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Shrimp in a Spicy Coconut Sauce

Sometimes a girl just has to have a big, steaming bowl of lovely Asian-style deliciousness for dinner.  How many times have we made our way home at day’s end after spending 10 hours working… working hard.  To add to our woes often a last-minute run to the grocery store is required if we expect to have dinner.  All of the ingredients for this dish are available at your grocery store and, get this, if you’re so beat you’re willing to take the easy way out, most of the makings called for are already cleaned, prepared and/or cut up.  Yay for grocery store food prep!  I don’t know about you but I’m slow as molasses in the kitchen and that’s on a good day.  So if I can get a little help to speed things up I’ll take it.  The recipe can easily be halved but I like to have leftovers for lunches the following day so take that into consideration.

This dish can be served over noodles, (rice, udon or cellophane are all fine), or it may be served over rice, (white, brown, jasmine or basmati), it all works.  If you’re staying away from carbs altogether add more broth and the dish becomes more soup-like.  Nice, huh?  Most of the vegetables can be found already chopped in the produce section of your grocery store, the shrimp has been cooked and is in the seafood department and the sweet potato can be thrown in the microwave to “bake”.  The sweet potato is SO good paired with the savory lemongrass!  The spinach is tossed into the pan straight from the bag and the basil leaves are torn from the stalk and added without having to cut.  Also, in the produce section, you’ll find tubes of fresh lemongrass, grated ginger paste and minced garlic in the jar.  Oh, the glory of it all!  Wait, wait!  I almost forgot to mention that in the “international” section of the store are already prepared udon noodles in cryovac and, if you prefer glass noodles, just know they don’t have to be cooked.  They soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes so they’re ready when you’ve finished the shrimp part of the recipe.  Can you believe it?  Again, if you’re trying to watch your weight, using “lite” coconut milk is perfectly fine.  I try to have boxed chicken broth always on hand and it’s perfect with the shrimp but feel free to use what you have in the pantry.  Speaking of pantry, the jarred herbs and all-ready-prepared noodles are great staples to stock up on as are a few bags of cleaned shrimp in the freezer, perfect for last-minute soups, salads and stirfrys.  I know this recipe calls for a  lengthy list of ingredients but please keep in mind, this is pretty much a “dump and stir” meal.  I’m thrilled with the ease of it and I know you will be, too.  Enjoy!

Shrimp in a Spicy Coconut Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemongrass paste
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons ginger paste
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced
  • 1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, 1 small box or bunch
  • 2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and shells off
  • 2  13.5-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk, lite is okay
  • 2 cups seafood, vegetable or chicken broth, boxed is fine
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato, roasted, peeled, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 red chiles or jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped.  I use 2 as we like heat and spice but feel free to use just one for less spice.  But do use at least one or it won’t be spicy, now will it?
  • salt to taste
  • rice or noodles for serving
  • hot chili garlic sauce, optional, for serving
  1. Over medium-high heat add olive oil to a large, high sided pan.
  2. Add onions and stir until coated with oil and starting to release its perfume.
  3. Add lemongrass, garlic and ginger and thoroughly stir into onions.
  4. Add peppers and zucchini and continue stirring for 2 minutes.
  5. Add spinach and basil and stir until almost completely wilted.
  6. Add shrimp and toss until coated with the pan flavors.
  7. Pour in coconut milk and broth, mix well and raise heat bring to a boil.
  8. Add sweet potato, lime juice and chiles.  Stir.
  9. Taste and add salt if needed.
  10. Serve in large bowls over cooked rice or noodles.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Island Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Curry

