Thursday, January 29, 2009

Garlic-Lime Shrimp with Barefoot Contessa's Creamy Cheddar Grits

As a Canadian, my knowledge of Southern food is pretty much non-existent. Pimiento - what? Grits - huh? But when I saw Bobby Flay and his wife make jalapeno cheddar grits on Boy Meets Grill, I knew I had to try the tasty-looking side dish (or, apparently, breakfast) with a slightly less appetizing name.

As far as I've seen, grits aren't sold in Canada. So on my last cross-border trip, I went to Meijer and bought myself a canister. And now, I'm so happy that I did.

Grits are kind of like the Southern version of polenta. They're made from hominy, which is made of dried corn kernels (minus the germ and and hull). You make grits on the stovetop, usually with the addition of water and the help of a bit of stirring - much less stirring than is required for polenta, in fact.

Ina Garten's Creamy Cheddar Grits from Back to Basics inspired me to finally cook some of the grits that had been sitting in my cupboard. The grits are cooked with some water, cream, and butter, and cheddar and green onions are added after the grits are finished cooking. The green onions are essential - they add so much flavour to this dish.

I knew as soon as I saw the recipe that I wanted to serve it with shrimp, so my boyfriend and I came up with this recipe for garlic-lime shrimp. It was the perfect combination. The shrimp cooks up quickly, in the last 10 minutes of the grits' cook time, which means it's easy to time things properly and you can serve both elements of the meal piping hot.

Keep reading for the recipe for both.

Garlic-Lime Shrimp
Serves 2 (multiply accordingly)
2o small raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on or off, depending on your preferences)
Lime juice
Olive Oil
1 tbsp. garlic
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper

Marinate shrimp with 2 tsp. lime juice, a sprinkle of salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (add cayenne according to how spicy you like your food) for 30 mins. If making shrimp with the grits, you can begin to marinate it after the grits have already started cooking.

Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a medium frying pan. Add 1 tbsp. minced garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, just until softened. Add shrimp to frying pan, followed by another splash of lime juice. Cook until shrimp turns pink. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Creamy Cheddar Grits
Serves 6 as a side dish
Slighty adapted from Back to Basics

2 tsp. salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits (not instant)
1 1/4 cups half and half
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1.5 cups old Cheddar cheese, grated
4 stalks of green onion, chopped (we left the white parts out although Ina Garten says to use them)
Black pepper to taste

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt, then slowly add the grits in a thin steady stream. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until grits thicken, 5-7 minutes.

Add the half and half and butter to the grits and stir. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes, until very smooth and creamy. Off the heat, stir in the cheddar cheese, green onions, and pepper. Season to taste and serve hot.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection, chosen by Heather of Sherry Trifle, is Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread. The making of this cake was, for my boyfriend and I, like a comedy of errors. It all seemed to be going so well until we put the cake in the oven.

Every week at the Tuesdays With Dorie site, a post called "P&Q" goes up that allows the members to discuss any issues they have with the week's recipe. Normally, I look at P&Q before I bake. This time, it slipped my mind until the cake had been in the oven for 5 minutes.

It was a bad week to forget - one member discovered that Dorie herself had a tip for this recipe. Apparently, modern 9"x9" pans are anything but - they're 8"x8". You can imagine the batter-covered mess overfilling your pan would make of your oven. I yanked the gingerbread out of the oven while my boyfriend whipped out the measuring tape. Sure enough, my pan was just 8"x8". We scooped out a good 1.5 cups of batter, threw it out (*tear*), and stuck the pan back in the oven. The lovely-scented batter looked so sad in the garbage, but we couldn't be bothered to make cupcakes.

Mini-crisis averted. On to the next one. After the gingerbread finished baking, I took it out and placed it, pan and all, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. A bit of back story: my boyfriend (who is featuring so prominently in this post) is not known for patience when it comes to my baking. Steaming hot cookies? He'll pop them in his mouth as soon as they're out of the oven. He might burn his mouth, but to him, it's always worth it. My suggestions to wait a few minutes always go unheeded. This time was no different. I was on the computer, waiting for the cake to properly cool, when I heard him tentatively say from the kitchen, "Honey, can you come here?" And this is what I saw:

Oh, dear. I'm not sure if the issue was an insufficiently greased pan, an overeager boyfriend, or a delicate bread, but I do know that it didn't make much of a difference to the overall product. And that lopsided gingerbread was pretty funny to look at.

