Read The Laughing Chef's bio and previous columns


October 8, 2007

Enter Kitchen, Approach Aristocracy


There is something to be said about the democratizing power of the kitchen – it can make aristocrats out of all of us.


This is how it works:


A man of humble means goes to the kitchen and takes out of his freezer a bag of frozen shrimp. From his refrigerator comes cream cheese and, from wherever he stores his oversized mushrooms, he pulls out about half a dozen. He has taken his first steps towards sophistication well above his station.

The journey continues as he pops the stems out of the mushrooms, slices off the hardened end and chops the remaining stems down to the size of sawdust. It might require that he chop, and chop and then chop some more. Anyone witnessing this might think that he is the grips of a deep mania. But, he winks mischievously. Let them think what they will!


Now he makes the unusual move of chopping his shrimp into even smaller pieces. This never fails to wow ‘em in the sticks, because in popular parlance, the word shrimp is already associated with the smallest unit possible. Breaking it down even further, to some, is a revelation on par with the discovery of subatomic particles.


He now sautés the stems in butter and garlic until they are almost tender, and then adds the chopped shrimp. He cooks all of this for a few seconds longer to warm it together.


This is a critical bend in his journey from the peasantry to the aristocracy. He has some warmed pieces of chopped shrimp, which has convinced his peers that he has good reason to aspire to better things, but now he must convince the landed gentry that he is one of them. This he does by mixing his shrimp, tenderized mushroom caps and adding a tablespoon of cream cheese.


Shrimp and cream cheese together provide an elegant combination worthy of the high-falutin’. To this, he adds some chopped parsley and sliced green onion to provide not just some extra flavor but also a critical component of good taste – aesthetic balance. The sharpness of the green does well to balance the brown mushroom caps and the largely white shrimp and cheese mixture.


Scoop out the mixture and place in the overturned mushroom caps. There should be enough to mound over each one a little bit.


Sprinkle atop this some mozzarella cheese (the snow atop the peak!), and drop into an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Wait about 15 minutes, which should be just long enough for the cheese on top to melt and the shrimp and cream cheese mixture to get nice and warm. Remove, let sit for five minutes, and watch your social status ratchet up a couple of notches.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column #TLC053. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
David J. Pollay
Eats & Entertainment
The Laughing Chef