Corn and Shrimp Soup

One of my favorite cooking magazines is Cuisine At Home.  My friend Jane subscribes and I got a gift subscription for my daughter.  There was a recipe in the August 2018 issue for Corn and Shrimp Soup and all three of us gravitated to page 40 and made that soup within a weeks time.  We each interpreted the recipe a little differently which really is what I think cooking is all about.  I consider recipes guides.  Sometimes you have all the ingredients on hand and sometimes you have to punt.  Sometimes there is an herb or spice recommended that you don’t care for (or don’t have) so you substitute. My daughter didn’t have shrimp in the shell so she used chicken broth and omitted the dairy.  My friend also omitted the dairy.  None of us used the husks to make the broth.  I added parsley and green onion.   All three of us got an amazing pot of soup.

Ingredients:

4 ears of corn (shucked and kernels cut from the cobs)

Save the cobs for sure, the husks if you like

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp (peeled, deveined, and diced)

Save the shells

7 cups of water

3 fresh or dried bay leaves

3 sprigs of thyme (I used dried)

1 T black peppercorns

3 T butter

1 1/2 cups diced onion

3/4 cup diced celery

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 T AP flour

1 cup half and half

1 T white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme (I used parsley and green onion)

Peel, devein and dice the shrimp.  (This is the worst part!)

Put the shells in a large dutch oven.  Shuck the corn and cut it off the cob.

Add the cobs to the dutch oven along with the shrimp peels.

Add 7 cups of water, bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes or more.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.  Pour the stock back into the dutch oven and, over high heat, reduce to 3 cups.

While the stock is reducing purée about half of the corn kernels in a food processsor until as smooth as possible.

Dice the onion  and celery.  Set the broth aside and melt 3 T of butter in the dutch oven over medium heat until foamy.  Sweat the onions and celery and cayenne covered until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.  Stir in stock and puréed corn.  Bring to a simmer.

Stir in half and half just until heated through.  Then stir in shrimp and remaining corn kernels and cook until shrimp is cooked an opaque, about 3-4 minutes.

Stir in vinegar and minced thyme.  (I substituted parsley and green onion).

Add some croutons and a little shredded cheese of your choosing if you’d like.  Enjoy!  I will definately be making this again.

NOTE: Like I mentioned earlier, if your shrimp has already been peeled and deveined you can substitute chicken broth or Better than Boullion has a seafood base that would work.  I can’t speak to the flavor that would be brought out of simmering the corn husks as directed in the original recipe because I did not do that.  And I probably will not do that in the future.  The cobs do, however, add flavor to the broth.

If you’d like you could also add some small diced potato or carrots to the soup.  I would add those when sweating the celery and onion making sure they are a small dice so the vegetables cook evenly.

This soup, like many others, tastes best the second day.  The flavors seem to marry and intensify.

A couple years ago I made a pot of potato soup that I thought was blah.  I am blessed to have a professionally trained chef in our family so I called and asked him how to fix it.  He said to add a hit of vinegar to kick up the flavor and it worked.  This recipe called for finishing with a little white wine vinegar but now I almost always add that to my other soup recipes.

 

 

Shrimp and Polenta

When we visited Charleston last spring we went to a little brewery for dinner and adult beverages on our first night in town.  Everyone said, if you visit Charleston you need to eat some shrimp and grits.  So…I ordered the shrimp and grits and enjoyed every bite.  This recipe is my take on that dinner but I substituted polenta for the grits.  I like grits but I like polenta a little better.  You can serve this with grits if you’d like.  It’s a really easy meal to prepare and very satisfying.  I tried to enjoy an IPA with my dinner when we were at the brewery but they were tapping a new keg and I had my IPA for dessert.  My timing was better at home.

Ingredients:

4 T olive oil

1/2 cup green onions diced

2-3 cloves of garlic sliced thin

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup fresh parsley chopped

1 lemon zested and juiced

2 T tomato paste

red pepper flakes to taste

3/4-1 pound of raw shrimp cleaned and deveined

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your polenta (or grits) per package instructions. 

In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat and saute about half of the onion, red peppers flakes to taste and all of the garlic for a minute or two.  Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook  a couple minutes on each side.

When they’re done the shrimp will be opaque and the shells will be pink.  Remove the shrimp to a platter and set aside.

You want to cook the shrimp with the shells on because the shells add a lot of flavor to the dish.  Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook over medium heat stirring constantly for a couple minutes.  Stir in the white wine and a quarter cup of water or chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3-4 minutes to reduce slightly.

Stir in the remaining green onion, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Add the shrimp back to the skillet and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Dish up some polenta (or grits) into your bowl and ladle on the shrimp and sauce.

Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and a nice cold IPA and enjoy!

NOTE:  I buy white wine in little four packs.  We drink very little white wine and the little bottles are the perfect size for cooking. If you don’t have any wine on hand you can substitute chicken or seafood broth.

