Spicy Garlic Avocado Soup

I picked up a Cooking Light magazine a few days ago and, as I usually do, had about 8 recipes I wanted to try out after browsing it for about 10 minutes. This one caught my eye right away, I mean, garlic, avocado and seafood. Duh! I will try it as listed, but I didn’t have all the ingredients, specifically the shrimp. Improv time.

Spicy Garlic Avocado Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1-2 serrano peppers, halved
3 tbsp garlic, crushed (about 10-12 cloves)
1 cp white wine
6 cps chicken stock
1-1/2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3/4 cp heavy cream
Sea salt
1/8 tsp saffron strands, crushed
1 avocado

In a medium stockpot, heat up the oil and add the onions and peppers. Cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, then add the garlic and stir it in very well.

Add the wine and allow it to cook down until it has almost evaporated, then add the chicken stock. Bring it to a boil and lower the temperature enough to keep it simmering, this part will take about 30-40 minutes. The liquid will reduce by about 1 or 2 cps.  Once it reduces a bit, turn off the heat and strain it reserving the broth.

Rinse the same pot and you will make a roux. Add the butter, once it has melted whisk in the flour and continue to cook it over medium heat. It should remain light in color, do not allow it to brown. Cook it for about 3-4 minutes before slowly adding about 1 cp of the reserved broth. Make sure you’re whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Once you’ve incorporated the some liquid into the roux you can add the rest of the broth, cream, saffron, and check the seasoning. Allow it to simmer for about 3-5 minutes, allow it to thicken a bit.

Peel and seed the avocado and chop it into cubes. Pour a bit of soup into a bowl and top it avocado cubes.

Note: The original recipe included the use of shrimp and fish and stock made from the shrimp shells. I really liked this with the chicken stock, and I pan seared  pieces of fish fillet and added them just before serving.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

PSP: Potato Salad Perfection

Yes, I’m going to be¬†obnoxiously¬†braggy about this one. I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Well, I could help myself, but I don’t really want to. I love my potato salad. I just do. I try other potato salads, but I always come back to mine.

I object to the mustard base potato salad so popular here in Houston. I don’t really care to have bits of onions in it, because it reminds me of salads gone wrong after a day of hanging out by the beach. Don’t bother trying to make it healthy for me with bunches of carrots or celery. And please don’t be stingy with the eggs OR the mayo.

My salad is a combination of¬†my mom’s and one of her best friend’s recipes. After my sis-n-law brought me Piment d’Espellete, I’ve incorporated it into my recipe, but it isn’t necessary. It’s creamy. It’s eggy. It showcases the potato’s sweetness. It’s just good. Grab some potatoes and go to work. You’ll see what I mean.

Mi Ensalada de Papas
Yield: approx 6 cups
5 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 medium carrot, halved
1 tbsp sea salt
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cp mayo (use the real thing)
2 tsp Dijon or Creole mustard
1-1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp heavy cream or milk
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Piment d’Espellete or Smoked Paprika
Sea salt, if necessary

After you’ve peeled the potatoes, cut them into quarters. The cubes should be as uniform as possible, that way they all cook at the same rate. However, don’t cut them too small or the potato will just break apart. Place the cubed potatoes in a medium pan with the carrot and fill with enough¬†water to¬†pass the potatoes by about 1-2 inches. Add the salt and bring to a medium boil, cooking the potatoes for about 12 minutes or until fork tender. Drain completely and allow it to cool.

While the¬†potatoes cook, boil¬†the eggs.¬†Put the eggs in a small saucepan¬†and fill with¬†water. Allow the water¬†to¬†boil for about¬†3 minutes, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for another few minutes (about 8 minutes). Drain the water and fill the pot with cold water, let them sit in the cold water for about 2-3 minutes. You’ll end up with perfect, beautiful eggs. Peel and chop the eggs, set aside.

Combine the mayo, mustard, sugar, cream, piment/paprika, black pepper in the bowl you’ll mix the salad. Make sure you mix all the ingredients very well. I usually break a piece of one of the potatoes and put a little dab of the mayo mixture on it to taste the flavors. I then adjust the salt as necessary. Set this aside.

Chop the potatoes and carrot¬†into bite-size pieces and add them to the bowl with the mayo. Add the eggs and mix in all the ingredients, making sure the mayo is well distributed. If it seems a bit dry, mix another couple of tablespoons of mayo with cream, pepper and a pinch of sugar. That’s it.

You now have a perfect batch of potato salad. Enjoy!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

This ain’t my grandmother’s grits!

And the reason I know this, is because my grams didn’t make grits. There is a ground corn casserole she made with coconut¬† milk and okra, but this ain’t that. First time I had grits was about 10 years ago at Frank’s Grill here in Houston. I enjoyed them with lots of butter, pepper and salt and ate them with bits of an over medium egg. I saw recipes suggesting the addition of cheese and garlic, and that’s how I’m making these.

Mind you, this is about more than just the grits, but the other recipe, the crowning jewel part, is for the shrimp. OH.MY.GAWD! These turned out incredibly good, even if I say so myself. And the combo was just pure silliness. Hubby and I smiled through every bite we took. So here you have it Cheesy Grits and Shrimp!

