Sunday, May 24, 2015

Little Shrimp Casseroles For a Sweet Friend

My sweet friend Deb, at Kahakai Kitchen, lost her mom recently. Deb and I have shared so much over the years and I'm so happy to have her in my life. My heart goes out to her and her family. As a passionate cook I like to show my love and support by making food. Since Deb lives in Hawaii and I'm in Kentucky that is not possible. Instead, I am dedicating this dish to her. 

Deb shared a special memory, and picture, of her mom last week. In the picture her mom was eating a lovely shrimp plate. Deb said that her mom would want her to mention that she "usually doesn't eat this much." Then Deb says her mom would say she couldn't finish it, but then she did. Deb said she chose to remember her mom this way.

In honor of her memory, I decided to share these scrumptious Little Shrimp Casseroles.  A dainty and feminine casserole of shrimp with the classic flavors of butter and garlic topped off by crispy golden breadcrumbs. Little enough to eat one, or even two!

Love and hugs to you, Deb!

Little Shrimp Casseroles
Adapted from Fast Food My Way
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup coarsely chopped button mushrooms*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound large shrimp, shelled
1cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth

Note: I omitted the mushrooms simply because I didn't have them on hand.

Mix the butter in a large bowl with the garlic, scallions, mushrooms, salt, pepper,and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shrimp and toss to mix well. Divide the mixture among four individual gratin dishes with about 1-cup capacity,or spoon into one large gratin or shallow baking dish.

In another bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, so that they are lightly coated but still fluffy. Sprinkle the crumbs over the shrimp mixture and pour the wine on top.

Almost 30 minutes before serving time, heat the oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is ready, place the gratin dishes or dish on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned and the shrimp are just cooked through. Serve immediately.

Theme: In Honor Of Deb

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Crab Cakes In Red Sauce

Once again it's time for our Mystery Box Madness over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. This time around our list of mystery box ingredients were: Brie, Crab, Chives, Pecans, Strawberries, Vanilla, Breadcrumbs, Green Beans, Vinegar, and Puff Pastry. We are to chose three ingredients from the list and cook a recipe from one of these chefs: Nigella Lawson, Mark Bittman, Giada De Laurentiis, Jamie Oliver, Tessa Kiros, Rick Bayless, Madjur Jaffrey, Yotam Ottolenghi, Donna Hay, Nigel Slater, Diana Henry, and Jacques Pépin.

I chose to cook with Pépin simply because I'm currently crushing on his recipes in a major way. After months of being in a cooking rut I'm happy to say that Pépin's recipes are so exquisite that I've been rejuvenated. My cooking mojo has returned and it's about time! I can't wait to get in the kitchen and cook his recipes each week.

I always jump at a chance to eat crab so I knew I was choosing crab as my first ingredient. When I found this recipe for Crab Cakes in Red Sauce from Pépin's Fast Food My Way book I was delighted to see the recipe called for both breadcrumbs and chives, the two final ingredients needed for the mystery box challenge.

These crab cakes were crazy insane delicious. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, just the right amount of seasoning to bring out the flavor of the crab without overpowering, and the red sauce...well, it was a divide combination of tangy creamy deliciousness.  That sauce was a very welcome break from tartar sauce or remoulade.  A unique and delicious way to serve crab cakes. Will be making this recipe again. Soon.

Crab Cakes In Red Sauce
Adapted from Fast Food My Way
by Jacques Pépin
Serves 4

Crab Cakes
1 (8-ounce) pkg fresh crabmeat, drained and picked clean of shell
1-1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs (from about 2 slices white bread)
2 tablespoons minced scallion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons canola oil

Red Sauce
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

Put the crabmeat in a bowl and add 2/3 cup of the breadcrumbs, scallion, cilantro, garlic, mayonnaise, Tabasco, and salt. Mix lightly, just until the ingredients are well combined.

Put the remaining breadcrumbs in a food processor with the almonds and process until the nuts are well chopped and combined with the bread.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Form the crab mixture into 4 patties, then dip each patty into the crumb mixture until it is coated on all sides.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and arrange the patties next to one another in the pan, handling them gently because they are soft. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side.  Keep warm in the oven.

