Shrimp Alla Fede with Pea Risotto

This is actually two dishes that can be mixed and matched in thousands of ways.  The Risotto is great alone, with seafood, you will find it under my short ribs, almost anything you can imagine, including as a dessert with a few minor ingredient substitutions.  The magic of risotto is discussed in its featured post, so let’s get back to the shrimp.

If you follow my blog, you know that I am a use-what-you-have-on-hand cook, and that I cook gluten-free.  That means, feel free to experiment with flavors that you love!  I have a rule at my house that if something doesn’t work, we order pizza.  Done.  This is one of those meals that I made to actually clean out the refrigerator.  But in the end, like a mixed breed puppy, it was really good.

One more confession – I did not make this meal with the intent of creating a blog recipe.  Only after being asked via facebook (yes, I am food poster on fb), that I decided I would do it.  Because of that, my pictures will be replaced the next time I make it, and this is my apology that there are not any “in process” photos to explain a step.  Lesson learned.

Final thought on the shrimp –  Yes, you can absolutely use peeled and deveined shrimp, and if you are in a hurry, please do!  I use the shells to make seafood stock, if you are just going to throw the shells away, save yourself the time.  Just never, ever, not-in-a-million-years, buy pre-cooked shrimp for this recipe.  Never never never.

“Can we get back to the recipe?”  Yo.  [For my Hamilton fans!]

INGREDIENTS

12 Prawns, shelled and deveined (when you shell shrimp, save the shells!  See my post for seafood base and shrimp bisque for their use.) If you use smaller shrimp, just use more shrimp and lessen your sautee time.

4 slices bacon, chopped

olive oil as needed

2-3 Tbsp. citrus vodka (I use gf). (Can substitute with wine, I just like the brightness of the lemon, or chicken stock if you don’t want to use liquor)

2 garlic cloves, chopped cup chicken broth

1/4 c. sliced leeks

1/2 c. chicken broth

1/4 c. heavy cream (never forget the cream!)

1 handful arugula

1/2 lemon, squeezed for its juice

½ tsp. hot sauce or 1/8 tsp. crushed red peppers (can be omitted)

Salt and Cracked Pepper

 

LET’S GET COOKING

  1. Peel and devein the shrimp – yes you can buy peeled shrimp, see my discussion above.
  2. Make the Risotto, keep in a warm oven while you make the shrimp and sauce. (See linkback for the recipe.)
  3. In a heavy sauteé pan, I use a 16″ cast iron, preheat to medium heat and once hot, brush a layer of olive oil and sauteé the bacon until crispy, then drain on a paper towel.  Turn down the heat on the oil to medium low!
  4. Leave a 1/8″ layer of bacon grease in the pan, if there isn’t enough, add a little olive oil.
  5. Add the shrimp, cook for about a minute, then turn and cook for one more.  Add the vodka or wine, and ONLY sauteé until the shrimp loses its translucency and is pink, then immediately remove and set aside. If you use smaller shrimp, continuously stir in the pan and remove as soon as you see pink.
  6. Add the leeks and sautee until soft, about 1 minute
  7. Add the garlic and continuously stir until soft, another minute.  Do not brown the garlic, it will become bitter
  8. Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer
  9. Add the cream, bring to a simmer
  10. Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes to thicken slightly
  11. Add the hot sauce or red pepper, if using
  12. Add the shrimp and arugula and stir together.
  13. Add the bacon, stir, cover and set aside for 2-3 minutes to rest.

Add salt and cracked pepper to taste, serve over risotto and enjoy!

To finish the meal, serve with roasted carrots.

 

Smoked Balsamic & Rosemary Pork Chops

Balsamic Rosemary Smoked Pork Chop
Balsamic Rosemary Smoked Pork Chop

Hopefully, you have access to a good butcher.  If you are truly fortunate, you have a butcher who also smokes his/her own meat.  I am truly fortunate and found a smoking butcher, although it is a three-hour drive, it is worth every minute in the car.  My husband and I make a day of it and enjoy the ride, catching up on all the conversations we didn’t quite finish and studying the Italian language.  When we arrive at the market, happiness. Local smoked meats from a butcher you can talk to, fresh vegetables and fruits that were grown locally and organically, fresh-baked breads, pretzels and goodies for the kids and fresh seafood.  It’s a great day.  