Isn’t it great when family members can help other family members with academics, college or careers?  One of our nieces, Meg, reached out to her Uncle Jimmy for help with a skype interview for a summer internship.  We’re so happy to learn she got it!  When Delta Airlines made moves to open a reservations office in San Juan my aunt, Madrinita, helped me out and secured an interview for me.  It was certainly no guarantee of being hired but it got my toe in the door. The rest was up to me.  Hundreds and hundreds of people were interviewed for 13 positions.  I was just out of college, young and foolish and completely unaware of any competition for these highly coveted positions.  With the beauty and confidence of one in their early 20’s, I sailed through all my interviews happy to be on a mini-vacation during the day while spending precious moments with my family at night, secure in the knowledge that the world truly was my oyster.  I scored that position myself but had my aunt not let me know, had she not set up the initial interview, that chapter of my life would have been rewritten.  I lived with my relatives for some time and although we had a few disagreements, (for instance, how can I be home by 10:00 pm if I’m not leaving the house until 11:00pm.  Right?), we all enjoyed this unexpected gift of time spent with each other.  I gained a fierce loyalty and love of the island and its people, from the cool, wet mountains down to the white, hot beaches.  I had some great times and, of course, some not so great moments but regardless, Puerto Rico is my safe haven, my refuge, the stuff of my dreams.  My hope is that you’ll pour “dos dedos”, two fingers, of rum, crank the salsa and explore this island recipe.  Buen provecho!

This recipe has so many Caribbean flavors.  Sweet potato and pumpkin are huge in the islands and linger softly in the background tone of so many dishes such as beans, soups and curries.  Coconut milk is used in both sweet and savory dishes while cilantro plays a major role in countless savory dishes.  I put a whole scotch bonnet pepper in the the pot and fish it out before serving.  If one of your guests mistakes it for a chunk of tomato they’re in for one helluva bad surprise.  If you like your food screaming hot then, by all means  mince two or three of the peppers and throw them in but I find one is just fine.  This curry is served over rice and I prefer an organic, short grain brown.  Short grain is sweeter than long and pairs well with this dish.  Please know all these ingredient amounts are easily changed.  If you’re not crazy about pumpkin then leave it out and double up on the sweet potato.  Not a fan of zucchini?  Add carrots or potatoes instead.  And basil is brilliant in place of cilantro so play around with this forgiving dish until you come up with your own island version.  Enjoy!

Island Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Curry

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped, approximately a generous 1/2 cup
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2-3 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 1 medium size bell pepper, seeded and cut into small thin strips
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 13.5 cans unsweetened coconut milk, lite or reduced fat is fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 pound calabasa squash, peeled and cut into 2 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, optional
  • 4 medium size zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters then chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, with or without the tail, it’s your choice
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped and divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large, deep-sided saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until soft but not browned, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the bay leaves, bell pepper, tomatoes and curry powder, stirring for several minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water and gently stir.
  5. Simmer 10 minutes then add the squash and scotch bonnet, if using.  Gently stir.
  6. Simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes and calabasa are fork tender.
  7. Add the zucchini and cook 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add the shrimp and 1/2 cup of the cilantro and cook just until the shrimp turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.
  9. Taste for salt and pepper.
  10. Scatter remaining cilantro over curry and serve.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Creole Cornmeal Fried Shrimp…sweet Jesus!

Oh, y’all.  Taking these photos is killing me.  I crank the music loud and that’s okay except if I hear loud music often I pour a drink…regardless of the time of day.  This recipe liked to kill me.  I had several ideas for props and one of them was to stack a few biscuit hot from the oven in the background.  I baked them off and although I  didn’t even use them in the photos I ate two.  I’m filled with shame.  I thought maybe I’d toss a few potato chips behind the photo of the shrimp po’ boy.  As I walked down the chip aisle at my neighborhood Publix, my eyes fell on “Hot ‘N Spicy Pork Rinds”.  Well!  I’m half Puerto Rican.  Pork rinds hold deep meaning for us.  Into the cart they went alongside the frozen biscuit I knew I wouldn’t eat because…c’mon, they’re frozen.  I don’t eat that garbage.  I ‘magine that’s why I only ate two.  I stopped by the bakery to pick up a few freshly baked hoagie rolls for the po’ boy photo and I can honestly say all I ate of THAT product was the tip I cut off of one roll for aesthetic purposes.  People, I was like the mayor in the movie “Chocolat”, who also went crazy during Lent.  He couldn’t control himself from eating chocolate and that’s how I was with all these tempting carbs while taking these photos.  I didn’t touch the shrimp…I needed them and this was the fourth and last time  was frying them to take some photos.  No.  I focused on the biscuit and pork rinds…and my cocktails…at 2:17 in the afternoon.  Ugh.  I keep thinking, “Can I get any fatter?”, and the answer always, always is yes.  But I had a good time setting up the shoots.  I danced alone in the house with the dog and Earth, Wind and Fire.  Chaka Khan and Bobby Womack may have shown up.  I boogied to “Love Rollercoaster” and Shalamar’s “Make The Move”.  And when the shoots were over there’s a chance I indulged in a shrimp or two.  (Insert shameful face emoji.)  So I will share with you this recipe that, again, I have made four (4) times because my family and I kept eating all of it before I took pics.  It is heavenly!