Cheesy Grits
1/2 cp grits (I used quick, not instant grits)
1+ cp water
1 cp milk
1/2 cp heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 tbsp butter
1 cp Comte cheese (or your favorite medium strong cheese)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 cp panko crumbs
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Bring the water, milk, cream and garlic to a soft boil in a medium-sized, heavy bottom pan. Add the salt and whisk in the grits. Keep stirring to make sure the grits don’t get lumpy. They will begin to thicken, and you will have to decide how gritty you’d like your grits. I cooked them for about 15 minutes and added an extra 3/4 cp of water in the process.

Once the texture is to your liking and the grits have thicken enough for you to be able to scrape and pile them to the side, add the butter, cheese, nutmeg and white pepper. Stir it all very well and remove from the heat. Butter the bottom of a square container (I used a rectangular baking sheet) and pour the grits in, to a depth of about 1 inch. Allow it to cool and harden in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Once they have cooled, remove from the fridge and slice the grits with a butter knife. I was able to make about 12 1-inch wide sticks. Pour the panko crumbs onto¬†a sheet of wax paper and dip the grit sticks in it, covering all the exposed sides. I literally pressed the sticks into the panko to make sure the crumbs were stuck¬†to them. Now heat a nonstick¬†frying pan with half of the butter and oil. Drop half of the panko covered sticks into the melted butter and brown on both sides–about 3 minutes or so per side. Remove from the pan and place on your plate, before browning the rest of the grits, wipe the bottom of the pan to remove the crumbs that have been left at the bottom. This ensures you don’t have burnt crumbs on the 2nd batch. Add the butter and oil, and repeat. They are now ready to serve, set aside but keep warm.

For the shrimp I wanted a creamy and spicy sauce, something that would contrast nicely against the creamy, rich grits. I started out with the concept of garlic shrimp, then added harissa and cream to round out the palate.

Harissa Cream Shrimp
1 lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Herbs d’Provence
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Harissa
1 cp white wine
1/2 cp heavy cream
Cornstarch if desired

Mix the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In the meantime, mince the shallots¬†and garlic and melt the butter in a medium size pan. Add the shallots¬†and garlic to the butter and cook until they begin to soften, then add the harissa. Once you have mixed in the harissa, add the wine and, if you’d like, flame it to burn the excess alcohol.

Now add the shrimp, making sure to coat them well with shallots. Depending on the size of your shrimp, it will take about 5 minutes to cook them. Toss them to ensure they’re cooking evenly, then add the cream and turn off the heat.

Note: I wanted the sauce to be thick, so I did dissolve 1 tsp cornstarch in 2 tbsp cool water and added it to the sauce (I removed the shrimp first to avoid over cooking). Make sure you allow the sauce to come to a boil to give the cornstarch an opportunity to develop.

The beautiful fire turns into this

Finito! Serve the shrimp over the grits. FYI: I made the grits and put them in the fridge, then cooked the shrimp and left them aside, then fried the grits to serve it all.

Enjoy this one!

Cookingly yours, Anamaris

Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel, also known as white sauce is one of the mother sauces. It is a simple sauce to make, but it does require you to move quickly and be watchful. You will see it used as a base to other sauces, including cheese sauce for mac & cheese.

Bechamel Sauce
Ingredients and Process
5 tbsp unsalted butter
5 tbsp flour
4 cps milk
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Heat up the milk in the microwave until it is very hot, you’ll be able to see vapors rising up. Keep it hot. In the meantime, in a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat until there is foam on the top. Add the flour at once, and stir quickly with a wire whisk. This will make a roux, however, you want to keep the mixture light in color–bechamel sauce is a white sauce. You need to allow the flour to cook, otherwise the raw flavor will come through in the sauce. The process of making the roux, will take about 6 minutes and will be lightly golden.

Add the milk as quickly as you can, while still whisking it in to avoid lumps. Once you have incorporated all the milk, season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, it will take about 15 minutes to achieve the consistency of soft yogurt. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

mmmMashed Potatoes

OK, let’s face it. Mashed potatoes are one of those basics that everyone loves and for which we all have our own standards. I like mashed potatoes, before this batch I didn’t LOVE them. I do now. The potatoes themselves are just standard issue mashed potatoes. I think the difference is in the topping. See, what had happened was…

I wanted to make confit (I did, post to come) and in order to make it I needed to render some fat. I got some pork fat and rendered it, I was left with what I’m guessing are cracklings. That’s the topping. OMG! You could sub bacon for the cracklings, so don’t freak out.

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cp heavy cream
1/4 cp butter (yeah, I know)
black pepper to taste
Dash of nutmeg
1/3 cp cracklins or bacon
1/4 cp onion brown butter sauce

Peel and quarter the potatoes and put them into medium size pot. Fill with cool water just to cover the potatoes, add salt and bring to a soft boil. These potatoes are very tender, a hard boil may cause them to break apart. They will need to cook for about 20 minutes or until a knife goes through easily.

Once they’re cooked, drain the potatoes. Place the pot back on the burner with the butter and cream, until the butter begins to melt. Put the potatoes back in the pot and begin mashing them immediately, stirring in the cream, butter and onion butter sauce. Check the salt, add pepper and nutmeg. Stir and serve topped with the cracklins and some more of the butter sauce.

I know I don’t need to say this, but I will anyway. ENJOY!