2/28/2014

Fried Shrimp Po-boys

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{and other good eats for Mardi Gras}


At first look you might think to yourself, "Nicole, are you really posting a recipe about a sandwich?" I get it, but this is no ordinary "meat- mayo- throw in a few crisp veggies" sandwich.  This, my dear readers, is a po-boy.  A rather humble, but very satisfying sandwich from the streets of New Orleans.  From the meats to the condiments, the variations are endless. The one element that holds the contents of every incarnation of the po-boy is the bread.

The classic New Orleans French bread is crusty on the outside with a soft and tender interior.  It is sturdy enough to hold up to the packed fillings, yet tender enough so you don't have to dislocate your jaw to eat it.  Of course, I can't find that kind of french bread up in these parts, so I make my own.  I have linked the recipe for the rolls below. Y'all, come on! It really is an easy recipe.

Now for the meat.  I chose fried shrimp this time around because it is something we all enjoy.  I bathe the shrimp in buttermilk first before dredging it in a seasoned cornmeal mixture.  Once fried to golden perfection, I place them on a wire rack set over a paper bag to allow the excess oil to drain.  This helps keep the coating nice and crispy.  (Just watch out for passers-by who might sneak a hot shrimp or two. Get-outta-here!)

Where are we now?  Bread-- ✔.  Shrimp-- ✔.  Now comes the creamy, spicy condiment that brings this bad boy together.  It is my version of a mayonnaise based Rémoulade with a spicy Creole twist.  I use a combination of Dijon mustards and horseradish for a Creole mustard-like taste.  The only other po-boy fixings you need are a little shredded lettuce, tomato, and maybe a squeeze of lemon along with a good dash of hot sauce.  Slice, slather, stuff, and then sink your teeth into this regional favorite.  Serve it with the Mardi Gras Slaw and maybe a few potato chips on the side. As far as what beverage to serve, let me suggest a bottle of Abita beer to help wash it all down.  Mmm... Let the good times roll!!

Looking for more good eats for Mardi Gras??  






















2/26/2014

Mardi Gras Slaw

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Some of you may recall that I spent several years of my youth on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain across from the Crescent City.  Although I was young and didn't indulge in the debauchery of Mardi Gras, I did enjoy the food, fun and festivities.  I remember my parents and their friends even had us kids dress up as Smurfs one year for the parades (what were they thinking??).  

Fat Tuesday is just around the corner and with no sport activities this past weekend, I was able to share some of that good food and fun with some neighbors.  One particular neighbor brought over some adult fun in the form of a Sazerac.  Debauchery in a glass I tell you. One sip of that cocktail and you'll forget how cold it is outside.  Heck, you'll forget just about everything. Thanks, Matt☺.

Ok, back to the food... purple, green, and gold are the colors of Mardi Gras.  Purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.  All three colors are present in this light and refreshing slaw and all three representations keep me focused on the fact that the season will change and we will have warm weather again.  It is refreshing in taste and, after looking at 70 plus inches of blinding white snow this winter season, it is quite refreshing to the eye.  Now, what goes best with a slaw like this?  Stay tuned...

2/21/2014

Roasted Garlic and Shallot Dressing

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Although I didn't post this past Sunday, we did enjoy a scrumptious Sunday dinner with a menu similar to this one.  I had an extra roasted garlic head that needed to find a home and since a simple green salad was on the dinner menu this week (it accompanied a roasted vegetable omelet), I thought I would pull out this recipe.

If your teenage children linger at the dinner table picking greens out of the salad bowl with their fingers after they have already had one helping of salad (um hello?-- there is something called a fork right there), you know you have a winner on your hands.  I even got a "wow, this is so good!" several times.

Roasting the garlic and shallots brings out the sweetness and deepens the flavor (but you still might want to have a breath mint or chew a piece of gum after your meal).  I use equal parts lemon juice and champagne vinegar to provide a clean acidity.  When considering which oil to use in dressings, I usually use a neutral oil, such as Canola or Safflower.  I adore the fruity and sometimes peppery flavor of a good extra virgin olive oil, but in emulsified dressings and even in some vinaigrettes I feel that it can overpower the rest of the ingredients.  I prefer to save the good stuff for a simple drizzle on salads or vegetables.

Not only does this dressing pack a punch of flavor, it is quite versatile. It is an obvious choice for a simple mixed green salad (don't forget the croutons) and it stands up well to hearty greens like Romaine or kale.  It is also excellent drizzled over grilled and/or roasted vegetables and potatoes.  Whenever make it, I always add in a little chopped fresh parsley.  However, if I am using it for vegetables or potatoes, I sometimes add fresh thyme or rosemary.  Those flavors mingle nicely.  But as I have said before, "make it for you, make it your own".

2/19/2014

Sausage, Pepperoni and Onion Sheet Pan Pizza

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Pizza... I love this food! Thin crust, deep dish, St. Louis-Style, Skillet, Neapolitan-- you name it and I am all over it.  This one is a favorite weeknight meal in my house. One dough recipe + one pan = easy peasy.  This recipe means no stretching several balls of dough with different toppings and sticking my head in and out of a 500º F oven throwing pies.  I'll save that for the weekend.

