Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

This is an Ina Garten recipe--I've been wanting to try it for a long time. Basically, it's just a regular shrimp cocktail, but the shrimps are roasted instead of steamed. 
Tonight was the perfect night to try this recipe--I'd been at school late, tutoring kids for my final exam in the morning. It takes less than 15 minutes all together. 
This came out DELICIOUS. I made a pound and a half of shrimp, and Adam and I had it for dinner, rather than an appetizer. 
So easy, so yummy--make immediately! 
Ingredients! You probably have most in your fridge already. Not picture--Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce (I used Sriracha) 
For the shrimp:
2 pounds (12 to 15-count) shrimp
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
1/2 cup chili sauce (recommended: Heinz)
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Sriracha)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Or--buy cleaned, frozen shrimp and just rinse under cool water. 

Defrosted and rinsed shrimp. 
Toss shrimp in a bowl with butter, salt, and pepper. Spread on a roasting sheet in one layer.  Roast for 8 to10 minutes, just until pink and firm and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
Roasted shrimp! This pan has seen a lot of wear and tear. 
For the sauce, combine the chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Serve as a dip with the shrimp.

This is a SUPER easy weeknight dinner--pair with your favorite cheap white wine.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lamb Shanks with White Bean and Tomato Ragout

Braised lamb shank, bean and tomato ragout, garnished with some fresh mint. 
Absolutely fantastic.
Last month, Adam and I drove up to Vail for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday and our 3 month anniversary. We stayed at the hotel where we stayed for our wedding, the Vail Cascade. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and I ordered the pork shank with tomato and white bean ragout--it was unbelievably fabulous. The beans were silky and creamy and rich and the braised pork was just insane. One of the best things I've ordered in a restaurant in a really long time.
So I had to recreate it! Yesterday I went for a long run and worked out the recipe in my head. I used lamb shanks instead of pork shanks--I've never seen pork shanks for sale anywhere, and I had lamb shanks in the freezer. Plus, I had the last of the garden's tomatoes that needed to be used up. 
This recipe is a fair amount of work but so, so worth it. These were absolutely perfect.


For the shanks 
4 lamb shanks, about a pound each 
olive oil
3 shallots, diced
2 carrots, diced 
7 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 a bottle of red wine (no need to go fancy. I used the bottle that was on sale for $4.99 at Santa Fe liquors--our local shop specialized in $1 pocket shots and flavored blunts)
2 cups plus 1 cup chopped tomatoes 
2 sprigs rosemary 
2 bay leaves

For the beans 
1 bag of dried large lima beans 
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large white onion, chopped
1 slice smoked bacon 
2 bay leaves 

chopped mint
slices of lemon

What to do 

Start by soaking the beans. Cover the beans with cool water and set aside. 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 
Salt the shanks. 

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy pot with a lid. The burner should be on high. Brown the shanks thoroughly in the oil, about 5 minutes per side. Work in batches--the shanks should not be touching. Place shanks on a plate and and set aside. 
Lower heat to medium. Add the carrot and shallot to the leftover oil and rendered lamb fat. Saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for a minute more. 
Add the wine. Bring to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes until reduced by about a third. 
Add the 2 cups tomatoes and cook for another 4 minutes. 

Add the shanks back into the pot and nestle into the sauce. The sauce should just cover the lamb--if there isn't enough sauce, add some water or stock until shanks are barely covered. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook at 325 for two hours. 

Meanwhile, make the beans. 
Melt the butter in the bottom of a pot. Add the onions and garlic and a big dash of salt. Cook for a few minutes, then fill the pot with water. Add the slice of bacon (whole is fine) and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. 
Add the beans and reduce heat. 
Simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. Beans should be tender but not mushy. It's ok if they're slightly undercooked--you will cook them again when you put them into the ragout sauce. When they're done, remove from heat and wait till it's time to add them to the lamb. 

When the lamb has been braising for two hours, remove the shanks from the sauce using tongs. Place shanks onto a cookie sheet or other oven-safe tray. 
Put the pot of sauce back on the burner and bring to a boil. Reduce the sauce for about 20 minutes. Drain the beans. Remove the bacon and bay leaves and add the beans to the pot of reducing sauce. 
Add the remaining cup of chopped tomatoes. 
Cook the sauce for about 5 more minutes. 
The sauce should now be rich and thick and amazing. Taste for salt. 
Lovely reduced ragout with beans and tomatoes. 
While the sauce is reducing, crank your oven up to broil and put the shanks back in for about 3 minutes, turn them, and cook for 3 more minutes. You want them to get a nice brown sear and crisp some of the other fat. (This step set my smoke alarm off about 3 times).

