Category Archives: Seafood

Clams with White Beans and Wine

interestingly, the best spot in my apartment for taking pictures of food after dark is on top of a bookshelf.

Look.  Shellfish are ugly.  Sometimes they have weird things hanging off their shells, and more often than not, they look like genitalia or snot.  But here’s the thing I didn’t know until this year:  THEY ARE DELICIOUS AND ARE ALMOST ALWAYS SERVED IN A SAUCE MADE OUT OF MELTED BUTTER.

In October, Sue and I went to Seattle to eat.  During the trip, I learned the following:

1.  Clams, even though they’re so ugly and weird looking with ridiculous valves and things that they really require that you not look directly at them as you lift them to your lips, are sweet little morsels of delight.

2.  Oysters, which are most often advertised by aggressive seafood eaters as being “briny”, (Really, everyone I’ve ever met?  Briny?  Think up a selling point that doesn’t remind me of all the worst parts of going to the beach) are actually quite lovely, and I even chewed mine, which apparently is not best practice for eating oysters.

3.  Mussels, despite looking quite obviously like tiny vaginas, are tender and sweet and are served with french fries a lot.

Last week, I saw a recipe in Food & Wine for mussels in white wine, and figured “forget my lifelong promise to myself not to cook seafood at home thanks to that time I was a kid and my mom made salmon and it made the whole house smell like fish for 17 days,  I’m gonna cook mussels at home!”  Except then, when I went to the store, I realized that mussels have to be de-bearded and that felt too scary so I bought clams instead.

Clams with White Beans and Wine

2 lb fresh Manila clams

6 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tbsp butter, divided

1 tsp bacon fat, from the jar I sincerely hope you keep in your fridge

4 tbsp olive oil

1 cup or so white wine, I used a white Bordeaux, because Sue taught me that I like “non-traditional grape varietals”

2 cans white Northern beans, drained and rinsed well

red pepper flakes

a lot of chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

crusty bread

Method:  Clams are sandy.  To clean clams, you put them in a big bowl of salted cool water for 20 minutes to an hour before cooking, which makes them spit out all the sand.  Apparently, you can also put black pepper, flour or corn meal in the water to help them expel the sand.  I put in salt and pepper only.  When they’re done soaking, fish them out with a spoon and put them in a colander, scrubbing them thoroughly to remove the sand from the outside of the shells.

they weren't so sandy, i guess, because not a ton of sand came out and i didn't chew any sand.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter, the bacon fat and the olive oil in a large, shallow pan with sides and a fitted lid, on medium-low heat.  Toss in the garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and let it cook for maybe 4 or 5 minutes, moving it around frequently so it doesn’t burn.  Burnt garlic is almost as gross as that feeling when you realize the cute boy you’re talking to is a Republican.

After the 4-5 minutes, put in the beans and cook everything together for 5 minutes or so.

if you don't have a pan like this, clearly you don't go to homegoods as often as i do.

Then, pour in the wine and let it simmer for 5 more minutes.  Put in the clams and the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, stir it around a bit and put the lid on the pan for 5 minutes, shaking the pan a couple times to move things around.

i feel fancy that i did this.

Take the lid off, stir everything around, remove any clams that haven’t opened (because they were dead already, I think, is the reason that you don’t want to eat them, but that fact reminds me that I just cooked alive creatures in butter and wine and that’s jarring), put in the chopped parsley and serve with the bread.

all mine opened except 4. i assume "not open" meant not open at all, and that open only a little bit was still ok. i ate those, so if i die, they should really be more specific about how open clams are supposed to be.

This was so easy and so delicious I feel like a chump for every time I’ve been impressed by a dish like this in a restaurant.  Clams are fantastic, and butter, wine and garlic make for a no-lose situation.  Also, this entire process took less than 30 minutes.  I’ve always felt that shellfish are very high maintenance, which I suppose they are in terms of cleaning and de-bearding and de-icing or whatever else, but cooking them was fast and almost foolproof.  I think next time I make this, which based on how good this was might be tomorrow, I’ll put chorizo in it.

