Yesterday’s experiment in homemade sriracha wasn’t simply a fun way to see how long you can make your hands feel like they’re on fire; it was actually part of a much longer, much more complicated culinary ordeal, courtesy of Gwyneth (sidenote: did you know Gwyneth is on Twitter now? Say hi to her! Also, thanks to everyone who immediately alerted me. When you get a ton of emails about something as banal as Gwyneth Paltrow joining Twitter, you really start to question the choices you’ve made in life). Anyway: Friday evening was devoted to Vietnamese Prawn Sandwiches.
I don’t know what makes these sandwiches Vietnamese (soy sauce and pickled carrots, I guess?), but Gwyneth says they are, so THEY ARE. No more questions! The first step is to spend two hours making homemade sriracha. Yiiiikes. Of course, you can do this in advance, but if, like me, you haven’t made any homemade sriracha yet, this means you will be spending nearly four hours on a fucking sandwich. These better be good, right?
I was doubling the recipe for my esteemed guests, which meant I had to buy two pounds of jumbo shrimp. Ugh. (Fun fact: If you don’t want to buy shrimp, buy lobster or squid, Gwyneth recommends! Actually, I take back my sarcasm. Those both sound really tasty.)
Fingers still aflame from the peppers, I got to work peeling and deveining two pounds of shrimp. I’m sure Gwyneth’s fishmonger does this for her (we’ll be hearing lots about her beloved fishmonger and all he does for her in future recipes, have no fear), but for us regular working mothers, we’ve got to go at these bad boys with our own two hands. However, the coolness of the shrimp really helped soothe the tingling sensation left in my hands from the sriracha jalapeños, so I can’t complain too much (just kidding, I’ll always complain).
Feast your eyes on a bucket of SHRIMP.
Shrimp peeled, I placed them in a small bowl and covered with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and some freshly grated ginger. I should take this time to note that my formerly empty pantry shelf has now swelled near capacity, as it is almost entirely filled with various sauces, condiments, and flours. On the one hand, this is annoying, because I have no room for boxes of wine (duh, priorities). On the other hand, a month into the project, I often read a Gwyneth recipe and realize I already have half the formerly obscure ingredients she lists on hand. Who has toasted sesame oil laying around? I do! Perhaps this is all part of Gwyneth’s Divine Plan.
Anyway, the shrimp were set in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour. I also grated a couple carrots and covered them with salt, sugar, and rice wine vinegar, and put that bowl in the fridge to pickle for an hour. I then had to find room in the refrigerator for a third bowl, this time filled with Vegenaise (still Nayonaise, actually – I’m trying desperately to get rid of this stuff) mixed with the homemade sriracha, as well as some lime juice. Now, Nayonaise is already a not-very-attractive condiment. But when you add watery sriracha and lime juice on top of it, it becomes downright disgusting. Just a watery, goopy mess in a bowl. I made several, “UGHHH,” noises, and may have even declared, “This tastes AWFUL,” causing a few guests to remark that maybe they weren’t that hungry anymore. But I put the gross spicy mayo in the fridge and hoped for the best.
NEW PARTY GAME: Spicy mayo, or watery barf?
Then: Time to relax! Just kidding, time to do a pile of dishes. Okay, a little time to relax. But then, slightly over an hour later, I was preheating the grill pan on my stove and toasting halves of baguettes. I then tossed the marinated shrimp on the grill pan and let them sizzle away while I prepared the foundations for the sandwiches.
Here’s how you build these sandwiches: Slather both halves of the bread with the spicy mayo, which has miraculously thickened in the fridge, much to your delight. Layer the bottom half of the baguette with matchstick-sliced cucumbers, the pickled carrots, and fresh cilantro and basil leaves. When the shrimp have cooked through, slice them into ½-inch-thick cubes and lay them on top of the vegetables and herbs. Top with the other half of the baguette, and serve.
Shrimp, grillin’ away.
The foundation of my sandwiches: Already fairly attractive, no?
Somewhere in the process, this happened to my poor, abused dog.
Beautiful AND delicious. Just like Gwyneth! (Ugh, gross, sorry.)
And actually, these were pretty great. The individual ingredients all kind of smelled and tasted disgusting — especially the the spicy Nayonaise and the pickled carrots — but I thought they combined really well. Plus, these sandwiches just looked pretty. But, again, we come to the same problem I keep having with these recipes: Should you really have to spend four hours to make one sandwich?
Nonetheless, now that I have a tub of sriracha in my fridge, I would definitely consider making these again, as long as I marinated the shrimp (or lobster, or squid) overnight, to cut down on preparation time the next day. You win this round, Gwyneth.