Sunday, September 21, 2008

Grilled Shrimp

Grilled shrimp, it can be great or just ok, and sometimes even really bad. For a long time we stayed away from making shrimp on the grill because it usually came out very dry and tough, then I found an article on brining shrimp before grilling, and we decided to give it one more shot. Not only did our shrimp come out great that time, it comes out great EVERY time. The shrimp takes on an entirely different texture, almost like lobster, it's, for lack of a better word, awesome.

There is one other little trick, leave the shell on. To make this easier, we buy EZ-Peel shrimp, the shell is slit down the back and the shrimp has been deveined already. If you absolutely can't stand the thought of leaving the shell on, go ahead and remove it, but it will result in slightly drier shrimp.

The Brine

1 qt water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cajun seasoning (optional)
1 lb large shrimp, shells on

Stir the salt, sugar and seasoning into the water in a large bowl until both dissolve. If you're using fresh shrimp add about 2 cups of ice. If you're using frozen shrimp just add them straight to the brine (they'll thaw in the brine by the time you're ready to cook). Cover the bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes on the counter, or up to 2 hours in the fridge.

The Marinade

This part is really all up to you, as long as you add a little oil to your marinade, anything goes here. This is just the way we like to do it.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
blackening seasoning and hot sauce to taste

Whisk all together, Drain the brine from the shrimp and rinse lightly, drain again and toss in marinade. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

The Shrimp

Skewer the shrimp on metal or soaked bamboo skewers. Cook over a hot fire for 2-4 minutes per side (depending on the size of your shrimp).

This recipe doubles very easily, and you may want to go ahead and double it... the leftovers are wonderful in a salad or just to take for lunch the next day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fish Tacos

When I first heard of fish tacos, I was on a business trip in Southern California. I have to admit, my first thought was... ewww, GROSS! Then, I happened to walk by the entrance to a restaurant that specialized in fish tacos... the wonderful smells coming from inside were enough to persuade me to try one and I was hooked. Unfortunately, at the time, fish tacos hadn't quite made their way to my small town in Florida, so I had to learn to make them myself. I also had a lot of convincing to do as far as my family was concerned, but they're brave souls and fairly accustomed to my experimenting... so now they're hooked too.

Fair warning, I think there are about 5 million calories in one of these... just so you know :)

1 lb fresh mahi mahi (you can really use just about any fish you like though)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
12 oz bottle of good beer
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp adobo seasoning
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Mexican cream sauce (recipe follows)
salsa or pico de gallo
2 cups shredded cabbage
crispy taco shells or soft flour tortillas
oil or shortening for deep frying

Preheat enough oil to cover fish in an electric frying pan or deep fryer, to 375ºF.

Cut mahi mahi into 1/2 inch cubes.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, adobo, cayenne and enough beer to make the batter slightly thinner than pancake batter.

Dip fish pieces in batter, then drop into hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan (I usually do about 10 pieces at a time). Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, and then drain on paper towels.

When fish pieces have cooled slightly, fill taco shells or tortillas with a few pieces of the fish, some cream sauce, salsa and shredded cabbage.

Mexican Cream Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 tsp adobo seasoning
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp dried oregano
juice of 1/2 lime

Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate covered at least 1 hour before using.

This sauce is also excellent with regular tacos.

Artichoke Toasts

When my family gets together there tends to be massive amounts of food involved. Whether it's a mid-afternoon birthday gathering for one of the kids, a get-together for a visiting family member or friend, or just the typical holiday activities throughout the year.. we ALWAYS have a ton of food. In order to keep things interesting, I'm always on the lookout for really great appetizers that I can either bring fully prepared, or at least do most of the prep work ahead of time and throw together quickly in my Mom's kitchen. This is one of those recipes. I originally got the idea from an episode of $40 a Day with Rachel Ray, but have put my own twist on things to make the prep more simple and less time consuming, and also to suit my taste a bit more.

1 thin French Baguette (about 1 1/2" in diameter)
olive oil
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Thai chili garlic paste
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp honey
1 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/4 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper (the jarred ones work fine)

Preheat oven to 300ºF.

Slice baguette into 1/2" thick rounds and lay out on a baking sheet. Brush tops of bread slices with olive oil and bake until lightly toasted (about 7 minutes).

Mix together the mayonnaise, chili garlic paste, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, honey, cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Coarsely chop artichoke hearts and mix with chopped red pepper in a small bowl.

When the baguette rounds are toasted, spread a generous amount of the mayo mixture onto each one and then top with the artichoke pepper mixture. Serve immediately.

Everything but the assembly of these can be done ahead of time. If I make it the day before and have to refrigerate the ingredients, I usually warm the assembled toasts in the oven for a few minutes so they aren't ice cold.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shan's Guinness Chili

Is there anything that starts the fall off better than the beginning of football season? Personally, I crank up the a/c, light some autumn-y smelling candles and start cooking on the first Sunday of football season. Ok, I know.. I'm weird... but hey, we poor New Englanders stuck down here in FL have to do some crazy things to get our fix of autumn :)

Chili is definitely a personal taste sort of dish. Some prefer the Texas version, some the Cincinnati version, so and and so forth. This one has beans and tomato, so it's definitely not a Texas style, I guess it's kind of a New England Irish girl's take on it (blasphemy, I KNOW!), but I promise, it's REALLY good and worth the work. Another advantage, it's always even better as leftovers and makes a great sauce for onion and cheese enchiladas (coming soon!).

2 slices bacon
2 - 3 lbs coarse ground chuck (chili grind)
3 medium onions, chopped
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 - 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs ground coriander
1 Tbs beef bouillon granules
1 1/2 tsp adobo seasoning
2 tsp dried cilantro (or 2 Tbs fresh, chopped)
3 Tbs chili powder
3 Tbs ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp sweet paprika
15 oz can chili ready tomatoes, undrained
12 oz bottle Guinness Extra Stout
14.5 oz can beef broth
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes with puree
2 tsp sugar
kosher salt to taste
1 large can pinto beans, drained
1 small can dark red kidney beans, drained

Render bacon over medium heat in a large dutch oven until almost crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and discard or save for another use. Add ground beef, onions, garlic and jalapenos, cook stirring often until beef is browned and onions have begun to soften. Add minced chipotles through paprika and stir well to combine. Add all remaining ingredients except beans and simmer 1 1/2 - 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until desired thickness is reached (if you like very thick chili you may want to add some tomato paste). Add beans and cook an additional 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream, green onions and shredded cheese if desired.

This recipe, as is, uses ground beef, but sometimes I use shredded beef as well. Making the shredded beef is easy enough, just season a boneless chuck roast with chili powder, salt and pepper and brown on both sides in a dutch oven. When both sides are browned add 1 bottle of Guinness stout and enough beef stock to cover. Cover and place in a 300º oven and just let it cook for 2-3 hours until the meat comes apart easily with a fork. To use the shredded beef, skip the ground beef instructions and add the beef in the last 30 minutes of cooking.