So, about the gingerbread: I used only half of the fresh ginger quantity given (1 tbsp. to the recommended 2 tbsp.) and used semi-sweet chocolate chips in place of bittersweet chocolate. There was a lot of molasses in this recipe and that made for a very strong-flavoured gingerbread. I didn't really notice the fresh ginger, but I'm sure the fact that I halved it had something to do with it.

Overall, I did enjoy this recipe - as did my charmingly impatient boyfriend - but I don't know if I would make it again, at least not just for the two of us. Since it does have such a strong flavour, one small slice per person does the trick. So really, this might be the perfect thing for putting out during the holidays on a tray of sweets, but not well-suited to being eaten in mass quantities for just a few days. Dorie says it freezes well, though, so that's another option to consider - freeze half for later so you don't over-do it.

Thanks for your choice, Heather! You can visit her blog for the recipe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barefoot Contessa's Scrambled Eggs with Truffles

Ever since my boyfriend brought me back truffles from his trip to Italy, I've been looking for new ways to use them. Luckily, one of my Christmas gifts yielded a new and wonderful recipe that calls for truffles.

I was lucky enough to receive two Barefoot Contessa cookbooks for Christmas - Barefoot in Paris and Back to Basics, her latest. I've been thoroughly enjoying them, making a ton of recipes from both books. (Sidenote: Ina Garten is just so great. She and Dorie Greenspan are tied for my all-time favourite kitchen goddesses - they can do anything in the kitchen and almost everything they make looks so good!)

Barefoot in Paris includes a recipe for Scrambled Eggs with Truffles, which I found to be a perfect application for truffles. More than that, it showed me a new way to make scrambled eggs. The eggs are combined with half and half cream and slow-cooked over a water bath. Typically, when making scrambled eggs, I combine eggs with a bit of milk and butter. Ina Garten's got a passion for butter, cream, and big portions, though, so I wasn't surprised that this recipe called for 16 eggs and 1 cup of cream - and that's to serve only 4 people.

These eggs are very smooth and creamy, and would work very well without the truffles - the truffles give just a hint of flavour as-is. I also think these would be fantastic with a bit of fresh herbs - thyme or chives sound particularly tempting. Give them a shot, with or without truffles. Read on for the recipe.

Scrambled Eggs with Truffles
Serves 4 to 5

1 black truffle
16 extra large eggs
1 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4-5 slices toast

Beat eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper together in a heat-proof glass bowl until combined but not frothy. Shave the truffle into the egg mixture with a truffle shaver or mandoline. If you have time, cover with plastic wrap and sit in fridge for few hours.

When ready to serve, set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook over the water, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the eggs are thick and custardy. The spoon will stand up in the middle of the eggs when they are properly cooked. This will take about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately.

Place one slice of toast on each place and serve with the cooked eggs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Individual Brown Sugar Brie Baked in Phyllo Dough

There's an appetizer that my second cousin has made for our Boxing Day family reunion every year for almost a decade. It's sweet, rich, and once I have a bite, I won't stop nibbling at it until I'm full: baked brie. Brie and this dish are synonymous in my head, and I've never bought brie before without the intention to make baked brie. Since, after making this, I still have two-thirds of a wheel of brie in my fridge, I might have to come up with alternate uses for it. But this recipe is so good, I won't be surprised if I make it one more time this week.

It's very simple: brown sugar is mixed with a small amount of butter or margarine and packed on top of a wheel of brie. The cheese is then wrapped in butter-brushed phyllo dough and baked until the dough is crispy and the cheese is hot, oozing, and totally irresistible.

This version of the recipe makes a generous portion "for one," but it would also work as an appetizer for two. If you're looking to make a full wheel, adjust the ingredient amounts called for to suit (you'll need to at least double, possibly triple the phyllo dough, for example).