Turn the heat off under the sauce and add the shanks back in, turning to coat in the sauce. 

Serve by scooping a ladle of beans and sauce onto a plate, then adding a shank on top, then drippling some extra sauce over the shank. Scatter with chopper mint and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. 

I baked some bread to go with. You will want some to mop up the sauce. 

This was just fabulous.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thai Chicken Soup

This recipe is an attempted copy of my favorite take-out soup of all time, the chicken-lemongrass soup from Swing Thai. My first year in Denver I ordered this at least three times a week (I hadn't adjusted to the winter yet, and really didn't want to leave my apartment. Once I ran out of dog food and ordered Consuela a "side of sliced beef" from Swing Thai to avoid walking to the liquor store for kibble.)
Swing Thai's soup is seriously the best Tom Kha I've ever tasted. I ordered bowls of it all over Bangkok a few years ago, and theirs was way better. I took a cooking class in Chang Mai where you learned the recipe--but it was nothing like Swing Thai's perfect, transcendent Tom Kha.
Cooking class, summer of 2009. I successfully unwound after my first year of charter-school teaching--but didn't find the secret to coconut soup.
So this recipe is a delicious, doable version--it doesn't have the same magic, but it's still incredibly good. Spicy, sweet, tangy, and rich. Loaded with crunchy veggies, soft chunks of chicken, fresh herbs. A really perfect dinner. I mean, how could any recipe with ginger, garlic, coconut milk and veggies be anything but fantasic?
I made a big pot tonight--Sunday--for dinner this week. I recommend making a LOT--you will want leftover, and if you're tackling a recipe with this many ingredients, one night of eating isn't a big enough pay off.
Soup over rice. 
This recipe makes a LARGE pot of soup--Serves 10, or 2 people all week. Use a large pot ( I used my 7.5 quart French oven)

Ingredients (in order of addition to the pot)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or any oil)
a 3-inch piece of ginger
2 shallots
5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon Thai green curry pasty
2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
3 large chicken breasts, cut into half-inch chunks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 32oz boxes of chicken stock (or homemade, if you have it---I was out. Must roast a chicken sometime soon. I also prefer the low-sodium)
2 cans of coconut milk (do NOT use "light"--if you're worried about fat, use just one can of regular)
2 red peppers, diced
3 jalapenos, diced (I left the seeds in, for heat. Either de-seed or omit jalapenos for a mild soup)
1 red onion, sliced into strips
2 handfuls of white mushrooms, cut in half
2 handfuls of snow peas, whole
1 bunch of cilantro
1 package of basil (gah it felt so sad buying basil--I miss the garden!) pick off the leaves and leave them whole
2 tablespoons fish sauce
soy sauce to taste
juice of 3 limes

(Whew! Lots of ingredients! But you won't have to cook again all week, and a delicious healthy-ish dinner will be ready to go. This could easily be made vegetarian by subbing tofu of a couple cans of chickpeas for the chicken--but I don't think you can omit the fish sauce--so this might only work for slacker / cheater vegetarians)

What to do
1. Start by making your flavor base. Put the shallots, ginger, garlic, curry paste, and lemongrass paste into a food processor. Blitz them into a smooth paste.
I used my trusty tub of Mae Ploy. 2 lbs! Doubt I'll need to buy curry paste again in my 30's. 
Lemongrass paste.
2. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of your pot. Fry the flavor base paste in the oil for a few minutes--this really brings out the flavors and fragrances. 

3. While the base is frying, cut up the chicken. Drizzle it with a few tablespoons of soy sauce (it just seems wrong to cook unsalted chicken). 
Raw chicken looks weird. 
3. Add the chicken to the pot and cook it with the flavor-paste, stirring regularly. 
4. Add both boxes of stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down. Leave for 15 minutes or so at a simmer. This will allow the chicken to cook through and for the garlic, ginger, shallot, and lemongrass to infuse the stock. 
5. While that's simmering, cut up your veggies--dice the peppers and jalapenos, slice the onions, halve the mushrooms. 

6. Open the pot. Add both cans of coconut milk and the veggies. You want the veggies to cook gently-poach--in the broth, so they retain flavor and crunch. Let the veggies bob around in the simmering broth for about 5 minutes, stirring. 
7. Turn the heat off. Add the fish sauce and lime juice. Taste--does it need more soy, lime, fish sauce? Season to taste.
8. Add the chopped cilantro and leaves of basil. 
9. Mix everything up. Serve over rice! I like mine with some extra chili-garlic paste, but that's because I love far more heat than the regular person. 

This is a wonderful, perfect dinner.