Insert jokey title with “clambake” as term for party…

One pot clambake

Cheesy chive bread

Yes, for two people.  oof.

Yes, for two people. oof.

D and I are big fans of another alternative clam bake recipe from Everyday Food.  That one you do on the grill.  I had never done one of the stove top versions, but I’ve always been intrigued and maybe just a little scared.  Why?  Well, I don’t have one of those enormous New England lobster boiling, enamel coated, monstrosity pots that these recipes seem to call for.  I’ve got the biggest stock pot in the Cusinart set of stainless steel pots and pans that we got for our wedding 10 years ago.  So I didn’t want to run into a situation where there isn’t enough room for the shrimp and clams and this becomes a potato and corn bake.  I’ve also been reticent because we here in the middle of the country don’t so much have access to clams.  I surely didn’t want to buy canned clams (ew!!!!!), and I wasn’t sure if I could find fresh ones at any of my usual grocery stores.  This was not the weekend for a special trip to a fancy grocery store.

My fears were, luckily, unfounded.  The stock pot was a fine size.  And the frozen clams that D found at our normal grocery store (No, not Aldi) were just fine.  You were supposed to cook them from frozen, which is great because I didn’t have to thaw clams in the fridge (ew again!!!), but it did cause a problem for the shrimp.  The clams are the second to last thing to go in.  The shrimp are last.  The recipe has you add the shrimp, turn off the heat, then open the lid back up in three minutes to reveal perfectly cooked shrimp.  I opened the lid after maybe six minutes (distracted) and found some 1/8 cooked shrimp.  I put them back on the heat and gave them a few minutes to finish cooking.  They tasted great.  Here’s what I think happened: the recipe assumes that you have fresh clams and I used frozen ones.  When I cooked the frozen clams, I brought the clams up to the right temperature, but in doing so managed to bring the temperature of the entire pot way down.  So when I added those shrimp to what should have been a warm and steamy environment, it was probably only lukewarm and moderately steamy.  Hence, undercooked shrimp (one more time: ew!!!!).  So if you’re cooking with anything but fresh clams, keep the pot on the heat for the shrimp step.

Oh, the cheesy chive bread?  It was ok.  I made it garlic bread instead because I couldn’t find chives.  With the corn and the potatoes in the clambake, the bread wasn’t really necessary.  It was kind of nice for sopping.  I will say that buying a loaf a shade less than crusty is probably the way to go.  Hacking through that giant, hard loaf to make the cuts in the loaf was grueling.  All that fuss for some garlic bread?  C’mon.

B also tells me that these clambakes ordinarily have sausage.  How this midwestern girl missed out on an opportunity to eat sausage is kind of mind-boggling.  As B noted, what we lack in clams, we make up for in sausage.  That sounded bad.  Never mind.

clambake closeup

Enjoy the swingin’ clambake!

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That Old Bay river…

Poached Shrimp on Succotash

SHRIMP!!! (with guest appearance by succotash)

SHRIMP!!! (with guest appearance by succotash)

This is from a feature on poaching.  I’m on record as loving poaching as a cooking method, but I’ve never poached shrimp.  It never seemed necessary to me.  I like to poach chicken because chicken gets dry when you cook it other ways (has anyone ever had dry shrimp?), needs flavor (shrimp is a flavor), and I hate checking to see if chicken is done or not (shrimp cooks almost instantly).  So the draw was not there.  It turns out that poached shrimp is amazing.  This is poached in water and Old Bay with a halved lemon thrown in there for good measure.  My can of Old Bay is almost certainly 10 years old, but this was still good.  I should probably buy another can, but let’s be honest with ourselves, I do not cook a lot of seafood, let alone the kind of awesome seafood (read: crabs) that takes a lot of Old Bay.  So old Old Bay keeps on rolling along.

