Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Commander's Palace: Coconut Beer Shrimp with Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce

Okay, I admit it, I'm probably the only person I know who isn't watching the Super Bowl.  Is it just me, or does it seem like the Super Bowl is becoming a national holiday?  I don't seem to remember this level of obsession from when I was younger.  But hey, who can complain when it creates a fabulous opportunity to make delicious tailgating food, right?  And this year I decided to celebrate a game I'm not watching (hey, at least I know it's Broncos versus Panthers) with some delicious coconut shrimp.  Now, I used some shredded coconut that I shredded fresh and froze, and the shrimp aren't really sweet at all.  If you like your shrimp to have a sweet coating, go ahead and use that blue bag of sweetened shredded coconut instead.  Hey, it's a holiday, so calories are excused.

Note: I used Stella Artois for the beer and Crosse and Blackwell for the orange marmalade because that's what I had.

Coconut Beer Shrimp with Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
Adapted from The Commander's Palace: New Orleans Cookbook by Ella and Dick Brennan

4 eggs
1 cup beer
3½ teaspoons Creole Seafood Seasoning (below)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
48 large raw shrimp, peeled but with tails on, deveined
1½ to 2 cups shredded coconut, fresh or moist-pack
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
2 cups orange marmalade
¼ cup Creole mustard or Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons shredded horseradish

Combine eggs, beer, 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, flour, and baking powder.  Blend well.

Season shrimp with remaining seafood seasoning.

Dip the shrimp in beer batter and roll in coconut.  Fry in oil heated to 350°F in a deep-fat fryer, wok, or deep saucepan.  The oil should be at least 1½ inches deep.  Drop shrimp in a few at a time and fry until golden brown.  Remove and drain on paper towel.

Blend together dipping sauce ingredients.

To serve: Put a small bowl of the sweet and tangy sauce in the center of each plate.  Arrange 8 shrimp around it and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Creole Seafood Seasoning
4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated or powdered garlic
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons paprika
2¼ teaspoons granulated or powdered onion

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a blender, food processor, or mixing bowl, and pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic jar. Seal it so that it's airtight. It will keep indefinitely.

Makes about ½ cup

Saturday, February 06, 2016 Tex-Mex Deviled Eggs

What do you do when you have a whole carton of eggs in the fridge, and you've been out of town, and generally inclined to just get something on the way home instead of cooking, and the eggs are reaching their expiration date?  Well, you can either have a big 'ol omelet for several days running, or you can make some deviled eggs.  While I love a good omelet, I'm not inclined to make one in the five minutes before work that I spent contemplating breakfast, so deviled eggs it was.  I remembered trying some deviled eggs at a potluck years ago that were made with salsa, so I figured I would give them a spin.  A bunch of alterations later, and I think I have something most people would like.  Also, I will note this is just in time for the Super Bowl, so snack-tastic!

Note: I used Joe T. Garcia's salsa picante because that's what was in the fridge, but since it's a local brand, just try to use something yummy.  I also think these would be fantastic sprinkled with bacon bits, because...bacon and eggs.  As you can see, it didn't happen this time for me, but don't make my same mistake.

Tex-Mex Deviled Eggs
Adapted from Kittencal on

¼ cup medium salsa
7 large hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1½ teaspoons sour cream
½ cup finely grated Cheddar cheese
2 to 3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice (or 1 additional teaspoon white vinegar)
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper

Drain the salsa over a fine mesh strainer.  Push the liquid through the strainer with the back of a spoon to speed up the process.  Set aside.

Using a sharp knife, slice the hard-boiled eggs in half.  Carefully remove the yolks from all 7 eggs and place into a food processor.  Save the whites from 1 egg for another use or discard.  Place the 12 remaining egg white halves on a plate or serving platter.

Add all remaining ingredients to the food processor.  Process for about 10 seconds or until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Spoon or pipe about 1 tablespoon of filling into each egg white half.  Sprinkle each egg half with paprika.  Cover the eggs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours before serving.

