Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Tacos and Seared Scallop Risotto. I would let you have some of my Seafood, but I am Shellfish.

I absolutely love seafood.  More than that, I love shellfish. I love the buttery texture, I love that it's not total shit for you, I love that whenever I go to a restaurant and order shellfish I feel like I'm treating myself to something I know will be amazing.

So this post's recipes will combine two little delicious morsels of shellfish.

The first recipe is  Gluten Free Sweet and Spicy Lettuce Tacos.

A while ago, I did the Paleo thing.  And then after realizing there were some foods I couldn't have but really enjoyed, I just moved to the "no or low gluten" thing.  I'd really like to get back to eating that way. I was healthier, I felt like I had a ton more energy, and I just felt better.

So I guess one of these two recipes is healthier... and as soon as I get rid of the absolute crap I have laying around my house, or as soon as I pawn it off on Chris, I'll get back on the Paleo/healthy wagon.

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Tacos
So technically they're not tacos in the traditional sense, but why not mix it up a little?  And this recipe is SO fast and so delicious, it might be a fast favorite.

2 pounds 26/30 shrimp, PDV (Pealed and De-Veined)
3 T. vegetable oil (almond oil is a fantastic substitute)
1 ear fresh corn, kernels scraped from the cob or 1 cup frozen (defrosted) corn if fresh isn't available
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Cajun Seasoning (you can also use Seafood Seasoning - I liked a bit of a kick)
3 to 4 cloves chopped garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1 lime (juiced and zested)
3 T. agave syrup
2 to 3 T. Sriracha (depending on how much heat you want)
1 avocado (diced.  Tip?  Dress with extra lime juice to keep from turning brown)
2 stalks scallions (thinly sliced for garnish)
Cilantro leaves (for garnish - as much as you'd like)

1. Peel and Devin your shrimp and set aside.   Chop all veggies ahead of time and make sure everything is ready - this dish doesn't take too long to cook and shrimp can be easily overcooked.  By having everything ready, you'll eliminate the need to run around and/or potentially burn or overcook something.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add corn and season with salt and pepper. Saute until golden at edges.

3. Add shrimp and Cajun seasoning and cook until shrimp begin to pink up, 2 minutes.

4. Add garlic, ginger, lime juice.  Toss and cook 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Keeping your head back, add the vinegar.  Allow to reduce slightly and add Sriracha and Agave.  Toss and allow shrimp to finish cooking.

6. Transfer shrimp to a serving plate or build your lettuce tacos.  I made mine two ways:  on a bed of romaine lettuce, and on a couple of corn tortillas.  I just topped with the avocado, green onions, cilantro, and a tiny bit more lime juice.

The other recipe I did has pretty much all of the gluten and dairy in it you could ever want to shove into your face.  Pretty much it's the exact opposite of what I just posted above in the health-department.

I'm talking about risotto.

BUT.... It's one of my absolute favorite dishes to make and it was the first meal I cooked Chris, so it holds a special place in my heart.

I know when some people think of risotto, they're transformed to cooking shows where chefs couldn't quite get the risotto right.  The risotto comes out too al dente, mushy, or completely flavorless.  Sure risotto can be something even the most seasoned cook or chef can mess up, but if you remember some basic risotto-principles, your risotto will be so flavorful and light, it's like little pillows of awesomeness dancing on your taste buds.

Risotto isn't really one of those dishes you want to make when you need something quick to throw together and you don't want to spend time in front of the stove.  I'll be using arborio rice for my recipe; however, you can also use Carnaroli.  The real difference is in the texture of the rice gain.  I find that arborio rice is more readily available in supermarkets.  Its outer coating contains the highest starch level of any Italian variety which will ensure creamy texture in your risotto.  The Carnaroli variety is preferred by a lot of chefs.  It's got an amazing flavor and distinctive creaminess. The only issue with this variety is that the "window" of achieving perfect risotto will be smaller than that of an arborio rice.

