This is the view that greeted me this morning in Recklinghausen, Germany. Well, not exactly. The first thing I saw was the overhead lights getting flipped on and waking me out of a dead sleep filled with dreams of trains, past customers, Circle K, timing chain repairs, and the wistful longing of learning to fly, and not the Douglas Adams style of flying, either, although that's not completely unheard of in my dreams.
After disturbing such placid respite, the Filipino nurse, (who speaks German and English. I feel so far behind the mark, language-wise) took my blood pressure and blood O2 saturation level. The night must have been restful for me, since when I asked, groggily, what my blood pressure was, he told me "90 over 50. Is it always that low??" I said no, must have been due to sleeping or something. Then he wandered out, leaving on the lights. So, up and at 'em, right?
And today, as per the title, is the day. I'm slated for the much prized position of last in line for surgery out of three patients today. One is a very frightened looking Canadian woman in her mid 30's here with her dad. She didn't say much at all yesterday. I felt bad for her, she looked like she was terrified and could hyper-hyperventilate at any moment. I felt like stepping way out of my box and giving her a hug, but she didn't look real interested in any kind of personal connection, so I erred on the safe side. The other is another Canadian woman in again, her mid 30's, here with her husband that must be close to 7' tall. The dude had like, 1 inch of headroom in the elevator yesterday. They are friendly, but being guys, he and I didn't say much beside the occasional grunt or "Where's the coffee?".
I also am on an enforced fast today. No food, or liquids till after surgery. So, what is a guy to do besides write about the things he can't have, right??
These pastries provided us a bit of respite Saturday after landing in Frankfurt, and then schlepping around getting our luggable, hopping onto shuttle busses, going up stairs and escalators while looking for the correct train line to take us to Düsseldorf. We had a reserved seating on the 1pm train, so we had some time to kill and Jandi was super tired, so we grabbed a couple pastries and some coffees, and rested a bit in the quieter section of the depot. It is kind of impressive how much quieter people are here. I mean, the depot was noisy, sure, but the folks eating near us were talking quietly, and we have experienced the same at every place since. They are just not loud, and I like that. And the pastries were good, too.
And since Jandi and I didn't have a chance to do anything special over our anniversary this year (16 years together, where have they gone?) we decided Sunday evening to have a nice dessert together at the Hotel Bergedick where we are staying. Well, were staying, at least me. Jandi is still there, I was admitted to the hospital yesterday and that's why the nurse and blood pressure and all that. Anyway, I digress.
So, we had had a late lunch, so we skipped dinner and went straight to the good stuff, sharing this dessert platter. Cremé Brûlée, Molten Chocolate Cake, and Vanilla ice cream with a sugar wafer and tiny chunks of chocolate. Jandi stepped out of her box and ordered a cappuccino, I had some black coffee, and suddenly, the platter was clean except for that dusting of cocoa powder. It went almost as fast as the last 16 years, it seemed....
Jandi wasn't a fan of the gooseberries on the lava cake, but I ate few just to offset the richness of the dessert. Nothing like a pungent, tart gooseberry to clean the palate, right?
A couple ladies came into the dining room as we were finishing up, and Jandi decided that since they weren't speaking Deutsch that she would go speak to them a little. Well, that lead to us joining them at their table, and then they were joined by another guy, then another woman. The first two were mother and daughter, from Manitoba, Canada, and so was the guy. The third woman was from Tennessee. All were there because either their spouse or parent is here, having some sort of spine surgery.
We ended up visiting for over an hour, till the waiter, a large German named Ike, told us the restaurant was closing. We started to make our way out, and ended up being reduced to convulsions of laughter by said Ike. He had a very understated sense of humor, and he and the lady from Tennessee went back and forth for a while. She invited him to come to Tennessee, and she would take him to a gas station for some southern fried chicken that was so good "he'd wanna slap his mama!" The staff told him he was going on a date, which made him blush slightly, give a little nose laugh, and then he said "Would you all go to bed now, please?", which of course, brought on a fresh round of raucous laughter by all present, even the local staff. They seemed to put aside their normal taciturn demeanor and they seemed to be having as much fun as the rest of us, especially at Ike's slight discomfort at his new "date" opportunity.
So, anyway, back to the food. The summer passed us by in a rush of activity, between clients, flipping our first property, hobbling around in pain, taking Sabin to Kansas (see former post) and more. It seemed that my time in the kitchen was severely limited, and Jandi even made some passing comments about not liking to cook or some such nonsense, and as such, my cooking and trying new recipes or revisiting old favorites suffered as a result. As such, I thought I'd take a moment and revisit one of my favorite recipes, Tabasco Pepper Shrimp Tacos with spicy coleslaw. And no, it's not just cooking shrimp in Tabasco brand pepper sauce and calling it a day. Not long after Jandi and I were married and she started a garden, and while buying plants at a local greenhouse in Kansas, she found a real live Tabasco pepper plant, and bought it for me. That sucker was so hot, it survived 4 freezes and kept on putting on peppers. We harvested 3 pints of the little devils, and used them for years. They make the stuff in the classic little bottles from Louisiana seem tame, tell you what, so if you have access to them, this dish will have a fair amount of heat if you want it to, and none of the vinegar bite that many people dislike about the sauce.
The coleslaw is a blatant rip off of a recipe I learned from a multi year subscription to Bon Appetit, and is my favorite way to eat cabbage, bar none. I like to keep this dish super simple, and let the mix of fresh tortillas, spicy & firm shrimp, and cool, crunchy coleslaw with a little heat play off each other. You might want to add some cilantro rice, or chips and pico de gallo, but keep it low key and I think you'll understand.
Tabasco Pepper Shrimp and Coleslaw:
2-3 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1-3 fresh Tabasco peppers, chopped
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, small dice
one bunch scallions, divided
small head of cabbage
one bunch cilantro, chopped
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and deveined
juice of one lime
salt and pepper
fresh flour tortillas, home made if possible.
For the coleslaw:
Cut cabbage into wedges, I prefer 8ths, and chop as finely as your knife skills will allow, transfer to large mixing bowl.
Chop green scallions & cilantro, add to bowl, as well as finely chopped jalapeños.
Add about one cup mayo, and half cup sour cream, as well as salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and about half of the lime juice. Stir to combine, and adjust taste with pepper, salt, or lime. If it seems a little dry, add more sour cream, but it will soften and combine. You don't want it watery, like that junk you get in the stores or bad fried chicken places. You want it to not run out of the tortillas. Set aside to rest, and if you are making tortillas, do that now. If not, place tortillas in warming dish and either place in oven to heat, or microwave, but if using microwave, don't heat them until ready to serve.
For the shrimp:
Using a large skillet, heat on medium high heat with about 2 tablespoons butter. After the butter stops bubbling, add the Tabasco pepper and garlic, and stir rapidly for about 30 seconds. Don't overcook the garlic. Working in batches, add about ¼ to ⅓ of the shrimp to the pan, raising the heat to offset the temperature reduction. Stir constantly, adding the chopped scallions, until shrimp are pink and slightly caramelized. DO NOT OVERCOOK. This is high heat and fast, and remember, they will continue cooking after removing them from the pan. Transfer to covered bowl, and repeat with remaining shrimp. Make sure to transfer remaining liquid to bowl, as well.
Serve with warm tortillas, shrimp and coleslaw, and maybe some fresh fruit, tortilla chips and pico de gallo, if desired.
And there you go. Simple, fast, even if you are making the tortillas yourself, you can have this on the table inside an hour. I've converted die hard anti-seafood wackos with this simple, spicy/cool and it's a never fail dish with the family, either.