Makes 6 servings (2 egg halves per serving)

Friday, February 05, 2016

Plenty More: Pomelo Salad

I am not a salad girl.  When all the other ladies are ordering lunch, and it's one salad after another on the waiter's notepad, I do not join the crowd.  I'm not sure when exactly I started disliking salad, but I think it has a lot to do with the absolutely miserable salads you used to get in most restaurants.  White iceburg lettuce, unripe tomatoes, everything looking like it has spent the better part of a month in the walk-in.  No thank you.  That, and the fact that I'm generally hungry again about an hour later, which, depending on exactly where you are and what you are doing, is not exactly convenient.

All this said, when I picked up a copy of Plenty More, written by the god of vegetable-dishes-that-carnivores-might-actually-want-to-eat, Yotam Ottolenghi, this beautiful salad caught my eye.  It also certainly helps that I've been eyeballing those big, beautiful pomelos in the store, trying to figure out what to do with one.  I will say that actually peeling the pomelo is not something I'm anxious to repeat anytime soon, but this salad is very fresh, very bright, and very delicious.

Note:  I used light brown sugar, as I could not find my palm sugar in my pantry anywhere.  Unfortunate that the palm sugar has gone MIA, but the salad was still delicious.

Pomelo Salad
From Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
¼ cup palm sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
1 (1¼-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 red chiles, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 large pomelo (about 2¼ pounds)
1 small mango, peeled and cut into thin strips
⅔ cup cilantro leaves
⅓ cup mint leaves
4 baby red or regular shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups watercress leaves
2 teaspoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
¼ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

First make the marinade.  Place the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and warm gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat, add the orange blossom water, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, and chiles and set aside.

Use a sharp knife to peel the pomelo skin.  Divide into segments and use the knife to remove and discard the pith and membrane.  Break the fruit segments into 1 or 2 bite-size chunks, put in a shallow dish, and pour in the marinade.  Leave for at least 30 minutes - the longer, the better.

Remove and discard the star anise and cinnamon.  Drain and save the marinade.  Place the pomelo, ginger, and chiles in a large bowl and add 3 tablespoons of the reserved marinade along with the mango, cilantro, mint, shallots, watercress, peanut oil, lime juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Gently toss, add more marinade, if needed, and then sprinkle with the sesame seeds and peanuts and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mango Chutney Chicken Salad

Well, I had to wait a whole day to get my chicken salad, but here it is, in all its chutney glory.  I kinda just baked this recipe up in my head, mostly as a vehicle for and excuse to eat...chutney.  Because it's gross if you just eat chutney with a spoon, right?  And I'm normally not a big fan of chicken salad with fruit in it, but this certainly is an exception.  In fact, this might be one of the better chicken salad sandwiches I've ever had.  And considering how my parents like small mom-and-pop lunch places that serve chicken/tuna/ham/egg salad, that's certainly saying something.

Note: You can certainly use jarred chutney if you don't want to take up your whole evening cooking a batch, but please, at least try to find one that is actually British.  This reminds me of the old Pace picante sauce commercial.  The one where they mock salsa made in...gasp...New York City!  Yeah, don't be that person.

Mango Chutney Chicken Salad

2 rotisserie chicken breasts, skin removed and meat pulled into bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup full-fat plain yogurt
½ cup sliced almonds
3 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
¾ cup Major Grey's Mango Chutney
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients well in a large bowl.  Serve scooped onto lettuce leaves or as a filling for sandwiches.

