Confession No. 32 — Note to self: Don’t shop at gas station for wife’s Valentine’s gift
Pragmatism doesn’t go over well on wedding anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. It’s also a bad idea to attempt practicality when your significant other decides she wants to build a swimming pool, or is set to drive 4,000 miles with a 4-year-old in tow.
As I have so many times during (what were supposed to be) romantic moments, I digress…
I’m terrible at romance, but it’s not for a lack of trying. One year, I bought ballroom dancing lessons for the two of us. After a few sessions and bruised toes (hers), I realized that counting to three with footsteps was beyond my ability. I’ve also written my share of love letters. They tend to go over well — until she pulls out the memory box and reads them all at once. Though my love for her has grown tremendously over the years, my ability to be mushy on paper has not. All the letters read the same. And dinners … I’ve cooked plenty of them for just the two of us — even occasionally setting up a small table with candles in our bedroom, setting my iTunes to classical romance, and dressing up just like we were on a real date. On those nights, I’ve bribed the kids with Sonic, Taco Bueno or McDonald’s, then threatened them with their own mortality should they decide to interrupt us with an argument over whose turn it is to play Modern Warfare or Little Big Planet. Neither the buyoffs nor the foreboding work consistently though, and we regularly find ourselves pulling up an extra chair so that we can keep a closer eye on someone.
I’ve had years during which I took her at her word and neglected to ‘celebrate’ Valentine’s Day. “It’s a greeting card company brainchild,” she would say. (I doubt she meant it.) I’ve been among the group of afternoon Valentine’s Day shoppers, picking through the leftover selection of cards and the corniest of candy hearts. I’m guilty of sending the wrong kind of message by accidentally buying sugar-free candy. I sent an equally awful message the year that I did last-minute shopping at a gas station. Who knew that those ‘vases’ holding the fake roses are really crack pipes?
In my younger days, I came up with a couple of real mood busters. Once, I offered up a booklet of homemade coupons, none of which included any offer beyond the bedroom. I even had the nerve to offer up myself as a Valentine’s Day gift. — Now before you ladies judge me, just know that 99 percent of guys out there have attempted to pull at least one of these stunts at some point in life. The other 1 percent are lying when they deny it.
In all our years, my girl has never complained or uttered a single stinging word. To the contrary, she’s always told me how lucky she feels.
Truth is, I’m the lucky one.
I developed this recipe following a vacation to Mexico, during which my wife ordered a cream cheese-stuffed shrimp concoction that we really enjoyed. My version adds cilantro and little chunks of avocado. This is a flexible dish, in that you could exchange the cream cheese for a mixture of mozzarella and ricotta, and mix it with fresh chopped basil and sun-dried tomatoes. You could also use ham and Swiss and call it ‘Shrimp Cordon Bleu Poppers’. No matter how you stuff’em, they’re sure to be eaten fairly quickly. Enjoy.
Shrimp Avocado Poppers
2 lbs. – Shrimp (26-30 ct.), shelled and deveined with tails removed
1 pkg. (8 oz.) – Cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup – Cilantro leaves, chopped fine
2 – Small avocados, diced with 1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 cup – Plain Panko bread crumbs
2-3 – Large eggs, beaten
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
Combine cream cheese and cilantro. Place mixture in pastry bag or plastic bag with small hole cut in the corner.
Butterfly the shrimp deeply, so that they lay flat.
Pipe about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese in the centers of half the shrimp. Place diced avocados (about 2-3 chunks, depending on the size of your dice) on cream cheese filling. Top filled shrimp with remaining butterflied shrimp to make a ‘sandwich’.
Place filled shrimp in freezer for 1-2 hours.
Dredge frozen shrimp in flour, shaking off excess. Dip each one in egg mixture, then roll in Panko crumbs. Deep fry in 375º F oil until golden, about 3-4 minutes. (You can also fry in pan, turning poppers about halfway through cooking, for even cooking.)