Meanwhile for the sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.

At serving time: divide the sauce among four plates.  Place a patty in the center of the sauce on each plate, sprinkle some chives on the sauce, and serve immediately.

Theme: Mystery Box Madness: May!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Eggs Jeannette

Jacques Pépin's Eggs Jeanette is a fresh and original take on eggs for me. Eggs are hard-boiled and the yolks scooped out.  The egg yolks are then mixed with a touch of milk, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper. The eggs are then stuffed, much like a deviled egg, but instead of being overstuffed the eggs are simply filled and leveled off with the mixture. Then guess what...the eggs laid yolk-side down are browned in a skillet with a touch of oil.  It's kinda like crispy deviled eggs, except for the fun doesn't stop there!

Let's talk about this dressing. It's creamy and tangy and zippy and zesty and I just want to put it on pretty much everything!  It's a combination of some of the reserved egg yolk mixture, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and oil and it's literally heaven. It's pretty much an egg yolk vinaigrette and it's unlike any dressing I've had before. A whole new world people. A whole new world.

I served the eggs over baby spinach as a first course and we pretty much inhaled it. Three people vs. 12 Eggs Jeannette.  It wasn't pretty!  If you're looking for a fresh, fun, unique way to serve eggs then this is it!

Eggs Jeannette
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pépin
Serves 6

For The Eggs
6 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons milk
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil

About 2 tablespoons reserved egg yolk mixture (from above)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
pinch of salt
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For The Eggs: Cut the eggs crosswise in half at the widest point. Remove the yolks and push them through a foodmill fitted with a fine screen into a bowl.  (If you do not have a food mill, mash the yolks with a fork.) Mix the egg yolks with the milk, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper; the mixture should be moist and hold together. Stuff the whites with the yolk mixture, reserving approximately 2 tablespoons for the dressing. (The egg yolk mixture adds texture to the dressing).

Heat the oil in a large skillet, preferably non-stick. When the oil is hot, add the egg halves, stuffed side down, and fry over medium heat for about 2 minutes; they will brown beautifully. (Do not cook the white side.) Remove the eggs from the skillet and arrange them on a platter or in a gratin dish. 

For The Dressing:  Put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the oil.  Pour the dressing on top of and around the eggs and serve.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Trio of Spring Vegetable Side Dishes

This week I wanted to focus on adding more veggies to my diet so I looked for unique ways to serve my favorite seasonal veggies.  Fresh baby carrots were coated in a delectable butter glaze with bits of garlic and parsley, peas were braised in a rich and luxurious egg yolk and cream sauce, and artichokes hearts were given the royal treatment with a pinch of saffron.

Each side added a fun and inviting touch to our meals throughout the week. The Butter-Glazed Carrots added a gorgeous pop of color and flavor served next to some quinoa crusted fish and brown rice; Braised Peas with Egg Yolks was all sorts of yummy deliciousness next to a few ham slices; and the Saffron Artichoke Hearts are served cold, making them the perfect snack, but also a great accompaniment to the sandwiches in my lunchbox throughout the week! 

With such flavorful veggie options readily available I found myself (and my family) eating a lot more veggies.  No more boring buttered peas or plain mashed potatoes. Time to add some excitement to those veggies!

 Butter-Glazed Carrots
Adapted from Essential Pepin
Serves 6

1 pound of baby carrots (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped

Combine the carrots, butter, sugar, salt and water in a pot, bring to a boil, covered, for 10 minutes.  Uncover and boil for another 5 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are just moist. Sprinkle with the parsley and garlic and serve.

Braised Green Peas with Egg Yolks
Adapted from Essential Pepin
Serves 6

3 cups small fresh peas or frozen peas
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large egg yolks, well beaten
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Combine the peas, butter, water, sugar, parsley, salt and pepper in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil generously for 3 to 4 minutes if using frozen peas, until the peas are tender to the bite.