Makes 4 cups

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Saveur: Major Grey's Mango Chutney

Up to this point, I've never had chutney.  Somehow I have made it this far in my life without having that experience.  So of course I decide it's time to remedy that.  And this idea of chutney kind-of takes over.  Now I really have to have it.  So I get home after work and chop everything up and finally throw it all in a pot.  I turn on the burner and look to the recipe to see how long it needs to cook.  Full halt.  TWO HOURS.  I realize this at 8:15pm.  So much for whipping up a batch of chicken salad with my new chutney for lunch tomorrow.  I'm going to be lucky to get this bad boy finished before I'm falling asleep in my chair.  Well, I managed to make it through the extended cooking time, and even though it was too hot to throw into some salad, I had to try a bite.  It doesn't look like much, but this is one of the most flavor-packed dishes I've had the pleasure of eating in a long time.  It's sweet and sour and spicy (full of spices) and hot (burns your tongue just right).  I kinda want to put it on everything now.

Note: I used golden raisins because that's what I had in my pantry, and it worked just fine.

Major Grey's Mango Chutney
From Saveur magazine, September 2012

2¼ pounds mangoes, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup raisins
½ cup finely chopped ginger
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 stick cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a 4-quart saucepan; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring, until reduced and thick, about 2 hours. Transfer to glass jars and seal; store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 5 cups

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Washington Post: Crisped Cauliflower with Lemon Tahini Sauce

There is a cauliflower dish at my local Mediterranean buffet that I have long been wishing I could replicate.  It appears it is oven-roasted (it gets pulled from an oven in a big pan), and I think they even imply it is oven-roasted, but the brown color they achieve is like nothing I've been able to get out of my oven.  So I did some poking around, and it turns out that this particular Palestinian dish is fried, not roasted.  That makes so much sense.  It certainly explains my incessant need to stuff my face with this cauliflower, practically ignoring everything else on my plate.  The sauce is good, too, but honestly?  I just want the cauliflower.

Note: I was frying this on the stove, and it took quite a bit longer than 3 to 5 minutes to achieve the perfect brown-ness of a delicious fried cauliflower.  I say cook until it's done, even if that's upwards of 15 minutes.

Crisped Cauliflower with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Adapted from The Washington Post, October 2, 2013

For the sauce:
½ cup tahini
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco

For the cauliflower:
4 cups canola oil, for frying
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1½-inch florets
Kosher salt
Leaves from ½ small bunch mint, minced

For the sauce: Combine the tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, salt and hot sauce in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.

For the cauliflower: Line a baking sheet with paper towels, then place a wire cooling rack over it.

Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat to 350°F. Working in batches as needed, carefully add the florets and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the florets to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season them with salt while still hot.

Transfer to a serving bowl; garnish with the mint. Serve with tahini sauce on the side.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Food52: White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies with Vanilla Salt

I originally meant to make these cookies for Christmas.  You can see how that plan panned out.  But I still had these candy canes sitting on my counter, staring at me.  And I didn't want to just throw them away.  So I decided to go ahead and make the darn cookies even though it's January and everyone is all Christmas-ed out.  Because cookies are delicious no matter the time of year.  And these are especially good with the vanilla salt on the top, so don't skip that part.

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies with Vanilla Salt
Adapted from

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
4 tablespoons crushed peppermint candies or candy canes
Vanilla salt (made by combining 2 tablespoons fleur de sel and ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste)

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed, until light in color and texture, 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well to combine. Again, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt to combine.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until streaks of flour still run throughout. Add the chocolate and peppermint candies then mix until everything just comes together. Finish the dough by hand, taking care to scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is evenly distributed.

At this point, it is best to refrigerate the dough for 24 hours. Resting the dough intensifies the deep toffee flavors, and the texture of the baked cookie improves.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 360°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheets, 9 cookies per pan. Top the cookies with a pinch of vanilla salt just before baking.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the sheets halfway through if the cookies appear to be baking unevenly. The cookies should be lightly golden on the outside but still look quite gooey on the inside. 

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for at least 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. These are best eaten the day of baking but will keep, if well sealed, for up to 2 days.