Some tricks if you've never cooked with risotto:
  • NEVER wash your rice.  Every bit of starch helps to make the risotto creamy.
  • Toasting the rice is super duper mega important.  Adding the rice to hot butter or oil and toasting the grains before adding liquid helps the rice to absorb liquids slowly without becoming soggy.
  • Your cooking liquid should be at a rolling boil on the stove.  Adding cold stock/cooking liquid will result in a hard, uncooked kernel in the center of the grain. You'll also maintain a consistent cooking temperature in using boiling stock.
  • While a recipe may call for a certain amount of cooking liquid or stock, you'll pretty much almost never use that exact amount. Depending on the risotto you might use more or less.  Meh. Such is life. 
  • WINE TIME!  I like to add wine to the risotto after toasting the grains and before adding the cooking liquid.  Use a wine you wouldn't mind drinking (and if you're into drinking box wine, that's ok. Just do your guests a favor and buy a bit nicer wine for the occasion).  The wine adds an acidity and hint of fruit to your risotto.  Nom nom FACES.
  • When you're cooking the risotto, begin tasting the rice about 15 minutes after the first cup of cooking liquid is added.  Add more cooking liquid (1/2 to 3/4 cup) in the beginning than you add at the end (1/4 to 1/2 cup),  Your rice should be al dente - meaning your teeth will still find a little bit of resistance when it bites when you chew.  Your rice shouldn't be rock hard in the center or mushy on the outside.
  • The texture of your risotto should be fluid with a creamy consistency with body.  Your want your risotto to be slightly soupy. Don't be afraid to add a little more liquid.
  • If you're adding veggies or seafood to your risotto, do so in the last few minutes of your cook time.  

Ok. I think you've been properly trained.  Time for the main event.   Ready?  You can do it. Let's go.

Asparagus and Fresh Pea Risotto with Seared Scallops

1 pound large sea scallops (muscle attachment removed)
8 T. olive oil (divided)
1 onion, diced
2 shallots, diced
2 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine 
5 c. vegetable stock 
10 asparagus spears, cut on a 1" bias
1 c. fresh or frozen peas (thawed if frozen)
1/2 c.grated parmesan cheese
2 T. butter
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring vegetable stock to rolling boil in saucepan.
2. In a large pan, over medium heat, heat 4 T. olive oil.  Saute onion and shallot until translucent, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

3. Add arborio rice and stir with a wooden spoon to ensure each grain is coated with oil. The grains should be hot, but should not brown.  About 3 minutes. Turn heat up to medium-high.

4. Add wine to pan. and stir until evaporated.

5. Add stock to the rice, 1/2- 3/4 c. at a time while stirring.  The rice should absorb the stock before adding more.  This should take about 12-15 minutes.  As you get closer to the end of the cooking time, add a little less stock at a time.  Hint:  Start checking your rice for doneness by either tasting and feeling the resistance in the grain when you bite down (there shouldn't be much or any resistance) or by taking a grain and pressing down on it on your cutting board, smashing the kernel. If you notice white dots in the center of your grain, your rice isn't done yet.

6. First add asparagus and cook for 2 minutes.  Add liquid as necessary while asparagus is cooking.  When asparagus is cooked crisp-tender, add peas until cooked.  Simmer until vegetables are cooked though, about 5 minutes.  If you notice your rice is getting too thick, feel free to add more cooking liquid.  If you've run out of stock, that's ok - use water (just make sure it's boiling).

7. Add Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and butter. Mix until incorporated. Taste, adjust seasoning and add more liquid if necessary.

8. Heat saute pan over medium-high heat with 2 T. oil.  Pat dry and season each side of the scallops with salt and pepper.  Sear scallops in hot oil, presentation side down first about 2 minutes per side.  Remove from heat.

9. Add risotto to dish, top with scallops and garnish with a little more grated Parmesan cheese, some lemon zest and/or basil to garnish.

