A No-Recipe Recipe

I have nothing against actual recipes (they’re a big part of the fun of cooking), but there’s also great joy in just putting things together without a full-on recipe, things that you know (or hope) will go well together. I guess you could call it a technique rather than a recipe, and the one I want to share with you is extremely flexible. I’ll describe the process using raw shrimp, but you could also use very thin slices of steak, chicken breast, or pork tenderloin.

1. Preheat a largish skillet. How large, you ask? Depends on how many people you are feeding, but if you’re debating between two sizes, choose the larger one. Once the skillet is hot, add a thin coating of olive oil, and heat over medium heat.

2. Now comes the magic part: add to the hot oil a teaspoon or so of your favorite dried herb or herbal combination, and saute for about 30 seconds. This will open up the cells of the herbs and make them come alive. I’m very fond of a blend from Penzey’s called Shallot Pepper. It does have dried shallots and black pepper, but actually the primary flavor is tarragon, which happens to be one of my absolute favorites.

3. Add the raw shrimp, which you have already peeled and deveined, unless you were smart and bought them that way. Stir gently, so both sides of the shrimp pick up the herbal bits. The shrimp are done when they turn pink, which takes only 2-3 minutes. Steak and pork slices need about the same amount of time, as long as you sliced them very thin like I told you to; chicken pieces will take a bit longer. If in doubt, remove the skillet from the heat, take out one piece of meat and check for doneness. Steak and pork should be a bit pink; chicken not pink at all.

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