Category Archives: Fish & Seafood

Shrimp and Grits…yes, please

Last week we had a monstrous hurricane bearing down on us and after getting the house and yard storm ready all I could think of was the enormous amount of beautiful dolphin, wild caught shrimp, grass-fed beef and organic chicken lounging in my freezer.  We lose power in our house about the time a storm picks up off the coast of Africa.  It takes nothing for us to lose power.  I hate it.  A car can drive by and all of a sudden, flicker-flicker, and flat silence descends.  No sound, no light, no cooling ceiling fans and no AC.  The worst!  And then, of course, things start thawing and dripping in my freezer.  Not knowing if we would get a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew, and I thank God everyday that we did not, I figured I’d cook up a large portion of my frozen treasures and we would eat like kings for a few days.  Here in south Florida we are blessed with a type of shrimp called Key West Pinks, so sweet, succulent and, yes, pink.  And although their season peaks in June, they’re still quite easy to find in seafood markets.  I quickly steamed a few pounds in a spicy lemony broth and set them aside for us to enjoy cold with cocktail sauce.  I had all kinds of food items in my refrigerator that I was loath to toss.  Bacon, peppers, milk, cream, butter, cheese…what’s a girl to do?

img_3353

Well, I’ll tell you what this girl did.  I prepared for dinner the most luxurious, creamy dish of Shrimp and  Grits this side of heaven.  I always have grits on hand, good grits.  Slow cooking, stone ground grits.  Not that highly processed, quick or instant, grocery store mess.  All watery and bland.  No.  I like coarsely ground grits, loaded with texture and full of corn flavor that easily stand alone on their own merit.  In fact, these are the grits you almost want to eat without anything on top but then I think of the sweet Pinks.  I daydream of the bacon seasoned sauce puddling on top of creamy, white grits and I’m back on board.  Oh, and by the way, Trader Joe’s store brand grits are really super if you don’t have a grist mill down the street.  The shrimp will be gone in two seconds flat but you’ll probably have some grits left over.   It can be gently warmed again the following day and eaten as is with nothing added but a quick grind of black pepper.  The grits will take about 30 minutes to prepare so don’t start cooking your shrimp until the grits are almost done.  If the grits get too thick it can be thinned out with a little warmed milk, half and half or cream.   Pork is usually included in the shrimp mixture.  Bacon, andouille sausage and Tasso are typically put into service.  My first choice is bacon as its saltiness really brings out the sweetness of the shrimp.  Andouille is good but I find its taste completely overwhelms the delicate flavors of both the shrimp and grits.  Tasso is wonderful but it’s also strong plus can be difficult to find.  This, Gentle Reader, is comfort food at its best.  As there is such a difference in wild caught shrimp versus farmed so is there a vast difference in stone ground grits as opposed to highly processed, quick or instant.   Make the effort to find wild caught shrimp and stone ground grits.  You’ll be positively delighted at the difference they make in your dishes.  I hope you enjoy these two recipes as much as my entire family does.  They’ll do ya proud!

Creamy Grits and Collards...it's a natural!
Creamy Grits and Collards…it’s a natural!

Shrimp and Grits

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Grits

  • 1 3/4 cups stone ground grits
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  1. In a large, heavy pot bring the water and salt to a boil then reduce the heat to low.
  2. Using a whisk or large wooden spoon, stir the water in a circular motion while slowly pouring in grits and stirring constantly.
  3. When the grits begin to thicken add the milk, cream and butter.  Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until grits are tender, stirring often.
  5. Add the cream cheese and mix until the cheese has melted into the grits.
  6. Cover, set aside and keep warm on low.

