Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cheesy Baked Shrimp

I got this idea from the Barefoot Contessa, didn't have the recipe, and just as well as half her ingredients I couldn't find here in the SGV.  27 kinds of bok choy at one store, but not a single bulb of fresh fennel.  After a morning of searching I gave up and went for substitutions.

Cheese and shrimp or any seafood for that matter combined is considered heresy in Italian cookery, but this isn't Italian so I'm not gonna fret about it.  It sounded tasty unlike Mrs Goldberg's "Shrimp Parm".

I was able to find the Feta that is called for in this recipe.  I know this is a polarizing cheese, a reasonable swap out would be coarse grated Parmesan.  The point is you want the salty goodness of the cheese to compliment the naturally salty taste of the shrimp not drown it in gooey cheese.

Another hard to find ingredient can be Pernod. Its an anise based liquor with an herbal nose to it.  Not whack you in the face hard anise, but subtle and herby.  Quite tasty and no kitchen doing French cookery should be without it. Ask your local Liqour Store to order you a bottle, thats what I did.  If you don't like this...sub in Absinthe...still herby but no subtle anise flavor.

I use canned tomatoes as they are always available and tasty.  However, don't season with salt and pepper until you've added them and tasted.  The amount of salt varies wildly between brands and its best to season with them in place.   You can always add salt, but you can't take it away.

I used a Pinot Gris in the cooking because I like the taste and it goes well with Seafood in general.  Add it bit too cooking and it livens up the dish and compliments your wine pairing even better.  Actually any dry white wine will work so grab your favorite and swap to your hearts content.

Cheesy Baked Shrimp
  • 2 lbs 21-25 Count Shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1 medium onion coarse chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 stalk celery thinly sliced
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 t dried marjoram
  • 1/2 C Pinot Gris
  • 2 T Pernod
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 oz crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1 C Panko Bread crumbs
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Baguette for dipping
Preheat  oven to 350F
Place 4, 16 oz (2 Cup) ramekins on a baking sheet

In a medium saute pan add enough olive oil to lightly coat bottom and place pan on medium heat.  Add onion and celery and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer until fragrant.  Add wine to deglaze pan, cook one minute.

Add tomatoes with juice to pan. Add Marjoram. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in Pernod.

Divide the sauce equally among the 4 ramekins.  Take 1/3 of the shrimp and divide equally among the ramekins arranging carefully in a single layer.

Take 1/2 the cheese and divide it equally among the ramekins on top of the shrimp.

Take another 1/3 of the shrimp and divide them equally in a single layer into the ramekins.  Top with remaining Feta cheese split between the 4 ramekins.

Take remaining shrimp and arrange in the ramekins in a single layer.  Sprinkle the lemon juice evenly over the ramekins.

Combine panko bread crumbs, pinch of salt and lemon zest to evenly distribute.  Add olive oil and toss until combined.  

Divide bread crumbs and sprinkle evenly over the ramekins.  Place in oven and bake 15 minutes.

Serve hot with a baguette for dipping in the juices and a simple green salad on the side.

Shrimp evenly and artfully arrange ensures they cook evenly and your layers are even as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake

I found tons of recipes for Strawberry Rhubarb Dump cakes.  Most called for even more butter and sugar than my sensibilities could stomach.  The one thing no one did that makes mine distinctive and the ultimate is that I use a strawberry cake mix instead of a boring old white or yellow cake mix.

I also used vanilla sugar.  That's stupid easy to make.  Take split vanilla bean pod and stick it in a jar with a cup of sugar.  The Vanilla will permeate the sugar in a weeks time.  A good use for a used vanilla bean pod.  If you don't have vanilla sugar handy you can use regular granulated sugar.

Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake

  • 1-1 1/2 lbs Rhubarb
  • 1 box strawberry cake mix
  • 1 3 oz box strawberry jello
  • 1/2 c vanilla sugar
  • 1/3 c melted butter
  • 1 c water


Preheat oven to 350F
Spray a 13X9 baking dish with cooking spray

Trim ends of rhubarb and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  Split thicker stems lenghtwise if needed so you don't have massive chunks of rhubarb.  Place cubed rhubarb in baking dish.

Sprinkle over vanilla sugar over the rhubarb.
Sprinkle jello over the rhubarb mixture.

In mixing bowl whisk together cake mix with 1 c water and the melted butter.  Whisk until is just comes together.  A few small lumps won't harm the batter.

Pour batter over the rhubarb mixture and smooth to the corners.  Bake in preheated oven 40-45 minutes until set and top is lightly golden.  Cool completely.  Serve at room temp or chilled.
layers of rhubarb, vanilla sugar and jello
Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake done

Saturday, March 7, 2015

CHOCOLATE Gooey Butter Cake

I went to middle school and high school in Farmington MO.  According to local folk lore the Gooey Butter Cake was invented in nearby St. Louis.  Although I can't prove or disprove that claim, I can tell you it is a wonderfully, even sinfully rich treat.  Them baptists may not drink, but they sure has hell know how to make a sinful treat!