– Cat

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Filed under Legumes, Meat, Seafood, Soup

Grilled Swordfish with Mango Salsa

One of the many sad things about having a small kitchen is not being able to cook fish inside. You can of course, but it will more than likely make your place smell like fish for a week, and while your cat might enjoy this, most people won’t. This is just one more reason I love grills, not to mention the wonderful smoky flavor the grill imparts to the fish. Fish can sometimes be a little finicky on the grill because of its tendency to stick or flake. Swordfish is excellent for grilling because of its meaty “steak”-like quality.  If you happen to be cooking for someone who is not a generally a fish fan (possibly because of texture?) this is a great option. I haven’t met a fish I won’t eat (or at least try…) but not everyone feels that way. This is a great beginner fish both for cooking and for eating.

Mango is in season right now which was the inspiration for the mango salsa topping. Mango salsa is a common pairing with fish; I blame fancy tropical islands I rarely get to visit. I also wanted to pair this with a light salad, and I thought the peppery flavor of the arugula would pair beautifully with the swordfish. This was wonderful, even the boyfriend (the non fish lover) really enjoyed the texture and flavor of the swordfish. It was hearty (while not heavy) and full of excellent complimentary flavors. This recipe will serve four.

Swordfish:

2 Tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper

Juice of one lemon

2 large swordfish steaks

Salt and Pepper for the steaks before the grill

Mango salsa:

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced

½ medium yellow or red onion finely chopped

Approximately 1 cup diced tomatoes, I quartered cherry tomatoes

1 medium jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 small handful of cilantro, chopped

1 avocado, diced

Juice of one lime

1 tsp of honey

½ tsp of salt

Arugula Cous Cous salad:

1 cup pearl cous cous

2 large handfuls of arugula (about 2 cups)

Drizzle of olive oil

Juice of ½ of a lemon

Method:

Marinate the swordfish steaks in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The fish needs to marinate for 20 minutes or up to one hour. 20 minutes is perfect timing for making your mango salsa.

Dice, chop, and slice all the fruits and vegetables for salsa. Toss all the ingredients into a medium bowl and top with lime juice and a sprinkling of salt. Cover and let the mango salsa marinate while everything else is prepared.

Prepare the pearl cous cous according to the package. Toss the arugula with the cooked pasta, drizzle with olive oil, and lemon juice. Set aside.

Preheat grill to medium high heat. Oil the grates using your preferred method, I use ½ an onion dipped in oil stabbed with a large fork. Grill the swordfish steaks for approximately 6 minutes on each side or until the fish can be flaked easily with a fork.

To plate this dish, place the arugula cous cous salad on the bottom, layer the swordfish next, and top with the mango salsa.

A few notes:

Pearl cous cous is also known as Israeli cous cous, as you can see it is a much larger shape than traditional cous cous. I am a huge fan of it. It shouldn’t be too hard to find, but if it is, you can use orzo instead.

The honey isn’t a must in the salsa, but i think it helps to bring out the sweetness of the mango and tomato and mellow some of the spiciness of the onion.

-Sue

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Filed under BBQ, Recipes, Seafood

Grilled Halibut with Marinated Kale

This post is probably going to trick you into believing I eat really really healthy food. Don’t worry, that’s not true. But I have had this twice in the past week because it was so delicious. This is also one of those meals where after you eat it you feel satisfied and a little bit like someone should pat you on the back for choosing to eat this instead of pizza.

Now, let’s talk about kale. I thought for a long time that kale was gross. Turns out- I was wrong. Also, it’s quite possibly the best food for you. I’m fairly sure when you eat it, it will counteract that bowl of ice cream you may or may not have had for breakfast. Well maybe not, but it is crazy good for you.  It’s full of beta-carotene, antioxidants, calcium, iron, fiber, and potassium. It also has almost your entire daily recommended value of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin B6. Seriously, this is what they mean when they say “super food”. It’s also tasty. It’s a hearty crunchy green with slightly bitter citrus taste.  Cat says kale tastes like health and trees. I said that did not sound appealing. Trust me, Cat eats a lot more vegetables than I do and if I like it, you will too.