The succotash is fine.  It’s just zucchini, green beans, and corn.  It’s almost certainly a waste of corn on the cob to cut it off and cook it like this.  Unless the price of corn on the cob is truly great (and it isn’t yet), then frozen corn is going to be a better bet.  Really, the shrimp is the star here.  I’d recommend poaching the shrimp this way and serving it with some cocktail sauce.  I don’t have my secret cocktail sauce recipe in front of me to share with you, so I’ll have to give it from memory…  Here it goes: about a 1/2 c. of ketchup, an 1/8 c. prepared horseradish, 1 T or more of hot sauce, 1 t Worcester sauce, maybe a little salt and pepper.  Honestly, I think the recipe might be closer to 1/4 c. horseradish.  I add so much horseradish that this is actually pink, not red.  If you like hot cocktail sauce, give this a try.

Fancy Schmancy Post-Valentine’s Day Celebration Dinner

Sometimes, when you live with a bear, that bear has to work late.  One such occurrence happened on Valentine’s Day, so our Valentine’s Day feast was postponed a week.  But then we went all out.  Oh yes we did.

For the first course, I made the Caesar Salad for Two.

Image

 

Now, if you are like me, you have probably never made Caesar dressing at home.  Maybe the anchovies scared you off.  Maybe it was the raw egg.  Either way, it’s a daunting proposition.  I decided to give it a try anyhow (because someone had to) and let me just say, you should ignore all of your fears and hesitations regarding this and just make it for heaven’s sake!  It’s so good!!  The bear was so thrilled with it that he literally made me make it three more times in the following week.  It tastes neither fishy, nor eggy.  It tastes like what comes out of a bottle only 100 times more flavorful and delicious.  Do it!  The good thing about this recipe is that it is a small batch too, just enough to make a decent size bowl of salad for two maybe three people.  I’m not sure how well homemade caesar would store in the fridge so this recipe is ideal.

We followed our salad with Steak and Shrimp with Parsley Potatoes.

Image

Well really, the steak was for the Bear, and the shrimp were for me.  I did try the steak (the first steak I ever cooked) and I thought it was quite tasty.  It wasn’t too beefy just tasted nice and seared and salty.  (I tried to replicate it with a different cut of meat and again it was too beefy).  The shrimp were cooked perfectly.  They were sweet and buttery.  I think scallops would also be good in this recipe.  The potatoes were also quite tasty.  They were buttery and the perfect little side for the decadent shrimp and steak.

And finally… oh yes, the Fresh Orange and Yogurt Tart.

Image

Navel oranges are for chumps so I used blood oranges.  This was an awesome desert folks.  Just spectacular.  After such a decadent meal this wasn’t so over the top sweet that we would instantly fall into a food coma.  Nope it was light and satisfying.  It was an amazing texture and I will absolutely make some variation of this again.  I think it might be pretty awesome to make the yogurt part and then top it with a curd, maybe like that incredible orange curd I made for the pavlova.

So there you have it, a feast to end all feasts.  A feast to end the Jan/Feb 2010 issue.  Next up, March 2009!!

Stir fry for days

Shrimp and Scallion Stir Fry

over those pesky rice noodles

over those pesky rice noodles

Stir-fried noodles with eggplant and basil

eggplant and basil in the dead of winter.  decadent!

eggplant and basil in the dead of winter. decadent!

Stir-fried turkey in lettuce wraps

It has kind of a birth of Venus thing going on, doesn't it?

It has kind of a birth of Venus thing going on, doesn’t it?

So many stir fries in this issue.  If you add up the stir fry feature with the winter green sautees, that’s a whole lot of warm veggie glop on top of rice, pasta, or something.  These three are quite representative of all of the stir frying going on in issue #69 in that they are all ok, but not great, and all low calorie (until you start adding noodles and such…).

The Shrimp and Scallion Stir Fry can literally be summed up just by reading the name of the recipe.  See, there’s some shrimp and some scallions and you stir fry them.  Still with me?  Oh, and there’s garlic.  I served it over rice noodles because I’m still trying to get rid of those suckers.