The dough itself is simple to make and not much kneading is required.  Unlike my thin crust pizza dough, there is no overnight rest or long period of rising.  The key to success with this recipe is to make sure that the sauce dries out to prevent the cheese from oozing off the dough in one glob.  So first, the dough is partially baked with just a little bit of fresh Parmesan to make a nice crust.  Then the sauce (I like to use my favorite) is spread and meat and onions are sprinkled on top.  The pizza goes back into the oven to darken and for the sauce to be dried out.  Lastly the cheese is scattered on top and baked until melted and lightly browned.  (Ok, so I did stick my head in and out of a hot oven a few times, but it was just for one pizza and it's worth it.) Once baked, I let the pizza rest on a wire rack for a few minutes so that the crust stays nice and crisp before cutting into it.  Hit a square with a few crushed red pepper flakes, serve with a nice green salad and your pizza parlor dinner is served.

2/14/2014

Sautéed Shrimp with Buttery Lemon-White Chocolate Sauce

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Chocolate say hellooo to the the savory world. The word sexy comes to mind with this dish.  Yes, I said sexy. Food can be sexy, right? Here we have succulent sautéed shrimp drizzled with a buttery lemon-white chocolate sauce nestled on a bed of arugula-- See what I mean? 

The original recipe called for lemon-pepper seasoning, but that is not something I keep in my pantry.  Besides, I like the freshness of lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper.  An entire 1/2 cup of lemon juice is reduced to balance the sweetness of the dish, but it also lends a brightness.  I toss the peppery arugula with almond oil and white wine vinegar. Once plated, I garnish with lightly toasted almonds for some crunch.

I leave the tails on the shrimp to make it a knife and fork meal.  It makes you work harder and savor your meal longer, but you can remove them before sautéing them if you wish. Either way will have you tasting chocolate in a whole new way.

2/12/2014

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

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Love is in the air and for me that means chocolate is on the brain.  Ok who am I kidding, it's always on my brain.  Seriously, this is the third chocolate post in a row. I have been waiting to share this for that special occasion and with Valentines Day at the end of the week, I thought it was the perfect time. 

Chocolate cake with slightly crunchy edges and a gooey filling?? Mmmm-- Wipe the drool from the keyboard.  All the evils in the world (including this gosh forsaken winter) stop with one bite.  It is easy to prepare and it can even be made in advance before baking.  I add vanilla and espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor to dangerous levels.  Want to make this dessert even better?  Add a small scoop of vanilla ice cream☺. 

♫"Oh I can't help falling in love with you." ♪♬

2/09/2014

Sunday Dinner

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Stuffed Brie
Cranberry Hazelnut Crisps

Spinach Madeleine

Toasty-Nutty Chocolate Hazelnut Tart


This is what I call a "Triple C" Sunday dinner-- Cheese-Chicken-Chocolate.  It's a combination of my three favorite food groups.

I have another Chocolate Hazelnut Tart that I have shared in the past, but this one gets a little nutty with the addition of chopped hazelnuts and some hazelnut liqueur.  Once baked, the hazelnuts rise to the top and the egg whites form a meringue-like crust.  It's wonderful warm and gooey or cold straight from the refrigerator. Whichever way you serve it, I highly recommend a nice dollop of whipped cream.  This tart is creamy, crunchy, and crazy good.  Maybe I should call it the Triple C Tart☺.

Sunday Dinner one year ago


2/07/2014

Chocolate-Espresso Cream Cheese Frosted Brownies

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That's it.  I have had it with winter!! With almost 60-inches of snow and relentless sub-zero temperatures, I am starting to feel like Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining.  Redrum Old Man Winter, redrum!  But rather than hit the bottle like Jack, I'll hit the butter and bake so I can share some sugah with my loved ones.  Having said that, I might just put a wee bit of the good stuff in my baked goods☺.

The original recipe called for bittersweet chocolate, but I almost always opt for semisweet instead.  I guess you could say that I have a sweet tooth.  An entire tablespoon of espresso powder is used in the batter, so these are a really great afternoon pick me up.  And the cream cheese frosting?  That's where my inner Jack Torrance comes in to play with a kick of Kahlùa for an added coffee flavor.  Chocolate, coffee, cream cheese, and a little bit of the good stuff--- "Heeeere's Johnny!"

2/05/2014

Creamy Herbed Spinach Dip

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I am sure many you are familiar with that ubiquitous party food consisting of a hollowed out bread bowl filled with spinach dip.  You know-- the one that uses a packet of vegetable recipe powder mix?  Yeah, you guessed right. That it is not in my cache of recipes--but this one now is.

This has the same base of sour cream, mayonnaise, and spinach, but the really great flavor comes from fresh scallions, garlic, and parsley.  I use some dried dill (not too much for me) for a little more herbiness (that is a word) and I balance it all with some Dijon mustard and vinegar.  That brightens up the flavor profile.

Instead of the bread bowl, I go for more veggies on the side.  But for a little carb action, I do like to serve it with pretzel chips.  It's a really good combo.

Oh, and don't forget to use this kitchen tip to squeeze dry spinach!

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