For today’s dose of kale I paired it with some fish and roasted vegetables. This is a light fresh meal that you can prepare completely on the grill (which is wonderful for people like me who have a tiny kitchen that gets VERY hot in the summer).  The portions in this recipe are for two.

Grilled Halibut with Marinated Kale

Ingredients:

¾ lb halibut

1 bunch kale (green, purple, any kind)

3-4 lemons

1 tsp salt

3 medium cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

10+ cherry tomatoes (yellow or red)

1 can artichokes packed in water, drained

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Olive oil

1 Tbs freshly snipped chives

Method:

The kale needs to marinate for at least an hour, so you will want to make it first. Kale has a tough stem running almost the entire length of the leaf, to remove this make a V-shaped cut and discard the stem.

This is to show you the stem, i tried to lay it out flat but kale is stubborn

Roughly chop the kale into medium to small pieces (kale is hearty, so you will want this to be smaller than a piece of lettuce for a salad). In a large bowl toss the kale with the juice of 2 lemons, 1 tsp of salt, and the minced garlic. Cover and let marinate, stirring occasionally.

Make a foil packet with the tomatoes and artichokes. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

For the fish, on a piece of foil, slice 1 lemon as thinly as possible and place a layer under the fish (skin side down). Generously season the fish with freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkling of salt. Layer the top with the rest of the lemon, and sprinkle with chives. Drizzle everything with olive oil and seal up the package.

With the grill on medium heat cook the vegetable packet for 15 minutes. The fish will also take about 15 minutes, but it depends on the thickness of the fish. To check if the fish is done slice open the foil packet and poke the fish with a fork, if it flakes easily it’s finished.  Remove the lemons and slice the fish into equal portions.

Slice the additional lemon to squeeze over the fish to finish. This is of course optional, I just really love lemon.

To plate this dish, start with a generous portion of the kale, top with a serving of fish, and top the fish with the vegetables.

Healthy deliciousness

A few notes:

You could make this dish with pretty much any type of white fish, I have also done it with sea bass. It would also be delicious with chicken.

I specifically chose tomatoes and artichokes because they provide a little bit of sweetness and acidity that balances nicely with this dish. You can use anything your little heart desires.

This dish can also be prepared without a grill. You can roast the vegetables in a small pie plate and the fish can still be prepared in the foil, just put it on baking sheet.

Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic and lemon with the kale. Even if when you go to mix it, it smells overwhelming. That lovely kale absorbs just the right amount of flavor.

– Sue

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Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers

I wanted to make something with shrimp since the boyfriend was out with the boys for the night and he’s not a shrimp fan. I was chatting with Cat about food (what’s new) and we were tossing around ideas and came up with this. I knew I wanted shrimp, but Cat said scampi was boring. She suggested adding mango, I made it pineapple instead, and boom- this idea was born.

Last summer I made a glaze for chicken with a mix of piri piri hot sauce, butter, garlic, lemon juice and cilantro, it was wonderful. That was the inspiration for the sauce.

This is a really simple quick appetizer (or dinner) whip up the sauce, skewer everything, give it a quick turn on the grill, and drizzle with the sauce. Good to go. Quick and fancy- two of my favorite adjectives.

Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers with Spicy Sweet Sauce:

Sauce ingredients:

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ of a medium sized jalapeno seeded and minced

Juice of 3 limes (about ¼ cup)

2 Tbs honey

2 Tbs pineapple juice (or orange juice)

1 Tbs cilantro finely chopped

Dash of Tabasco

Pinch of salt

Heat the olive oil and butter until the butter is melted. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté for about a minute. Add lime juice, honey and pineapple juice. Cook on medium for 2-3 minutes. Add cilantro, Tabasco and salt. Cook for an additional minute and reduce heat to low until ready to use. Sauce can be prepared in advance and warmed before use.

