In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

How to Make Dinner Tonight in Less Than 10 minutes And Be All OMG THIS IS SO GOOD

First, go to Trader Joe's. I suspect other groceries have similar products but these are all available at TJs. They are also all frozen or pretty shelf-stable, so you can stock up in advance for when you are really pressed for time.

Buy a bag of individually frozen raw shrimp, peeled or not -- wild caught American shrimp, if they have them. If they don't you'll have to settle for Vietnamese farmed shrimp. They are half the price of American wild caught, but there is a reason they are cheap. Don't google it.

Now buy a bag of sweet frozen corn -- roasted, or just regular. The roasted is nice and makes the final dish look like you actually spent time in the kitchen.

Now three more ingredients: one lime, one chipotle pepper (they come in cans of Adobo sauce. They are very spicy so use just one. But they lend the dish a great smoky flavor) and one clove of fresh garlic.

Mash the garlic and chile in the bottom of a bowl.

Rinse the shrimp in cold water, peeling it if necessary. You can leave the tails on or take them off. Toss it in the bowl with the garlic and chile. Squeeze half a lime over all of it. Mix the shrimp around each piece gets covered in what is now a sort of brownish red liquid. If you leave it too long the shrimp will begin to cure from the lime juice, so don't do this too far in advance.

Put the corn in a frying pan and heat it up -- medium heat I guess. It's already cooked so you're just trying to warm it up. The corn will give off a bit of water -- let it get almost as hot as you'll want to serve it, then put in the shrimp mixture with all its collected juices. Stir it a bit so the shrimp comes in contact with the hot pan. When everything is pink (shrimp) and warm (corn), it's done.

Now you have several options:

if you have corn tortillas, warm them up (I usually throw them right on the gas burner till they soften and char a bit) , if you have cooked potato cubes (of course you don't, but maybe next time you'll make them in advance to serve with) or butternut squash, toss them in the pan with the corn and shrimp.

Serve the shrimp and corn -- which is now smoky, slightly spicy, sweet from the shrimp and a little tart from the line -- in a bowl, or in corn tortillas, topped with sour cream and tomatillo salsa. I'm going to have to insist on the tomatillo salsa -- it's tartness and spice is exactly what the rich corn and shrimp need. You can chop a little cilantro on top, or serve in the tacos with baby arugula, cooked or raw.

This is the kind of meal you can eat the hell out of. It makes a really great first course for a more elaborate meal (followed, perhaps, by goat cheese and wild mushroom enchiladas) or as the main course, or just to eat in front of the TV. Everyone loves it, and as I said, takes 10 minutes. It looks a little like this but better. I don't have a picture of it so I did the Googles and Better Homes and Gardens offered up Grilled Shrimp and Corn. Trust me; mine kicks its butt. But still, nice to have a picture.

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