So, back to our favorite butchers at Smokehouse Meats.  This week I bought his smoked pork chops (which, by the way, I got to pick the thickness and watch as each chop was sliced precisely as requested).  At the house, the chops were in the refrigerator for 2 hours before I started dinner.  The smoke in the meat is so pervasive that when I opened the refrigerator door, the deep aroma of smoke wafted out into the kitchen and my husband’s eyes glazed over. We knew we made a good choice.  Onto making the entrée.  With no further delay, let’s get to the cooking.  This dish can be made any night of the week or on short notice, because it requires so little effort for such great gastronomical reward!  Tonight’s smoked chop was served with a mashed potato, mushroom gravy and sweet Brussels sprouts (also from the market).  

Smoked pork chop with Glaze
Smoked chop with the glaze.

Ingredients

4 smoked pork chops, 3/4″ cut

2 sprigs fresh rosemary (remove leaves from stem) or (1 Tbsp. dried), chopped

1/3 c. balsamic vinegar

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.(not pictured, but recommended)

Glaze

Add 1/4 c. white wine

1 additional sprig rosemary, chopped

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Preparation

1. Season the chops with salt, pepper and rosemary on both sides.  Place on a plate and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  You don’t want to put cold chops in the pan.

2.  Bring a non-stick or stainless saute pan to medium heat.  Add oil and butter.  When the oil/butter begins to bubble, add the balsamic. When the mix again begins to bubble, add your chops.  Make sure the pan is large enough that the entire surface of the meat touches the pan.  If necessary, do this in batches and place the cooked chops in the over at 250 degrees to stay warm.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until you achieve some caramelization.  Keep warm in the oven.

3.   Serve.  See, I told you it was easy!  If you want to go a little deeper, when you remove the chops from the pan, pour out any grease then deglaze it with a 1/4 cup white wine, then add another 2 tbsp. balsamic (or any flavored balsamic, I used a Cherry Bordeaux) and the extra chopped rosemary.  When the vinegar and wine have reduced by 1/2 and become a little thick, add 2 tbsp. butter and swirl to make a nice glaze.  Remove from heat until you are ready to use or it will become thick and burn.

Vanilla Cheesecake with a Shortbread and Almond Crust – and it is gluten-free.

Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust
Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust

Cheesecake is so fabulous that I’m considering giving it its own category. From preparing the pan to having the patience for the right technique to toppings. It all matters and when the individual parts come together you will have created a creamy, cool, delicious and highly adaptable dessert that nearly everyone will love! And when someone tells you that they don’t like cheesecake assure them that they just haven’t tried the right one for them yet!  A cheesecake can be dressed for a hot day in the sun with some fresh lemon curd (see related post) or for thanksgiving with my related pumpkin version.  You can make a raspberry swirl topped with dark chocolate Grenache or an Almond Joy  the flavor options are endless, and if you have a request for a flavor combination send it over to me in my Cooks Q&A Section and I’ll work it out for you.

I just sold myself, here comes a new category. Two actually, it will be in Tea Parties also.

Back to the cheesecake.  The basics:  only use full fat cream cheese. This is not the time or place for a low-fat version. It just doesn’t work. If you’re going to make a cheesecake, do it right. If you want to count calories, go for a walk with a pedometer 😝and a dog🐶.  Both you and Fido will be happy!  But I digress….to the recipe!

Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust
Vanilla cheesecake with a shortbread almond crust

Prepare Your 9″ Springform Pan

Watch the video.

Crust – gf

1 1/4 c. shortbread cookie crumbs
1/4 c. ground nuts (I used almonds, but pecans or walnuts are wonderful too)
1/4 c. brown sugar
6 tsp. unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake

4 pkgs. Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese (full fat only), room temp.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 tsp. lemon zest

Topping

16 oz. sour cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Crust

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Prepare a 9″ springform pan by wrapping the outside with plastic wrap, then again with foil. You will be baking the cheesecake in a water bath, so it is imperative to keep the water from seeping in. You can stop here, but I also line the inside with parchment paper. Grease the bottom and the insides of the walls with butter, then roll your parchment in a cone shape and cut to make a big circle. Press the parchment into the buttered pan and it will stick.