Shrimp

  • 5 slices thick sliced bacon, cut into matchstick size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 pounds wild caught uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup cream or half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • serve with Tabasco sauce or Crystal Hot sauce on the side, optional
  1. Place the bacon pieces in a medium size skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp, 6-10 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside in a small bowl.  Leave the bacon drippings in the pan.
  3.  To the bacon drippings add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook over moderate heat until the onions are clear and soft but not brown, about 5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the butter and stir until melted.  Add the shrimp, lemon juice and white wine.  Stir well to cook evenly.  Cook until shrimp just turn pink.
  5. Quickly add reserved bacon and stir well and remove from heat.
  6. Spoon warm grits in shallow soup bowls.
  7. Using a slotted spoon top grits with shrimp
  8. Pour remaining sauce evenly over shrimp and grits.
  9. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Advertisements

Crab Cakes, the real deal

These sweet yet salty crab cakes are every crab lovers dream.  How many times have we gone to a shi-shi restaurant and hopefully ordered crab cakes which should be crunchy and buttery on the  outside, pearly white, sweet but briny on the inside only to be served a couple of heavily doctored, gluey, deep-fried, fish-like patties?  Gosh, I hate it when that happens.  So many restaurants trash seafood, from overcooked tiles of fish or rubbery, heavily breaded fried shrimp to our loved crab.  It was different when we were growing up here in Lauderdale.  As a child, there wasn’t the selection of dining spots we now have available.  Our grandfather, Grandpa, had moved here from Cleveland when our grandmother passed away.  He, too, lived on the water and loved to throw out a dozen or so crab cages.  Every two or three days he’d let me walk down to the canal with him and pull up the cages.  Each cage had small, round floater tied with a piece of monofilament making it easy to haul up the cages and check our catch.  Every crab cage had been baited with either pieces of mullet, their heads, bodies and tails, or raw chicken necks.  I loved everything about it!

Dad and Grandpa on the dock a thousand years ago!
Dad and Grandpa on the dock a thousand years ago!

After strolling down to the water’s edge I would lie on my stomach on the dock while Grandpa pulled up  the heavy metal cages.  My job was to tell him if we had caught anything.  If we had he’d continue pulling, if not he’d drop the heavy box back down to the muddy depths of the canal.  Most of the time, though, there were sweet, luscious blue crabs.  We’d throw our haul into waiting plastic buckets, always being careful not to get pinched, then walk back to his apartment where Grandpa would spend the rest of the morning picking the crabs.  I wasn’t allowed because I guess my parents thought I’d cut myself with a knife…and I probably would have.  The waters were clear back then and the meat that came out of those crabs was the sweetest I’ve ever had.  Grandpa made a gorgeous crab salad and his bisque was magnificent.

img_3080

I’m sharing with you my recipe for crab cakes.  I think they’re fabulous and they taste of crab…nothing else.  No crackers, mashed potatoes or breadcrumbs mixed in.  No fillers here.  The Panko crumbs and butter make a light and crispy coating allowing the crab meat to positively shine.  Serve with a homemade remoulade sauce or simply with freshly cut lime wedges but either way I hope you enjoy them!

img_3082

Crab Cakes

  • Servings: 6 crab cakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 pound lump crab meat, picked over and cleaned, liquid squeezed out by hand
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs, unseasoned
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  1. Place cleaned and drained crab meat gently in a medium size bowl.
  2. In a small bowl combine scallion, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and egg.  Mix well so all ingredients are completely combined.
  3. Pour egg mixture evenly over crab meat and gently toss crab by hand to combine but take care not to break up lumps of meat.
  4. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the crab and toss carefully by hand to mix.  Sprinkle the second tablespoon of flour, toss carefully and repeat with the remaining tablespoon of flour.
  5. Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup, scoop 6 firmly packed portions and place on a small baking sheet or dinner plate.  Packing them firmly helps them to keep their shape.
  6. Place the Panko in a shallow bowl (I use a shallow soup bowl).
  7. Carefully place a crab cake in the bread crumbs, coat the top of the cake with Panko and gently pat into place.  This will cause the bottom also to be covered with crumbs.
  8. Place back onto tray or plate and continue dredging all the crab cakes.
  9. Line a clean plate with paper towels to drain cooked crab cakes and set aside.
  10. Heat a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat with half the butter and half the olive oil.
  11. Place three of the cakes in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Carefully turn each crab cake over, cover pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  12. Transfer cooked crab cakes to the paper towel lined plate, add the remaining butter and olive oil to the pan and cook the other three crab cakes in the same manner.
  13. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Shrimp Paste…reason enough to have a cocktail hour

