Monday, May 2, 2016

Corona-Steamed Shrimp

Many, many, many years ago, on the side of Jefferson-Davis Highway, there was a ramshackle place that served up the best steamed shrimp to go.  They sold crabs, too, but the shrimp were what had my family going back week after week.  Years would pass and I'd buy steamed shrimp from the seafood counter at the grocery, but I'd still remember that place on the side of the road, even though the family that owned it would come to have several more locations and a riverfront restaurant.  The first summer my husband and I were married, we road-tripped to Key West on vacation, celebrating the end of my time of active duty service in the Navy.  We stayed in a fabulous place that recommended the Tuesday Night Sunset Shrimp Spectacular.  For $5, you were served steamed shrimp, corn-on-the-cob, and cole slaw, and ate standing up.  But the sunset from the pier, steel drum bands, and street performers made the ambiance priceless.  We "splurged" and bought a couple of $5 margaritas and later a $10 bucket of Corona long-necks.  When my husband teased me about having champagne taste, I remind him that that $30 meal is in my top five best dinner dates!  Nostalgia aside, I saw a steamer basket in the kitchen gadget aisle a while ago and decided that this was the year I started steaming my own shrimp...and loved all the wonderful memories that came flooding back with the first bite!

2 12-ounce bottles Corona
2 pounds large shrimp, deveined, but unpeeled, with tails on
1/4 - 1/3 cup Old Bay (more or less to taste)
Cocktail sauce, for dipping.

Pour the beer in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot with tight-fitting lid (I used my soup pot).  Place steamer basket in the bottom of your pot.  Rinse shrimp and toss with Old Bay according to preference.  Place shrimp in steamer basket and arrange in an even layer.  Cover the pot and raise heat to medium-high.  Keep an eye on the shrimp and toss a few times.  Using your own judgement, you may choose to raise the temperature to high for the last few minutes of steaming.  Shrimp is done when it's bright pink and fragrant.

Serve hot, with cocktail sauce and extra napkins to clean the Old Bay off your fingers!

Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chicken Pasta Caprese

I love just about any type of pasta salad.  And I also love Caprese salads.  So when I saw this recipe, I just knew I had to try it!  And it didn't disappoint, of course!  In fact, my husband even raved about this recipe, which wasn't totally shocking, but I was a little surprised he liked it that much.  When dinner was over, I added some balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, and crushed red pepper and turned this into a cold pasta salad to take for lunch at the hospital, where heating time eats too far in to the five minutes I might have to wolf down my lunch between rounding on patients!  Either way you serve it, this pasta is a crowd pleaser and travels easily, making it perfect for a Spring Potluck or picnic in the park!

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized bits
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
cooking spray or oil mister
9 ounces pasta (gemelli is pictured, but any will do)
4 teaspoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
4 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes, or buy the smaller pearls (bocconcini)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Season the chicken with dried basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  Spray the skillet with oil and add chicken.  Cook until cooked through, then transfer to a plate.

Cook the pasta to al dente.  Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, increase the heat until the skillet to high.  Add the olive oil and garlic, stirring until golden, about 1 minute.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the tomatoes, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until tomatoes become tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the tomatoes.  If pasta seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.  Add chicken and toss well.  Remove the pan from heat and stir in the fresh basil and cheese.  Serve hot.

Serves 5.

Recipe adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook, by Gina Homolka.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatballs

I admit, I've never had chicken cordon bleu before in my life.  At least not that I remember.  But I remember when my family lived on Okinawa, a tropical Japanese island, and we'd normally go to the Officers Club for dinner once a week.  My older brother always ordered chicken cordon bleu, and every time I see the dish on a menu I think of him.  It wasn't until I saw this recipe that I even thought about trying the flavors myself.  When I put the ground chicken in the grocery cart, my husband wrinkled up his nose and decided that whatever I planned to make with ground chicken would be inedible.  And then he tasted this, quickly rescinded his previous statement, and asked for seconds.  Funny how that works, isn't it?!  I've made this meal a few times now, and each time, I call my mama and tell her she needs to make this for my brother.  Except that maybe I should just do it!