Makes 18 big cookies

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bennigan's: Ultimate Baked Potato Soup

When I was younger, and Bennigan's was still around, I used to love getting their baked potato soup.  The stuff was amazing, especially when it was really cold outside.  Nothing screams comfort food like creamy, potatoey goodness.  The only problem is that Bennigan's declared bankruptcy in 2008 and shut down everywhere.  No more luscious potato soup for you!  Luckily, they had also put out a paperback recipe book that floated around the darker corners of eBay on occasion.  And this cookbook had a recipe for...Ultimate Baked Potato Soup.  Since the recipe was written for a large kitchen (margarine and flour in ounces, etc), I cleaned it up for a regular kitchen.  And it's just as good as I remember.

Ultimate Baked Potato Soup
Adapted from Bennigan’s: Escape From the Everyday cookbook

2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 pounds)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided use
1 large yellow onion, diced (about ½ pound)
2 tablespoons ham base, such as Better Than Bouillon
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
1½ teaspoons black pepper
Shredded Cheddar cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, and sliced green onions, for serving

Place potatoes in a stock pot and fill with water. Place over medium-high heat and cook until potatoes are just done. Drain in colander and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, melt ½ stick of the butter and add the onions; sauté until they become transparent. Add the remaining 1 stick of butter and melt.  Add the ham base and whisk until no lumps remain.  Sprinkle with the flour.  Let cook for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking constantly, to remove the floury taste.  Add the chicken stock slowly, whisking constantly, so that no lumps form.  Add the milk, cubed cooked potatoes, and black pepper, and stir until completely mixed. Continue to stir until the soup is hot and has thickened slightly.  Garnish the top of each bowl with Cheddar cheese, bacon, and green onions and serve.

Makes 8 meal portions or 16 smaller portions

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Sunny Anderson: Baklava Cups

I absolutely love baklava.  I do not absolutely love working with phyllo and watching it tear no matter how delicately I work.  So when I had some leftover phyllo cups, I started searching for a way to make baklava inside of them.  I came across this recipe from Sunny Anderson, and I modified it slightly with suggestions from Alton Brown.  What I got at the end was absolutely delicious and not hard to make in the least.

Baklava Cups
Adapted from Sunny Anderson

½ cup pistachios
½ cup walnuts
½ cup almonds
1 lemon, zested
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided use
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon rose water (optional)
2 boxes mini phyllo shells, 12 to 15 shells each
½ cup water
¼ cup honey

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Arrange the pistachios, walnuts, and almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let nuts cool slightly and add to a food processor along with the lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of sugar, butter, cinnamon, allspice, salt, vanilla, and rose water and pulse to combine.

Place mini phyllo shells in wells of 2 mini cupcake pans. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of the nut mixture into each shell. Bake until filling is hot, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat add the water, remaining ¼ cup sugar, and honey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until reduced and slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour 1 teaspoon syrup into each cup and allow it to soak in, then repeat with another teaspoon. Refrigerate at least 5 hours, or overnight.

Makes 24 to 30 pieces

Friday, January 01, 2016

Deep South Dish: Comeback Sauce

There's a chicken finger restaurant in my neighborhood (*cough cough* Cane's *cough cough*) to which I'm a bit addicted.  Not because of the chicken fingers, although those are fantastic.  It's because of the sauce into which you dip the chicken fingers.  I'm not even kidding.  I always get extra so that I can dip my french fries in it also.  And of course the sauce recipe is a highly-guarded secret.  What is not so secret is that it's a spin-off on a Southern favorite, Comeback Sauce.  So while the sauce I made below is not an exact replica (it's a bit spicier than the restaurant version), it gives you a good idea of what I'm talking about.  And it's fantastic on just about anything: chicken, fries, hushpuppies, burgers.  You name it, this sauce will make it better.

Comeback Sauce
Adapted from Deep South Dish blog

1 cup mayonnaise (such as Duke's)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chili sauce (such as Heinz)
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Creole mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning (such as Slap Ya Mama)
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and process until well mixed. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week.

Makes about 2 cups of sauce