IMG_1391

Ever had shrimp paste?  It’s a Southern indulgence.  Whether spread on finger sandwiches, swirled into grits or served with raw vegetables and toast points, shrimp paste is a treat you really ought to experience.  It’s set out at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You don’t see it often now at parties but when I was growing up shrimp paste was the stand-by spinach artichoke hors d’oeuvre of the day.  Fort Lauderdale was still a sleepy, Southern resort town.  Locals pronounced Miami “Miamuh”.  “Up on the highway” referred to US1, Federal Highway, the biggest main road that I can remember.  Going to dinner at bar/restaurant, MaiKai,  and seeing the Polynesian floorshow was cause for envy amongst my friends and  considered major exotica.  I mean, where else could you see beautiful women dressed in only grass skirts and coconut halves covering their breasts, dancing the hula while behind them handsome island men juggled fire-lit torches to the beat of thundering drums?  Pretty hokey now but in those days that was almost fast living!  Simple as life was then, there were some hard and fast social rules.  For instance, napkins when entertaining.  Linen napkins were used at every party…cocktail, dinner and luncheon.  Luncheons were quite common back then as that was the time women could get away from the house for a few hours with the explanation of “I’ve got a club meeting.  Be back this afternoon!”  There seemed to be more women’s clubs then than today.  Mama belonged to a good handful.  These were invitation only clubs although they benefitted the community.  Beaux Arts was the women’s club affiliated with the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and, boy, could those ladies throw a luncheon meeting.  All meetings were held in different member’s homes during the day, never at night, I imagine because all these ladies of the ’50’s, ’60’s and ’70’s had to be home to prepare dinner for their husbands and families.  And let me tell you, these ladies turned out for their meetings.  Heels and dresses, baby, then wild pantsuits in the mid-’60’s.  Lots of gleaming pearls dangling off of graceful necks, later years replaced with chunky, mod necklaces.  Late morning the street where the designated meeting was to be held would fill with big, ol’ parked cars the size of boats in all different pastel colors.  I don’t know why, but you didn’t often see black cars back then.  Cream, baby blue, mint green, even soft pink land yachts sat bumper to bumper on both sides of the street as the women made their way into the house, heels crunching on gravel lined driveways, heavy charm bracelets softly tinkling while the women waved and greeted each other.  I remember when Mama had meetings at our house the days prior would be a flurry of activity.  Frankie, our housekeeper, was in charge of making certain the entire house was spotless and, on the day of the meeting, replenishing the punch bowl and platters of food on the dining room table.  She also oversaw the polishing of the silver by older sister, Cynthia, and me.  Mama would pay us each 50¢, sometimes a DOLLAR, big money back then to clean the silverware.  My  sister and I always seemed to be the designated invisible help relegated to collecting empty cups and crumpled napkins or emptying ashtrays.  It was understood we didn’t engage anyone in conversation; that we were to speak only if we were spoken to.  Wait.  We were also expected to greet all the members…it was “hello, Mrs. So and So”, “very well, thank you”, “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am”.  The meetings were only for a few hours although to us they felt like an eternity but, on the upside, we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted, however, only in the kitchen.  When the meeting was called to order and the ladies got down to business, for instance discussing the finer points of their fundraising cookbook or the next preview party prior to the upcoming Calder exhibit, Frankie, Cynthia and I would load up with shrimp paste on toast points, dainty finger sandwiches filled with chicken salad or cream cheese and olive, salmon mousse  and bite size quiches.  It was a stolen hour of enjoyment without Mama telling me to stand up straight or put down that 17th sandwich as I was well on my way to a stomach ache followed with an emphatic “One day you’ll thank me for this!” or simply “Because I said so!”.  The silky, creamy shrimp paste had been spread on small triangles of toasted, white bread which melted in my mouth and, when given the opportunity, I gorged myself on them.  All the finger sandwiches were made by Frankie or Mama the previous day; the mousse, quiches and anything else would have been dropped off by the caterer that morning on account of the fact that Mama couldn’t cook.  Obviously, it was a different time and different school of thought for women in general.  Sometimes life was good for these women…sometimes not so good. These meetings were all about being with close friends and, hopefully, making a little money to help establish a truly strong museum of art.  Perhaps these women were at times a bit frivolous but, over the years, their meetings taught these two little girls the finer points of leadership, organization and service.  Today we have a vibrant, robust museum partly due to the unflagging, tireless fundraising commitment of these ladies.  And we still have shrimp paste.

