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.

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