Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Chuck Finale Versus the Sizzling Shrimp

This weekend presented one of the greatest challenges I've ever faced. The Chuck finale was airing Friday, but Kevin was out of town. As a result, I had to wait until his return on Sunday because that's what Chuck would do for Morgan (note: both of us claim to be Chuck in this scenario despite my uncanny ability to look like Morgan when bearded). We've both loved Chuck since its premiere, and how could we possibly not? It's the ultimate nerd gets the girl story (a girl who has now set the bar far too unobtainably high) filled with countless thrills, humor and heart (although as a scientist and the former president of the mathletes I don't know how that qualifies me to be part of the standard nerdom fanbase...). Hell, we even both responded to unemployment by laying on the couch and eating a giant tub of cheese balls (perhaps my finest moment). Cheese balls and espionage aside, the real draw of the show that made it endure for so many people is that, at its heart, it is about family and friends.

The exact moment I fell in love with Chuck (the homage to the previously mentioned O.C. New Years

I wanted to celebrate the finale with a dish truly deserving of the five great years the show has given us. Throughout those seasons, several foods have played key roles like Chuck's famous chicken pepperoni (which was out since it was often described as terrible) or the footlong sub that saved Chuck more times than Casey and Sarah did (which was out because a sandwich doesn't really make for an exciting post). No, the unlikely culinary hero would instead be the titular dish from season one's Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp. 

The Sizzling Shrimp
A Holy Combination of Epicurious.com and AllRecipes.com and My Brain
Servings: 4-6
Time: 40 minutes

Where the sizzle comes from
1 1/2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
Peanut oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 anaheim red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
5 green onions, chopped and divided
1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
5 tsp white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Jasmine rice, cooked
Pineapple, chopped for garnish

  1. Don't freak out.
  2. Sauté the onion, garlic and ginger in peanut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until tender and fragrant.
  3. Add the cayenne pepper and cook for another minute.
  4. Stir in the jalapeno, anaheim red pepper, red bell pepper and 1/2 of the green onions and continue sautéing until tender (about 3-5 minutes). It may help to cook these up in a separate pan with additional peanut oil and then add it to the onion mix).
  5. Pour in the wine, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. (You can pretty much keep pouring wine until you think you have enough sauce.)
  6. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water then add to the mixture and continue boiling until thickened. Once thickened, lower the heat.
  7. Cook the shrimp in peanut oil over medium heat until they turn orange and curve in on themselves (about 2-3 minutes per side). Be careful not to overcook them because they'll continue to cook in the sauce later.
  8. Add the shrimp into the sauce and let mix for another 2-5 minutes over medium-low to low heat. 
  9. Serve over prepared jasmine rice and garnish with the remaining green onions and pineapple.
  10. Enjoy while staking out Triad thugs. Just remember to STAY IN THE CAR!
To be honest, I had no idea how this was going to turn out. After an incredibly long day of cooking (see my coping mechanism of fried chicken and waffles and pineapple upside down cupcakes), I was fairly exhausted, but I powered through to properly honor Chuck (partially thanks to the Chuck marathon I watched all day while cooking). The results were beyond anything I had hoped for. The sauce was phenomenal with a nice sweetness that met its perfect foil with the spiciness of the peppers. All the flavors really played magnificently off of each other to produce pretty much exactly what I imagined when watching the show. What really made it work was that it wasn't over-sauced. The sauce didn't have to smother everything to get the job done. Additionally, the pineapple (thrown in special for Buy More's emergency word) went nicely with the sweetness and added a pleasant hint of acidity.  This is a dish that I would gladly compromise an important stake out for any day. It even had Kevin eating it straight from the pot with the giant wooden spoon (the nail in the coffin that he is Morgan in this scenario).
This poster proudly hangs next to my movie collection. It may be the most awesome thing ever (save Devon Woodcomb).
With ourselves good and stuffed, it was time to sit down for the final two hours of Chuck. I don't know that I have ever been more satisfied with a series finale. I felt like I was back watching the show in its season 2 prime (definitely one of the greatest seasons of television ever), and it put a massive smile on my face. I wasn't sad that the show was ending because they had just finished telling one hell of a story and concluded it perfectly. The little show that could pulled off one of the greatest upsets ever by lasting five years and being able to end on its own terms. So thank you Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Jeffster and the rest of the gang for giving me a guaranteed hour of happiness once a week for the last five years (and for inspiring me to cook what is now one of my favorite Chinese dishes ever). Long live Buy-Moria!

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