IMG_1385

Shrimp Paste

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Print

Slathered on toasted French bread or flavoring a breakfast bowl of grits, shrimp paste is best served at room temperature.  Easily it can be prepared and kept chilled a day or two before serving, just bring it out about an hour prior to your guests arriving.  It’s glorious atop warm slices of new potatoes, with cold, rare beef or grilled fish.  I prefer my shrimp paste to be splashed with dark rum and seasoned with mace but you can easily swap the rum for sherry or brandy and one or two teaspoons of onion juice can take the place of the mace.  Also, if you happen to stumble upon wild caught shrimps, by all means, snap those babies up.  The spread tastes leagues better with shrimp that hasn’t been farmed but it’s not easy to find.

  • 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined and rinsed
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • juice of one small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet heat the butter over high heat until foaming but not brown.
  2. Add the cleaned shrimp and cook until they are just pink, about 4-5 minutes.  Stir often.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, put the shrimp in food processor fitted with steel blade, leaving the pan juices in the skillet.
  4. Drop the heat to medium-high and return the pan to stove top.
  5. Add the mace, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and rum, stirring constantly until the mixture has reduced to 3-4 tablespoons.
  6. Pour the butter mixture into the food processor and pulse 8-10 times.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process until completely smooth.
  7. Transfer paste to serving bowl or crock, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3-4 hours.
  8. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour prior to serving.  Serve cool, at room temperature.

Shrimp, Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya…let the good times roll

Mardi Gras is coming to a close, people.  Ash Wednesday is day after tomorrow and this is the time when suddenly I begin to crave pork and beef and chicken and all manner of dishes that will be given up by me once I get that black cross of ashes traced onto my forehead.  Every year I say “Oh, I don’t care about meat.  I don’t even like it!  I never eat it anyway.”  That’s right about the time when visions of $12.00 bacon cheeseburgers, spicy, homemade jambalaya and hot, crispy chicken wings begin to pop up in my head.  I pulled out my giant pot, the one big enough to bathe a baby, and set about to make the best pot of jambalaya I’ve ever had.  I’ve been making this for the longest time and I think I’ve worked out the kinks.  That said, no shortcuts may be taken ie: frozen bags of the Trinity which always leave you waiting for the promised burst of flavor.  This iconic dish begs, no, DESERVES, to be prepared properly…leisurely, and it will reward you by delivering that slow and sultry combination of Louisiana flavors that cause you to roll your eyes back in your head.  Well-made jambalaya, good jambalaya, is like finger-poppin’ music in your mouth.  Layer upon layer of ingredients make themselves known, some subtly others not so discreetly.  It is a one-pot marvel of unpretentious components that ultimately yield a sophisticated dinner of comfort food while at the same time an over-the-top indulgence.  And it is the best possible way to celebrate Fat Tuesday.  So put on some boom-boom radio or zydeco, haul out your big pot and get to it.  Laissez le bon temps rouler!

My pot holds 3.5 gallons. the spoon could probably be used as a paddle in a row boat!
My pot holds 4 gallons. The spoon could probably be used as a paddle for a row-boat!

