Little Giant
Russ Parsons' Bean and Winter Squash Gratin

Andrea Nguyen's Tom Kho


Indulge me a little, will you? I'm feeling spent. I've been blogging for 22 straight days and I kind of want to poke myself in the eye or cut off a few fingertips or something. I'm not sure that I have anything left to say. I might be all written out! I used to find it amusing that the two most important men in my life both objected to the gun seal taunting me in the upper left-hand corner. It was ironic! Aggressive, but ironic! Now I feel a whimper coming on whenever I see it. Aut blog aut mori! Well, mori is looking kind of nice today...

I know I took this upon myself, but self-pity can feel so gooood. And because my brain seems to have melted overnight, I'm keeping the rest of this short and sweet. Okay? Here goes.

A few weeks ago, I made Vietnamese shrimp for dinner. It wasn't very good. I made a deep, dark caramel sauce, then threw most of it away. The rest went into a pan with shrimp and fish sauce, and was brought to a boil before I added a sliced onion. Although the pan was almost completely dry, the shrimp and the onion dumped a lot of liquid so the dish ended up syrupy. We ate our shrimp with plain white rice and lots of lime juice squeezed over it all. After the long cooking time, the shrimp were kind of rubbery. They tasted peppery and a little bitter and like not much else. I wish I'd chosen a different recipe to try. I won't be making this again.

And with that, I'm off for Thanksgiving. Of course, it doesn't mean I'll be very far from all of you because, gulp, I'll be back here tomorrow. Hopefully writing in something other than monosyllables. In case you come to your senses and stop checking to see what new depths I've sunk to over the long weekend, have a restful holiday. And for those of you who continue to read, your silent (and not so) cheerleading is keeping me going. So, thank you!

Tom Kho (Shrimp and Onion Simmered in Caramel Sauce)
Serves 4

1 cup sugar
2 pounds medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Cooked rice, for serving
1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

1. Make caramel sauce. Choose a small, heavy saucepan and fill sink with enough cold water to come halfway up the sides of pan. Dry pan. Combine 1/4 cup water and the sugar in pan and heat to bubbling over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a metal spoon. After 2 minutes, stop stirring and let cook undisturbed. Bubbles will form over surface and mixture will become clear.

2. After about 15 minutes, mixture will begin to turn golden and then quickly darken; watch closely. When reddish on top and inky dark brown (like black coffee) underneath, quickly stop cooking by placing saucepan in cold water. Return saucepan to medium heat and stir until smooth. Pour into heatproof container such as a glass jar and let cool at least 10 minutes before using.

3. Place shrimp in colander and toss with 1 tablespoon salt. Rinse immediately with lots of cold water and drain well.

4. In medium pot, combine shrimp, 1/8 teaspoon salt, fish sauce and 3 tablespoons caramel sauce (remainder can be tightly covered and refrigerated indefinitely) and bring to a simmer over high heat. Add onion and pepper, stir, and boil uncovered 10 to 14 minutes more, until sauce is thick. Shrimp and onions will give off lots of liquid; cook at a strong boil to concentrate flavors (add a little water if sauce seems to thicken too quickly).

5. Turn off heat, stir in oil, and taste for salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl, scatter with scallions, and serve over plain rice, with lime wedges.