Jacob’s Shrimp, Creamed Spinach, and Potatoes au Gratin

November 20, 2017 Published by

Shrimp Memories to Savor

by Emily Jeter

Jacob’s favorite type of cooking is experimental; his second favorite type is gourmet. This hasn’t always produced the most edible foods, but one time, when he was only thirteen years old, this hobby produced one of the best meals I ever remember having.

The first time we went to Galveston my favorite thing was the beach; my brother’s favorite thing was the food. The main thing he wanted to do was try the legendary shrimp dinner at the historic restaurant called Gaido’s.  I don’t remember much about the restaurant except that we ate shrimp, and my brother, Jacob, loved it. The winter after that, he decided to try to recreate the experience.

When he decided to experiment with recreating the gourmet seafood experience, it was a much bigger ordeal than anyone expected it to be because of how long it took to make. My thirteen year old brother underestimated the time it would take to prep and put together this elaborate meal. After starting around five o’clock, expecting it to be done around six, he, with the help of my mom and grandma, finally finished cooking at eight o’clock. The juicy, flavorful shrimp filled the kitchen with the smell of garlic, pepper, Italian seasoning, and oil, and the fresh bread aroma made the kitchen warm and inviting. We all crowded around as he pulled the potatoes au gratin out of the oven, steaming and bubbling. The crispy brown cheese on top made my mouth water as he set the pan on the stove to cool. It was very attractive: the light pink shrimp with the dark speckles of herbs scattered on top, contrasting with the dark green and white creamy spinach, and the pale cheesy potatoes, all arranged in their own glass dish on the stove. It was a family effort to prepare the dining room for dinner; no one wanted to wait to eat.

When everything was finally ready, we all sat down together to eat as if we were again at that fancy restaurant, only this time we knew that the meal had been prepared with us in mind. Dinner did not disappoint. The crispy, fresh bread and the flavorful, buttery dipping sauce was only a precursor to the main dish: warm and luscious spiced baked shrimp. No one minded the mess of trying to eat the shrimp, because the burst of flavor when we bit into it only made us crave more. For those of us that aren’t the gourmet food type, the creamy, cheesy scalloped potatoes added enough of a comfort food aspect to make us enjoy this meal whole heartedly. Finally, the tart creamed spinach completed the extravagant dinner, adding a different type of flavor, and lots of nutrients, giving us a good healthy feeling when we were done.

This is one of the most delicious homemade meals I ever remember having, even though it was prepared by a thirteen year old, and therefore I will probably always remember this dinner. Even so, it wasn’t just the food that was memorable, but the fact that the whole family was together. My grandma came to join us for dinner, and afterwards we had so many leftovers that we shared our dinner with our neighbor, Ms. Mary. She is a very sweet lady who loves to share her baking with us, and in return we love to share anything we make with her. Our culinary exchanges are usually confined to sweets, however on this special occasion we decided to take her our extraordinary family meal. She received our gift with joy, and showered her compliments on the cook. That moment made what seemed like it must be the best dinner ever, even better. Sharing our wealth made us appreciate it even more, and gave us someone else to laugh and talk with. That is what made this meal so special – the laughter.

After his initial experiment, Jacob has cooked this meal for us many times. I am always elated when he makes it, not only because it is delicious food, but because we always sit down to eat it as a family. We almost always have either my grandma or my abuelos over to eat it with us, and we usually take some to Ms. Mary. I always look forward to this dinner because it doesn’t seem like just our evening routine of eating supper. Instead, it makes any day seem like a special occasion. We have never had it for a celebration, but it always turns out to be one when my brother cooks this for us. It is the much longed for “shrimp dinner night” at our house, when everyone is willing to pitch in to get to eat sooner, since it is a celebration of its own.

Recently, my brother moved to college in Oklahoma. I miss him so much, but I love having memories like these of him to remind me how much we mean to him. I don’t know what will happen to this recipe, whether he will make it when he comes back for breaks, or when we both have families, or if we won’t ever have this homemade dinner again, but whatever happens, I will never forget these meals that my brother poured time and love into making for our family.

Jacob’s Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 lbs non-frozen jumbo shrimp
  • 1 lb French Bread

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine Butter, Garlic, Seasonings, and Pepper in a shallow 3-quart baking dish.
  3. Add Shrimp; toss to coat Shrimp.
  4. Cover with foil; bake 25 minutes.
  5. Pour juices from Shrimp into a serving bowl to use as a dipping sauce for French Bread.
  6. To eat, slip shell from Shrimp with one pull, holding tail.
  7. Dunk French Bread in dipping herb sauce.

 

Creamed Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 bunches of spinach, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Preparation

  1. In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, melt butter and then add the olive oil.
  2. Mix in the onions and garlic; cook for 2 minutes until soft.
  3. Add the chopped spinach and warm through.
  4. Add the salt, nutmeg and the heavy cream. Mix well.
  5. Cook until liquid reduces by half, roughly 3 to 4 minutes.

 

Potatoes au Gratin

Ingredients

  • Butter to grease the baking dish
  • 2-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2-1/4 pounds), peeled and sliced very thin
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch (or 2-quart) baking dish with butter.
  2. In a mixing bowl with a pouring spout (or large liquid measuring cup), whisk together the cream, salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange some of the potato slices, edges overlapping, in a single layer on the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese over the potatoes and pour 1/4 of the cream mixture over top.
  5. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, cheese and cream, forming 4 layers. Pour any leftover cream over top.
  6. Place in the oven and bake, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife and golden brown on top.
  7. Let the dish settle and cool for about ten minutes before serving.

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This post was written by Jesse Conrad