IMG_1272

 

Jambalaya is a great dish for a crowd.  It’s best prepared in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a lid that fits well.  Having all your ingredients cut, chopped and ready to go will also ensure a fantastic meal.  If you’re not able to locate converted Louisiana white rice just substitute it for a good quality, converted, white, long grain rice.  What cannot be substituted is the Andouille sausage.  I get mine from the butcher’s  and if they’re out I use Aidell’s brand which is stocked at Publix.  I find using sausage other than Andouille in this dish ends up tasting like hot dogs.  Not a flavor I want after I’ve been standing in the kitchen for a few hours.  So put off making jambalaya until you can find the real thing.  I use a mammoth, wooden spoon to stir this dish.  You’ll want to use the largest spoon you can get your hands on as the ingredients become heavy and bulky as you get further into the cooking.

Shrimp, Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 5 cups converted long grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 3 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound ground pork sausage, preferably spicy
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound Andouille sausage or 1 12-ounce package from the grocery store, thinly sliced
  • 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 3 large, sweet onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 6 stalks of celery, leaves included, diced
  • 1 large head of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 3 pounds medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined, preferably not farmed
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a medium-sized bowl add paprika, celery salt, thyme, cayenne pepper and rice.  Stir well to break up any lumps in the spices.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot up to medium heat and add ground sausage, breaking up and stirring while it browns.
  3. When sausage is browned add oil and Andouille sausage.  Stir occasionally but allow Andouille to brown and get color.
  4. Add chicken pieces and cook until golden.  Stir occasionally.
  5. Add the onions to the pot and stir continuously.  Cook until clear.
  6. Add the bell pepper, celery and garlic and cook for another 7-10 minutes stirring all the while.
  7. Add the rice mixture to the pot and stir so the grains of rice are evenly coated with the contents of the pot.
  8. Raise heat to high, add bay leaves, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and stir well.  Taste broth for seasoning and add salt and black pepper as needed.
  9. When pot comes to the boil, drop the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and simmer until rice is cooked according to package instructions.
  10. When rice is cooked, gently mix in the shrimp, this is where you truly need a big spoon, again cover the pot and turn off the heat.
  11. Allow the shrimp to cook in residual heat another 15 minutes then serve.

 

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Fresh and Spicy Salmon Burgers

IMG_9163

Here in Boston it seems that spring has sprung.  Everybody’s out walking, with dogs or pushing baby strollers.  Young girls are out sporting tank tops, sandals and legs so lily-white that I have to remind myself that staring is impolite.  I find myself quickening my pace as I walk to see if the girl in front of me is wearing white hose.  I catch myself thinking, “Can there possibly be any blood in those limbs?”.  And go back to my original thought, “That’s not very nice, Alicia.” to which the other side of my brain responds, “Well, I’M not very nice”.  Flowers have bloomed everywhere; the Public Garden and the Common are a riot of color with purple globes of allium, banks of roses and borders of pansies.

IMG_9195

Toddlers run every which way on soft beds of grass as the sunlight bounces brilliantly off the emerald-green leaves of massive elm trees.  This is the weather that begs for clean food, light food, tasty, healthful food.

IMG_9190

I started craving fresh salmon burgers for dinner a few days ago and set about to fulfill that desire.  Here in Boston at the beginning of summer finds me without a fully equipped kitchen.  At home I would pulse fresh salmon through the food processor a few times and not give it a second thought.  Luckily for me salmon is soft and delicate and with the aid of two dinner forks I easily scraped the fish off of the skin leaving a lovely coral mound with the same texture as that of ground beef.  In fact, I much preferred the fish I flaked by hand as it’s just too easy to over-process it in the food processor.  I added panko crumbs to lighten the dish; I didn’t want a heavy, dense burger plus I knew that addition would help the burgers keep their shape.  I mixed the bread crumbs with all the herbs and seasonings so I could taste it and check for seasoning adjustments before adding the salmon.  That done I shaped four large patties, covered them with plastic wrap and set them in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours.  That, too, would help them retain their shape while cooking.

