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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

Tonight, it was just the two little ones and myself at the house. Everyone else was scattered.  It could be awfully tempting to run down to the closest fast food place and pick up kids meals... but I would rather not.  This recipe for BBQ shrimp makes us feel like we are down at my parents fishing camp in Cocodrie, LA, where we sit out on the porch and watch the shrimp boats heading out into the gulf as the sun sets over the marshy bayou.  In the mornings, after trolling all night, they head back up the bayou with their catch and sell the freshest gulf shrimp you can possibly get. So... when we make these shrimp, it transports us to one of our favorite places. And we talk about "Papa's Shrimp." 

In addition to all that nostalgia, you can make these BBQ shrimp in the time it would take to get in the car, pick up takeout, and get back home.  They are super easy and fast... and absolutely delicious. These are great for sitting around the coffee table watching a big game.... just make sure you have plenty of crusty French bread on hand.  You'll need it to dip in this fabulous sauce!

We happen to have a 75 degree day here (on the last day of January!), so the three of us ate out on the back porch and enjoyed the beautiful evening. That beats greasy fast food ANY DAY!!

Let's just start off by saying that the title "BBQ Shrimp" is a bit of a misnomer, because there is not bar-b-que sauce anywhere in the recipe, and these are not put on a grill of any sort.  I have no idea where the BBQ Shrimp title came from originally, but folks down here in the deep South know what you mean when you say it.  Rather, the shrimp are simmered in a succulent sauce, then allowed to sit and soak up the flavor for a while.  
                                                           Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 2 -3 pounds of shrimp 
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 – 5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 5 - 6 green onions
  • Optional - creole seasoning and/or red pepper flakes
     You probably have all that stuff on hand already!

Step-by-Step:
The basic idea is to throw everything together for the sauce, then add the shrimp last.
Add one stick of butter to a heavy saucepan.
Add 4 - 5 chopped garlic cloves.
Add 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce.
Add 1/2 cup white wine.
Add 5 or 6 chopped green onions.
Let all the sauce start boiling, then add the shrimp.  These have been cleaned and deveined, and the heads have been removed.  I just happened to have these in the freezer.  However, if you have head-on shrimp, add those.  The heads/shells will actually give you a richer depth of flavor to the sauce. (Although that's less kid friendly.)
I only used 1 pound of shrimp tonight, because everyone else was gone, but this sauce recipe can easily accommodate 2 -3 pounds of shrimp.
Add the juice of one lemon.
Throw the lemon in for extra flavor.
Add creole seasoning if you wish (This is Tony Chachere's). After cooking the shrimp for ONLY 3 minutes, I turned off the heat.  They will continue to cook in the "gravy" and you do NOT want them to be overcooked and rubbery. You can see that from one photo (above) to the next (below), they have gone from still transparent looking (not cooked) to pink (cooked).  That's how quickly they cook.  - Faster than waiting for the order of fries to come out of the grease at that other place.
Now.. allow them to sit in this "BBQ" sauce for 5 - 10 minutes.  They will soak up the seasoning and all that great flavor in that time.  While waiting, throw a loaf of French bread in the oven to get all hot and crispy.  As my family will tell you, this is an important part of the recipe.




You get a rich, lemony, buttery, spicy, deeply complex sauce bathing the tender little shrimp in goodness... followed by a big chunk of bread dunked in there!

Shrimp on little flat bread "toasts"
Now, for all of about 10 minutes work, we enjoyed a wonderful meal together that you would have a hard time going out and finding - and certainly not for this price! Aside from the shrimp, everything else is probably standard pantry items for most of you. And other thing, don't hesitate to buy a pack of frozen shrimp from your grocer.  The shrimp are frozen almost immediately after being caught; and they are super convenient.

Lagniappe photos:


As told by the legendary New Orleans Brennan's restaurant... "Like proper barbecue, it’s a spicy, succulent mess of a dish that is best eaten with your hands along with good company and cold beverages."  Yep. That sums it up rather nicely.  I had great company tonight!

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Method:
The basic idea is to throw everything together for the sauce, then add the shrimp last.  So to a heavy saucepan, add the following together:  one stick of butter, 4 - 5 chopped garlic cloves, 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup white wine, 5 or 6 chopped green onions.

