Thursday, September 20, 2012

Martha Nesbit: Smoky Shrimp and Cheesy Grits

The first and only time I have ever had shrimp and grits was at the House of Blues.  And they were really quite good.  But I could never find a recipe I liked very much, and I had other things to cook.  But when my sister started saying that she made a fabulous shrimp and grits and something about Bobby Flay, I was immediately jealous.  SHE has a good recipe, and I DON'T?  That cannot be allowed to continue.

So I dug around on the internet, and with the help of Bobby Flay, I found a beautiful recipe that turns out some amazing shrimp and grits.  Like, bowl-licking good shrimp and grits.  Like, don't-touch-my-bowl-it's-MINE shrimp and grits.  I mean, the shrimp are cooked in bacon fat.  You can't top that.  Because everything is better with bacon.

Smoky Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
Adapted from Martha Nesbit on Bobby Flay's FoodNation

3 cups chicken stock
¾ cup quick cook grits
¼ pound white Cheddar cheese or Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ pound slab bacon, cut into ¼-inch matchsticks
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
½ teaspoon Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil.  Whisk in the grits and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and the grains are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the cheese and butter, season with salt and pepper and whisk just until the cheese is melted.  Cover and remove from the heat.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Add the bacon and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is golden, about 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Pour off all but 4 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet.  Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat just until fragrant.  Add the shrimp and cook until curled and pink, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and bacon; season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the warm, cheesy grits into shallow bowls and top with the shrimp and bacon.  Serve right away.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

River Road Recipes: Spinach Madeleine

Is it just me, or is everything I've been making lately a shade of brown?  I think I'm in a rut.  I need some color in my life.  And the fastest way to colored food is to pull some frozen spinach out to thaw.  Yeah, I know, fresh spinach, blah blah blah.  But frozen is so much faster and doesn't involve simmering and chasing wayward leaves with a spider, and sticking your hands in ice water.

My future brother-in-law is from Louisiana, and he grew up with a version of creamed spinach that I wasn't sure I could get on board with.  You see, it has Velveeta in it.  Yes, that block of shelf-stable cheese product (not cheese, cheese PRODUCT) that you see in all sorts of gross recipes.  I'm not sure I want to eat something prepared in a laboratory.  But he says the recipe is awesome, and it comes from an old junior league cookbook, so I pulled out my ingredients.

The spinach is...not bad.  It's definitely something that would do well at a potluck, unless you have foodies there.  And I'm already trying to figure out a way to un-Velveeta the recipe.  But it's creamy and tasty and it certainly got me off my brown food obsession.

Spinach Madeleine
Adapted from River Road Recipes by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, LA

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup evaporated milk
½ cup reserved spinach liquor
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon celery salt
¾ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon Creole seasoning
Salt to taste
6 ounces Velveeta, cut into ¼-inch cubes
Breadcrumbs (optional)

Cook the spinach according to the directions on the package.  Drain and reserve the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and jalapeño and sauté 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onions are wilted.  Add the flour, stirring until blended and smooth, but not brown.  Add the evaporated milk, spinach liquor, and Worcestershire sauce slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Cook mixture until smooth and thick, stirring constantly.  Add the seasonings and cubed Velveeta.  Stir until the Velveeta melts, then combine with the cooked spinach.  Spoon into a casserole dish and top with buttered breadcrumbs.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, September 16, 2012

One Perfect Bite: Glazed Lemon Pound Cake

I love Starbucks.  It's an unnatural and probably unhealthy love, but I love it nonetheless.  And besides the coffee, I love the lemon pound cake.  It's full of bright lemon flavor, soft and slightly chewy, and covered with sugar glaze.  It's a thing of beauty.

I saw a bunch of copycat recipes on the internet for the Starbucks lemon loaf, but none of them seemed right, especially when you look at the ingredients on the Starbucks website.  Yes, they have to list ingredients on all of their baked goods.  No, they don't tell you how much of each.  So basically I wrote down the ingredients, found a similar recipe, and fiddled until I got something that worked.  It's not as dense as the Starbucks loaf, but it's incredibly tender and full of lemon flavor.  I might actually like this one better, believe it or not.

Glazed Lemon Pound Cake
Adapted from One Perfect Bite blog and Gourmet magazine

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon oil
¼ cup whole milk
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Powdered Sugar Glaze

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Grease and flour two 8x4-inch loaf pans.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

Using paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon oil.  Reduce the mixer speed to low.  In three batches, beginning and ending with flour, add flour mixture alternately with milk and lemon juice, and beat just until combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops.  Bake until the cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes.