Individual Brown Sugar Brie Baked in Phyllo Dough
130g of brie (1/3 of a small 300g wheel)
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1.5 tbsp butter, melted
3 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 tsp butter or margarine
thinly sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide your 300g wheel of brie into thirds. Wrap 2/3 of the cheese with Saran wrap and put back in the fridge. Slice the top rind off of the remaining 1/3.

Next, place the 3 thawed phyllo sheets directly on top of each other. Brush the top sheet with melted butter, and place the wedge of brie on top of it. Mix together the brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. of butter or margarine and pack on top of brie.

Wrap the top sheet of phyllo dough around the wedge of brie until it's covered. There will be excess dough (i.e. dough that extends several inches beyond the cheese when it's folded over) - trim the excess with kitchen shears. Flip the "package" of brie over in order to keep the level of phyllo dough surrounding the brie fairly even. Repeat for the remaining two sheets of phyllo dough.

Place the brie in a casserole dish or on a baking sheet, baking for 30 minutes or until the phyllo dough is golden. Let rest for a few minutes. Serve with Ritz crackers or baguette slices.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Red Wine and Garlic

Over the holidays, my boyfriend and I made a roast for his family and some family friends. While the word "holidays" might imply that we had ample time to sit around and leisurely cook, with all of the family gatherings and catch-ups with friends (we had seven Christmas gatherings alone including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day) there really wasn't that much time. I have a feeling we're not alone in that - holidays are lovely but they can definitely be hectic and even stressful.

We were gone all day before dinner, so the only logical solution seemed to be taking care of the prep in the morning and letting the slow cooker take care of the rest. Wise choice.

This roast contains a few simple ingredients, but the end result is so flavourful. The star of the show is really the red wine, which infuses so much flavour into the meat. The juices and red wine are also the perfect base for a tasty gravy - my boyfriend's mom took care of the gravy, so I don't have the recipe, but your typical gravy method will do just fine. Just substitute the plentiful red wine and roast juices for pan drippings and thicken as required. Meanwhile, the slow cooker ensures that the meat stays perfectly tender.

All in all, this is our new go-to recipe, and it's composed of ingredients you'll likely have on hand anyway. Read on for the recipe.

Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Red Wine and Garlic
Serves 8 with plentiful leftovers

One 5 lb. beef roast (for smaller roast, adjust other ingredients' quantities accordingly)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-size portions
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-size portions
2/3 of a 750mL bottle of dry red wine
1 cup beef broth (we used bouillon)
1 tbsp. garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Medium or large slow cooker (size and shape dependent on the size of your roast - we used a large oval)

Arrange the chopped carrots and potatoes in the bottom of your slow cooker's crock.

Next, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan large enough to accommodate your roast. Meanwhile, after removing any excess fat from the roast, sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the roast pressing it in so that it sticks to the meat. Once the oil is hot enough, place your roast in the pan and cook just until the surface is browned, rotating the roast as necessary.

Place roast in slow cooker (on top of potatoes and carrots). Pour red wine and beef stock into the crock, then add garlic. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper in next (you can adjust the seasoning at the end, so don't go overboard). Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Alternatively, cook it on high for the first hour and then adjust heat to low - it will cook for approximately 6-8 hours total if so, depending on your desired doneness. The roast in the above picture was cooked using this "high-low" method and took 6 hours total.

When sufficiently cooked, remove roast to a cutting board or serving platter and slice. Remove the cooked potatoes and carrots from the bottom of the crock and place in a serving bowl (side note: these taste awesome!).

Thicken the juices leftover in the crock using your typical gravy method. My boyfriend's mother used Bisto (a gravy thickener); alternatively you could create a roux with equal parts of flour and butter and whisk in the juices, stirring until thickened. Ideally, serve the roast with mashed potatoes, as well as the cooked carrots and potatoes. A glass of red wine tastes great with this meal, for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

For the past year, Tuesdays With Dorie members have been creating sugary wonders out of the baking bible that is Baking: From My Home to Yours. I've been along for the ride for the past six months. With few exceptions, the desserts have been some of the best I've ever had - lemony blueberry pie, granola cookies that make you wonder what you ever saw in oatmeal cookies, chocolate cookies that I still crave whenever I buy milk chocolate (really).

