Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Diablo Shrimp Fajitas...

It's been a little while since last I posted.  And it's not that I haven't been cooking.  I just haven't been...  well...  blogging.  But last night was such a gorgeous night that I had to fire up the grill, and I came up with a pretty simple and easy recipe.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the presence of mind to snap any pictures, but oh well.  Diablo Shrimp Fajitas:

1 lb Shrimp, deveined and deshelled (yes, I said DEshelled)
8 oz butter
1 shallot, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers, cut into large squares
1 red onion, also cut into large squares
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
Chili sauce (see note on chili sauce below)
Red pepper flakes
Peanut oil
Whole wheat tortillas
Bamboo skewers
Whatever else you like on fajitas (sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, lime...  etc.)

If your going to use bamboo skewers make sure you soak them in water for about 30 minutes before you use them.  This will prevent them from burning on the grill. Ok, fire up that grill.  In the meantime...

Put all of your cut mushrooms into a bowl and coat them liberally with peanut oil and salt.  Skewer the mushrooms separate from the bell peppers and onions as their cook times will be different.  When your coals are ready, toss the mushroom skewers and the bell pepper and onion skewers on the grill.  Flip them every 6 or 7 minutes.  The mushrooms are done when they've shrunk a little bit and turned a dark golden brown.  The bell pepper is done when they're soft with black marks.  In the meantime...

Melt the butter in a saute pan.  When it's nice and hot throw in your garlic and shallot.  Cook them on medium until the garlic has softened and turned a light brown.  This will make your house smell awesome.  I added about 2 tablespoons of chili sauce and about 1/2 tablespoon of pepper flakes, but that's really up to you based on how hot you like things.  I tend to like it a little hot.

Toss the sauce over your shrimp and let them marinate for about 5 to 6 minutes before throwing them on the grill.  The shrimp are done when they turn pink.  Don't overcook them!  Assemble your fajitas and enjoy!!!

*Note on chili sauce:  My favorite chili sauce is Sriracha sauce, which in Vietnamese means burning hot miasma of death (not really).  I use it like ketchup.  I put it on everything.  This is what it looks like:

Luckily, I'm able to find this in my Kroger's international isle.  If you have a chili sauce that you like and are more comfortable with that's the one you should use, but Sriracha is what was used for this recipe.


Friday, January 28, 2011


I haven't actually been cooking a whole lot lately.  We've been eating out a lot, which...  we probably shouldn't be doing.  It's convenient, especially when I'm too tired to cook.  But last night I did cook, and spent the majority of the night in the kitchen working on this mac-n-cheese.

Not the best picture in the world, but that's a crispy tomato on top...

 This recipe comes from a great book my mom picked up for me a couple years ago: Garlic, Garlic, Garlic: More than 200 Exceptional Recipes for the World's Most Indispensable Ingredient (wow that's a long title).  I had to add some bacon to it because the wife requested some kind of meat...  go figure...  I married a vegan and now she has me adding bacon to things.  I also didn't have enough cheddar so I just started adding whatever cheese I had until I got to 1.5 lbs.  So it's got cheddar, gouda, muenster, and fontina, as well as a sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano and some spanish hard cheese I can't remember the name of.  Lots of cheese.

1 lb elbow macaroni
1/2 lb bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano (or any hard, salty cheese)
3 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 hefty cloves of garlic, minced
1 habanero, minced
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk, warmed
1.5 lbs (24oz) of cheese...  cheddar works well, but feel free to experiment...  cubed to allow for easy melting
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoons chives, chopped
2 decent sized tomatoes, cut into thick slices
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Boil your macaroni for 2 minutes less than the package indicates and set aside.  Meanwhile, fry your bacon pieces in a large skillet until you've rendered a good  amount of bacon fat and your bacon pieces are dark and crispy.  Remove the bacon from the skillet.  Add a little extra cooking oil (butter, canola, peanut, olive...  whatever) and drop in your onion, garlic, and habanero.  Cook them until their translucent but not brown...  5-ish minutes.  Set aside.

In a large pot melt 4 tablespoons of butter.  To it, whisk in your flour.  Slowly whisk in your milk.  Bring to a light simmer but not boil.  Don't burn the milk!  Drop in your cheese and slowly melt until it's thick and creamy.  Drop in your bacon, onions, garlic, and habanero.  Add your thyme, chives, and 1 Tablespoon of parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then add your macaroni.  Pour everything into a greased casserole and top with sliced tomato.   

