Monday, March 10, 2014

Creamy Shrimp & Fettucine

My wife has become incredibly leery of shrimp after being served undercooked shrimp in two different restaurants in the span of a week about year ago, so I was unsure whether I should make this. However, it sounded so yummy that I decided to throw caution to the wind, put it on the menu, and make damn sure the shrimp was cooked properly. It is, I admit, a thing which requires attention. Too little cooking time and you revolt your diners. Too much and you might as well serve a little log of Silly Putty. But it's really not that difficult. This turned out wonderfully and I served it with a salad of mixed greens (which I topped with pine nuts and a tarragon vinaigrette), a loaf of our favorite Pugliese bread from the grocery, and fruit salad left over from our book group gathering on Saturday. 

Creamy Shrimp & Fettuccine
10 oz. uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined (frozen is fine, just thaw prior)
8 oz. fettuccine, cooked & hot
2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 small bell pepper, in thin half-strips (I like red & orange)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (I used 98% fat-free)
A splash of milk (skim is fine)
A splash of sherry
1/2 c. frozen peas (no need to thaw)
3 heaping tbsp. grated parmesan
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp & peppers. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, 3-5 minutes. Toss with drained pasta and serve piping hot! Serves 4. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Mardi Gras Jambalaya

I love Mardi Gras! I am not a pancake person and paczki, while delicious, are not part of my tradition. Of course, I'll eat them, but I don't ever think of them unless I see them in the store. No, what I love for Mardi Gras is King Cake! The first I ever had was from a mix, Mam Papaul's, and when I make it, that's still what I use. I am perfectly okay with buying my King Cake, too, and if you're near Dayton, Ohio, you should get over to Dorothy Lane Market & pick one up this evening! One of these years, I'll do it from scratch & tell y'all about it. Here's the one I made this year:

The other food I love on Mardi Gras is jambalaya. Here's the recipe, from Emeril Lagasse, I use most often. Sometimes I sub shrimp for the chicken, or add it to the chicken, so feel free to do the same. 

Andouille & Chicken Jambalaya
1/2 c. oil
3 c. chopped onions
1 c. chopped bell peppers (I'm using red & orange this year)
3 tsp. salt
1 & 1/4 tsp. cayenne (I have reduced the  amount when cooking for mild-palated people & have also subbed Cajun seasoning)
1 lb. andouille, cut into 1/4" slices (you can sub chorizo or other smoked sausage)
1 & 1/2 lb. boneless chicken, cut into 1" cubes
3 bay leaves
3 c. white rice (I usually use jasmine rice)
6 c. water (I sub chicken broth)
1 c. chopped scallions

Heat oil in cast iron Dutch oven (you can sub another heavy pot of similar size). Add onions, peppers, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cayenne. Brown the veggies, stirring often, about 20 minutes, until caramelized. Scrape pot to loosen browned particles. Add andouille & cook 10-15 min, stirring often & scraping sides & bottom of pot. Season chicken with 1 tsp. salt & 1/4 tsp. cayenne. Add chicken & bay leaves to pot. Brown 8-10 min, scraping as you go. Add rice & stir a couple minutes to coat it evenly. Add water, stir to combine, & cover. Cook 30-35 minutes without stirring or peeking, until rice is tender & liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat & let stand a few minutes. Remove bay leaves, add scallions, & stir well. Serves 10-12.

One of these years, I'll get ambitious & do crawfish pie. Yum!

March 2014 Dinners

In case you need ideas for dinners to make in March, here is what I have planned:

-Jambalaya, kale salad, king cake

-Hot dogs, baked beans, baby potato salad, cinnamon peaches

-Cheese ravioli with herbed walnut sauce, green salad, French bread, fruit

-White wine & lemon pork roast, vegetable salad, baked potatoes

-Roast turkey breast, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green salad

-Creamy shrimp & noodles, mixed greens with tarragon dressing, baguette

-Kushary, fattoush, orange quarters

-Spaghetti pie, Caesar salad, garlic bread

-French toast, bacon, fruit

-Rice pilaf with Greek yogurt, zucchini fritters, green salad, fruit

-Mexi-turkey wraps, tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, green salad, fruit

-Guinness stew, Irish soda bread, fruited green jello

-Crustless pizza, salad, fruit

-Salmon patties, dilled new potatoes, asparagus

-Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn

-Asparagus tart, broccoli, fruit

-Love potion chicken, green salad, fruit

-Home on the range burgers, crinkle fries, lima beans

-Ribeyes with southwest butter, squash & corn casserole, green beans with pepitas

-Spicy chicken soup, crusty bread, fruit

-Orange roughy dijon, gremolata rice, roasted asparagus

Looking at Snow, Cooking for Spring

After spending 2 weeks in New Jersey, first in Cape May for our wedding and then in Parsippany for her work, it's been rather unpleasant to return to the single digits (and sometimes those in the negative) & huge heaps of snow showing no sign of melting. There was no snow at all in Cape May, so we got spoilt. So, last night, in the hopes of piquing Spring's interest, I made a very light and spring-like supper. I started us with a mixed greens salad with lardons and poached eggs in a tarragon shallot vinaigrette. Then, we went on to chicken salad with smoked almonds on thin white bread. We'd had green eggs (scrambled with lots of chives) & ham Sunday for Dr. Seuss Day and dessert was honeydew melon, so we finished that, as well.

I've been intimidated by poaching eggs and have never tried it without my egg poaching set, which just didn't do a proper job. So, I decided to plunge in and try it. It was astonishingly simple and the eggs turned out perfectly! I'm pretty silly about some of my cooking intimidations.

Mixed Greens with Lardons & Poached Eggs
4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4" wide strips
2 tbsp. vinegar (I used cider vinegar because I couldn't find my white)
2 eggs
2 tbsp. finely-chopped shallots (can sub white onions)
1 tbsp. tarragon vinegar
A pinch each salt & pepper
Mixed greens, enough for 2

Cook bacon golden brown. Set aside, in pan. Fill small skillet with about an inch of warm (not hot) water. Fill a large pan halfway with water. Add a pinch of salt and the vinegar. Bring just barely to a simmer. Break each egg into its own very small bowl or cup. Slide eggs into simmering water and poach at a very gentle simmer until whites are firm, but yolks are runny, about 3-4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, place eggs gently in skillet of warm water. Reheat bacon and add shallots to bacon & fat. Cook, stirring, a minute or so. Add vinegar and boil for about 5 seconds. Pour over the mixed greens and toss well. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Divide between 2 plates. Top each with a poached egg, making sure to drain egg well in slotted spoon before placing on salad. Serves 2. This salad was inspired by one in the Gourmet Cookbook.

Chicken Salad with Smoked Almonds
32 oz. chicken broth
2 lb. chicken breasts (skinless, boneless)
1 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. minced shallots
1 tsp. minced tarragon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 c. chopped smoked almonds

Bring stock to a boil in a 12" skillet. Add chicken and poach at a very gentle simmer, turning once, 7-10 minutes, until cooked through. Allow to cool 15-20 minutes. Chop & mix with the rest of the ingredients. Good by itself or on sandwiches. I like this on the very thin Pepperidge Farm white bread. It makes perfect tea sandwiches, as well, which is what the original recipe (also from the Gourmet Cookbook) intends. Serves 2 for supper, with plenty left for lunch the next day, or 4 for one meal. Jeannene has declared this the best chicken salad she's ever had in her life.