Mix the yolks and cream together. Gradually stir the mixture into the peas and cook over ow heat, stirring constantly, for a few seconds, until the sauce has thickened; do not allow it to boil.

Saffron Artichoke Hearts
Adapted from Essential Pepin
Serves 6

6 medium artichokes or 1 bag frozen artichoke hearts
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

Combine all the ingredients in a stainless steel pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the artichoke hearts are tender.  Transfer the artichokes to a bowl and let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a week. Serve cold.
Theme: April Potluck!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is the ultimate in classic French desserts.  Smooth creamy custard topped off with that crackly caramelized sugar...C'est Magnifique!  Light and luscious, it's the perfect way to end just about any meal.

Jacques' recipe is simple and straightforward. The custard, which we all know can be difficult, came together perfectly and was hands down the easiest and best custard I've ever made.  I poured the beautiful custard into my ramekins with great satisfaction and baked the custards in a water bath as directed. Jacques said to check the water bath to ensure the water didn't come to a boil. I checked ten minutes into baking and the water was still warm and not boiling. I felt 100% sure my crème brûlée was going to be perfect! However, I checked back a few minutes later and the water was boiling! "No, no, no"  I scream to myself as I throw ice cubes into the pan frantically. The water stopped boiling immediately but by that time I was feeling rather deflated. I carefully watched the water from that point on and allowed the crème brûlée to finish it's cooking time.

The crème brûlée was still delicious but since the water bath came to a boil for a few minutes they didn't have that smooth silky texture I was after.  I'm actually quite happy the crème brûlée turned out at all considering my faux pas.  Moral of the story: When making crème brûlée start with cool water and occasionally throw in ice cubes to lower the temp of the water bath. No matter how much time you spend in the kitchen you always learn new tricks and that is part of the fun. Looking forward to trying this one again so I can master it!
Crème Brûlée
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 6

1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the milk and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 5 minutes.

Beat the egg and egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl and add the cream. Add the steeped milk mixture, stirring well to mix thoroughly.  Strain through a fine strainer. 

Arrange six 1/2-cup souffle dishes or ramekins in a roasting pan and fill them with the crème brûlée mixture. Add enough lukewarm water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crème is set. (The water around the dishes should not boil; if it begins to boil, add some ice to lower the temperature and stop the boiling.)  Remove the custards from the water bath and let cool.  When the custards are cool, cover and refrigerate until cold.  You can make the custards up to 3 days ahead.
 At serving time, or no more than 1 hour beforehand, preheat the broiler.  This can also be done with a propane torch. Spread 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar evenly over the top of each custard. Place the custards under the broiler and broil, moving them around and watching them closely, until the sugar bubbles and turns uniformly brown, approximately 3 minutes.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes, until the sugar surface hardens, before serving.
Theme: C'est Magnifique!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jacques Pepin's Coquilles St. Jacques

I'm fairly certain there are no words, or pictures, that are good enough to describe how magnificent Pepin's Coquilles St. Jacques were. This classical French recipe exceeded our expectations. It's fair to say it blew our minds!

Don't make the same mistake as me and wait too long to make this one.  Add it to the top of your list, move it to the top of your list, or do whatever you gotta do...but make this and make this soon!

Coquilles St. Jacques, or gratin of scallops, is fit for royalty! It's very impressive on the plate and oh so heavenly. It all begins with a mushroom puree that cooks down for 25 minutes resulting in a very earthy and concentrated mushroom flavor. This mushroom base is the first layer of flavor and this layer is so flavorful you need little seasoning elsewhere. Next up is a beautifully seasoned poaching liquid whereby the scallops are poached until perfectly tender. This poaching liquid is then reduced and added to a velvety cream and Gruyere cheese sauce that is the stuff of dreams. Seriously.  Layer this heavenly sauce over the scallops and broil until browned and bubbly for a sensational first course, or even main course, fit for entertaining royalty.