In a bowl mix together your parmigiano reggiano, panko, and the rest of your parsley.  Sprinkle it over the casserole and pop that sucker in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the panko is browned.  I ended up blowtorching the tomatoes a little bit to get them nice and dark, but that's optional.  Serve it hot.

Ok, I know...  this is like a Paula Dean recipe on crack.  Bacon, cheese, butter, white carbs...  There's no denying that if you ate this every day you would die.  But man... is it good.


Friday, January 21, 2011


Smoothies have been kind of a passion of mine for a couple of months.  During the summer months I pretty much made them every day and the wife and I would drink them for breakfast.  A fruit smoothie and a cup of coffee is a great way to kick start the day, and with a little preparation they're really pretty easy to make.  But through trial and error I've come to learn there are a couple of rules to making an amazing smoothie.  And as long as you stick to these rules you can't screw up:

Rule #1.  Banana.  Banana goes in every smoothie.  Without it, your smoothie will taste flat, boring, and uninteresting.  I can't explain why, but I've never made a good fruit smoothie without a banana. 

Rule #2.  Honey.  Get local honey if you can.  Honey is fantastic for allergies as long as its local.  The bees go around and collect all the local pollen and concentrate it into their honey.  So when you ingest it your body creates antibodies for the allergens in the air.  But if you're eating honey made in St. Louis it's not going to do you a whole lot of good unless you live in St. Louis.  I've tried a lot of different sweeteners in my smoothies from agave to powdered sugar, and nothing lends itself to fruit better than honey.  It adds richness and depth. 

Rule #3.  Yogurt.  Yogurt is what brings it all together.  You don't really need a whole lot.  Just a few tablespoons worth.  It mellows out the tartness of the other ingredients and brings all the flavors together.  Now, I tend to stay away from anything but plain yogurt.  I've used vanilla in a pinch, but the vanilla muddles things up.  But as far as low fat vs. nonfat, I can't really tell a difference.  I do like to use Greek style when I can, but it tends to get expensive.  Most of the time I just use plain Dannon yogurt. 

Rule #4.  Salt.  Just trust me on this rule...  and it's an important rule.  When I started adding salt to my smoothies they went from good to wow.  Salt brightens everything up and really allows you to taste all the flavors.

With those four basic rules, you can pretty much put any kind of fruit into a blender and it'll turn out amazing.  I promise.  So without further ado, this is the smoothie I made tonight:

1/4 pineapple, roughly chopped
1 blood orange
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen blackberries
1 banana
a splash of orange juice
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 teaspoons sea salt

Throw in a blender.  Puree on the highest setting for a few minutes.  

Holy crap.  Look at this smoothie:

Just look at the color.  It's almost a wine color.  I promise.  Try this once and you'll never spend another dime on a Naked Juice or Odwala every again. 


Monday, January 17, 2011


My friend Billie approached me about a week ago with a proposition.  She had acquired a plethora of duck breasts and offered to share them with me.  Being duck season here in Tennessee, and having never prepared duck before, I jumped at the chance.  So last Sunday before the SnOMG 2011 hit Memphis, I headed over to her house.  I was thinking I would be getting 4-6 breasts, but she loaded me up a whopping 12!  Already dressed and cleaned and frozen!!  For free!!!  Holy crap!  So I spent a week thinking about what I should do with them.  I was worried that because they were wild duck breasts that they would be gamey and unpleasant.  I had planned on brining them to get rid of the game flavor, but when they thawed I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had absolutely no smell what-so-ever.  They were extremely fresh!  Another score!  So what I ended up doing was I let them come to room temperature and then soaked them in a bath of balsamic vinegar.  Then I heated up a large skillet with equal parts butter and olive oil and seared them for about 4-5 minutes on each side, making them just shy of medium rare, still a little red on the inside.  There was no gamey taste to speak of.  I served them with Ina Garten's Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash, minus the saffron (I'm broke, bitch...  I can't afford no saffron...) plus some sauteed Porcini mushrooms.  The risotto alone would have been an amazing meal, but as a side to a rare duck breast...  incredible.  See:

I did, however end up crunching into some buckshot in my breast, but that's the price you pay for fresh, wild duck I guess.