I think one of the greatest things you can do is experiment in the kitchen.  Mix up your flavors, try a different protein, and experiment with a new culture or type of food.  Honestly, what do you have to lose if you make something you realize wasn't so good?  Ditch it and order a pizza.  Life's too short to be stuck in a food rut.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

This Week In Shoving Food In Your Face: Potluck Palooza.... Diabetes Not-cakes, Sriracha Honey Ginger Wings, and Grand Marnier Injected Strawberries.

Friday night I had the pleasure of joining some friends for a potluck.  And because God forbid I bring the appropriate amount of food to a get together, I made three dishes since (naturally) I figured one dish wasn't enough.

I tend to go a little overboard when it comes to food.  Please be aware that if you come over to my apartment, I will try to feed you and will attempt to shove alcohol down your throat.

Since the recipes I made for the potluck were pretty successful, and they're things I would absolutely make again, I figured "why not post the recipes"?

First up, cupcakes I uh..don't have a name for.  Oops.

And I guess since they combine cookie dough, Reese cups, and brownie batter, they sould probably just be called "You Might Now Have Diabetes" desserts.  I don't think they're really cupcakes in the traditional sense, so for the purpose of describing them, I guess they're not-cakes. And if these bad boys look familiar, you might be right - they're a pinterest recipe.

1 package/roll refrigerated, premade chocolate chip cookie dough
12 Reese cups
1 box Brownie Mix (prepared)
Non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a cupcake tray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Pinch off a small amount of the cookie dough and press to the bottom of each cupcake mold, about 1/4 of the way up.

2. Place a Reese Cup upside down on top of the cookie dough. Press gently.

3. Cover the cookie dough and Reese Cup with prepared brownie mix about 3/4 of the way full.  You'll see that I went a bit over

4. Bake in your preheated oven for 18 minutes.  Let cool and run a knife around the edges of each cupcake mold. The cooked not-cakes should easily pop out. You can see mine sunk in the middle - this isn't the first time it has happened while living in my current place (the old place never had the issue), so I attribute the issue to an oven that isn't calibrated and runs to hot.

Another sweet bite I did were Grand Mariner injected Strawberries.  The way I figure, while I absolutely love jello shots, I felt that maybe I should find a fancier way to combine food and alcohol when I go to a dinner party.  Don't get me wrong - I'll go HAM on cherry jello and rum, but I wanted something a little nicer.

Enter your new drunk best friend...



1. Grab a meat injector.  If available, try to pick one with as small as a gauge as possible.  They're super cheap, and can be used for a TON of things.  Mine just so happens to be for getting people hammered on fruit.

2. Fill the injector with your choice of booze.  I used Grand Mariner for my strawberries; however, you could absolutely use rum (mmm rum and pineapple or rum injected into peaches? yes please), brandy, or anything else your little heart desires.

3. Inject yo fruit!  I started with my cleaned strawberries, piercing the flesh at the tip of the berry and slowly injecting the fruit until i noticed the alcohol leaking out (or until it shot into my eye).  I then pierced another one or two points in the flesh and filled until I felt the berry firm up and figured it was good and boozy.

4. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Pro tip? The longer you let them sit and hang out, the more drunk your fruit will be.

So to balance out the diabetes and alcohol I made, I also figured I should do something with protein.  Since I have some friends who are watching their carb intake, I figured I'd do some wings.

ALSO, since I found out about the potluck a day prior to the event, I needed something that was fast.  I also didn't want to fry the wings and needed something I could pop in the oven but would still get the "wing-crisp" feel when you bite in.

I found this recipe while scouring the interwebs and felt it was great for what I needed- no marinading or letting the meat rest overnight and from all of the comments, great results.  I was game.  I changed a couple things from the original recipe, so here's my modified version of Sriracha Honey Ginger Chicken Wings.   They've got a bit of a kick to them, so feel free to ease back on the Sriracha if you're not one for spice.