2. In a food processor, add your cookies and process until it is in small crumbs. Move to a bowl and process the nuts until the same size as the cookie crumbs. Add to the bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix until well incorporated. Stream in the melted butter and continue mixing until fully incorporated. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and if there is enough, partially up the sides. Bake at 350 Degrees for 12-15 minutes or until set. Allow to fully cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate.

Topping

3. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with 1/4 cup the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla bean paste and set aside. If you refrigerate, be sure to bring it back to room temperature before adding to the cheesecake.

4. Heat the oven to 325°. Add all of the cream cheese and 1 1/4 c. sugar to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on low, #2 or 3 until incorporated. Scrape down the sides frequently. This step is critical to creaminess. Add the vanilla bean paste until incorporated. Scrape the sides and add the cream in a slow stream. When incorporated, add the eggs one at a time and continue mixing. Be sure to crack the eggs, 1 by 1, into a measuring cup or small bowl to be sure that none of the shell accidentally falls into the mixing bowl. Add 1/4 tsp. of almond extract and continue mixing. Zest about 1/2 of a lemon into the mixing bowl. Be sure to not get any of the white pith from the lemon, it is bitter. Pour the cheesecake into the prepared pan and place the pan into a larger roasting pan. Add boiling water to the roasting pan taking care not to get any water into the cheesecake batter. Put enough water to come 1/3 to 1/2 way up the sides of the cheesecake. Bake for 60-75 minutes. Open the door of the oven and pull the cheesecake out. The sides will be firm, but the center of the cheesecake will giggle slightly.

5. Immediately pour the room temperature topping on the cheesecake, smooth it out with an offset knife and return to the oven for 10 minutes (A bit longer, 15 minutes, if the topping is cold). Remove from the oven and from the water bath. If you did not use parchment paper, run an offset knife around the edge. Allow to cool on a rack for about an hour, then refrigerate until fully cooled before cutting, about 4 hours.

6. Remove the ring from the springform pan and move the cheesecake to a cake plate before serving.

Serve with a topping of your choice, I like serving it with lemon curd, see my related recipe in the “tea party” section if you would like to try it this way.

Lemon Curd

To me, a curd is lumpy, but not this recipe for traditional lemon curd. This is smooth and lemony without being overly tart. It is great on desserts, cookies, waffles and in hot tea (try it!).  It is quite nice to have on hand and can be added to sauces for a citrus kick or in your salad dressings.  I am a shameless fan of high and low teas, and lemon curds is a must at both on your crumpets and tea cookies. I’m working on an entire section of tea party recipes, this is my introduction offering. It is quick, easy, and will last for the better part is two weeks if you take care not to contaminate the lemon curd while using it.

Ingredients

3 to 4 tablespoons lemon zest (none of the white, it is bitter.)
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, strained to remove any solids (roll the lemons under the heel of your hand to release more juice before cutting)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces
3 eggs

Directions

Wash the lemons to remove any chemicals, dirt or wax then thoroughly dry.  Remove the zest (the yellow part of the rind) from the lemons using a zester or a peeler (be careful to avoid getting any of the white pith, it is bitter  Yes, I know this is the second warning, it is that important).  Juice the lemons after removing the zest.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring just to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Add butter and stir until it has melted. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Beat eggs into cooled lemon mixture until well blended. Return to heat and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats spoon. NOTE: Do not let the lemon curd boil, as it will cause the mixture to curdle and that cannot be fixed.

Remove from heat, allow to reach room temperature. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools.  Once it reaches room temp, you can refrigerate.

Chocolate Mousse – (gf) MMMMMousse

IMG_1569

Elegant, cool, velvety, chocolatey mousse. Mmmmmmousse (eyes dreamily closed). Now for my personal disclaimer, I am not a big fan of chocolate. SAY WHAT? That’s right, I prefer the saltier side of life. Give me a potato chip over a candy bar every day of the week.

Even so, every now and then a nice bit of chocolaty sweetness sooths the soul. And the darker the chocolate and smoother the feel, the happier I am. Voila! The answer is this chocolate mousse.

Of course, as this is merely one of hundreds of recipes that you can find for this whipped treat, you can easily modify it to your liking. It doesn’t even have to be chocolate! Nope, it does not. I will explain later.

