Chef David Castro Hussong’s description of the “not fancy or pretentious” dishes in the newly released “The Baja California Cookbook: Exploring the Good Life in Mexico” (Ten Speed Press, $30) that he co-authored with writer and restaurateur Jay Porter makes me yearn for shared dining experiences.
The recipes, writes Hussong, “are all suitable for a weeknight dinner at home, for grilling on your patio some Sunday afternoon when friends drop by, or, for that matter, a bonfire wedding reception on the beach with longneck beers and a makeshift bocce ball game.”
My immediate family has mostly kept our “pod” closed due to COVID-19. Friends don’t drop by these days. Weddings have been delayed.
The day I prepared Hussong’s summer-perfect Shrimp Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, I longed to have more than three of us gathered around the table poking forks into tender seafood balls and lapping up the delicate, tomato broth.
Hussong’s recipe appears here pretty much as it was published. However, I made a few adjustments to the meatballs because I wanted the mix to bind better. I used 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs instead of his 1 tablespoon, and an entire egg instead of only the white. Also, using my hands, I squeezed the meatball mixture over a strainer to rid it of excess moisture. I saved the juices, incorporating them as part of the 4 cups of water needed for the tomato sauce. Lastly, I shaped the shrimp balls into a dozen smaller rounds instead of the prescribed 6.
The upside: I’ve got time to perfect the technique — or make it further fit my own style — as we wait for the day when we can entertain a crowd again.
Reprinted with permission from “The Baja California Cookbook” by David Castro Hussong and Jay Porter (Ten Speed Press, 2020).
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