I love my wife. She is smart, funny, kind, patient (very patient), generous and beautiful. She has many, many good qualities. She does not like shrimp.

I, on the other hand, love shrimp. One of my favorite recipes from days past is shrimp risotto. I’d peel the shrimp and save the heads and shells to make stock to cook the rice, then I’d sauté or grill the shrimp to finish the dish. I know adding cheese to seafood is anathema to most Italian cooks, but I always felt a little Parmesan finished the dish perfectly.

Now the good qualities my wife possesses far outweigh her distaste for shrimp, even considering that she has also poisoned my daughters against the crustaceans. When she took the girls to St. Louis this weekend, I missed them dearly, but I did get a chance to cook some shrimp.

I did not go with the old standard. I went a different direction. I have been thinking a lot about Thai and Malaysian food recently, because that is the sort of nerd I am. I made a chicken rendang recently, and I’d bought some galangal for the purpose at Hong Kong Market. I also had a liter of coconut water and, as is my habit, fresh lemongrass on hand.

I mention the ingredients for two reasons: first, you should visit Hong Kong Market if you haven’t; ingredients like galangal and lemongrass are available all the time, and at an extremely reasonable price. Second, I like to say “galangal,” and I speak everything I write aloud as I write it. “Galangal.”

As an extremely food-snob aside: don’t let anyone tell you that ginger is an adequate substitute for galangal. You can use ginger as a replacement, but it’s like substituting garlic for onion – you may very well come out with a tasty dish, but it’s not going to be the same.

Anyway, the point of this is that I cooked shrimp over the weekend, and while I will share the recipe, the technique is more important. The technique, in this case, is poaching.

Shrimp are delicious, but it is easy to overcook them, and when you overcook shrimp they are no longer delicious – unless your definition of “delicious” involves “tastes like a shoe.” I say “easy,” to overcook them, but in reality it’s also easy to cook them properly. It just takes some attention, or in the case of this recipe, a bit more time.

Here’s how it works: start your shrimp, un-peeled, in cold or room temperature liquid – just enough to cover by a half-inch. Bring the liquid to the boil on medium heat, and once it gets there, let it cook for a few minutes (how many minutes depends on how big your shrimp are), then turn off the heat, wait a couple more minutes, and drain into a colander.

What you use to poach the shrimp – because that’s what you’re doing, even if it feels like you’re boiling them – then can become the base of a sauce.

In my case, I used a stalk of lemongrass; 2 cloves of garlic; a two-inch piece of ginger; a piece of galangal about the same size as the ginger; ½ onion and a small red chile, all of which I minced. Put that in a pot with some peanut oil and cook it on medium heat for about 10 minutes until things soften. At that point you can add your braising liquid; in my case it was mainly coconut water with a little inexpensive sake, some rice wine vinegar and some lime juice for good measure.

One recipe I’ve seen online for this technique suggested that seven minutes was the magic time. If you’re cooking small shrimp, maybe that’s accurate, but for the behemoths I cooked the other night, it took more like ten minutes to fully cook the shrimp.

I ate about half the shrimp immediately, standing over my cutting board and trying to get the shells into a small trashcan rather than my floor. I was mostly successful.

But if you don’t have galangal or lemongrass on hand, just use the basic technique: Start slow and gradually build to a simmer, then turn the heat off to let the residual energy finish things. Check the shrimp frequently after about 3 minutes, and pull any that are starting to over-cook.

If you’ve got any favorite food-stories that involve shrimp, please share them in the comments, below.