For the skewers:

About 1 lb of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cubed

Drizzle of olive oil

Bamboo skewers

Soak the bamboo skewers in water while you prepare everything (don’t skip this, trust me, if you do, they will catch fire). Alternate shrimp and pineapple on the skewers, drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Grill over medium heat about 3-4 minutes per side or until the shrimp is pink and the pineapple is lightly seared.

Drizzle the skewers with the sauce and serve warm.

notice the burnt skewers

A few notes:

If you don’t soak the skewers they will burn. See picture above. So don’t skip this step (or use metal ones).

I thought about serving these as lettuce wraps, which I still think would be delicious. Simply take everything off the skewers, wrap in a large leaf of butter lettuce (the best kind for lettuce wraps) and either drizzle with sauce, or dip them. A few leaves of fresh cilantro would probably also be delicious.

How to tell if pineapple is ripe: Look at it. Does it have a golden yellow color to it? Smell it. Does it smell like pineapple? These are the best ways to tell if it’s ripe. The pineapple should also feel heavy for its size and be firm to the touch, if it’s too soft it is probably rotten.  Here is a tutorial on how to cut a pineapple, it’s not hard, please don’t buy the precut stuff- it’s a waste of money.

Use big shrimp if you can. I used smaller shrimp, which was still delicious, but bigger is better (at least when it comes to shrimp).

– Sue

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Filed under Appetizers, Recipes, Seafood

Diver Scallops with Linguine and Bacon

I love scallops. I especially love making them because they are fancy, and surprisingly not as expensive as you might think. You absolutely want to get fresh high quality diver scallops, but that’s really the main cost of this meal (and it’s really not that expensive, we are talking less than 10 bucks for enough scallops for 2 people).  This dish is super quick, and super easy to prepare, it’s a wonderful weeknight dinner for two or it can easily be adapted for more.

Ingredients:

3 strips of thick cut bacon

3 scallions, sliced

1 clove garlic, diced

6 scallops (3 per person is what I generally allot for)

2 servings of linguine

1 Tbs of olive oil, plus more for dressing the pasta

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Cayenne pepper (optional)

Method:

Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta (salt the water, it’s important, it adds a lot of flavor to the pasta). Cook the pasta while you prepare the scallops. Dice the bacon and cook over medium heat in a large skillet. Once the bacon is crisp use tongs to remove it from the pan, I like to put it in a bowl lined with a paper towel to help drain a bit of the fat. Remove the pan from the heat to let the oil cool slightly (burnt bacon fat is not a delicious smell).Pat dry the scallops, this is a very important step because if they are wet they will just steam in the pan instead of searing. Season your scallops liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. I add a light sprinkle of cayenne because I think it really adds to the scallops, but it’s optional (a light sprinkle will add flavor and not a lot of heat).

Depending on how much fat your bacon rendered, you may want to pour some off, you want about a tablespoon. You also could remove all of the bacon fat and use olive oil (but I don’t know why you would want to do that).  Put the pan back on the heat and warm to medium high. You want a HOT skillet because the key to scallops is to get a really good sear on them. Another key to scallop cooking is not to crowd the pan, if you add too many at one time it drops the temperature and you will not be able to get a proper sear. You should be able to fit 6 easily in a 10-12inch skillet, but any more than that you should do it in batches. Once the pan is hot, add the scallops carefully (they should sizzle). Do not touch them; let them cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until they have a dark sear. I find it easiest to use tongs to turn them over, but use whatever you are comfortable with.  Once the scallops are cooked remove from the pan and set aside.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic to the pan.

Cook until fragrant and then add the sliced scallions and cook for another 30 seconds or so just until the scallions start to wilt. Pour the garlic/scallion oil over the pasta and add another healthy drizzle of olive oil, add the cooked bacon and toss. Plate the pasta and top with 3 scallops apiece.

check out the beautiful sear

check out the beautiful sear

A few notes:

There are two kinds of scallops in the world, bay and sea. Bay scallops are found in the smaller bays of coastlines and sea scallops are found…well…in the sea. Bay scallops are quite a bit smaller, usually about 1/2″ in diameter where sea scallops are about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Diver scallops are sea scallops that are literally hand picked by divers. They are considered to be the highest quality (and most tasty in my opinion). While there is a time and a place for bay scallops, I think diver scallops are really ideal for use as an entrée.