The Stir-fried noodles with eggplant and basil was very good, if somewhat impractical.  I like to try and cook seasonally and Everyday Food usually supports that.  They’ve got a whole “in season” section and everything.  But then they have a chicken sandwich with zucchini on it and a stir fry with eggplant and basil in this issue.  Oh, and the chicken salad with basil too.  On one hand, I can’t complain.  It is definitely awesome to taste basil in the dead of winter.  It almost makes me believe that summer is coming, which it obviously isn’t.  It’s currently 28 degrees outside and it’s March 23rd.  There just won’t be an end to winter.  So buy some basil!

The Stir-fried turkey in lettuce wraps was good, but I still don’t care for lettuce wraps as a concept for the same reason that I don’t like hard shell tacos, too messy.  I know.  I know.  Polly Prissy Pants over here.  Also, when you make lettuce wraps, you have to spend so much time delicately removing each lettuce leaf carefully, carefully, so carefully….dang it!  It tore!  Then what do you do?  Make a very tiny lettuce wrap?  Give up and start over?  These are serious questions folks.  So the flavor of this recipe is quite good, but it’s not good enough to make me like lettuce wraps.  Oh, and yeah, that’s iceberg lettuce.  I know I’d get better results with a fancier lettuce, but I’d be angrier when the leaves tear because of the extra money.  So…kind of a catch 22.

In conclusion, if you need a stir fry, go to your EF collection and grab #69.  Whew!

Bacon-Wrapped Ginger Shrimp

Bacon-Wrapped Ginger Shrimp

Bacon, shrimp and ginger… what's not to like?

Bacon, shrimp and ginger… what’s not to like?

The bear can’t eat shrimp, so I had to wait for an opportunity without him to make this.  I went to my friend J’s house to enjoy this treat.

The unfortunate truth is that we couldn’t find any fresh ginger at the super market the night I made this.  I had to use the jarred grated kind.  As a result, I do think the dish suffered a bit.  The ginger flavor was really subtle, (I was the only one who was able to discern it, the other two people eating just tasted shrimp, bacon and soy sauce – which also wasn’t bad).  I like my ginger to have a nice sharp kick so I was a bit sad at how that turned out.

I also want to point out that the bacon strips should really be quartered.  I did a few pieces with the full half strip and the bacon was too thick to actually crisp up in the oven.  I did the rest with the quarter strip and the outcome was much more satisfying.

Another addition that I think would be awesome would be grilling these instead of baking them.  They were laying in a rather big puddle of bacon grease when they came out of the oven so I think either baking them on a rack or grilling them so the grease can drip off would be a bit tastier.

With all that being said, it really was yummy!  I served it with salad greens to make it into more of a meal.  Make these!  But make them with fresh ginger as suggested!!!

I was wrong about you, Zap

Chorizo and shrimp pilaf

From the microwave.  No kidding!

From the microwave. No kidding!

(adapted recipe after the jump…blah, blah, blah.)

Ok, if I’m not mistaken, every issue of Everyday Food had a “Zap It” recipe.  It’s a microwave cooking recipe.  I do believe that D and I only made one or two.  Huge mistake.  These recipes are so easy, so quick, and so clever.  I think I always figured that nothing good could come from the microwave or maybe I thought that it would be watery or weirdly rubbery.  I’ve had very, very limited success cooking eggs in the microwave without them exploding all over.  Perhaps I was picturing myself cleaning up exploded chorizo bits.  That is a nightmare scenario.  You’ve got to give me that.  Whatever I was thinking, I was wrong.

So let’s get into this tasty treat.  Rice and other stuff cooked in the microwave.  Very straightforward.  It’s so tasty.  I love shrimp and this was just right.