So tonight I had a ton of duck breast left over.  I've been craving salad for a little while, and my grocery store happened to have some really good looking Asian pears...  so here's what I ended up doing:

Duck Salad with Orange Balsamic Dressing

~8oz. Baby Sprig Mix (something including arugala, baby spinach, and other yummy things)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 Asian pears, cut into thin slices
11oz plain, good quality goat cheese, crumbled
zest of 1 large, naval orange

Combine everything in a large mixing bowl and mix with clean hands.  To make the dressing, juice your orange through your hand so as to avoid any seeds, pulp, etc.  Mix together equal parts orange juice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, whisking while doing so.  Cut pan seared duck breast (see above) into very thin slices and arrange atop the salad.  Drizzle with dressing.

It didn't occur to me until later that I should have waited until after I'd assembled the whole salad to add the orange zest.  That would have made it much more visually stunning, but oh well...  The end result was the same.  Totally freaking the best effing salad ever made.  No kidding.  Serve with a Blue Moon (too bad I didn't have any) or a glass of fruity red wine (I like Syrah, but some say that's too bold for duck...  to them I say :P).

The End


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pecan Pie... another attempt

This blog, I've come to realize, is really just for my own record keeping of my experiments.  For those of you who actually read this (which I know there aren't all that many) this is yet another attempt to find the perfect pecan pie.  I have a work Christmas potluck tomorrow and I saw an opportunity to work on the pie.  I figure you guys don't really need another picture of a pie.  This one turned out kind of on the darker side.  So in previous attempts, the chess turned out kind of runny and was really quite a mess.  So this time I added a little flour to it in the hopes that it might thicken it up.  So without further adieu, here's what I did tonight. 

Pecan Pie #5

1 cup pecans
1 bar 85% chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup dark maple syrup, plus a little drizzle
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 oz. Amaretto
1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs, well beaten
1 egg white
1 8" pie shell

Preheat oven to 350.

The chess: Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl.  To it stir in maple syrup, molasses, honey, Amaretto, melted butter, and vanilla extract.  Make sure the mixture is not hot from the melted butter when you add your eggs or they'll scramble.

Put the pecans in a saute pan and roast them for a few minutes, moving them around in the pan every few minutes.  Keep a close eye on them.  Burning them is a bad thing.  When they start to smell good, they're done.  Drizzle a little maple syrup and let it reduce on medium-low to low for a few minutes.  Again, keep a close eye on it so as not to burn anything.  When it's reduced to a beautiful candy like consistency, remove it from the heat.

Pour the chess into your pie shell.  I ended up not using all my chess mixture because it would have overflowed.  Drop the chocolate and pecans in and stir them a little so that they're evenly distributed.  Brush the crust with your egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 50 minutes.  Let cool on a cooling rack for a few hours.

Tomorrow night Noah is coming over and we're going to fry some chicken (Thomas Keller's recipe) and we're going to taste test the Dogfish Squall IPA against the Dogfish 90 Minute IPA.  Should be fun. 


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I'm a great lover of beer, and a great lover of GOOD beer.  I especially adore IPAs (that's India Pale Ales for you non-beer-connoisseurs).  They're hoppy, bold, and sweet, tangy and full of character.  To me, drinking a good IPA is akin to drinking a good cab-sav.  They're great with just about anything big and bold, from a steak or fried chicken, to even a spicy curry.  And there are a handful of IPAs that I've tried lately that have been really quite good.

Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA

I was perusing my local Kroger one day when this lovely beer just jumped off the shelf and into my cart.  While definitely not my favorite IPA in the world, it does stand up and get your attention.  Really, this is a very artfully crafted beer, as I have come to expect from Sam Adams.  This beer is brewed using hops from the 48th latitude, otherwise known as the "hop belt" in Germany, England, and America.  If you find this in your grocery store, and like IPAs, I'd highly recommend picking up a 6 pack.

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
This is another beer you can find in the grocery store.  Of course, for me, if it has the name "Dogfish Head" it ends up in my cart.  Man I love this brewery.  This is my second favorite IPA in the whole world.  It's smooth and bold and full of flavor.  After a hard day of work, this is how I relax.  So yummy.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

The 60 minute beer is yummy.  The 90 minute is divine.  This is even bigger and even bolder than the 60 minute, and at 9% alcohol it'll knock you on the floor if you drink too many of them.  Fantastic, fantastic, FANTASTIC beer.

