Cooking a meal with relish for Mama on her big day

May 09, 2001|By Rob Kasper

IT IS TIME to pay back Mama. Whether the mama at the top on your payback list is your mother or your wife, there is a good chance that nothing will make her happier than being relieved of the responsibility of putting yet another meal on the table.

So for anybody wondering what to do this Sunday I say, "Feed your mama." There are two ways to accomplish this. You can take her out to a restaurant or you can cook a meal yourself. If you are going the restaurant route, I have some advice: Get in line now. Mother's Day is mighty busy at restaurants, especially during brunch.

I prefer cooking my way back into the good graces of the mamas in my life. Usually that means making pancakes or waffles in the morning and firing up the barbecue grill in the afternoon.

The pancakes and waffles are pretty straightforward fare. The only out-of-the-ordinary requirements they impose are having at least one cup of buttermilk in the fridge, for the pancakes, and having a waffle iron in your kitchen to cook the waffles.

The barbecue work requires owning some kind of smokery, anything ranging from a kettle grill with a cover, the standard-issue equipment for practitioners of the backyard art, to the built-in pit, a statement to all comers that this household is serious about its smoke.

Ordinarily I would throw a hunk of some formerly furry critter on the fire, but on Mother's Day I try to cook something that doesn't look as if it had just ambled in from the back forty. On Mother's Day, I am on my best behavior and want the entrM-ie to look pretty, not feral.

This year, I have been experimenting with a recipe that mixes a pepper relish with some grilled shrimp or, as we say in Baltimore, "shrimps."

In addition to being pretty little things, these shrimps also smell good, a quality most mamas appreciate. They smell good because they are cooked over tea bags. That's right, those same little bags that show up at civilized gatherings - such as next Wednesday's Flower Mart Tea in the Engineers Club - also appear in this smoky backyard recipe.

Basically you soak two tea bags in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then you toss the wet bags onto the sizzling coals. You put your shrimps on the grill, over the smoking tea bags, shut the lid of your cooker and let them bathe in the tea-scented smoke. A few minutes later, you pull them off the grill and serve them with a relish made with multicolored peppers.

Serve this to your mama, and she will love you for it and forget, at least for the day, all the grief you caused her.

Making a meal of tea-smoked shrimps for your mama is a fleeting tribute to her. But that is pretty much what Mother's Day is all about.

Tea-Smoked Shrimp With Pepper Relish

Serves 4


3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


2 black or green tea bags

2 pounds large or jumbo shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined and patted dry

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To make the relish, combine the chopped peppers and onion in a small bowl. Then in a small saucepan over high heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to boil, pour over pepper-and-onion mixture, stir. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

To prepare the shrimp, soak the tea bags in cold water and cover for 10 to 15 minutes. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp, olive oil, salt and pepper together.

Squeeze the tea bags to remove excess water, then drop them onto the fire. Arrange the shrimp on the rack and position them 4 to 6 inches above the fire. Cover the grill, open the cooker vents halfway, and cook shrimp about 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp, put lid back on cooker, and cook until the skin is lightly browned and the flesh is opaque throughout, about 4 to 5 minutes more.

Transfer the shrimp to individual plates and top with relish.

- Adapted from "Outdoor Cooking" by Chuck Williams and John Phillip Carroll (Time-Life Books, 1997)

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