Let all the sauce start boiling, then add the shrimp.  These have been cleaned and deveined, and the heads have been removed.  I just happened to have these in the freezer.  However, if you have head-on shrimp, add those.  Add the juice of one lemon.  Throw the lemon in for extra flavor.  Add creole seasoning if you wish.

After cooking the shrimp for ONLY 3 minutes, I turned off the heat.  They will continue to cook in the "gravy" and you do NOT want them to be overcooked and rubbery. They will have gone from still transparent looking (not cooked) to pink (cooked).  That's how quickly they cook.  Now.. allow them to sit in this "BBQ" sauce for 5 - 10 minutes.  They will soak up the seasoning and all that great flavor in that time.  While waiting, throw a loaf of French bread in the oven to get all hot and crispy.  As my family will tell you, this is an important part of the recipe.



Monday, January 30, 2012

Creamy "Work Week" Chicken Enchiladas

There are endless combinations for individualizing your chicken enchiladas, depending on your time constraints and the palates of your table. In my opinion, that's pretty cool. 

Today, I had the "super picky" crowd (who wants to see zero veggies inside), and limited time, so I cheated my way through this... which is what a lot of moms do during the busy work week.  And that is TOTALLY fine, as it still puts a hot, home cooked meal on the table, costs less, and is healthier than eating out!  Also, these enchilada freeze wonderfully (if they make it that far).. they usually end up on the "bring lunch to the office" list.

  • Cheater ingredient of the day.... I picked up a hot rotisserie chicken on the way home.  This will save me LOTS of time! If you use this, obviously skip the chicken prep.  The home cooked chicken will probably be more flavorful, but tonight is about speed.
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts – cut into 1" cubes. 
  • 1 Tbsp butter 
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped onion 
  • 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles 
  • 4 oz softened, reduced fat cream cheese 
  • 1 cup whipping cream 
  • 8 - 10 flour tortillas (I used the Carb Balance variety) 
  • 1 cup *grated Cheddar cheese 
  • 1 cup *grated Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers 
    •  You can also use the mixed “Mexican cheese blend” cheese instead of two separate cheeses.
  • 1 cup prepared, jarred salsa 
  • cumin to taste
  • Salt and pepper
    • Optional - red enchilada sauce and green salsa verde for extra color and flavor if you like; sour cream, tomatoes and cilantro for garnish. 
    • In my "make them for me, not the kids" fantasy, I would add some corn niblets and some rinsed/drained black beans to the mixture just before rolling them up.  This would add additional flavor, texture, fiber and the Yum factor!  But I don't think it would go over that well with this tough crowd.
Step-by-Step:
For those starting with raw chicken:
Lightly season chicken.  Cook the chicken first. I usually either poach them (season the water with salt, pepper, a little poultry seasoning, then boil the chicken until just done; no longer pink and clear in middle) or pan saute them in a little butter/olive oil.  But please don’t overdo the chicken b/c it will be dry.  

For everyone:
In a saucepan, melt butter.  Add onion and saute’ until translucent.   
 Add the green chiles and cook along with the softened onions a few minutes.  
These are a key ingredient to the dish.  This is what makes it really taste like Mexican!

At this point, if you have really picky people, you can blend the onions and chilies in a mini-food processor until smooth.  (Sigh... one of my kids insists upon a smooth sauce.)  For an adult "audience," leave it chunky.  

Add the salsa and cream cheese to the onions and chilies, and stir constantly over med-low until blended.  
To add more heat, choose a hotter salsa.  Mild for the kiddos.
Light cream cheese.  You won't miss the fat.
It all comes together into a creamy sauce.
We just saved a TON of time cutting, trimming, seasoning, and cooking the chicken.
Add the chicken (either rotisserie chicken or home cooked). Okay, so it probably doesn't look that great right now, but it will taste yummy.
Adjust the size of your chicken chunks according to the preferences of your family.
 
Add half of the cheeses.  Stir to blend. 


Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Then season with cumin.  This will amp up the Mexican flavor. I like LOTS of cumin!
If you want a "loose" sauce, add more salsa.

Remove from heat or turn down to very low.  Soften tortillas if needed according to package directions (I usually put them between two damp paper towels on a plate and microwave for like 10 seconds – makes them nice and soft and pliable so they won’t crack and tear. 

Place about 3 Tbsp of filling in the center of each tortilla.  

Roll up tortillas and place, seam side down, in a greased, 2-qt casserole dish (can also use 9x13x2 dish).  
Feel free to substitute corn tortillas if you like them better.  Be aware that they are much more fragile and prone to cracking than the flour tortillas.  Be sure to soften them first.
 Pour whipping cream over enchiladas. It will cook down, thicken, and get all bubbly.

You can go directly to the "cheese step" or add some different sauces on top. This time, I added red enchilada sauce on some of them (yep - out of the can), then some salsa verde on others.
There are different heat levels available in enchilada sauce as well.
 
Top with remaining cheese.  If it were up to me, they would ALL have LOTS of cheese, but one of mine is a cheese-a-phobe, so I try to accommodate everyone.

Bake uncovered at 350oF for 25 min or until hot and bubbly.  Top with your favorite garnishes and dig in!


Did I mention that these freeze GREAT?!  So if you are cooking for two (or even one), just put them in smaller oven-proof dishes and bake only what you need, freezing the rest.  I would freeze them before they go into the oven.  Great for sending your kid off to college with a "heat-n-eat" meal, or even for yourself later in the busy work week.  Take them out of the freezer the night before and thaw in the fridge.  Then when you get home, pop them into the oven.  I find that Mexican food, Italian food, and gumbo always improves the next day anyway!  :-)

... and Yes!  I'm THAT serious about cooking for your family!!  It's important.. time together, skill building, conversation, teaching opportunities, health factors, financial factors, you name it! 

If you prefer an "all red" sauce, I add about 1/2 of a 14 oz can of mild red enchilada sauce on top of the cream and then top with cheese.  Left up to me, there would be a whole bag of cheese on the top... but that's just me.  You can change these up any way you see fit!


Written Method:
For those starting with raw chicken:
Lightly season chicken.  Cook the chicken first. I usually either poach them (season the water with salt, pepper, a little poultry seasoning, then boil the chicken until just done; no longer pink and clear in middle) or pan saute them in a little butter/olive oil.  But please don’t overdo the chicken b/c it will be dry.  

For everyone:
In a saucepan, melt butter then add onion and saute’ until translucent.  Add the green chiles and cook along with the softened onions a few minutes.  At this point, if you have really picky people, you can blend the onions and chilis in a mini-food processor until smooth.  For an adult "audience," leave it chunky.  Add the salsa and cream cheese to the onions and chilis, and stir constantly over med-low until blended.  Add the chicken (either rotisserie chicken or home cooked).  Add half of the cheeses.  Stir to blend.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Then season with cumin.  This will amp up the Mexican flavor.    Remove from heat or turn down to very low.  Soften tortillas if needed according to package directions (I usually put them between two damp paper towels on a plate and microwave for like 10 seconds – makes them nice and soft and pliable so they won’t crack and tear.  But if they are soft and pliable, skip this step.

Place about 3 Tbsp of filling in the center of each tortilla.  Roll up tortillas and place, seam side down, in a greased, 2-qt casserole dish (can also use 9x13x2 dish).  Pour whipping cream over enchiladas. It will cook down, thicken, and get all bubbly.   You can go directly to the "cheese step" or add some different sauces on top. This time, I added red enchilada sauce on some of them (yep - out of the can), then some salsa verde on others.  You can totally leave it white if you want.  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake uncovered at 350oF for 25 min or until hot and bubbly.  Top with your favorite garnishes and dig in!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Loaded Potato Balls


Well this may be one of those "concept" recipes that you use mostly for the idea of it... adding your own twist and flavors.  This would be a good use of left over mashed potatoes - mostly as a novelty for the little ones. I'm so much like my mother, in that when I get an idea in my mind, I feel a great urgency to see it play out to fruition. (She calls it "having a bee in her bonnet.")  Anyway, I had a dream about making these the other day, and I needed to clear them out of my system, or some such catharsis.

 Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients:
  • Left over mashed potatoes if you have them.  They need to be thick and stiff, not watery.
  • I had none, so I used 4 russet potatoes....and wow!  That is a LOT!
  • I also used 3 Tbsp butter, a splash of milk (maybe 1/2 cup), salt and pepper
  • Cheddar/mozzarella blend string cheese
  • 1 small bag of real bacon bits 
    • feel free to used real bacon or even crumbled turkey bacon, but I wanted to make this as easy as possible.
  • Chopped chives
  • Panko bread crumbs - they are much lighter and crunchier than regular bread crumbs
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Whatever dipping sauce you want (sour cream, salsa, salsa verde, maybe even ranch dressing)

Step-by-Step:
You can skip half of this whole recipe if you have left over mashed potatoes!
 
To make the mashed potatoes, I peeled and cut the potatoes into medium chunks and boiled in salted water until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.

While potatoes are cooking, Lily got the cheese ready for me.  I used a cheddar/mozzarella blend string cheese because I knew it would have a good "melting" factor..and I wanted something that they could easily help me with.

I chose the bagged "real bacon bits" because after work today, I just wanted fast and easy. Besides, this is much less mess and time than making your own sometimes.

Drain the fork-tender potatoes, then return them to the pot.
Add butter, milk, salt, pepper, chives, and bacon to the potatoes and whip them up by hand or with a hand mixer until smooth.
Add butter and milk.
 Add salt and pepper.

Blend.
Add the bacon bits.
Add some chopped chives.

I added an egg to bind everything together.
  • Allow the potatoes to cool.  Hot potatoes will stick to your hands and make a big mess.  The cool ones like to stick together better.
  • Roll the potatoes into balls.
 



Place a piece of cheese inside a depression in the potato balls and reform the ball around the cheese.
Roll the potato balls in Panko bread crumbs.
Fry for about a minute or until golden in oil (about 375 degrees F). Sprinkle with salt immediately when you get them out of the oil.

Serve hot (while the cheese is all melty).


I did try putting these into the oven to bake as an alternative to frying.  I was MUCH less happy with the result in the oven.  They seemed rather anemic compared to the crunchy, golden ones that had been fried.

You could definitely do these ahead of time, store in the fridge, and fry just before serving.

Try different themes.  For example, for a Mexican theme, consider adding cumin to the potatoes and chilled, taco flavored ground beef inside.

I hope you enjoyed this simple and delicious recipe!
There are hundreds more in my Recipe Index, just waiting to be chosen and cooked!  You can also visit my Film strips for pinning page, to see whole recipes at a glance, and to click-and-go right to the recipe.

The Menu Musings cookbook is sure to be a hit at your house, and will make great gifts!  For more information, here is a link!
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Here are some bonus recipes for you!
Happy Hour Pizza Rolls 

Funky Monkey Morning Smoothies 

Crock Pot Pork Chops 

Pizza Poppin Muffins 

One Pot Skillet Lasagna 

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken 

Written Method:
You can skip half of this whole recipe if you have left over mashed potatoes!   To make the mashed potatoes, I peeled and cut the potatoes into medium chunks and boiled in salted water until fork tender.  Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.
While potatoes are cooking, get the cheese ready.  I used a cheddar/mozzarella blend string cheese because I knew it would have a good "melting" factor.  I chose the bagged "real bacon bits" because after work today, I just wanted fast and easy. Besides, this is much less mess and time than making your own sometimes.

Drain the fork-tender potatoes, then return them to the pot.  Add butter, milk, salt, pepper, chives, and bacon to the potatoes and whip them up by hand or with a hand mixer until smooth. Add butter and milk.  Add salt and pepper.  Blend.  Add the bacon bits.  Add some chopped chives.  I added an egg to bind everything together.

Allow the potatoes to cool.  Hot potatoes will stick to your hands and make a big mess.  The cool ones like to stick together better.  Roll the potatoes into balls.   Place a piece of cheese inside a depression in the potato balls and reform the ball around the cheese. Roll the potato balls in Panko bread crumbs.  Fry for about a minute or until golden in oil (about 375 degrees F). Sprinkle with salt immediately when you get them out of the oil.  Serve hot (while the cheese is all melty).

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