Cool the cakes in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert them onto a rack and cool completely.  Glaze with Powdered Sugar Glaze, allowing it to run over the sides of the cakes.

Makes 20 servings

Powdered Sugar Glaze
1½ cups powdered sugar
4-5 tablespoons whole milk

Combine the powdered sugar and milk until a glaze forms.  The glaze should fall in thick ribbons when a spoon is lifted out of the bowl.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

III Forks: Off-the-Cob Cream Corn

There's a restaurant here in Dallas that is famous for its steaks.  Important people eat there.  Members of the Dallas Cowboys eat there on a regular basis.  It's all about steak.  So what do I love so much about this restaurant?  The creamed corn.  Yes, I am a freak.

I seriously would eat the creamed corn from III Forks by itself.  Everyday.  It's so fresh and creamy and delicious, how could you not?  Unfortunately you can only really make it in the summer because you need fresh ears of corn.  And no, do NOT defile the recipe with a bag of frozen corn.  It's just not the same.  You need that super sweet corn, from cobs that have been basking in the summer sun for a couple of months.  That frozen corn has freezer burn and turns to mush.  Just think of this as a summer delight.  Like pina coladas and laying on the beach.

Off-the-Cob Cream Corn
From III Forks: An Insider's Look at the Famed Restaurant and Its Cuisine by Whit Smyth

10 ears fresh corn, shucked, cooked and off cob
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Accent seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

In a large saucepan, combine the first 10 ingredients.  Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for three minutes.  In a separate pan, melt the butter until it begins to pop, then stir in the flour.  Add the butter and flour mixture to the simmering corn.  Stirring occasionally, allow to simmer for 3 more minutes.  Keep warm until served.

Makes 12 servings

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Nestlé: Chicken a la King

Sometimes I'm feeling nostalgic.  Sometimes I'm feeling nostalgic for something I didn't eat very often.  Sometimes I'm feeling nostalgic for something that came out of a freezer box and went into the microwave.  Okay, I admit it, I actually liked the Stouffer's frozen meals.  I still do.  When you don't feel like moving your exhausted body into the kitchen to do more than press buttons, those little meals are a lifesaver.

The one meal I really liked was Chicken a la King.  For a long time I thought this was just something that came from a box and that no one actually made it.  But then one day I ran across an actual recipe.  And the actual recipe turns out something that tastes just like the box.  It's bland and full of cream and probably bad for you, but it's good in a bad way.  And it's not that hard to make, especially if you have some leftover rotisserie chicken sitting in the fridge, staring you down.

Chicken a la King
Adapted from Nestlé

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken breast meat
2 tablespoons diced pimento
2 tablespoons dry sherry

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, green pepper, and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender but not brown.  Stir in flour, salt, and paprika.  Gradually add evaporated milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.

Whisk 1 cup of thickened sauce into egg yolks; pour into saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil again.  Stir in chicken, pimento, and sherry.  Heat through.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, September 03, 2012

Cuisine at Home: Gnocchi Mac and Cheese

Are you feeling really evil?  Do you want to put something in front of someone that they literally cannot stop eating?  Do you honestly think you can restrain YOURSELF?  The answers are: yes, you are that evil; yes, you want to watch as your significant other wolfs down a whole bowl of naughty; and no, you can't stop yourself either.

We all thought that macaroni and cheese was the pinnacle of side dish lusciousness.  Well, we were wrong.  Because if you want something even more awesome and horribly bad for you, you should use gnocchi instead.  Those little pillows of potato love are just perfect for a creamy cheese sauce, and that resulting casserole is just perfect for your mouth.

Gnocchi Mac and Cheese
From Cuisine at Home magazine, October 2010

1 pound purchased or homemade gnocchi
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup shredded Gruyère cheese
¼ cup shredded Fontina cheese
Salt and ground white pepper
⅓ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Prepare the gnocchi according to the package directions.  Drain and place gnocchi in a single layer in a 1½-quart shallow baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Whisk in the flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in the milk and Dijon mustard.  Continue to whisk the mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

Combine Gruyère and Fontina cheeses, then add by the handful to the milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful.  Once all of the cheese is melted, season the sauce with salt and white pepper.

Pour the sauce over the gnocchi and sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top.  Bake the gnocchi until they puff and the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes.  Let the gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings