Actually, that’s the first (and only) rule of the Hash House Harriers, and it probably should have been the first rule of cooking club. It’s very similar to the second rule of cooking club, which is “If it looks wrong, go with your gut.” As we learned then, and re-learned last night, recipes aren’t regulations, they’re guidelines. If the instructions don’t look right, don’t blindly follow them.
After a long beer check (nearly two years!), the On On Gourmet Hash House Harriers are back on the culinary trail. We met last night at Casa de Crouton: present were Magret de Canard, Giacomo “Hercules” Mandriano, Manzo & Anitra Spezzatino, and of course Crouton & Ditalini deMenthe. Hermana Gazpacho was to have joined us but at the last minute couldn’t come, so we ate her share of the bounty.
And what a bounty. Our inspiration was a now-defunct but fondly remembered Northern California family restaurant called Reuben’s Dinnerhouse, and two of its signature dishes: shrimp scampi and sautéed artichoke hearts. We added some recipes of our own to round out the dinner: rice pilaf, a watermelon & cucumber salad, strawberry shortcake for desert.
Ditilini rounded up the ingredients beforehand and prepared envelopes containing recipes for the individual dishes; when the hashers arrived she handed them out. There were actually two artichoke heart recipes: Anitra made one while Magret made the other. Giacomo was in charge of preparing the strawberries for desert; Ditalini made the pilaf and provided overall supervision; Wankers & Crouton divvied up preparation of the shrimp scampi.
Well, now we know why Californians loved them some Reuben’s, and why they set up websites and online forums dedicated to reconstructing its recipes. Everything was delicious!
But back to Rule #9. The scampi recipe told us to arrange the deveined and peeled shrimp in a pan, drizzle the garlic butter and lemon sauce over them, then cover the pan and bake in a 350° oven. Shrimp cook quickly, so imagine our surprise when we took the pan out of the oven five minutes later to find they were still raw. Back in they went … another five minutes, and they were still raw. In fact the inside of the pan was barely warm! The recipe instructions were misguided at best, intentionally misleading at worst, so Wankers and I made a command decision to take the cover off. Five minutes later the shrimp were cooked through, and we sat down to dinner. If it don’t look right, use some common sense, which is another way of saying: There Are No Rules!
On On to the next meeting of the On On Gourmet Hash House Harriers, Saturday, August the 18th, at Giacomo’s place. We’re going to try hot weather dishes: cold soups and a salad Niçoise.