Now it's important to note that there is also a 120 minute IPA that is about 18% alcohol.  Yes...  18%.  I've never seen one, and I've ALWAYS wanted to try one.  Oh MAN what I would give to try one.  If anybody reading this knows where I can get my hands on a 4 pack please let me know...  

Ok, now for the list of beer that's sitting in my refrigerator that I haven't tried yet.

Dogfish Head Squall IPA
This badboy is another 90 minute, but different in some way.   What that is for certain, I don't know yet.  The guy at the liquor store told me the there's little difference between the regular 90 minute IPA and the Squall 90 minute IPA.  The Squall is a little cloudier and has hints of cannabis.  I said, "Cannabis?  Well shit, I may need to buy two!"  I have a 90 minute IPA sitting in my fridge, and I'd like to try them side to side to compare them. 

Dogfish Head - Chateau Jiahu

Another one that I have no idea about.  It looks tasty though.  I'll let the guys from Dogfish cover this one:  "Let's travel back in time 9000 years.  Preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic villiage of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, has revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit was being produced that long ago - right around the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East!  Fast forward to 2005.  Molecular Archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology calls on Dogfish Head to re-create their second ancient beverage and Chateau Jiahu is born.  In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers used pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers.  The rice and barley malt were added together to make the mash for starch conversion and degredation.  The resulting sweet wort was then run into the kettle.  The honey, grapes, Hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers were then added.  The entire mixture was boiled for 45 minutes, then cooled.  The resulting sweet liquid was pitched with a fresh culture of Sake yeast and allowed to ferment a month before the transfer into a chilled secondary tank."  Also, at 10% alcohol, this is no lightweight either.

So throughout the course of writing this blog I've been sipping on this:

This is the craziest shit I've ever seen in my liquor store.  So, ok...  normal bourbon is 80-90 proof, about 40-45% alcohol.  This shit is 125 proof, 62.5% alcohol.  Sipping on this is like getting punched in the face by Chuck Norris.  It's very similar to moonshine in taste and in color.  And it burns.  Oh dear god does it burn.  So if you want a punch in the face and want to get drunk fast, this is your ticket. 


Friday, December 10, 2010

More Pecan Pies: The Chocolate Experiment

So, this update is more for my own records than anything else.  I'm continuing my work on the ultimate pecan pie.  I was disappointed with my pecan pies at Christmas and decided they needed some work.  Also, there's a family gathering tomorrow night so I'll have lots of input.

So I made two pies tonight.  The first is a Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie, and the other is an Amaretto Pecan Pie.

I have all these ingredients...  what should I do with them?

Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie

1 9" pie crust
1 cup pecan halves
3.5 oz (1 bar) 70% cocoa (I used Lindt)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz. Bourbon
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350

Combine sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, eggs, salt, vanilla extract, and Bourbon in a mixing bowl.  Add the melted butter in slowly, stirring constantly so as not to scramble the eggs.  Roughly chop the chocolate so it's about the same size as your pecans.  Add the pecans and chocolate pieces to the mixture and pour into pie crust.  Brush the edges of the pie crust with the egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Let cool completely before cutting into.

 Amaretto Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 9" pie crust
1 cup pecan halves
3.5 oz (1 bar) 70% cocoa (I used Lindt)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup dark Karo syrup
1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz. Amaretto
1 egg white
A drizzle of maple syrup

Combine brown sugar, Karo, eggs, salt, vanilla extract, and Amaretto in a mixing bowl.  Add the melted butter in slowly, stirring constantly so as not to scramble the eggs.  Roughly chop the chocolate so it's about the same size as your pecans.

Toast pecans in a saute pan on medium heat, keeping a close eye on them so they do not burn.  When they start to brown and smell delicious, drizzle enough maple syrup on them to coat thoroughly and cook for about 5 minutes. 

Add the pecans and chocolate pieces to the mixture and pour into pie crust.  Brush the edges of the pie crust with the egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Let cool completely before cutting into.

And here's a picture of the two of them together:

Ugh, and I should have done these on a baking sheet.  For starters it would have made it a lot easier to get them out of the oven...  but also, I guess some of the filling dripped down on the burner and made a mess of my oven.  Like I don't have enough to do this weekend as is...  crap...  At any rate, I'll let you guys know how they turn out tomorrow....