I did not do this but, if you prefer, before adding the shrimp back into the sauce you can remove all but the tails from the shrimp making them a little easier, less messy, to eat.

 

Paella In My Paella

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Paella is a Spanish dish made with rice, and a variety of meat (chicken or rabbit), seafood (shrimp, mussels or a firm fish like cod), and spicy sausage like andouille or chorizo.  It also includes vegetables like green beans or peas and spices like paprika and saffron.  This dish allows for countless variations.  The rice is supposed to be cooked in such a way that it crisps up on the bottom and edges.  It’s frequently prepared over an open fire or a very high burner.  Every summer we attend a music festival in northern lower Michigan where huge iron paella pans are set over an open flame and enough paella is being prepared to feed dozens and dozens.  It’s almost as much fun watching them make it as it is eating it.  They make a vegetarian Paella as well making them a very popular stop.  Paella cooked in this fashion allows for nicely crisped rice.  Personally, I prefer my rice without the crisp so that’s the way I prepare it.

This post, however, is as much about my new pan as it is about the paella.  Interestingly, the word “paella” derives from the Old French word paella for pan which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan.  (I didn’t happen to know that off the top of my head but I do know how to access all things Wikipedia.)  I frequently stop and browse in shops that sell  Le Creuset cookware.  Le Creuset is a French company that makes enameled cast iron cookware.  I have several knock-off enameled cast iron pieces which I use all the time but have never purchased a Le Creuset.  Until now.  I am still excited!  My husband gifted it to me so I promised to, appropriately, make paella my first dish in this beautiful 5 quart Braiser aka Paella or Patella.

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A thing of beauty, no?!

This recipe makes a generous amount.  Although the leftovers were great I probably will not  make this again until we have guests.

Ingredients:

Herb Blend

1 cup chopped fresh parsley and cilantro

2 or 3 large cloves of garlic minced

juice of one lemon

1 T olive oil

Paella

1 cup water

1 tsp saffron threads

5 cups chicken broth

1/2 pound unpeeled jumbo shrimp

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 links andouille sausage

3-4 slices of thick bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cups finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 cup canned diced tomatoes undrained

1 tsp sweet paprika

3-4 cloves of garlic whole

3 cups Arborio rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 lemon juiced

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Combine the first 4 ingredients and set aside.  Combine the water, broth and saffron in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Do not boil.  Keep warm over low heat.

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Heat 1 T of olive oil in large heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and saute 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove them from the skillet and set aside.  Add the sausage and bacon to the skillet and saute 3-4 minutes.  Remove them from the skillet.

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Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onion and bell pepper.  Saute for approximately 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

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Add the tomatoes, paprika and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.

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Add the rice and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.  Stir in the herb blend and the peas.

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Add the broth mixture, chicken, and sausage mixture and bring to a low boil.  Cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Once the meat is added this 5 quart pan is VERY full.  Be careful.

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Add the shrimp and cook 5 more minutes.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed.  Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the juice from one lemon, cover, and allow the paella to sit for 10 minutes.  If your skillet doesn’t have a lid cover the paella with a clean dish towel.

Serve with lemon wedges.

NOTE:  Like I mentioned earlier, this recipe is perfect for modifying based on personal tastes.  I would love to use mussels but availability is an issue.  I may try this next with strictly seafood and substitute seafood broth for the chicken broth.  My husband likes foods kicked up and he added hot sauce to his.

 

 

 

 

Shrimp Scampi with Homemade Fettuccine

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Sunday my friend and I had a great time making homemade pasta together.  Tonight I used some of the pasta and made shrimp scampi for dinner.  Lots of garlic, oil and butter.  Probably not high on the healthy, low calorie meal pyramid.  Definitely not a dish I grew up eating.  As I think about it, I don’t recall ever eating shrimp or other shellfish as a child.  We ate a lot of fresh water fish but no shellfish or ocean fish except an occasional cod filet at a Friday fish fry.  I remember one time when my parents went out to dinner for what must have been a special occasion.  One of them had ordered lobster for dinner and they brought home the lobster shell to show us.  I remember being fascinated and a little repulsed and wondered how someone could possibly eat that creature!

Scampi is an easy dish to prepare and it doesn’t take a lot of time.  Even if you didn’t make your own pasta I hope you’ll try this.

Ingredients:

1 pound of uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup olive oil

5 T unsalted butter

4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

2 shallots finedly diced

juice and zest of one lemon

1/4 cup of minced parsley

1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)

red pepper flakes

salt to taste

pasta of your choosing

fresh grated asiago or parmesan cheese for serving

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This dish comes together pretty quickly so prepping all the ingredients before hand is important.  Press or mince the garlic and dice the shallots.

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Juice and zest the lemon.  Mince the parsley.