Oh, and while I shaved chocolate on the top I do not recommend doing so and I will refrain in the future. “Why?” you ask…well, let me quickly explain. It makes it lumpy. That’s it. Pretty for the picture, but not the tongue. I don’t want little bits of chocolate and I will never do it again. Maybe a dusting of….STOP. No. Nothing on top. Maybe a drop of whipped cream with a little raspberry liqueur infused into it. Now that’s how to top mousse. But I digress. As always. To the recipe!

IMG_1566

2 c. heavy cream (always get your cream from a local farm, if you can, it makes a difference)
1 T. vanilla (make your own if you need it to be gf)
4 egg whites
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 T. instant espresso powder
6 oz. bittersweet (60% cocoa) chocolate chips – a good brand. I like *Ghiradelli
OR 4 oz. bittersweet and 2 oz. milk chocolate if you like a sweeter dessert, still *Ghiradelli

{*I mention brands only when I find using one to be important. I am not on Ghiradelli’s payroll.)

If you have a stand mixer, feel free to use it, but I just use my hand mixer fitted with the whip. Some folks use both beaters, but this recipe seems to turn out better with the whip.

1. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla in a metal bowl nested over a bowl of ice water until very stiff peaks form. I begin whipping on #3, then increase the speed as the cream thickens. It usually takes 5-6 minutes, but the cream will show you when it is ready. The chilled bowl is important, the ice water nested bowl will allow you to let the cream sit on the counter while you make the rest of the recipe. Alternatively, you can chill the metal bowl and when the whipped cream is done, just put it into the refrigerator to keep it cold.

2. In a double boiler, or a metal bowl over gently boiling water, melt the chocolate and add the espresso when it becomes liquidy. Do this slowly and remove the pot from the heat just before all the chocolate is melted. Give it a few nice stirs and allow the chocolate to melt into itself slowly. You do not want this to happen over high heat/steam but gently. Cover with a plate or lid and set aside. It must cool, but not to room temperature. You want to keep the chocolate in liquid form, but no so hot that it cools into little hard pieces when added to the eggs.

3. In a third metal or glass bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form and there is no liquid to be found at the bottom of the bowl. I like using my stand mixer for this, but that’s because my arm is already tired from the whipped cream. If you use a hand mixer, again, use the whip and not the beaters.

4. When the egg whites are done, fold in the cooled chocolate slowly with a rubber spatula by adding the chocolate to the egg in 3 or 4 batches.

5. Fold the egg/chocolate into the cream. Lots of folding going on here. Much easier than folding fitted sheets. Hahah.

6. Put this lovely mousse into a large serving bowl (pictured) or directly into individual serving bowls like nice stemmed glassware or small dessert bowls. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This is a remarkably sturdy dessert despite its seemingly delicate nature. It can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for 24-hours before your dinner party, for example. When you’re ready to serve, you can shave a little more chocolate on top (which I don’t recommend, see intro) or top it with some fresh berries or fruit sauce, whipped cream with a bit of raspberry liqueur infused into it or any number of things that make it your own creation.

It is also quite elegant as is. Save room for seconds, you’ll want them.

Margarita. Heavenly, fresh, you-made-it-yourself Greatness.

2014-05-05 16.27.46

Margaritas are a summer must, but they are still welcome in my house any time of the year. These are the best you can imagine. Fresh, citrusy, tequila-e. Yummy. The instructions seem long, but there are parts that can be made ahead and really should be anyway. We will start with the basics. First we will make the simple syrup. And what a great ingredient to have on hand for almost any purpose. Lemonade, iced tea, smoothies, drizzled over fruits or berries, to add to your evening cocktail. You can use it in your cooking where you need a bit of sweetness, too.  By turning your sugar into a liquid, you will always avoid that gritty, undissolved sugar mess at the bottom of your glass. Once you are accustomed to using simple syrup you will have a quart on hand at all times.  You can also flavor your syrup.  Add chopped mint after your remove it from heat, and you have a terrific ingredient for juleps, add orange or lemon for your summer drinks, or ginger and use in with whiskey based drinks…you get the idea.  But I digress. For now, we will make about 2 cups. Let’s get this party started.

