three pounds of fresh produce and two pounds of shrimp to be cooked over the course of the weekend. Well, on Saturday of this past weekend, we put many of those purchases to use as the two of us, as well as B-Side Blog regulars jash and Sly, convened in my kitchen to create JalapeÃ±o Cocktail Hour. Over the course of a few hours, we managed to churn out several delicious items: jalapeÃ±o cornbread, jalapeÃ±o poppers, a shrimp and jalapeÃ±o salad, jalapeÃ±o-cucumber margaritas (with a candied jalapeÃ±o garnish), and a shrimp and jalapeÃ±o ceviche, adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless. Needless to say, we had our work cut out for ourselves. This would be apartment cooking at its best.
A lengthy culinary journey after the jump…
Saturday morning, I head over to jash’s apartment to start the juicing process. Note the presence of breakfast libations.
We peel the limes down to glistening orbs of green citrus. The juicer, it turns out, does not like rinds.
With forty limes ready to go, jash prepares for mass pulverizing.
If I could, I would score this moment with the seminal triumphant anthem, “Let The River Run” by Carly Simon.
Lime juice gushes into the container like the river wild.
Within seconds, we have nearly four cups of lime juice.
Make that eight cups.
I cannot resist the urge to pose with our citrus bounty.
Oodles of leftover pulp.
Back at my kitchen, it’s time to kick it into high gear. There’s a pan for cornbread, a sheet for roasting shrimp, and a pot for boiling even more shrimp.
Things get off to an inauspicious start when Malibu Judie manages to send a large number of condiments to the ground in a frenzy of bumbling and gravity. It would become a theme for the weekend.
Malibu Judie then fecklessly plops the shrimp down into the sink, sanitary standards be damned.
I then don an apron (temporarily leant to me, courtesy of jash). Time to get down to business.
Malibu Judie starts chopping up many, many jalapeÃ±os. Her fingers would later burn from the oils. Serves her right.
I assemble the dry ingredients for the cornbread into this bowl. It’s usual stuff: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder. I mean, what sort of IDIOT could mess that up?
In an effort to up the tastiness of the cornbread, we shave off kernels from farmer’s market corn. And then, of course, there are the jalapeÃ±os, diced and ready for action.
Mixed with some eggs and milk, the ingredients all come together as a happy family of batter.
Into the oven it goes. Dish #1 is well on its way. (Also note the sheet pan below. It’s covered in half of the shrimp, which are roasting away in salt, pepper, and olive oil)
The other half of the shrimp, meanwhile, is about to get the Rick Bayless treatment.
Into the cauldron of boiling water they go. For the record, my lil’ kitchen now has three dishes simultaneously cooking away. Malibu Judie and I toast to our Toyota-like efficiency.
The many joys of shrimp turning orange.
Malibu Judie then attempts to take on the jicama (a ceviche ingredient). It’s one of the scariest endeavors I’ve ever seen, and quite frankly, it’s a miracle she didn’t lose a digit or two in the process. Needless to say, I have to intercede.
My sure hands are able to slice away a sizable chunk for imminent dicing. I surprise myself sometimes with my sheer talent.
I then show off my knife skillz by performing a quick dice. Moments later, however, we decide that the dice is entirely too large. I FLEW TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN!
I take a breather from the jicama olympics to tend to the shrimp, which have been poached and then steamed in a pot.
Malibu Judie, meanwhile, goes straight for the boxed wine.
Our two sets of shrimp. Top are poached/steamed. Bottom are roasted. The roasted ones had this amazingly rich, orange color. It was all we could do to not reach into the bowl and start eating.
Vibrant frutti de mare!
Now that the shrimp are done, it’s time to start working on (or rather, continue working on) the various veggies that will go into the salad and the ceviche. Malibu Judie attacks the cucumbers.
Lovely dices all around.
I fiddle with the kitchen timer. All seems to be moving along quite well. Again, Toyota efficiency.
Nothing could possibly go wrong…
While I was assembling the shrimp salad, I suddenly heard a loud bang, followed by a thud, and then gasps. I looked down to see that Malibu Judie had managed to DROP a bowl, which subsequently had shattered on my hard, faux-tiled floor.
Consider our Toyota efficiency shattered, much like this bowl.
Malibu Judie reaches for help, but like anyone’s gonna touch HER after all the bad luck she’s brought about so far.
We then pause operations so I can go in and clean up with my suction-free vacuum. Dyson it is not.
Once the kitchen has been deemed safe for human foot traffic, we return to our posts and get back to work. I pull the cornbread out of the oven, and it looks marvelous, if I do say so myself. We were sure to place a solitary jalapeÃ±o slice in the center in honor of IndianJones.
In turn, we grew somewhat obsessed with the slice of jalapeÃ±o. It was like IndianJones was RIGHT THERE with us.
Further calamities! While we were still reeling from the great Bowl Mishap of 2009, Malibu Judie then managed to drop half an ONION onto the floor below. She tried to blame part of the incident on jash, but her prior record as a serial DROPPER would seem to indicate otherwise.