For the meatballs:
Cooking spray
1 pound lean ground chicken
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
14/ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 slices prosciutto, cut in half
2 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese, cut into 4 pieces each

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon dijon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425.  Spray a large nonstick baking sheet with oil.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, egg, garlic, and salt.  Form 8 meatballs using slightly wet hands to keep them from sticking.  Stuff each meatball with one piece prosciutto and one piece Swiss in the center.  Seal the meatballs well by pinching them closed at the bottom.  Place on the oiled baking sheet and bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  In a large, nonstick skillet with lid, melt the butter over medium heat.  Spring in the flour and whisk constantly for about 1 minute.  Whisk in the wine, cooking for a minute longer, and then add the stock and milk.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.  Whisk in mustard, lemon juice, and Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and keep covered.

When the meatballs are done, add to the skillet with the sauce.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Serve 2 meatballs over rice with roasted asparagus.  Top with the sauce and remaining parsley.

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook, by Gina Homolka.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Corn Dogs

My youngest son is the Hot Dog King.  And since his third birthday was Saturday, he got his choice for dinner.  Corn Dogs were on the menu, but rather than buying the frozen variety, I opted to make some from scratch!  These turned out much better than expected, and while a little time consuming in my countertop fryer, they were worth it as a special occasion.  After a fun day riding the Metro and visiting the Zoo, my little birthday boy was ready to chow down on corn dogs, macaroni and cheese, and applesauce!  Not bad menu planning for a three year-old!!

2 2/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/3 cups flour, plus more for rolling
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
salt and pepper
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
12 hot dogs
ketchup and mustard, for serving

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Stir in eggs and milk (this will be about 5 cups batter).  Fill a large pot or deep fryer with enough oil to submerge hotdogs and heat to 360 degrees.

While oil is heating, pat hot dogs dry and insert a 10-inch wooden skewer through each.  Roll in flour to coat.  Dip a hotdog into the batter, turning until completely coated.  I've found that the easiest way is to pour some of the batter into a tall water glass, then, using the skewers, dip each hot dog.  Holding it by the skewer, carefully add each hot dog to the hot oil.  Repeat with remaining hot dogs.

Cook corn dogs, turning with tongs to cook evenly, until deep golden brown, 5-7 minutes for each.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter, turning to blot oil.  Serve warm, with ketchup and mustard.

Serves 12.

Recipe adapted from Martha's American Food, by Martha Stewart.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Rosemary Bread

I've been itching to try this recipe for years but never had the right opportunity.  Until my mama came for a mid-winter visit and we made the yummiest creamy broccoli soup for supper.  This bread would be the perfect accompaniment, and my mama, who used to make all her own bread from scratch (and without a bread machine!) would be the perfect advisor since my bread-making experience is rather limited.  My kitchen smelled divine as this bread was baking, my husband raved about its deliciousness,  my kids loved dipping it into their soup, and I shared the second loaf with my mama as a gift.  Very rarely does my own cooking look so similarly to the picture in the cookbooks, but this was pretty close!  The recipe seems long (it's bread) and fussy (again, bread) but it's not overly complicated, and so worth it in the end.  I will be making this bread again and again!

3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup minced fresh rosemary (or 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed dried)
4 teaspoons fine salt
1-1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
white cornmeal, for baking

