Like I said, money and I have been on strained terms for a while, hence the appeal of the making a dinner for $20. And yeah, they're great, but $20 is not entirely accurate. I'm blessed enough to live near the DeKalb Farmers Market (a sprawling expanse of fresh fish, meat, and amazing numbers of fresh fruits and bulk spices on the cheap) and have access to pretty much all of the ingredients on the various recipe lists. However, most places won't let you shave down their ingredients enough to fit the pennies-on-the-dollar appeal of the recipes.
I mean, yeah, maybe not everybody needs it to be EXACTLY $20 or under to make it a deal, but I'm just saying. The ginger in the shopping list for Wong's recipe is supposedly 14 cents, but have you seen the signs over the ginger at the DeKalb Farmers Market? They are scary! They practically promise death to anyone who may wish to have a customizable amount of ginger. My bill for the night's ingredients, excluding the things I already had (olive oil, oyster sauce, and soy sauce) was about $35 for four dishes from three different chefs.
Before we get to the good bits, one more critique: quantity of ingredients. The Rathbun Masa Soup recipe calls for "the broth of one chicken." What? How big of a chicken? What if I don't want to boil a chicken? Even if I did, how much broth does one chicken yield? And, no, Google does not give a great answer, except sort of/kind of/not really on an obscure forum about making Matzo for 30 people. I decided 3 cups though.
Anyway, the second time was the charm with my attack of the $20 Dinner. Foregoing Wong's fried crustaceans for Hector Santiago's fancy-pants shrimp confit, Kevin Rathbun's Tuna Crudo and Masa Soup, with the addition of the tried-and-trued pea shoots, my dinner was planned. And it was eeeeeeasssssy.
Like, I could have had an entire bottle of wine to myself and had the neighbor over for shots and still not have messed this meal up. And it was really good. I actually elicited this phrase from my boyfriend: "This is in the top three best raw fish meals I've ever had." He was talking about the Crudo, not the shrimp, by the way. Although it was our anniversary, so maybe he was sucking up. I don't care, I'm taking it.
Some points to think about if you want to make your own version of my fabulous success:
For the pea shoots, cut the garlic big and thick. They brown and get the beautiful mushy sweetness seen in roasted garlic. Also, use a wok to cook them and not a pan. I found that pan-cooked shoots result in a soggy green, whereas the wok yields a tender pea shoot with a hint of crispness. Also, a little sesame oil adds a little more richness to the delicate shoots. If you want them lighter, leave it out. They are delicious either way.
If you want to eat the garnish in the Crudo, do NOT use a tablespoon of orange zest. Maybe a teaspoon. Otherwise, you will feel like you are eating Orange Pledge Tuna. I mean, it's still delicious Orange Pledge Tuna, but Pledge-y nonetheless.
If you are a deer, like me, you will want to add a little more than a pinch of salt to the Crudo vinaigrette. Also, don't scrimp on the orange cubes. The citrus does amazing things to the richness of the tuna and the heat of the Serrano.
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