I do have to talk about the chorizo for just a bit.  The recipe calls for hard chorizo.  I shop at a grocery store with way more Mexican food than the average grocery store.  The meat is labeled in English and Spanish.  There’s a whole wall of dried peppers I’ve never seen before.  They didn’t have hard chorizo.  So you know I wasn’t going to try another place, if this one didn’t have it.  Maybe hard chorizo is more of a Spanish thing.  What they did have was something like five different kinds of the normal, soft chorizo.  The house-made chorizo at this place is nothing to play with.  I love spicy food and that stuff is too much for me.  I thought this recipe would do well with a nice, mild spice.  Plus, I had some fantasy that I would let the baby eat it (D and I wolfed it down).  So I went with a brand that said it was without spice at all.  They were lying.  It was less spicy.  As for cooking it, the recipe says to slice it on a diagonal.  Well, you don’t really do that with the soft stuff.  I just plopped it out of the casing in even sized dollops and was careful not to break it up too much when I stirred it in.  It wound up breaking up during the cooking process and spreading all through the pilaf.  That’s why my pilaf is orange and the one in the magazine is white.  Aside from aesthetics, it doesn’t matter.  The microwaved chorizo was a touch gritty, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t ignore for the sake of an otherwise delicious recipe.

One side story:  When I asked the guys at the meat counter for hard chorizo, they said they didn’t have it and pointed out the other stuff.  I actually asked them these idiotic words, “What’s the difference?”  The one guy just kinda chuckled and said, “I dunno.  The hard stuff is like…hard.”  Point taken.

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Martha Stewart is trying to sell me a giant skillet

Shrimp Jambalaya

Looking so pretty and well-behaved...

Looking so pretty and well-behaved…

How big is the biggest skillet in your kitchen?  My biggest is a 12 inch non-stick skillet.  I also have what the Cuisinart website tells me is a 3 quart covered saute pan.  That thing is fairly tall, but it’s still not all that wide.  I was under the impression that my 12 inch skillet was a large skillet.  After all, at some point a bigger skillet would be too big for the burner on a standard range, right?  Martha Stewart seems to think otherwise.

This recipe said to use a large skillet.  I was already starting to worry when I added the sausage.  That filled the bottom, but the sausage pieces did shrink a little when they cooked.  Then I added the onions, celery, and garlic.  That filled the skillet about 3/4 full.  At that point, I was already lying to myself.  The veggies cooked down a little.  I cut back the tomatoes from the 8 plum tomatoes the recipe called for (eight?!?! really?!) to 5.  By the time I added what amounted to a heaping soup bowl full of diced tomatoes, three cups of water, and a cup of rice, I was willfully ignoring the laws of physics.  I covered the skillet, as instructed, and felt the lid press down on the mound of food.  What, precisely, did I think was going to happen?  What did happen is that the meal cooked away for 15 minutes making ominous noises and occasionally boiling over onto the stovetop.  When 15 minutes was up, I lifted the lid to see this:

It is the beating of his hideous heart!!!!

It is the beating of his hideous heart!!!!

I should have shot a video of this.  The red area in the center was pulsing up and down, not unlike a giant heart.  Happy belated Halloween!  The recipe said to cook until the rice was cooked and all of the water was absorbed.  Well, the rice was cooked and the water remained.  I tried cranking up the heat to boil off some of the water, but it wasn’t going to happen.  This was, essentially, a stew bubbling all the way to the top of the skillet.  So I did what any intelligent human being would do, I added a pound of shrimp and covered it again.  The shrimp didn’t really cook under those conditions.  I uncovered the skillet and let the boiling off/shrimp cooking process work itself out.  Once the shrimp weren’t grey anymore, I called it quits.  The stew jambalaya (or, stewbalaya, if you will) was done.  It was a sloppy mess, but it was cooked.

I served it with a slotted spoon, and you know what?  It was delicious.  The andouille sausage spiced the whole stewbalaya beautifully.  It was hot and spicy, and we both loved it.