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Put a pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a boil for cooking your pasta.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer cook your shrimp.   Cook in batches to avoid crowding them in your pan.  Cook the shrimp until they start to turn pink, then turn them.  Once cooked, they only take a minute, set them aside on a plate.

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Add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flake to the oil.  Cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the white wine or broth.  Simmer for 2 minutes.

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Add the butter until it melts into the garlic and shallot oil.

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Once the butter has melted stir in the parsley, lemon juice and zest, and return the shrimp to the skillet.  Remove from the heat and set aside until the pasta has finished cooking.

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Cook the pasta until it is al dente.  Reserve some of the pasta water before draining in a colander.

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Return the pasta to the kettle or put it into a large serving bowl.  Add the shrimp scampi to the pasta and gently toss.  If additional liquid is necessary add in some of the reserved pasta water.  Serve immediately with some fresh grated cheese.

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Serve with a salad and a nice glass of wine.  If you’d prefer skip the pasta and serve the scampi with a baked potato and a vegetable.

NOTE:  I cooked the shrimp in a cast iron pan and there was a lot of oil splatter on my stove.  I’m not a big fan of cleaning greasy messes so next time I will do the scampi in my dutch oven.  A deeper dish will help to minimize the splatter.  It’s also important to pat the shrimp dry with paper towel before frying.

Vegetable and Shrimp Stir Fry

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If you love vegetables, stir fry is the perfect meal. You can use almost  any combination of vegetables you have on hand. I more often than not make stir fry without meat but tonight I added some pre-cooked shrimp. You can also use left over chicken, beef or pork. But the stars of this dish, for me, are the vegetables. There really is no right or wrong combination of ingredients but this is what I used tonight.

Vegetables:

Baby bok choy

Celery

Carrots

Mushrooms

Onion

Red bell pepper

Snow peas

Canola oil and toasted sesame oil

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Sauce Ingredients:

6 T water

3 T catsup

2 T soy sauce

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp grated garlic

2 tsp honey

1 T cider or rice vinegar

1 T cornstarch

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Cut up all of the vegetables into bite size pieces.

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Heat a tablespoon of canola oil in your wok until it’s very hot. Add the vegetables and drizzle with a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil.

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Cook the vegetables until tender crisp stirring frequently. Be careful not to overcook them.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. With a microplane grate the ginger and garlic.

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Whisk in the water, catsup, soy sauce, honey, and corn starch.

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Add the shrimp to the wok with the vegetables. They’re already cooked so they just need to be heated.

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Add the sauce, stir and cook over high heat until it thickens a bit. Serve over rice and enjoy!

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Stir fry. It’s what was for dinner tonight.

NOTE:  Shredded green cabbage, summer squash, broccoli, green onions, green beans, baby corn, water chestnuts. Any of these vegetables are great for stir fry.

Jambalaya

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Mardi Gras a little early. We should have worn our beads at dinner.

The organic farm I get my meat from makes a great andouille and I had some in my freezer. While I’m not a huge fan of highly spiced foods my husband loves the heat. I decided to use my andouille and some shrimp I also had in the freezer and make a jambalaya.   Cooking for me is almost always about improvising…putting my own spin on things. Improvising also becomes a necessity when you don’t have all the ingredients a recipe calls for and the grocery is a 30 minute drive.

Ingredients:

3 T olive or canola oil (divided)

4 links of andouille sausage

2 doz shrimp with tails

1 large onion rough chopped

1 orange sweet pepper rough chopped

3 stalks of celery rough chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic sliced

1 pint stewed tomatoes

8 oz bottle clam juice

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup flour

2 T franks hot sauce

1 14 oz can red beans

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Spice Mix:

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

salt to taste

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In a large heavy skillet heat 1 T of the oil over medium high heat.  Slice the sausage and sear both sides.

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Once the sausage has been seared on both sides put on a plate and set aside.  Put broth, clam juice and tomatoes in a saucepan and heat.  Add remaining oil to the skillet with the pan drippings and heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Continue whisking over medium heat until the roux turns a golden brown taking care not to burn. Whisk about 10 minutes.

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Add the celery, onion and pepper to the roux and continue stirring over medium heat.

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Slowly pour in the sauce pan of clam juice, tomatoes and broth continually stirring until gravy begins to thicken. Stir in the spice mixture and salt to taste. Add the andouille and red beans and simmer uncovered over low heat for about 15 minutes.

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Add the shrimp and simmer for a couple of minutes until the shrimp is heated through.  I used pre-cooked shrimp. Uncooked shrimp will require a couple more minutes to cook through.

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Ladle your jambalaya into bowls and top with rice. Garnish with fresh parsley or sliced green onions and enjoy!

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For those that want additional heat put the Franks or Tabasco on the table. But this had plenty of kick for me.  Tasted really great with a nice cold beer.

NOTE:  I used long grain rice and cooked it in chicken broth for a little extra flavor.