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir the yeast into the warm water.  Let stand until frothy, 10 minutes.  Stir in the milk and oil.  Combine 4 1/2 cups of the flour in another bowl with the rosemary and fine salt and stir to mix.  Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and blend with the paddle attachment at low speed until the flour is absorbed.  Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium speed until velvety, elastic, smooth, and somewhat moist.  Gradually add enough of the remaining flour until the dough stick to the bottom and sides of the bowl (this step may be omitted based on the consistency of your dough; I did not need additional flour).  Finish kneading the dough in an oiled bowl, turning the dough so the surface is lightly and evenly coated in oil all over, cover with a dry dish towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Gently punch the dough down on a floured surface but do not knead it.  Cut the dough in half and shape each half into a round ball.  Put the loaves on a lightly floured bread board, cover loosely with a dry dish towel, and let rise until almost doubled, 45-55 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450.  Put a baking stone in the cold oven and preheat in the oven 30 minutes before baking.  Just before you put the loaves in the oven, make as asterisk of shallow slashes in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife, and sprinkle with the coarse salt inside the slits.  Carefully sprinkle the hot stone with cornmeal, then slide the loaves onto it.  Alternatively, you may place the loaves on a lightly oiled baking sheet, omitting the cornmeal and baking stone.

Bake for 10 minutes.  As soon as you place the bread in the oven, use a spray bottle of water (like you use for ironing) to spray the inside of the oven three times.  This will help develop a chewy crust.  After the initial 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400 and bake until the bread is nicely browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 15-20 minutes.  The original recipe called for 30-35 minutes, so your bread may take longer, but my bread was perfect much sooner!  Let bread cool on wire racks before cutting to serve.

Makes 2 loaves.

Recipe adapted from Celebrate the Rain, by the Junior League of Seattle.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Creamy Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Just after New Year's, my husband, kids, and I piled into the car for a trip to the Midwest to celebrate a late Christmas with my in-laws.  Since we were arriving late in the evening, my mother-in-law planned a simple supper of soup and warm bread, which was perfect on a cold evening!  I asked her for the recipe, and a few weeks ago, when my own mama was visiting, I planned a similar meal.  Mom and I made a few changes to the original recipe, added a crisp green salad, and served Chocolate Fondue for dessert.  It was, once again, a "simple" meal, but one that warmed a body right up on a cold winter night!  My kids loved the soup, opting to sip it from a cup "like a broccoli smoothy, Mommy!" and dip the bread as well.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups frozen broccoli florets, roughly chopped
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, plus more or less to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until melted.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant.  Remove from pot and set aside.  

Reduce heat to medium and melt remaining 1/2 cup butter, then add flour, whisking constantly.  Add milk and chicken stock and stir to combine.  Add broccoli, carrots and onions.  

Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are softened.  Add cheese and remaining seasonings.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until soup has thickened.  With an immersion blender, puree soup until it is almost completely smooth.  Adjust flavor according to taste.

Serve with warm crusty bread.

Serves 6-8.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hot and Tangy New York Strip Steaks

Remember last week when I shared the world's best twice baked potatoes with you?  Well, here's another fabulous steak recipe you can grill up alongside 'em!  This recipe first piqued my interests while watching Throwdown! on Food Network, and then, after taking a Williams-Sonoma cooking class based on the cookbook from the same show, I knew I had to make these.  Bonus is that the source for the recipe was a Marine grillmaster stationed at one of my own Marine dad's former duty stations.  If this recipe has the Marine Corps seal of approval, than it's good enough for me...and I think you'll love it too!

1 12-ounce can Coca-Cola
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup garlic teriyaki sauce
1 habanero chile, with seeds, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grilling
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 8-ounce New York strips, 3/4 inches thick

Mix all ingredients except steaks in a medium bowl.  Place steaks in a marinating dish and pour coke mixture over meat.  Cover and turn several times to coat the steaks on all sides.  Refrigerate 4-6 hours, turning the meat occasionally.

Let the steaks, still in the marinade, stand at room temperature 20-30 minutes before grilling.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and set aside.  Pour the marinade into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Cook about 10 seconds.  Pour half the marinade into a small bowl for basting the meat.  Reduce the heat until the saucepan and summer the remaining marinade, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced to a dipping sauce, 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high.  Pat steaks dry with paper towels.  Lightly coat with olive oil.  Grill over high heat, turning once and basting frequently, 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare.  Remove from grill and let rest 2-3 minutes.  Serve warm, with dipping sauce on the side.

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from Throwdown! by Bobby Flay.