This brings me to my dilemma.  I’d love to make it again, but how?  I think I’d have to make a half recipe or cook it in my two largest pans.  Or, I could do as Martha seems to suggest, and buy an enormous skillet.  I found a 20 inch skillet on Amazon, but the description says it’s for camping.  Surely I’m not expected to start a campfire, Martha.  I think the biggest one I can find for indoor use is this 15 inch skillet.  Honestly, I’m not sure it would be big enough for this recipe.

This experience definitely makes me nervous about all of the other skillet recipes in this issue.  She drops back to punt to B….

Un-split shift and the best “fried” shrimp ever

“Split Shift”: recipes that were supposed to be made part in the morning and part in the evening…

  • Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli
  • Crispy shrimp with tartar sauce and red-cabbage slaw
  • Black-bean tostadas with corn relish

Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli

Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli

Steak? Money’s too tight for steak. Steak?

Ok, this one I actually did part the day before and part the evening of.  The trouble with these “split shift” recipes is that they assume you have more time in the morning than in the evening.  I’m not sure for whom this is true.  People who work the late shift or odd hours, I guess. People without children.  People with excellent time-management skills.  None of these things describe me.  I do think they could be split over a couple days.  This recipe, for example, is a good one to split over a couple days.  I marinated the steak and prepped the broccoli on day one, then broiled the steak and steamed the broccoli on day two.  The recipe only takes 30 minutes…total.  So that’s an easy maybe 15-20 minutes one evening then finish it up the next.  Not bad.

How does it taste?  Do you like peanut sauce?  Me too!!!  The one thing I will say is that flank steak can be a little tough.  This was no exception.  A nicer cut of steak would have made this less of a chore to cut and eat.

Ah, but I came up with an awesome thing to do with the leftovers.

cut up steak with broccoli and peanut sauce in small tortillas

This must be blurred because I was too excited to eat it.

I also had small tortillas on hand for the tostadas, so I heated up the steak and broccoli, piled it into tortillas, drizzled it with a little leftover sauce, and had asian steak tacos.  These were so good.  Plus, once you’re eating it with your hands and teeth, the difficulty cutting it with a knife isn’t an issue any more.

Crispy shrimp with tartar sauce and red-cabbage slaw

shrimp, lemon wedges, red cabbage slaw, tartar sauce and a beer

Is your mouth watering? Mine is.

Get ready to hear me gush.  D and I keep an index card of all of our favorite Everyday Food recipes.  It acts as a sort of index, but not every recipe makes it on there.  Only the best.  Let me put it this way: There are 98 issues, and we have maybe 20 recipes on that index card.  This recipe is index card worthy.

What makes it so special is the breading on those shrimp.  I’m the first one to be suspicious of the idea that baked things can taste just like something that’s fried.  I’m not going to go quite that far.  However, this is as close as you can get to crispy fried shrimp without busting out the oil.  I’ll stand by that.  The slaw is also lovely.  It’s just Dijon mustard, oil, and lemon juice with the red onion and cabbage.  That would be good on its own.  You could bring that to a picnic and feel like a hero.  The tartar sauce is nice.  It reminds me of the ersatz tartar sauce we used to make when I was a kid to go with fish sticks, mayonnaise and pickle relish.  This is obviously classier: chopped pickles, fresh parsley, fresh lemon juice…  The shrimp is the real star.  It’s even worth buying panko crumbs for even though you KNOW you’re never going to use that stuff again until it gets stale.

I didn’t make this 1/2 in the morning, 1/2 in the evening or over two days or anything.  It doesn’t take too long to do in one evening.

Black bean tostadas with corn relish

Topped with the corn and avocado

Topped with the corn and avocado

I can sum this one up quite quickly: lots of work for little reward.  I did this one all in one night also.  Taking care of the corn relish, veggie prep, and cheese ahead of time would have saved some effort.  I’ll grant them that.

tortilla, beans, cheese (waiting on vegetables)

tortilla, beans, cheese (waiting on vegetables)

This just isn’t a very special recipe.  It reminds me of the Jim Gaffigan routine about working at a Mexican restaurant in Iowa.  “What’s a tostada?”  “Tortilla, meat, cheese, vegetables?”  “What are tacos?” “Tortilla, meat, cheese, vegetables”  Change that to tortilla, beans, cheese, vegetables, and that’s what we have here.  It’s just nothing to write home about.