-Sue

– Second note from Cat:  This isn’t my post, but since I have a scallop related anecdote, I have to take my chance.  I used to joke with my friend Andy Flynn that when I imagine scallops in the wild, I imagine a long white tube just crawling around in the sea, like a pale cucumber, and when we eat scallops, somebody just grabs the tube and chops it up into little circles.  I can’t remember why I thought this idea was so hilarious to begin with, and I am, of course, aware that isn’t actually true, but I do find it funny to think about.  So two summers ago, I was in Asia, and in this particular story, on an island off the coast of Thailand.  Thai islands have a lot of “beach BBQ” things going on for tourists, where they put all this seafood on tables, and you pick it out and they BBQ it for you.  Well, I finally saw scallops in the wild, turns out they are in pretty little shells, and not, in fact, long white tubes like I prefer to imagine.  The picture below is me, trying to explain to the skeptical Thai man at the BBQ stand why I found his scallops so fascinating.  He obviously thinks I’m a total idiot.  – Cat

i'm explaining that i've never actually seen a scallop in the shell, and that i think it's funny to imagine them being a long tube. he thinks i'm a moron, but is too polite to say so.

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Filed under Pasta, Recipes, Seafood

Cat and Sue Cook Together For Once, Volume 2: Gruyere Polenta Cakes, with Creamy Braised Leeks, Seared Diver Scallops and Roasted Tomato Drizzle

I’m so proud of how LONG that title is.  Because, as everyone knows, with recipes, long = fancy.  The coolest thing about this meal is that Sue and I made it up.  The second coolest thing about it is that it is a pretty even split of ideas, some were mine, some were Sue’s.  The finished result was really harmonious, all the flavors and textures complementing each other well, nothing jarring but everything speaking for itself.  Plus, people who don’t like scallops are no friends of mine.  So here are the recipes, with a few notes about each one.

Gruyere Polenta Cakes

Polenta is grits, in case there’s any confusion about that.  To make polenta cakes, you cook the grits, including all your flavors, pour them into a pan, cool them in the fridge, cut them into shapes, and then pan fry them.  Simple, delicious, an excellent addition to meals when you’re tired of rice and potatoes.  Polenta is pretty bland, so be careful to include lots of flavor.  For these, we made them creamy and cheesy with Gruyere, though I’ve  made cheddar grits, parmesan grits and goat cheese grits with enormous success as well.  The ratio I use for liquid to grits is 1:3, assuming you’ll add cheese and some butter.

1 cup grits

2 cups milk and/or heavy cream (Some cream is fantastic in here, not that you MUST include it.  Just make sure that whatever proportions of milk and cream you use add up to 2 of the 3 parts of liquid required.)

1 cup chicken stock (You can use veggie stock if you’re a vegetarian.  Please don’t use water.  If you must, use another cup of milk.  Just don’t use water.)

3/4 -1 cup shredded Gruyere

a pat or two of butter

salt and pepper

Toss the grits and all liquid in a cold pot and turn heat to medium.  Let the grits slowly incorporate the liquid, stirring frequently.  This takes 20-25 minutes, but if you’re in a hurry, you can cook them on higher heat and stand there whisking the grits the whole time to make sure they don’t clump, burn, or cook unevenly.  Your call.  When the grits are done, they’ll look like thinnish porridge or oatmeal, and you can pour them into a buttered dish or pan.  Bear in mind the eventual shape you want the polenta cakes to have, we did pretty triangles, you could easily do circles or squares, or whatever.  Let the grits cool and harden in the fridge until you’re ready to pan fry them, at least a couple hours.  To pan fry them, simply cut them into the desired shapes, melt some oil or butter (or bacon grease!) in a nonstick pan on medium-high heat, and pop the polenta cakes into the oil.  Don’t move them around much, they’re a bit fragile.  Let them cook maybe 4-5 minutes on each side, flipping only once, until each side is a nice, deep, crunchy brown.  Remove them from the oil and plate immediately.