The sauce I made is more than enough to glaze the wings toward the end of the cooking process. I wanted some extra to coat the wings prior to presentation as well as serve table-side should people want their wings more smothered than others.  The sauce is also amazing on other meat...soooo I made some extra.

Without further ado, I present to you...

Sriracha Honey Ginger Wings

2-3 pounds of chicken wings
3 T. melted butter
1 T. vegetable oil
1 T. garlic powder
Salt and Freshly cracked pepper to taste
1 inch knob of ginger, grated fine
Cilantro (garnish)
Green Onions (garnish)
Sesame Seeds (garnish)

Ingredients for the Sauce
8 T. unsalted butter
2 T. AP flour
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. Sriracha
3 T. soy sauce
juice of 2 limes
2 T. garlic powder
2 inch knob ginger, grated fine

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  I used a Silicone Baking Mat to line my baking sheet. I love Silpats because they offer super quick cleanup and food comes off of the sheet easily.

2. Trim off wing tips with a very sharp knife by simply pressing the middle of your knife along the joint in the wing.  Discard or save for additional flavoring in soups and stews.

3. In a large bowl, combine wings, butter, vegetable oil, garlic powder, ginger, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Add wings to mixture and give them a good coating/rub.  Make sure the wings are thoroughly coated..

4. Place wings on prepared baking sheet, skin side up first and bake for 25-30 minutes, turning halfway though.

5. While wings are cooking, make your sauce.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted and bubbly.  Whisk in flour until lightly browned. Stir in honey, Sriracha, grated ginger, soy sauce, garlic powder, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes.

6. Once wings have finished cooking, brush with sauce and pop back in the oven for 3-4 minutes.

7. Flip your wings (they should be skin-side up now) and coat generously with more sauce.  Pop back in the oven for 4-5 minutes until wings are crispy and brown.

8. When wings have finished their entire cook time, place in a large bowl and spoon sauce around the edge of the bowl.  Toss thoroughly to coat and place in a serving dish. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, green onions and toasted sesame seeds to garnish.

I think maybe the next time I make the wings I might put some orange juice and/or orange zest in the sauce.  I think the flavors of soy, lime, ginger, honey and Sriracha work well together and even though it sounds like a lot, the flavors don't get muddled and confused.

The great thing about the three above recipes is that I completed all of them in about 2 hours. Seriously. Got home from work, banged out the food, and still had time to do my hair and makeup before going to the potluck.

I don't think potlucks need to be traditional mac salad....or just reaching for a bag of chips because you don't know what to bring, claim to not be able to cook anything, or saying you don't have time to whip something together.   What are your favorite potluck recipes?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Feed Me, Seymour: Shrimp Stir Fry and a Smoked Braised Beef Brisket

Huzzah more recipes!

The other night I made stir fry, which is actually pretty simple but I'm sharing with you my process and the recipe anyway.  It's super yummy, and after my artery clogging recipes from before, I figure something a bit lighter would be called for. Plus I wanted to use my new, super sexy Kasumi Titanium knife and nothing says "try out cutting some shit" like chopping veggies for a stir fry.

Oh I'm about to have a knifegasm.

Ugh. So sexy.

Ok, back to food.  Another amazing thing about a stir fry is that you can include what you want to have in the stir fry to suit your tastes Don't care for shrimp? Throw in another protein.   Can't stand broccoli? (I hate it - it grosses me out...something about eating trees) Think baby corn is about as weird as Lady Gaga's wardrobe? (seriously. wtf is that stuff?)  Just nix it and substitute with other veggies.

So here's my super quick recipe for Shrimp Stir Fry.   Ready? It's go time.