IMG_9192

After a workout on Commonwealth Mall and catching up with all my SoFlo peeps it was time to prepare dinner.  I put together a quick Asian style slaw to serve with the open face burgers so we wouldn’t miss the buns.  Totally fooled my stomach!  And they came out great.  I’ve since discovered uncooked salmon burgers freeze extremely well so keep that in mind when salmon goes on sale.  Make some for dinner and throw a few in the freezer for the nights you come home too tired to cook.  Life is good.

Fresh and Spicy Salmon Burgers

  • Servings: four large burgers
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 1/4 pounds salmon filet, SKIN ON!
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3-4 thinly sliced scallions, all of the white and 3/4 of the green
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

IMG_9158

  1. Combine all ingredients except salmon in a medium-sized bowl and mix well to combine all flavors.  Taste for adjustments and set aside.
  2. Place salmon filet skin side down on a non-skid surface such as a wooden cutting board.
  3. Use a dinner fork in one hand to hold fish in place and holding a dinner fork in your other hand gently scrape fish off skin working from one end to the other.
  4. Without overworking fish, combine salmon with panko mixture until all ingredients are evenly combined.
  5. Gently form into four patties, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.
  6. Heat a non-stick pan over medium high heat.  Cook salmon burgers for three to four minutes per side for medium rare.
  7. Serve immediately open face or on toasted buns.  If you go with the buns, drop a little heat or sesame oil into some mayonnaise and slather that on one side of the bun.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Devilish Shrimp for the Christmas drop by

IMG_6331

We all get phone calls from someone whom we really like but never see saying, “Hey!! Listen, I’m on your side of town just finishing up some Christmas shopping and thought I’d stop by for a quick visit IF THAT’S OKAY.”  Well, hopefully you like this person.  If you don’t exclaim how you’d LOVE to see them, it’s been SO long since you’ve gotten together, but you’re just walking out the door to pick up ____ (fill in the blank here) at the airport and we have to go straight from the airport to ____’s (again fill in the blank here) party, an imaginary colleague is totally fine, but we NEED to get together.  Really.  When things settle down.  That’s if you’re not crazy about the caller.  But if it’s your sorority sister that you absolutely ADORE even tho you’re awful at calling and keeping in touch, (I love you, Lor!)… well, I’ve got a super fast, super easy hors d’oeuvre for you.  I try to make it a point to have certain ingredients on hand at all times especially during the holidays.  And these are some of them.  This is a FOUR (4) ingredient stunner.  Camarones al Diablo, Deviled Shrimp.  They’re pretty, easy to handle and go perfectly with a glass of wine or champagne or a stronger spirit.  They’re most excellent at Christmas but also in the dead heat and humidity of summer.  You don’t necessarily need to use Harissa.  Hot curry paste or Thai hot pepper paste would be great. The same for Vietnamese or Korean.  All hot pastes work.  Keep these ingredients on hand and you and your guests will be happy, happy, happy!  Now pour me a glass of that  champagne you’ve been saving.

IMG_6342

Camarones al Diablo

yield: as many as you make!

  • large, extra-large or jumbo shrimp with tails intact, that’s the handle to hold on when eating.
  • 1 sheet of phyllo dough for every shrimp
  • harissa, a hot, spicy paste from North Africa and the Middle East found in most ethnic markets.  It usually comes in small tins.
  • Butter, melted and a brush for spreading the melted butter

IMG_6345

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Make a brine for your shrimp with what you have on hand.  I used a few tablespoons of sugar and salt.  A few whole peppercorns were thrown in.  I didn’t want to use a whole navel orange so I halved two clementines.  Squeeze them and then throw in the shells.  Who doesn’t have those around at Christmas?  I threw in some fresh and dried oregano and then a few fresh rosemary sprigs.  Use what you have on hand.  Lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, ANY fresh herbs and then add your salt, sugar  and peppercorns.
  3. While your shrimp is brining get everything else in place.  Open your harissa, melt your butter and open the phyllo.  Cover the phyllo with a clean, damp tea towel.  Remember, phyllo sheets dry quickly so, again, have everything in place.
  4. When ready to assemble, pat shrimp dry with paper towels.
  5. Take one sheet of phyllo and fold in half lengthwise.  Fold again lengthwise.
  6. At one end place one teaspoon of Harissa.
  7. Place one shrimp over Harissa with tail sticking out to be your “handle”.
  8. From the shrimp to the opposite end of the phyllo brush with butter.
  9. Starting at the shrimp end roll to make a small packet but stop maybe two to three inches from the end.  If you use all the phyllo the appetizer gets too “doughy”.  Cut off the excess phyllo.
  10. Brush the top of your “packet” with butter.
  11. Place on tin foil lined baking sheet.  Continue rolling the rest of the shrimp until you’ve finished the number you want.
  12. Bake for 10-12 minutes depending on the size of your shrimp.  When the shrimp is opaque and the phyllo is golden remove from the oven and serve immediately.