Creamy Braised Leeks

2 big bunches of leeks

1/2 cup unsalted butter (unsalted butter is better for this, but if you only have salted, watch your temperature and account for the salt)

1 Tbs of all purpose flour

1/4 cup of cream or 1/2 and 1/2

Fresh ground pepper

Salt

So last time we talked about leeks it was for potato leek soup. Leeks are like a mildly flavored green onion. They are also a very dirty vegetable.  To prep leeks, you will need to cut off the roots (about an inch) and then cut off the top dark green fibrous portion of  leeks (about 1 1/2 inches). Cut the rest into small rings (about 1/2 inch thick). Place the rings into a bowl of water and separate the rings with your fingers. Swirl them around to help release the dirt, and then let them sit for awhile. Scoop out the leeks with a slotted spoon into your cooking pot (we used a small enameled dutch oven). DO NOT pour the leeks into a colander or you will coat them with all the dirt you took the time to extract.

Add the butter to the pot and let them cook on low heat until they are tender, be careful to not let them brown, or they will turn bitter. Add the flour and stir until evenly distributed, cook for about 1 min (you are making a roux here). Then add the cream and stir until creamy. Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Taste to see if you need more of anything. You can keep these on low heat while you prepare everything else, if they start to get too thick add a splash of chicken broth, or splash of milk.

Seared Diver Scallops

When you go to the grocery store to buy scallops, you’ll notice the diver scallops are like 40 times the price of regular scallops.  That’s because they are diver scallops, which means that divers pluck them from the sea by hand, as opposed to farmed scallops which are dredged up with a big net.  They are the best, biggest, tenderest, tastiest scallops a person can eat, and in this recipe they’re prepared so simply it’s worth it to spend the money to get something perfect.  Also- if you don’t like scallops, or you think you don’t, you’re wrong.  Scallops are like clouds with a very delicate sea flavor.  We served 3 scallops per person, which is more than enough.  They were about the size of golfballs.

Scallops

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper (liberal amounts)

cayenne pepper (small amount)

Get your oil hot in a nonstick saute pan, on medium heat.  Salt, pepper and cayenne both sides of your scallops.  When the oil is hot, place scallops in the pan in one layer, not touching each other.  If you have to do this in several stages, do that, just don’t crowd the scallops or they will not sear properly.  Tongs are the best tool for turning scallops, they are a meaty fish but they are still flaky like fish, using a spatula will sometimes result in broken scallops. Let them cook 3-4 minutes, not moving them around.  After 3-4 minutes, when you can see some nice browning happening on the underside of the scallops, flip them over and cook them a further 3-4 minutes to achieve the same browning on the opposite side.  When they’re brown on both sides, remove them from the pan and plate them immediately.

Note- scallops are DELICIOUS raw.  If you’ve never had raw scallop in a sushi restaurant, do so immediately.  I prefer raw scallops to cooked, actually.  My point is, it’s best to serve scallops rare- just make sure they’re nice and brown on the outsides.

Roasted Tomato Drizzle

This is the easiest thing on the face of the earth.  Seriously.  Make it and put it on anything, but in this meal, the acidity of the tomato and balsamic compliments the richness of the leeks and the polenta.

1 pint cherry tomatoes

3 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Roast the tomatoes, olive oil and salt and pepper in an oven safe pan for 20-30 minutes, on 350. Roast the tomatoes until they burst and some are slightly charred. Remove them from the oven, let them cool, and toss them in your food processor with the balsamic (make sure to scrape all the drippings off the pan, there is a lot of flavor in there).  Serve however you want.

Pre- food processor stage, these are also the roasted tomatoes I (Sue) used on the vegan pizza, in fact I use them in a lot of things.  If you are like me and don’t love raw tomatoe,s (except the heirloom ones, I can eat those like candy) this is a great way to maintain a fresh flavor, while still taking away that “raw” taste. Keep in mind that you can roast them as long or as little as you like.