Shrimp Stir Fry

1 pound skrimpz (choose a size to suit your tastes.  I used raw 26/30 shrimp for this recipe)
Corn Starch
2 T. Grated Ginger (or powdered if you completely forget to grab ginger at the store like me. Just don't add as much)

2 T.Sesame Oil
3 T. Vegetable Oil
2 T Grated Ginger (or um...dried if you have early onset Alzheimers and can't remember what you need at the grocery store)
3 cloves garlic (minced)

3 stalks celery cut on a bias
1 can water chestnuts (sliced)
3 medium carrots (julienned)
1/2 medium onion diced
1 cup snow peas
2-3 stalks green onion cut on a bias (guess who forgot to pick this up at the grocery store? yep...)
Black and white sesame seeds (to garnish)

2 c. Beef Stock
1/4 c.Soy Sauce
Sugar (to taste)

Your choice of rice (I like brown rice for my stir fries)

1. Combine beef stock, soy sauce, and sugar in saucepan.  Taste and adjust if necessary. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer to allow sauce to reduce and thicken.

2. Prepare your rice.  Another time we'll go through how to make sticky rice. I didn't pick up the ingredients at the grocery store (go figure) and didn't quite have the time to fool with it was brown rice for me.
3. Peel and de-vein (depoop) your shrimp and set them aside in a bowl.    I want to take a second to mention it is REALLY important to buy your shrimp uncooked.  Also, if you're curious what the various sizes of shrimp (26/30, 31/35, 16/20) mean, the seafood industry sells shrimp by the count per pound.  This means that if you're getting 26/30 shrimp (like I did), you're going to get about 26 to 30 shrimp per pound.  The size of shrimp you are looking to purchase will vary for what recipe you're cooking.

4. Sprinkle corn starch, ginger, salt and pepper on shrimp. Toss to coat.  You may need to add more corn starch if you don't feel your shrimp are thoroughly coated. Set aside until ready to use.

5. Chop your veggies ahead of time. It's important to have everything prepped - stir fries don't take long and you don't want to have overcooked, mushy veggies because you're still working on getting something ready.

6. Heat 1 T. sesame and 2 T. vegetable oil on medium high until slightly smoking. Add ginger and garlic and stir with wooden spoon.  Add shrimp and quickly flip/toss to par cook all sides.  When shrimp begin to pink up, remove from oil and set aside in a bowl.

7. In the pan heat remaining oil over medium heat.  When hot, add onions and cook until translucent.  Increase heat to medium-high, add carrots and celery and cook until slightly softened. Add water chestnuts and snow peas, cooking until tender-crisp and heated through.

8. Add 1/4 cup of sauce to veggies and increase heat to high. Add shrimp and 1/4 cup more of sauce. mix and toss to coat.  When hot and shrimp are fully cooked (bright pink in a "C" shape.  If your shrimp form an "O" shape, you've overcooked your shrimp. Whomp whomp whomp.) Add green onions and toss to thoroughly coat.

9. Build your bowl/plate!  Layer some rice, forming a bowl in the center, pile on your stir fry meat and veggies, ladle some reserved sauce over and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.   Enjoy!

Now.... another recipe I made for you this week involves smoked meat.  Boom.

There's nothing quite like the flavor of smoked meat, and since I'm smack dab in the middle of winter in Chicago without a smoker, I won't be smoking anything anytime soon.

Feel free to make a joke about smoking...smoking meat...or just playing with meat.


So a great alternative is liquid smoke.  It's not quite the same thing as letting meat hang out in a smoker for hours, but when you don't have the equipment, a small amount of liquid smoke can pack a powerful punch and be just what you're looking for.

Another great thing about liquid smoke is that there are a plethora of brands and types of smoke.  Mesquite...Hickory...Applewood...there are a ton of different brands and flavors you can experiment with.

I like brisket as a protein.  If you aren't familiar with the cut, it's an amazing cut of meat found in the lower chest of beef or veal (the pectoral muscles). Since cattle do not have collar bones, these particular muscles support about 60% of standing or moving cattle.  As a result, there is a significant amount of connective tissue so this is a cut of meat that will need to be cooked thoroughly to tenderize the meat.