Once you fry shrimp in cornmeal you will never batter up again.  It’s just a light dusting of cornmeal but its presence makes all the difference in the world.  I start with good size, large shrimp, shelled and deveined.  Sometimes with and sometimes without the tail, but always wild caught, never farmed.  Farmed shrimp has a muddy, dull, one-dimensional taste.  I’ll do without shrimp rather than eat farmed.  I prefer a medium ground, white cornmeal as I find a fine ground is too processed and without flavor.  If I’m ingesting these cornmeal calories, by God, I want to taste and enjoy them!  I keep Tony Chachere’s in my pantry as my all time favorite but Zatarain’s is probably just as good for an all-around Creole or Cajun spice blend.  I’ll admit the amount of cayenne is somewhat alarming for some readers but I find cooking  with hot spices seems to tame their heat greatly.  These shrimp are not as spicy as you think they’d be.  That said, if they’re not spicy enough for you, lightly dust each batch with a little cayenne pepper immediately  after taking them out of the hot oil and placing on some paper towels to drain.  And that’s all there is to it.  This shrimp recipe is perfection in a po’ boy…especially if you slip a couple of spicy pork rinds in the sammie for a little crunch.  On top of slow cooked grits, alongside corn bread or standing alone, these shrimp are a phenomenal flavor bomb.

Creole Cornmeal Fried Shrimp

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 cups medium ground white cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup paprika, NOT smoked
  • 2-3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning, Tony Chachere’s or Zatarains are my favorites
  • 2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 egg white
  • canola oil to fry
  1.  Pour 3/4″ canola oil into a large skillet and heat to medium high.
  2. In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, paprika, cayenne pepper and Creole seasoning.  Mix well with a whisk or fork until all the ingredients are completely incorporated.  Set aside.
  3. In a separate small bowl combine shrimp and egg white.  Using your hands, toss the shrimp lightly until all the shrimp is coated with the egg white.
  4. Drop 1/3 of the shrimp into the cornmeal mix with your left hand.
  5. With your right hand lightly toss the shrimp so it is completely coated with the cornmeal mixture.
  6. Rinse your hands and gently drop each cornmeal coated shrimp into the hot oil.
  7. The shrimp will fry for 1 minute.  While the shrimp fries, mix the second 1/3 of the shrimp in the cornmeal mixture.  Set aside.
  8. Using tongs turn each shrimp over and fry for 1 minute.
  9. With a slotted spoon or spider, remove shrimp from frying pan and place on paper towels to drain.
  10. Place waiting shrimp in cornmeal in hot oil and fry for 1 minute.
  11. While shrimp is frying, coat the last third of shrimp in the cornmeal and set aside.
  12. Turn the shrimp in the pan over and fry for 1 minute.
  13. Remove from pan and move to paper towels to drain.
  14. Place last third of shrimp in hot oil and fry for 1 minute on each side, removing to drain on paper towels when done.
  15. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com.

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?

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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
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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
  • 1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 2 pounds wild caught uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 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

 

Shrimp Paste…reason enough to have a cocktail hour

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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.

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Shrimp Paste

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
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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!

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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
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  • 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

 

Devilish Shrimp for the Christmas drop by

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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.

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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

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  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.

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