Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil is a classic one-pot meal from the coastal region of South Carolina and Georgia (the Low Country). Also known as Frogmore Stew or Beaufort Boil, Low Country Boil is a simple, yet delicious meal that is a lot of fun to eat. This particular recipe serves about 4, but by increasing the quantity of ingredients, you can feed a crowd. You can even find Low Country Boil calculators online to determine the amount of ingredients you will need to feed a particular amount of people.

This is a basic recipe, but you can do your own thing. I have seen recipes that include crabs, crab legs, clams, green beans, mushrooms, bell peppers, etc… I added mushrooms to my Low Country Boil, as seen in the picture. Serve with crusty bread and cold beer.

Low Country Boil

1 gallon water
1 lemon, halved
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into eight wedges
2 pounds baby potatoes
1 sausage rope (about 14 ounces), cut into bite-size slices
4 ears corn, shucked, cleaned and cut into fourths
2 pounds fresh shelled shrimp

melted butter
cocktail sauce

Bring the water, lemon, Old Bay, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves to a boil. Add the onion and potatoes, return to a boil, and cook 10 minutes. Add the sausage and corn, return to a boil, and cook 10 more minutes. Check to see if potatoes are tender. If so, add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 3 minutes. If the potatoes are not tender, cook a few more minutes before adding the shrimp. Drain and serve on a large platter (or on newspaper in the middle of the table) with melted butter and cocktail sauce.

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Shrimp Risotto

Shrimp Risotto

Risotto takes a little time, but is very easy to make (and hard to mess up) and it always seems to impress. You can add a variety of ingredients to a basic risotto recipe to create endless combinations. Shrimp is my favorite, but I also like mushroom, or a combination of fresh vegetables. It’s a great way to incorporate seasonal vegetables into your menu. Asparagus and baby peas in the spring. Corn, tomato, and zucchini in the summer. Wild mushrooms in the fall. Winter squash in winter. It’s all good.

Shrimp Risotto

1 cup arborio rice
1 pound shrimp
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced (or substitute 1 small onion, finely chopped)
½ cup dry white wine (or vegetable broth)
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tablespoons heavy cream (half and half will work too)
salt and pepper

Have the vegetable broth simmering in a pot close-by before you begin.

In a large skillet with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Add the arborio rice and sauté with the shallots, stirring often, until the rice starts to get some color, about 5 minutes. Carefully add the white wine (or vegetable broth) slowly, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Once the rice has absorbed the wine (or broth), add 1 cup of the vegetable broth, continuing to stir often. Continue to add the broth (about ½ cup at a time) as the rice absorbs the liquid and the pan becomes dry, until all the broth is absorbed. This should take about 20 minutes (the risotto will become creamy). About 3 to 4 minutes before the risotto is done (about the time you add the last bit of broth), add the shrimp and cook until pink. Stir in the butter, Parmesan, and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Top each serving with additional Parmesan cheese.


Shrimp Laksa

Shrimp Laksa

Laksa is a spicy noodle soup that is popular in Singapore and Malaysia.  There are a gabillion different variations of it.  Some have a curry-coconut broth while others have a sour fish broth or tamarind-based broth.  Laksa can be made with seafood, chicken, beef, and/or tofu. This particular Laksa recipe is one I came up with after scanning about 20 other Laksa recipes online.  It’s not all that authentic, but it is quick, tasty, easy to prepare, and the ingredients can be found in most American grocery stores.

Shrimp Laksa

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced (or about 1 tablespoon of ginger paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon (or to taste) sambal olek (sriracha can be substituted)
4 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, shrimp, etc…)
1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 package rice vermicelli, cooked according to package directions
fish sauce, to taste
fresh cilantro
fresh lime wedges
chopped fresh chiles (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat and sauté the onion softened.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.  Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and sambal olek (or sriracha).  Add the broth and bring to a boil.
As soon as the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat and add the shrimp and coconut milk.  Let cook until shrimp is pink and cooked through, about 3 – 4 minutes.  Season to taste with the fish sauce, about 1 tablespoon.

Divide the cooked rice noodles in bowls and ladle the soup over the noodles.  Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with lime wedges and chiles (optional).


Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

This soup is incredibly good!  Plus, it’s fast to make. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. If you are in a rush, you can just skip baking the tortilla strips and just crumble some purchased tortilla chips over the top.

Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

corn tortillas, about 12
cooking spray

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes (with juices)
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

avocado, diced
fresh cilantro, chopped
lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Stack the fresh corn tortillas and cut in half. Re-stack and then cut into then strips. Arrange the corn tortilla strips on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with a little salt. Bake in the oven until golden (about 8 – 10 minutes), stirring occasionally to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a soup pot, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic and jalapeno and continue to cook for another minute or two. Stir in the ground cumin. Next, add the petite diced tomatoes and juices, broth, cayenne, Mexican oregano, and tomato paste. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once the soup has come to a boil, add the peeled and deveined shrimp and cook until the shrimp is done, about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into a bowl. Top with diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and a handful of the baked tortilla strips. Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over the soup before eating.


Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

My 6 year old was home today with a nasty stomach bug and fever. I spent the day taking care of him. He needed lots of snuggling. Poor baby. For dinner, I was able to whip up something quick (and comforting) for the rest of us. These Salmon Cakes didn’t take too much time to throw together and they were really delicious. The capers and Dijon mustard added so much flavor.