This is my selection for this months Mystery Box Madness over at IHCC. We were given a list of ten ingredients (Scallops, Tarragon, Sour Cream, Walnuts, Capers, Asparagus, White Beans, Gruyere, Yeast, and Rice) to cook with and had to chose at least three. I chose scallops, tarragon, and Gruyere simply because I have little experience cooking with scallops and I'm so happy I chose to make Pepin's Coquilles St. Jacques. It's one of our new favorite dishes!

Coquilles St. Jacques
Recipe found on Saveur
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 6

 8 oz. button mushrooms, minced
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
2 tbsp. minced parsley
1 tbsp. minced tarragon, plus 6 whole leaves, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
6 large sea scallops
2 tbsp. flour
½ cup heavy cream
⅔ cup grated Gruyère
½ tsp. fresh lemon juice

Heat mushrooms, 4 tbsp. butter, and ⅔ of the shallots in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 25 minutes. Stir parsley and minced tarragon into mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture among 6 cleaned scallop shells or shallow gratin dishes. Bring remaining shallots, vermouth, bay leaf, salt, and ¾ cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Remove scallops; place each over mushrooms in shells. Continue boiling cooking liquid until reduced to ½ cup, about 10 minutes; strain. Heat broiler to high. Heat remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add reduced cooking liquid and cream; cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add cheese, juice, salt, and pepper; divide the sauce over scallops. Broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes; garnish each with a tarragon leaf.
Theme: April Mystery Box Madness

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jacques Pepin's Pasta & Ham Gratin

This glorious gratin is a fantastic way to use up that leftover ham from Easter.  A comforting combination of pasta, ham, peas, and Gruyere cheese tossed in a creamy and smooth bechamel sauce then topped with a lots of Parmesan that gets all browned and crispy.  It's heavenly!

This is the first Jacques Pepin recipe that I've made and it was a smashing success! I'm really looking forward to cooking and exploring Pepin's recipes. He has a large variety of recipes from various cuisines around the world, but it's his traditional French recipes that really draw me in. Over the next six months I hope to get familiar with lots of classical French dishes, from Coquilles St. Jacques to Chocolate Mousse. Who knows, I may even try my hand at some homemade croissants!

Time to break out the butter and Champagne.

Pasta, Ham, and Veggie Gratin
Adapted from Fast Food My Way
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

Jacques says, "My mother loved gratins, and leftover meat and cold cuts always found their way into our pasta, usually along with zucchini or peas. I have made gratins for my family through the years."

About 1-3/4 cups pasta shells or penne
1-1/2 cups diced cooked ham
3/4 cup cooked corn kernels (1 ear of corn)*
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1-1/2 cups cubed  (1/2-inch) zucchini*
3/4 cup grated Swiss/Gruyere/Emmenthaler cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

White Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Note: I didn't have corn or zucchini so I opted to use only peas. Broccoli and/or Cauliflower would also be nice.

 Bring about 2 quarts salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the pasta, stir well, and return to a boil.  Boil, uncovered, until cooked but still slightly firm, or al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, cool under cold running water, then drain again. (You will have 3 cups.)

Put the cooked pasta in a large bowl and stir in the ham, corn, peas, zucchini, salt, pepper, and cheese.

For the white sauce:  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, and mix it in with a whisk. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with the whisk, especially at the edges of the saucepan. The sauce should thicken. Remove the pan from the heat, and mix in the cream. Let cool to lukewarm.

Heat the broiler.  Combine the sauce with the pasta mixture in the bowl and transfer to a gratin dish or shallow baking dish with about 6 cup capacity.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.

Broil about 4 inches from the heat source for 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly hot and the surface is lightly browned.  Serve immediately.

Make Ahead Instructions: The gratin can be made ahead, sprinkled with Parmesan, and kept, covered at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerated for up to a day before it is finished in the oven. If refrigerated, bring back to room temperature and bake on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes in a 425F oven until heated through and lightly browned on top. Do not try to keep the cooked gratin in a warm oven for more than 10 to 15 minutes, or the pasta will swell up in the liquid and become gooey.
I Heart Cooking Clubs
Theme: Bonjour Jacque Pepin