Ingredients:

A good tequila. I like Cuervo Gold, but use whatever you like best. (See Note below)
Orange Liquor (Patron Citronage is my suggestion – or take it up a notch and use Solerno, a blood orange liquor it is fantastic)
1 c. White sugar
1 c. Fresh squeezed lime juice
1 orange
coarse salt

2014-05-05 16.51.09

In a small pot, add equal parts water and white sugar, 1 cup of each. Give a stir and bring to a soft boil over medium heat. This is a fun process, so don’t rush your syrup. Enjoy the light rolling boil and let your syrup reduce slowly to half of its original volume. You should end with about 1 cup of syrup. Whatever you do, do not rapidly boil this mixture. Allow to cool.

While your syrup is doing its slow dance on the stove, start squeezing your limes. Be sure the fruit is at room temperature. If you don’t have a juicer (I don’t), you have many options but you definitely want to get every bit of juice out of each of your limes that you can. No matter how you squeeze, start by rolling the lime with a fair amount of force on a cutting board with the heel of your palm. This begins to release the juice in the fruit and break the membranes. Then, cut your fruit in half and squeeze as hard as you can. If you have a pair of kitchen tongs, use them to squeeze your fruit.

When you have a cup of lime juice, squeeze your orange into the lime juice. The orange will add flavor and counter the tartness of the lime a bit. You will have a slightly more than a cup of liquid, that’s okay, this doesn’t have to be exact.

When the simple syrup is cooled, add it to your lime/orange juice. Do you know what you’re just done? You just made Sours Mix. Ha – slipped that in on you! Never again do you have to buy that awful heart-burn producing swill from the grocery store! Of course, now you can also adjust the sweetness/tartness to your own liking. I generally use a 50/50 proportion.

We like our margarita’s served “up” or “neat” meaning only “no ice” so I use a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice. Add 1 shot (1 1/2 ounces) of tequila, 1 shot of Citronage and about 4 oz. of sours. Voila! Goodness.

Some folks (myself included) like to salt the rim of the glass. The added salt to each sip of margarita adds a lovely little bite. To make the salt stick, run the inside of one of the squeezed limes around the edge, and dip the glass on a plate with a nice thick layer of coarse salt. Mmmm.

Nothing better. Seriously, there’s nothing better. Pat yourself on the back, grab a few chips and a nice fresh salsa and enjoy the sunset. Or sunrise, whatever.

NOTES:

So I have some thoughts on alcohol used in mixed drinks.  That thought being, “Don’t break the bank.”  Yes, flavor matters. Always and a lot.  But, when you are adding additional flavors to your cocktails, there is no need, or really use, in going top shelf because you’re changing the flavor anyway.  Instead, I like to go full flavor middle-of-the-road, like the Cuervo Gold. It has depth of flavor so you actually taste the tequila, but isn’t so smooth that you overpower it and lose the main ingredient flavor.  Now for shots, go top shelf best you can buy and the tequila will be so smooth there’s no burn.  Never, never, never, however, use the stuff from the bottom shelf of the liquor store.  You will have burn and an awful flavor trying to be tequila, but no amount of sugar or citrus will give you a good drink.  If you go through the effort to make a great margarita, do it well.  Of course, these are just my thoughts.

Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp

BBQ Shrimp

If you make your own BBQ sauce, please use it! If not, use your favorite store-bought brand and doctor it to the way you like it. Sometimes just combining equal parts honey and BBQ sauce is really tasty. My homemede BBQ recipe can be found here.

Heavy, thick skewers
8 pieces of thick cut bacon, cut in thirds
24 prawns – peeled and deveined.
1 c. BBQ sauce

Fresh chopped cilantro

1. Soak the skewers for at least 30 minutes
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
4. Place a wire rack on the bakingg sheet and lay out the bacon. Bake for about 20 minutes in the center of the oven. You want the bacon to be about ⅔ done and not crispy. Remove and set aside on a paper towel. Drain and save the bacon grease for other uses. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
5. Wrap each shrimp with a piece of bacon, securing it with the skewer through the fat part of the shrimp. Set back on the rack.
6. Brush the shrimp and bacon with the BBQ sauce.
7. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes. Brush with more BBQ every 5 minutes.
8. The shrimp will cool rather quickly. If the bacon isn’t done enough for you, place it under the broiler, door open, for 15-30 seconds.

9.  Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice and sautéed vegetables.