50 Women Game Changers in Food - #9 Irma S. Rombauer - Shrimp and Grapefruit Cocktail

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...It is hard to believe that a widow who was a better hostess than cook, created a publishing dynasty based on recipes designed to lift the spirits and please the stomachs of a Depression weary nation. Irma Rombauer was that woman. Her cookbook, the Joy of Cooking, written following the suicide of her husband during the Great Depression, went on, in eight editions, to sell 18 million copies. She was born to a wealthy German immigrant family and raised in comfort. While she never had a job, her exposure to the trappings of wealth and extensive travel led her to consider herself a Renaissance woman. Her experiences were varied and, prior to her marriage, she had a brief assignation, that her biographer actually calls a tryst, with the writer Booth Tarkington. In retrospect, she probably found St. Louis to be a bit confining. She completed the cookbook in 1931 but she had to use her own money to have it published. It did not appear nationally until 1936, when it was distributed by Bobbs-Merrill. Her cookbook was unusual in that it was filled with wit and conviviality, as well as recipes that appealed to time-pressed housewives. She knew her audience and her cookbook changed with the times. During the depression she understood the struggle women had putting inexpensive food on their tables and when WWII shortages affected the ability of women to feed their families, hers was the first major cookbook to address the problems of rationing. Through it all, her cookbooks reflected her own sense of fun. In 1951, her daughter Marion assumed control of the family franchise and added a sense conscientiousness to the book that appealed to women of the time. The two attributes were combined in the 75th edition of the cookbook that was released in 2006. It's entirely fitting that Irma S. Rombauer claims 8th place on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food.

I've chosen one of her earliest recipes to represent the work she's done. It is a slightly different take on shrimp cocktail that is both interesting and delicious. While it appeared in the 1931 edition of the Joy of Cooking, it has recently been revived and popularized by Chef Jose Andres at his restaurant America Eats. Here's the recipe.

Shrimp in Grapefruit Cocktail...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Irma S. Rombauer

Grapefruit Dressing
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
2 quarts water
2-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
20 whole, deveined shrimp
8 grapefruit segments
Sweet paprika
Freshly ground pepper
Sea salt

1) To make the grapefruit dressing: Strain the grapefruit juice into a large bowl and add the vinegar and mustard. Add the olive oil in a slow stream, continuously whisking to emulsify. Add salt to taste and store in the refrigerator.
2) To cook the shrimp: Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Have a bowl of salted ice water at the ready. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook for about 1 minute (cooking time will depend on the size of the shrimp). Remove the shrimp from the boiling water as soon as they are cooked and immediately place them in the salted ice water. When completely cool, quickly remove the shrimp from the water to prevent oversaturation.
3) To serve the shrimp: Marinate the shrimp in the grapefruit dressing for a few minutes. Arrange 5 shrimp on a salad plate. Add 2 grapefruit segments per plate and spoon more dressing on top. Dust with paprika, and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Serve immediately.Yield: 4 servings.

The following bloggers are also paying tribute to Irma S. Rombauer this week. I hope you'll visit all of them.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Kathleen -Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island

Next week we will highlight the food and recipes of Hannah Glasse and Mrs. Beeton. It will be really interesting to see what everyone comes up with. If you'd like to join us please email me for additional information. Everyone is welcome.