These pictures aren’t perfect…but we also spent the ENTIRE day in the kitchen, and we were really hungry.

We also were trying to plate quickly for 6 people….

– Co-written by Cat and Sue (can you tell?)

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Filed under Cat and Sue Cook Together for Once, Seafood, Sides

Shrimp and Grits

This past Monday was Linda’s birthday, so I made her dinner.  Linda is second generation hillbilly, being from Tennessee, so I thought something Southern might be in order.  I floated Shrimp and Grits to the birthday girl, and she agreed.  I had never made Shrimp and Grits before – so I looked up a LOT of recipe possibilities.  I settled on Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Shrimp and Grits recipe for a frame, but I made some changes.  It turned out REALLY well.  There was hardly any left, and it was enough for 6 people, and there were 4 of us.  I think the key to making this dish well is to know that anyone who eats it will be at high risk of heart attack.  That’s okay, it was a birthday treat, plus I had some ideas about cutting out some of the fat the next time I make it – mostly replacing the half and half in the grits with more chicken stock, pouring out the bacon fat instead of using it, and not adding any extra butter.  Though, I can’t imagine what the fun in that would be.

Grits:

3 cups milk

2 cups half and half

1 cup chicken stock

2 cups polenta

1 tsp salt and cracked black pepper

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Put all the liquid in a big pot on medium high heat, and add the polenta.  Let it cook for about 20 minutes, thickening slowly.  Add the salt and pepper, and put the cheese in when it’s nearly done, but there’s a little liquid that hasn’t been incorporated yet.  The whole process takes about 30 minutes.

this is when i turned the heat off, and let it sit until the shrimp was ready.

Shrimp:

5 strips of bacon

1 lb shrimp

1 big onion, diced finely

1 red bell pepper, diced finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 tsp chipotle powder, or cayenne

1/2 cup white wine

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

3-4 tbsp flour

1-2 cups chicken stock

flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

pat of butter

Fry up the slices of bacon in a big nonstick skillet until they’re crispy, remove them from the pan and reserve them, chopping them roughly when they’ve cooled.  I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, and I usually drain at least some of the bacon fat in cases like this, but I went ahead and left all the fat in the pan.   I’ve eaten nothing but arugula and plain oatmeal all this week to make up for it.  On medium heat, dump the onion, red pepper, tomato and garlic into the bacon fat, and let it caramelize for probably 15 minutes.  Then put in the wine and mustard, letting that cook down, probably a further 7 minutes or so.  Next, sprinkle a few tbsp of flour onto the mixture, and cook it a few more minutes, maybe 3 or 4, until it looks brown and clumpy, like this:

it's important to cook flour when making a roux, you don't want to taste it.

When it looks like that, add in the chicken stock, whisking it as you go to get rid of the lumps.  You’ve now made a roux!  This can come to temperature for a few minutes, and at this point you’ll want to make sure your grits are done.  Once the shrimp are in the pan, they cook in about 3 minutes, and you’ll want to serve them right away.  The gravy can sit in the pan for a few extra minutes on lower heat if you need it to.  When you’re ready- sprinkle a handful of flour over the shrimp, and put them in the pan.

soooo pretty.

This cooks about 3-4 minutes, move the shrimp around a bit as you go, flipping them over if you like.  The shrimp will be pink when they’re done- when they aren’t quite done yet, turn the heat off and let them sit another minute or two.  Stir in the pat of butter, parsley and chopped bacon, and serve over the grits.

please make this. you can eat arugula and plain oatmeal tomorrow.

I really think this was one of my favorite things I’ve ever made.  The wine and mustard and tomato and bell pepper, which were not in the original recipe, really helped bring the gravy forward, rather than just being brown gravy.  Also, the cheesiness of the grits matched the mustard/wine/tomato flavors  and the brightness of the parsley SO well.  It was rich, very rich, but there were 4 completely clean plates after dinner. Bacon?  Good.  Cheese?  Good.

-Cat

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