Friday, January 29, 2010

Shrimp and Grit Cakes

Almost of all my memories revolve around food. Sometimes I think it's sad but then most of the memories are good ones, so why worry that there is food involved. Making this shrimp recipe reminded me of a great memory.

I made these shrimp using a recipe from the Frugal Gourmet. I was looking through old cookbooks and found a card marking the recipe for New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp. I started thinking about when I'd made the dish. It was the first thing I ever cooked for my then boyfriend, now husband. We hadn't be dating too long and I was looking to impress him. It must have worked because it was nineteen years ago and I've been cooking for him ever since.

I decided we would have this with grits to make the most of the sauce made with the shrimp. I wanted something a little different than regular grits so I decided to make grit cakes. I let the grits set up, sliced it into squares and pan fried it in a little butter so the sides would be crispy. The crispy outside and the creamy middle was great for soaking up the sauce. It was great with the shrimp and sauce.

New Orleans Barbequed Shrimp

3 slices bacon, cubed, fried until clear.
2 cubes margarine
2 tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
1 2 tsp. chili powder
3 tsp. basil
3 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. course black pepper
2 tsp. oregano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 heaping tbsp. shrimp and crab boil ( available in most supermarkets and any fish market)
Tabasco sauce to taste
2 lbs. large shrimp, with shells

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fry bacon until clear, add margarine and melt with bacon, grease and all. (Can't you just feel those heart valves clogging up already?) Add all the spices. Pour this mixture over the shrimp and place in oven for about 5 minutes. This is excellent served with warm French bread and white wine. Be sure to have plenty of napkins available. Shelling the shrimp is messy but part of the fun.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chicken and Butternut Squash Chowder

This recipe is an oldie but goodie around here. I've been making it since Fall of 2003 when it was first published in Bon Appetit. It is perfect for a cold fall or winter day. The flavors of the squash, the bacon, the cilantro all combine to make a bowl of deliciousness.

I remember the first time I made this chowder. I was so excited to make it because it sounded tasty so I picked up all the ingredients and got started. Peeling the butternut squash was (and is) a pain. I didn't let it beat me and I started assembling the chowder in my pot. Only at the time the largest pot I had was not big enough! I had to stop in the middle of making the chowder and run to Target for a bigger pot! These days I have several large pots, including the stock pot I had to buy on that first chowder making day. So if you give it a try (and you should!) make sure you have a large pot. It makes a lot but it reheats really well.

Yield: Makes 10 servings
10 bacon slices, chopped

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 medium onions, chopped
2 cups chopped red bell peppers (about 2 large)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
9 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (cut from one 1 3/4-pound squash)
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 16-ounce bags frozen corn kernels
1 cup whipping cream
4 cups diced skinned roast chicken
2 cups chopped green onions
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Cook bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup drippings from pot. Add butter to pot; melt over medium-high heat. Add onions and 1 cup bell peppers. Sauté until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Mix in broth, then squash, potatoes, and thyme; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until squash and potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Add corn, cream, and 1 cup bell peppers. Simmer until corn is tender, about 10 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring to simmer before continuing.) Add chicken, 1 cup green onions, and 1/2 cup cilantro; simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle chowder into bowls; sprinkle with remaining 1 cup green onions and 2 tablespoons cilantro and bacon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Dark. Rich. Intense. I'm not talking about the newest hunk in Hollywood but this delicious cake.

I made this cake for my mom's birthday. When I asked her what kind of cake she wanted all she said was chocolate.

I asked her this same question last year and she gave me the same answer. Last year's birthday cake was a Chocolate Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

This recipe came from America's Test Kitchen. I had to make a couple of changes because I live in Podunkville, USA. I could not find any bittersweet chocolate anywhere so I had to use semi sweet. There was no espresso powder anywhere to be found in the local area so I had to use regular instant coffee. It did not matter. It was still wonderful. Everyone loved it.

It is a lot of steps but don't let it scare you. If you bake regularly, you'll find the steps simple. It only looks hard but really it is not.

Serves 12 to 16. Published November 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.


Bottom Layer
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine (see note)
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs , separated
Pinch table salt
1/3 cup packed (about 2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar , crumbled with fingers to remove lumps

Middle Layer

2 tablespoons cocoa powder , preferably Dutch-processed
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine (see note)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt

Top Layer

3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces white chocolate chips (see note)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for serving, optional (see note)


1. FOR THE BOTTOM LAYER: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 91/2-inch springform pan. Melt butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool mixture slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks; set aside.

2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down sides halfway through. Using whisk, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer batter to prepared springform pan, gently smoothing top with offset spatula.

3. Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft (center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (Cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove cake from pan.

4. FOR THE MIDDLE LAYER: Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

5. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

6. Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.

7. FOR THE TOP LAYER: In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Bring ½ cup cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly).

8. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip remaining cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon white chocolate mousse into pan over middle layer. Smooth top with offset spatula. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.

9. TO SERVE: If using, garnish top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa. Run thin knife between cake and side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Run cleaned knife along outside of cake to smooth sides. Cut into slices and serve.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, Renewed Blog: Cheesecake!

A perfect cheesecake. No cracks, lightly browned, creamy and delicious. I use a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Ina has never let me down. I received so many compliments on this cheesecake. It is my go to recipe; the only cheesecake recipe I ever make.


For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

The recipe online has a raspberry topping but since it was Christmas, I made a cranberry topping. I kept it on the side because I knew some of the people in the family would not want it. I boiled a bag of fresh cranberries with 1/2 cup cranberry juice and 1/2 cup of sugar. The tartness was perfect against the richness of the cheesecake.

Now I have to remember how well loved this cheesecake is and make it more often.