Now that the shrimp have cooled down, it’s time to peel and devein. I, of course, can’t help but play with the seafood for a moment.
An interspecies romantic moment.
Mwahahaha â€” I shall now decapitate my crustacean lovah!
In an effort to recreate the French Revolution, I intend to drop the knife like a guillotine on this shrimp, who I shall now call Marie Shrimptoinette.
But then I take pity on the shrimp and opt to merely yank its head off with my bare fingers instead.
The experience is halted momentarily after the first few tugs reveal a green, mushy substance that leaks out from the shrimp’s head.
Ultimately though, I prevail.
And in walks Sly.
While Sly sits in the corner and chomps on leftover jicama, I dice up the peeled and deveined shrimp, tossing it into the salad mixture (which is basically mayo, cilantro, red onion, cucumber, mango, lime juice, and, of course, jalapeÃ±os).
While I tend to the salad, jash continues peeling and deveining the shrimp for the ceviche.
It’s a full kitchen. Disregard the creepy blur patterns on jash and Malibu Judie’s faces.
Here we all are smiling. Although, you’ll have to take my word for it.
Prep for the ceviche.
Eventually, we realized we had a ton of shrimp heads and shells leftover. What to do?
Shrimp stock! We tossed all the shells, some celery, some bay leaves, some water, some peppercorns, and some thyme into a pot and let it simmer for hours. And where did we find the thyme?
Why, it was in my balcony herb garden!
Three cheers for sustainability! (And me not killing my herbs!)
Sly, meanwhile, goes traipsing around my apartment in search of knickknacks to artistically photograph. Here’s one of them.
Speaking of artistry, jash bought a ($12!!!) box of jalapeÃ±o poppers, also in honor of IndianJones (it’s his taste level). It sort of went against the whole “fresh ingredients” concept of the day, but, well, that’s just what happens sometimes.
With the ceviche marinating and the salad chilling, we get a little goofy with the cornbread.
Once again, the IndianJones pepper is the subject of much attention and adoration.
An action shot of me expanding my glorious Ikea table. Food, it would seem, is en route.
Sly once again indulges her passion for foot-themed photos.
So far, everything in the kitchen seems to be doing well. The fish stock smells absolutely amazing, I should note.
And yet another shot of the IndianJones pepper.
Jash checks on the poppers. They are cooking up shockingly well.
With everything more or less done, it’s time to get cracking on the most important part of the day: THE DRINKS. Here I am slicing jalapeÃ±os (too thickly) for a garnish.
But these aren’t just any jalapeÃ±os. These are to be candied jalapeÃ±os â€”Â recipe courtesy of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (a.k.a. the Two Hot Tamales)
Basically, I just boiled the slices in a cup of water and half a cup of sugar for five or seven minutes.
While the jalapeÃ±os rest, Sly gets to work making the margaritas. Specifically, these are jalapeÃ±o-cucumber margaritas, courtesy of La Dolce Vita
Sly muddles with vim and vigor.
Poppers are ready. It’s almost showtime.
Ceviche is a go!
And voila! Cocktail hour begins!
Of course, nothing happens until the obligatory swarm of food paparazzi have finished attacking the table.
Our tasty libations lie in wait.
The shrimp salad proved to be dynamite. We were only sad that it yielded so little.
And don’t get me started on Rick Bayless’s ceviche, which proved to be truly out of this world.
Cheers to a job well done.
Did I mention how spicy everything was?
In a stunning show of bravado, absolutely none of the jalapeÃ±os were seeded for JalapeÃ±o Cocktail Hour, thus creating quite the visceral reaction for all assembled.
And yes, that is a sheen of sweat developing all over my face.
The worst part of all this was that we kept reaching for our margaritas to cool us down, but those turned out to be the spiciest of all (what with all those dangerous oils muddled so generously by Sly).
Midway through the cocktail hour (which extended way longer than just a mere hour), shrieks and screams were heard as jash callously stabbed the IndianJones pepper RIGHT THROUGH ITS METAPHORICAL HEART!
Awkward silence ensued. Then laughter. And then more sweating.
In the end, we pretty much demolished everything.
And you can be sure I was in no rush to do these dishes.
Oh yeah. The fish stock turned out well too.
Packed up and ready for the freezer.
Here’s me wistfully reminiscing on the cocktail hour that was. Good times, America. Good times.
Overall, the cocktail hour turned out perfectly â€”Â scalded taste buds be damned. Everything tasted amazing (even the store-bought poppers), but the real star was the ceviche. Can’t recommend it highly enough. For those who want the recipes, here are links:
Cornbread by Mark Bittman
JalapeÃ±o-Cucumber Margaritas by La Dolce Vita
Candied JalapeÃ±os by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger
Shrimp Salad (adapted from Lobster Salad Canapes) at Epicurious
Ceviche de Camaron: Shrimp Ceviche “Cocktail” by Rick Bayless