It really falls into the stupid easy cookery category as it is just that.

There is no real trick to making it.   I knew going into this recipe that I'd have a challenge of keeping it gooey with the addition of cocoa powder to the second layer that bakes up to make the crackly crunch and gooey center.  2 T of butter kept the center the right consistency.  Even the chocolate hater in my house liked it.  So without further adieu...the first ever chocolate gooey butter cake!

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake
Layer 1

  • 1 package Devils Food chocolate cake mix
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten

Layer 2

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t coffee extract
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c Black Onyx or Hershey Special Dark cocoa
  • 4 c powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 F
Lightly grease, spray with Pam a 13X9 baking dish

For the first layer dump the cake mix in a bowl and with mixer on slow...slowly pour in melted butter and lightly beaten egg.  Stir on slow speed until a thick dough forms.  Pat the dough into the baking dish.

For the second layer cream together the cream cheese, butter, salt, vanilla and coffee extract until smooth.  Beat in eggs until smooth.  Reduce speed and stir in cocoa powder.  Stir in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until it is incorporated into the cream cheese mixture.  Increase speed and beat 2-3 minutes until smooth.  Pour over second layer and smooth out with a spatula.

Place the baking dish on a tray to catch any boil over as it does rise a lot during baking.  Bake 35-45 minutes until the top has a dark crispy top.  Cool to room temperature and serve.  Note the cake will fall some as it cools...its normal.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Migraineurs relief - uncured Kielbasa

I've been on a quest to find good uncured sausages.  Its next to impossible, especially if you want smoked as the long smoking process is ripe for botulism bacteria growth if you don't use sodium nitrite to "cure" the meat.  The problem with sodium nitrite is a migraine trigger for me and thousands of others out there.

I've pretty much given up on ever having a nice kielbasa again let alone polish, or bologna.  But after enough times seeing chefs make sausage on the food channel I thought I'd give it a shot.  First time around was pretty good.  I took a basic kielbasa recipe and switched around ingredients, deleted like the sodium nitrite and MSG (another nasty migraine trigger) and added in more flavorful spices, smoked garlic and liquid smoke to give it that fresh smoked flavor without the risk.

Please NOTE This is a fresh sausage and needs to be treated like one.  Different than cured meats you will need to cook it and use it with 2-3 days of manufacture.  You can safely freeze 2 months after stuffing.  IF you don't promptly refrigerate or freeze  you could get botulism.

I got my smoked granulated garlic at Surfas in Santa Ana, but their Culver City store carries it as well.  It really adds a deep smoked through flavor as well as intense garlic flavor.  A total win on all counts.  Search it out through them or online.

I was warned up front by a friend that this really is a two man job when it comes to stuffing.  One to feed the meat mixture into the hopper of the stuffer and another to hold the casings and control the rate of stuffing at the end of the extruder.  It really is, I can't imagine trying this my first time by myself without my son to do the stuffing.

On the topic of the sausage stuffer I got the one for the Kitchenaid that attaches to the meat grinder for $8 online at Amazon.  About a quarter the cost even the culinary outlets charged for it.

Uncured Kielbasa

  • 2 1/4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 3/4 pound uncured pork back fat
  • 2 T smoked granulated garlic
  • 1 t liquid smoke
  • 1/2 c ice water
  • 2 T fresh coarse cracked black pepper
  • 2T dried marjoram
  • 1 T ground mustard
  • 1 T Kosher salt


Cut pork shoulder and pork back fat into chunks big enough to fit into your meat grinder feed tube.  Place cut meat in freezer for 20-30 minutes to get it well chilled but not frozen. 

Fit grinder with coarse grinder blade.  At medium speed alternate pork shoulder and pork back fat and run through grinder.  Add spices, water, salt and liquid smoke to meat mixture.  Quickly knead with your hands until well mixed.  Be careful not to let the mixture get too warm from your hands and the fat starts melting.

Chill sausage mixture overnight in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  This allows the fat to firm up as well as the flavors to develop and blend.

30 minutes prior to stuffing soak the sausage skins in warm water to make them pliable and easy to load onto the feed tube. Assemble and use the large feed tube for extruder.  Spritz the end of the feed tube with cooking spray to lubricate the extruder.  Slip on a sausage skin and load up the extruder.  Tie off the end in a not. With one person putting in the sausage mixture and another holding the sausage as extruded fill up a casing.  Every foot or so slow speed and twist the sausage a full turn or two to create a link, then resume speed and stuffing.  Tie off the end of the casing with a knot when done.  Repeat until all meat is used. 


Prick sausage every couple of inches with a needle to allow steam to escape and prevent casing ruptures when cooking.