IMG_6356

Whelks, Periwinkles and Mussels…mais oui!

20131008-111415.jpg We are in Normandy…land of cream, butter, mussels, periwinkles and whelks. It is insanely beautiful. And although it is Autumn the leaves have not changed colors…yet. Late nights and early mornings are cold and crisp. We are a group of four, traveling with our best friends of 30+ years for a glorious few weeks. Every night after a late dinner we settle into the ancient courtyard of our inn for a Calvados nightcap. We discovered years ago that the four of us travel quite well together enjoying symbiotic enabling relationships. “Would you like another glass of wine?” “Well, why don’t we just order another bottle?” Or “I’m having some chocolate with hazelnuts. Would anyone like a piece?” And someone ALWAYS does! You have to love the person who encourages you at breakfast to take the last slice of Chevre because, “Hey! You’re in France!”. I shouldn’t be surprised but I always am at how the French don’t ask for much but what they DO ask for must be the best! The quality of life in rural France is truly based on common sense and the four of us have come to the conclusion that the French want and expect beauty in all aspects of their daily lives. No gargantuan, neon electric signs, no in-your-face billboards glaring down at you, no running shoes on fat people and, for that matter, no fat people. I understand and embrace that concept. I work very hard to maintain pretty all around me. The first night here we walked down to the village of Arromanches-Sur-Mer for dinner. We were thrilled with the narrow, cobblestone streets, the two and three story stone houses each topped with several chimneys, and windows framed by wooden shutters that actually open and close keeping out wind, rain and light. In other words they’re truly functional. Not like at home where shutters are purely decorative. Eeeeww. Equally heinous are the bogus fireplaces crammed full with candle collections. Non, non, s’il vous plais!! But I digress. The night was foggy and rainy, full of beautiful mystery and excitement. Perfect for a mountain of sweet, local mussles cooked in white wine with some aromatics. With a salad, some crusty French bread to sop and a few bottles of wine? Mais, oui!

image

Moules Mariniere Mussels in White Wine

  • 2 pounds mussels
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • butter
  • shallots, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped bacon, smoked ham or pancetta (optional but it’s REALLY GOOD!)
  • 1 tablespoon flour (omit if you want gluten free)
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  1.  Place all the mussels in a large bowl of salted water for 10 minutes or so.  Discard any that open.  Any that have a “beard” need to be cleaned by firmly pulling on the beard in the direction of the hinge.
  2. In a large pot pour the white wine, bring to a boil and add the drained mussels.  Cover and steam for 7-10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, separate mussels from cooking liquid and pour the liquid in the pot into a measuring cup to settle.  DO NOT THROW OUT COOKING LIQUID!
  4. In a large, deep pan melt the butter and saute the pork if using.  When a little golden on the edges add the shallots and cook until clear.
  5. Carefully add 1 cup of drained cooking fluid to the pan being careful not to include any grit lying on the bottom of the cup.
  6. Stir and add flour to thicken.
  7. Continue stirring until thickened to your liking.
  8. Place warm mussels in a large serving bowl and pour sauce over.
  9. Sprinkle with parsley.
The view from our front window.  I'm lovin' those sweet cows!
The view from our front window. I’m lovin’ those sweet cows!

Serve with a salad of mixed baby greens, crusty peasant bread and wine.  Mmmmmm..