Rice and Noodles: Dinners this week took an Asian adventure

Shrimp Fried Rice (no recipe online, see below)

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

September 2007, pg. 18 & 111

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

The hardest part of this dish was finding the ingredients.  I just spent the last five years living in the land of Wegman’s.  For those of you who know Wegman’s, you will already understand why this is an issue for me.  For those of you who don’t, educate yourself.  Needless to say, I started to take Wegman’s a little for granted and just assumed most things could be found at my local grocery store.  So when I moved here and had to deal with (gasp!) normal grocery stores, I have found myself a little lost.  What do you mean they don’t always carry lamb chops?!  Where is my Republic of Tea?!?!?!?! (This issue has resulted in approximately 3 weeks of checking every supermarket and specialty store which could fathomably carry Republic of Tea Earl Greyer.  I’m fairly traumatized.) What is this pathetic olive bar selection?? And where are my 300+ specialty cheeses?!?!  Anyway, I assumed I would be able to run up to the Shaw’s and just grab a package of udon noodles and some pre-shucked edamame.  Wrong! I had to check 3 different stores before I managed to luck out at basically a local version of whole foods.  I couldn’t even find udon noodles at the local Asian Market which strangely had mostly Indian stuff…

Anyway, after all that, it turned out ok.  I just say ok because while it was decent, it was lacking anything that thrilling.  The Bear I live with says it would have benefitted from some duck sauce (hey, what wouldn’t benefit from some duck sauce?!) but he settled for some sriracha sauce (yeah, pretty different from duck sauce I know).  If I decide to make this again, I might try to add in a little more rice wine vinegar and maybe a little sesame oil.

The real star of my Asian romp was the Shrimp Fried Rice (recipe below)!

Ugh, I wish I had some I could eat right now!

Ugh, I wish I had some I could eat right now!

First of all, I had managed to find some incredible deal on some really incredible shrimp (I guess Shaw’s isn’t all bad…) and was super psyched to use them.  I was a little nervous that the Shrimp Fried Rice wouldn’t do them justice but I took the risk and it was sooo worth it!!!!

This recipe uses a fair amount of lime juice and I am certain that is what made all the difference.  It was so sharp and vibrant and the shrimp was so sweet and plump! My only complaint is that it could maybe use a little more crunch.  Next time I will add some thinly shredded Napa cabbage.  And there will definitely be a next time!

Ok here’s the recipe:

Shrimp Fried Rice*

Prep Time: 15 minutes (depending on how fast you are with a knife) Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups rice (I used brown rice and was very satisfied with the results)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil (I used coconut oil and again, very satisfied)

2 eggs beaten

1 lb peeled-deveined shrimp coarsely chopped

2 carrots thinly sliced

2 scallions sliced

1 garlic clove minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (so good!)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup lime juice

So have your rice already cooked and ready to go.  I made mine the day before.  Put half the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add your beaten egg.  Don’t scramble it further.  Let it cook until it’s set like an egg pancake then slide it out and slice it up.  Set that aside.  Then add the rest of your oil to the skillet, still on medium heat, and toss in the shrimp, carrots, scallions, garlic and ginger.  Keep tossing it around as it cooks.  It only takes 3 – 5 minutes.  When the shrimp are pink and have firmed up they are done.  Don’t overcook them!  Tough shrimp are the worst! (Well maybe not the worst, they are still shrimp after all…).

When your shrimp look cooked add in the rice, eggs, soy sauce and lime juice.  Keep mixing it up until it all seems heated through and bam!  You have a really awesome dinner ahead of you!  You can add some scallion greens to make it look pretty. Enjoy!

*adapted from Everyday Food Issue 45 (September 2007) p. 18.