Lay sausage onto a baking sheet and cool a few hours uncovered to let excess moisture evaporate if using fresh that day.  If not coil, place in freezer bags and freeze up to 2 months.


To cook.  Place sausage in large skillet.  Cover about 3/4 up the sides with water.  Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cook about 30 minutes at slow simmer until sausage is cooked through and reaches 165F with instant read thermometer.  Remove from poaching liquid and brown on each side in a lightly oiled skilled until brown, about 5-8 minutes per side.  Or...grill until browned with good grill marks.

Lemon Thyme Chicken Breasts

With a Meyer Lemon tree in the back yard this time of year I'm blessed with ample lemons and am always looking for ways to use them all.  Step in this Lemon Thyme Chicken Breast.

A couple of things to keep in mind with high acid marinades like this...keep the time short enough to impart flavor but not so long as to "cook" the protein and changes its texture.  Really an hour max is all you need.

Stripping Thyme of its leaves is a lot easier than you think.  Grasp the top of the stem firmly and slide your fingers towards the base with light pressure and the leaves are off and the woody stem can be discarded.  I also do this after handling the raw garlic as it helps kill the smell of the garlic on your fingers.

Lemon Thyme Chicken Breasts


  • 4 chicken breasts - I use skinless/boneless
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 lemons sliced thing
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 T fresh Thyme leaves
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 t kosher salt


To make marinade combine zest, lemon juice, thyme leaves, garlic, olive oil salt and pepper in a small blender jar or mini-food prep and pulse a few times until garlic is finely chopped.

In non-reactive bowl...stainless steel or glass, add chicken breasts.  Pour over marinade and toss to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Convect bake if you have it.  Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Place breasts on the lined baking sheets.  Pour marinade over the chicken.  Top with reserved slices of 2 lemons.  Bake 30-35 minutes until cooked through.  Serve hot over parslied rice.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Baked Molten Fudge Cakes

The basics for this recipe gave me the idea for the final version, Where I got it from I don't recall.  Its really a soupier version of a molten lava cake that you don't have to try and flip out of the ramekin.  Plop on a big scoop of coffee ice cream when done and you are in heaven.

I used Surfas Black Onyx cocoa powder as its sooooo much richer in chocolate flavor than the usual stuff at the groc.  If you can't find Black Onyx, Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder is a very close replication of what I used.  

Superfine sugar dissolves easier than regular table sugar.  Its worth the few extra pennies in this recipe to use it.  The regular sugar doesn't dissolve completely and leaves a gritty texture.  And texture is everything with this treat.

Baked Molten Fudge Cakes
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/8 t sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t coffee extract
  • 3T heaping cocoa powder
  • 3T all purpose flour
  • 4 12 oz ramekins
  • 13X9 baking dish
  • 4-5 C boiling water
  • Coffee Ice Cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F

Melt butter and set aside to cool.  

Place eggs in mixer with whisk attachment and beat on high until light lemon colored and fluffy.  The eggs should fall from beater in a ribbon...about 5 minutes.  Don't skimp here as this is what gives the airy texture to the final product.

Beat in sugar until dissolved.  Beat in vanilla, salt and coffee extract.  Reduce speed and fold in cocoa powder and flour.  Pour in melted butter and stir until just mixed.  Don't over-beat this last step.

Divide the batter between the 4 ramekins.  Place ramekins in the 13X9 baking dish.  Gently pour in boiling water until it comes up half way up the sides of the ramekins.  Be careful not to splash water into the batter as it will ruin the batch.

Bake in oven 50-55 minutes until the top is crackly set.  Do not bake through.  Remove from oven, remove ramekins from water bath and let cool 5-10 minutes.  Place ramekin on a desert plate, top with scoop of ice cream.  Enjoy while warm and melty.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ginger Spiced Spritz

This cookie too a bit of work to get it right.  Cloves were the culprits.  A little goes a long, LONG way and the first batch thats all you tasted.  Got it right now and this is a righteous little cookie that packs a punch of flavor.

I like to take half the cookie batter and color it.  It adds to the festive look of your cookie plate by not having them all one color.  Call me funny, but presentation is everything.

Ginger Spice Spritz

  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 2 t ground ginger
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 c butter
  • 3/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 t orange extract'
  • decorative colored sugar sprinkles
  • food coloring


Cream together brown sugar, room temp butter, salt and orange extract until fluffy.

Combine flour and spices.  Sift together.  With stand mixer on low slowly add flour mixture to creamed butter and mix until smooth and all flour incorporated.  Optional: remove 1/2 of batter into seperate bowl.  Add a few drops of food color to the bowl and mix until color is uniform.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Load cookie dough into feed tube of a cookie press.  Select pattern die and press cookies according to package directions.  Sprinkle raw cookies with decorative sugars

Bake 12-14 minutes until firm. Cool on wire racks.