And while my sweet tooth is in no danger of fading away any time soon, I was still so excited to read that Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake chose a savoury recipe - Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins, to be exact. I goofed a bit on the ingredients for this one. I normally buy corn meal in bulk, and last week, I bought it from a typical grocery store for the first time. I ended up buying cornmeal labelled "pre-cooked" because I didn't think it would make a difference - I didn't realize that there were even different types of cornmeal - but it did.

Instead of the stone-ground variety that Dorie recommended, I ended up with a cornmeal so fine it was like flour. So my corn bread batter was more like corn bread dough, and that made for a pretty dense finished product.

Still, the flavour in these muffins is wonderful! I've never tasted a corn bread so complex before, with its chili powder and pepper. I omitted the jalapeno pepper and red pepper in favour of minced chipotle peppers, and the smoky chipotle added a lot of spicy flavour to the finished product. I would also omit the corn next time, since I found it more distracting than delicious.

This recipe is definitely worth making, although I need to buy some proper cornmeal next time. If you're looking for a corn bread with a lot of personality, I recommend heading over to Rebecca's blog for the recipe.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Martha Stewart's Dulce de Leche (Bat) Cookies

Chocolate and caramel has got to be one of the most sinful flavour combinations around. Whenever I eat it, it reminds me of making ice cream sundaes at parties as a child. When kids make sundaes, they usually do it with vigour. Bubble gum, sprinkles, oreo crumbs, marshmallows, strawberry sauce, caramel or chocolate syrup - whatever you put in front of them, it's probably going on the ice cream.

And while I doubt I'll ever make a strawberry-bubble gum-oreo-marshmallow cookie, a chocolate and caramel cookie? Yes, please.

In this case, two chocolate cookies sandwich a healthy dollop of dulce de leche, a type of caramel made by boiling down sweetened condensed milk. In Canada, you can find it for $3 a jar. Not too shabby for something that tastes so decadent.

It's a Martha Stewart recipe, although I own no aspic cutter to make cute bats on the front as the recipe calls for. Still, you'll definitely want to try these if you can get your hands on some dulce de leche. Keep reading for the recipe.

Dulce de Leche Bat Cookies
Via Martha Stewart's Cookies
Yields 18

3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dulce de leche

1. Whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg, yolk, chocolate, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 1 hour.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 36 rounds with a 2-inch cutter, and space 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Using an aspic cutter set, cut a triangle, point side up, in the center of half the cookies, and then use the half-moon cutter to make one "wing" on each side of the triangle. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375. Bake until set, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool. Top each uncut cookie with 1 teaspoon dulce de leche and a cutout cookie.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Anna Olson's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm back! I hope you all had a great holiday season and managed to take some time off of work and enjoy what really matters. I spent my two weeks of vacation soaking up time with my friends and family. I also finally bought a DSLR camera, a Canon Rebel XS, and I'm so excited to take food photos with it now that I'm back at my house. Feel free to make fun of my learning curve, I swear I won't mind.

While I was in my hometown, I stayed with my boyfriend's parents, and his mother was kind enough to let me take over her kitchen to bake these chewy chocolate chip cookies, among many others.

I'll miss the natural light in her kitchen, since my basement apartment has just one small window. So long, perfectly lit photos! But it's good to be back in my familiar kitchen, too.

While I like to try new versions of chocolate chip cookies - and there are enough out there that it's nearly impossible to run out of options - I keep coming back to this recipe from Anna Olson. The "secret ingredient" is corn starch, to which Anna credits these cookies' chewy texture.

I don't know if the corn starch is the reason, but these cookies are chewy and very, very tasty. Especially if you add an extra splash of vanilla. I promise they won't stick around for very long, which may not be such a good thing after all of those holiday indulgences. Keep reading for the recipe.

Anna Olson's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted slightly from Sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3-4 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cream together butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
3. Stir in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chunks.
4. Drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Let rest on cookie sheet for 2 or 3 minutes, until firm enough to not fall apart. Move cookies to a cooling rack and let cool slightly.

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