I served the Salmon Cakes with arugula dressed with a homemade grapefruit vinaigrette (shallots, fresh grapefruit juice, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and olive oil) and Bird’s Eye Steamfresh Italian Style Protein Blend that I zapped in the microwave. The blend of whole grains, lentils, broccoli, white beans, and spinach (and some kind of sauce) was kind of bland, but wasn’t terrible (it tasted better mixed with the dressed arugula). Generally, I’m not a big fan of Bird’s Eye’s seasoned or sauced products. Their Voila! Skillet Meals are downright disgusting! I don’t know whose taste palette they are targeting, but it isn’t mine. Anywho, I was able to bundle a coupon and Ibotta rebate with a sale and got a package of the Protein Blend for free. I like free.

I had the afterthought of adding some dill to the salmon mixture. I love the flavors of salmon and dill together. I will definitely try it next time I make these Salmon Cakes.

Salmon Cakes

1 15 – 16 ounce can salmon, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 to 1 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Break up the salmon in a mixing bowl. You can remove the skin and the bigger bones if you want to. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until tender. Add the veggies to the salmon.

Add the capers, Dijon mustard, lightly beaten egg, salt, and pepper to the salmon and veggie mixture and combine well. Mix in the breadcrumbs, a little at a time, until the mixture is at a consistency where it is not too wet and it can be shaped into cakes easily. You may not use the full cup of breadcrumbs. Divide the mixture into 12 equal parts and shape each part into a cake with you hands.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet (you can use the same one you sautéed the onions and celery in) over medium heat. Add six of the salmon cakes and cook until browned on one side. Carefully flip the salmon cakes over and brown on the other side. Remove from the skillet and keep warm in a 250° oven (or toaster oven) while you cook the next batch. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet and cook the remaining salmon cakes (as you did before). Serve warm.


Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Did you know you can cook cucumbers? You can! They are especially great in stir-fries. In this particular spicy noodle dish, the addition of shredded cucumber helps cool the heat from the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing.

The Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing is the key to this recipe. It’s essential. Make it first.

Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. This dish comes together very quickly.

Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing (recipe follows)
4 ounces rice vermicelli
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded (or use 4 – 5 pickling cucumbers)
3 carrots, peeled
handful of black fungus (found in Asian markets)

Soak the rice vermicelli in a large bowl with enough hot water to cover for about 15 minutes or until they soften. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Soak the black fungus in a bowl with enough hot water to cover for about 15 minutes or until they are soft. Drain and slice very thinly. Set aside.

Shred the cucumbers. The food processor fitted with the shredding attachment is the quickest way to do it. Squeeze the liquid out of the shredded cucumbers. I place the shredded cucumbers in a clean dishtowel, gather all the edges, and squeeze out the liquid.

Shred the carrots.

Heat 1/4 cup of the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing in a wok over high heat. Add the drained rice vermicelli noodles and stir-fry until softened, about 3 minutes. Move the noodles to the side of the wok. Add 2 more tablespoons of the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing and add the shrimp. Stir-fry the shrimp until no longer pink, 2 – 3 minutes, and then mix into the noodles. Add the cucumbers, carrots, and black fungus and stir-fry until well-combined and heated through.

Serve the noodles with extra Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing for drizzling.

Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing

I got this recipe from Nina Simonds’ Asian Noodles: Delicious Simple Dishes to Twirl, Slurp, and Savor (Hearst Books, 1997), one of my all time favorite cookbook. This dressing is hot and downright addicting! I like to use it in stir fries and to dress Asian-style noodle dishes.

I get the super-hot crushed red pepper from Penzey’s. I like it hot.

1/4 cup safflower or corn oil (I use canola)
2 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 4 to 6 small dried hot chile peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch rings
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
7 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or sake
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Combine both oils in a heavy saucepan and heat over high heat until almost smoking hot. Add the red pepper, cover, and remove from the heat. Let sit until cool, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerated, in a covered container, the dressing will keep for a week. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits

I made this for dinner last night. It was easy and very flavorful.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits 2

Despite having been in South Carolina for 5 years, I’m still not completely gaga for grits. They taste boring. The addition of cheese and roasted poblanos definitely make grits more exciting for the taste buds.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits 3

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits
Makes 4 servings

For the grits:
2 poblanos chiles/peppers
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup grits (not the quick cooking kind)
4 ounces Monterrey jack (or pepper jack) cheese, shredded

For the shrimp:
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime

To roast the poblano chiles:
Preheat broiler to high. Place the poblano chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning every 5 minutes until each side is blackened and charred. Alternatively, if you have a gas stove, you can char the peppers over a flame, using tongs to turn them. Place the roasted poblanos in a large bowl and cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel the skin off the chiles, cut in half lengthwise, discard seeds and membranes, and chop.

For the grits:
Bring the water, milk, salt, and butter to a boil. Gradually whisk in the grits. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring often, for 15 – 20 minutes, or until desired consistency. Stir in the chopped roasted poblanos and shredded cheese and take off the heat.

For the shrimp:
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook 2 – 3 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the garlic and cook another minute, or until the shrimp are completely cooked through. Add the cilantro and lime juice and serve over the grits.