Oh yes...really.  A little more info on that - the more an animal uses the muscle you're working with, the more connective tissue that will be present, making the cut tougher so to speak.  Think about the least used muscles like the loin and the rib.  Those are typically more tender whereas muscles used more (brisket, round, chuck) are going to be tougher.

To sum this up as how it will affect your cooking, you'll want to think about what the animal is doing with that muscle when considering your preparation.

We can talk about fat content and why it is important in how you prepare food another time.

I snagged the following recipe from a cooking show I was watching and really wanted to try it. I think I might play around with some other flavors and proteins in the future, but for now enjoy a smoked braised beef brisket that will make your panties drop.

Seriously... the meat will melt in your mouth, and combined with the au jus, you will get flavor that is sweet, smokey, salty, tangy, and just overall ridiculously mouthwatering.

Smoked Braised Beef Brisket
Brisket (use what suits you and your family - the one I used is 2.25 pounds)
2 medium lemons
1 1/2 c. soy sauce
2 cans beef consomme
3 T. liquid smoke
6 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
1/2 c. light brown sugar

1. In a 9 x 13 pan (you'll want a bigger dish if your brisket is any larger than mine) add beef consomme, soy sauce, juice of 2 medium lemons, chopped garlic, brown sugar, and liquid smoke.   As a fun hint, if you don't have a juicer, juice your lemons over your hand or in a strainer to catch the seeds.   Give your marinade a good ole stir.


2. Place your brisket in the marinade, fat side up.  Spoon marinade over the top of your brisket.

3. Cover brisket and put in your fridge to get good and sexual overnight.  Seriously.  Overnight.  Don't skimp on this.  You want the meat to begin to tenderize and the flavor to develop.

4. When you're ready to cook, pop the whole shebang in a preheated 300 degree oven for 40 minutes per pound.  Leave the lid tightly covered.

5. After the predetermined time, peel back the foil and check to see if you can pull apart the meat with a couple of forks. Be sure to check the center - you may be able to pull the meat apart on the ends; however, the center may still be a little tough.  If some of the meat is still tough, pop it back in the oven for another 40 minutes until the meat is fork-tender all the way though. Mine needed a total of 3 1/2 hours to cook.  My oven is super screwy... when I pulled my brisket out to check, it looked a little like this...

6. When the meat is good and tender, place it on a cutting board to rest (about 5-10 minutes).  Slice off the top layer of fat (because ain't nobody got time for that).

7. Once the fat is 86'd, slice the brisket thinly against the grain.  I can't begin to tell you how important this is.  If you look at your meat, you will be able to see that - just like wood - it's got a grain. In some cuts of meat, the grain (muscle fibers) can be very fine, but others, like brisket, have thicker muscle fiber bundles. If you try yanking your meat apart by holding it with the grain running between your hands, it'll be pretty difficult to do. Now rotate it 90 degrees so that instead of yanking along the length of the muscle fibers, you're pulling them apart - so much easier!   So before nomming on meat, you want to shorten the muscle fibers as much as possible with the help of your knife.  It'll make things much easier on your chompers.


8.  I'm a huge fan of the au jus and LOVE the flavor of this sauce in particular.  Now pop the thinly sliced meat back in the juices.

When you are ready to serve, pile the meat on a plate or in a bowl and spoon some of the au jus over the meat.  Voila!  Delicious summer flavors in the dead of winter.

Brisket tip?  This dish can be frozen and reheated, or stored in your refrigerator, popped in your oven and reheated until ready to serve.  I love putting this over mashed potatoes (the au jus can be spooned over your meat and 'taters, or thickened to make a fantastic gravy).  Another suggestion? Slice the brisket into small pieces (or pull it apart with forks) and make brisket tacos!

So there you go!  Hopefully you enjoyed the recipes above and maybe even learned a little something about meat.  If you have any questions, tips or tricks, please don't hesitate to contact me.

And until I whip out my culinary dick next time, get your hot asses into the kitchen and cook something.  It's deliriously sexy and might even get you laid.

Yes.  THAT sexy.