Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Creamed Shrimp in Savory Crêpes

We own something called the “Easy Button. Perhaps you have one, too. This little thing has given me years of childlike pleasure, so I’m excited to use it for today’s ultra-easy recipe

Creamed Shrimp in Savory Crêpes:

See basic Crêpe recipe indexed under Crêpes: Sweet (Chez Nicole):  

Prepare Crêpes as directed but use savory filling in recipe indexed under Main Dish: Seafood (Creamed Shrimp in Scallop Shells):

Prepare Shrimp-Cream Sauce as directed; omit potatoes. 
Use parsley, finely chopped, as garnish

Fill each Crêpe with a ribbon of Creamed Shrimp down the center. Fold each side over the shrimp-cream sauce to form a roll. Turn each Crêpe seam-side down, warming in oven until desired number of Crêpes have been filled and plated. Allow 2 Crêpes per adult diner. Garnish with parsley and serve at once.

Prepare Crêpe batter in blender as recipe directs.

Melt and cool butter before adding to batter.

Use only fresh shrimp. Frozen, thawed shrimp lacks taste.

Layer stacked Crêpes between sheets of waxed paper.

Carefully detach crêpe from crêpe maker with silicone spatula.

Fill with creamed shrimp edge-to-edge along center of crêpe

Fold first side over filling.

Fold second side over filling.

Reheat in warm oven seam-side down. Garnish with parsley.

Next Time: Another Dinner PartyI’m blogging irregularly for now, as I focus on another writing venture. However, Ill be popping in now and then to check on Ron, our Anonymous Taste-Testing Panel, et mon Frankie, chéri. Our Anonymous Taste-Testing Panel has a new (even more anonymous than usual) member, who can’t seem to make up his/her mind about any of my recipes. I have an uneasy feeling that he/she may cause trouble down the road ... 

Newest addition to our Anonymous Taste-Testing Panel:
Confusing and Confused.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creamed Shrimp in Scallop Shells

Did you catch that scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker doesn’t know how to fly his space ship between those narrow canyons and O Be One Kenobe tells him to trust the Force and he does and navigates the canyons with his eyes closed and lives another day to do battle with evil in the galaxy? Whew! 

This recipe is something like that. Although its easy to make, you’ll need to apply the full force of your cooking talents and instincts because the measurements below serve just two, and you may want to make more for a special occasion. No need to measure ... If it feels right, do it! It’s nice (but not necessary) to serve this rich main course on shell-shaped dishes. If you have no special dishes, use appetizer-sized plates (see Note). A small serving goes a long way! 

Creamed Shrimp in Scallop Shells:

To Prepare the Mashed Potatoes:

2 baking potatoes 
2 tbsp. milk or light cream
2 tbsp. butter or margarine 
Dash of salt and pepper

This is familiar territory to most of you, Dollinks. If not, see the Index for How to Make Mashed Potatoes. Be sparing with the quantity of milk and butter: You’ll want the prepared potatoes to be a little stiffer and dryer than usual, while still containing enough liquid that they hold together. After you’ve bashed, smashed, and mashed them, pulverize them with an electric beater until no lumps remain. This is cheaper than seeing a psychiatrist and every bit as effective. 

Prepare potatoes for boiling.

Make a stiff mash. Thin with butter and milk. Beat smooth.

To Prepare the Creamed Shrimp:

¼ c. butter or margarine
¼ c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. milk or light cream
1 c. poultry stock
Splash of white wine (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika, sprinkled on as garnish
1-½-to-2 c. fresh, cooked, well-drained and chilled shrimp

In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter until sizzling. Gradually add and whisk in flour. Continuing to whisk, slowly add milk and stock until mixture becomes a smooth white sauce of medium thickness. If desired, add a small amount of wine to thin the sauce slightly. Set sauce aside. Rinse shrimp, blotting dry. Set this aside, too.

Pipe or spoon small mounds of mashed potato close to edge of appetizer-sized plate. Heap shrimp inside ring of mashed potatoes, using ¾ c. to 1 c. shrimp per adult. Pour enough sauce over plate to completely cover shrimp, leaving potatoes uncovered. Lightly sprinkle paprika over all.

With oven rack in highest position, set shrimp-filled dishes under broiler just until bubbly and golden, 3-to-5 min. (see Further Note). Serve at once. Yields 2, depending on size of plates and appetites.

Melt butter, gradually adding flour and liquid until ...

You have a medium white sauce.

Rinse and dry fresh shrimp.

Spoon inside mounded potatoes. Cover shrimp with sauce.

Broil. Potatoes and sauce should be tinged with gold.

Note: While most plates with heat-safe glaze can withstand a short time under the broiler, don’t use your fine china for this recipe. That’s obvious to clever little monkeys like you, but I still needed to say it.

Further Note: Set individual serving dishes on a baking sheet to slide them under and from the broiler. This is faster and safer than handling them one at a time. When I use the broiler, I keep the oven door slightly ajar. Ovens differ. Consult your oven manual.

Tomorrow: More Creamed Shrimp! This time, served in Crêpes. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Fish Called Frankie

As I prepare Creamed Shrimp in Scallop Shells for dinner, I can’t help but notice that Frankie’s frightened. All he does is watch scary movies ... Jaws, The Old Man and the Sea, A Fish Called Wanda ... 

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Things have been a little tense around here: When Frankie eats dried brine shrimp and we also eat shrimp, he gets nervous about who’s next in the seafood department. In fact, he’s traumatized. Im traumatized, too, having just opened a letter from an anonymous reader who signs himself “F.” His letter was brief, but to the point. Here’s what it said: 

The Top 10 Signs You May Be Too Close to Your Fish:
• You snap “Pay Attention! as you tell him about your old love affairs.
• You buy him little outfits including a raincoat and booties.
• You leave the TV set on so he wont get bored while youre at work.
• You take him for walks in a water-filled plastic bag so he can get a breath of fresh air.
• You become jealous when he expresses interest in other fish.
• You refer to yourselves as Mommy” and “Daddy and say such things as Mommy wuvs ooo!
• You read him bedtime stories such as Finding Nemo and The Littlest Mermaid. If he retreats to the plaster pirate ship in his bowl, you threaten to read The Cat in the Hat.
• You cup your hand over the telephone to keep your conversations private.
• You tell him “You’re a pretty boy! Oh, yes you are! Oh, yes you are! which he finds patronizing.
• You introduce dinner guests to him by name. 

The letter continued: Your fish may need psychological counseling at $150 a pop. We will not warn you again, but if your aberrant behavior continues, we will take swift and decisive action. What size cement boots do you wear? F.

This is unnerving. While Ron and I plead the Fifth on the first nine points, we never introduce dinner guests to Frankie because he has trouble remembering names. Instead, we introduce Frankie to them. There’s a difference. 

No tough guy is going to intimidate us, particularly one who writes anonymously. It couldn’t have been our Frankie who wrote that note because he’s innocently napping inside the plaster pirate ship in his bowl. 

I’m rattled enough that I’ve decided to delay posting my Creamed Shrimp in Scallop Shells recipe until tomorrow. He-e-ey! It’s comforting that I have a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc in my left hand as I hunt and peck with my right. Ron and I are quivering in fear, but another glass should help.

Cement boots notwithstanding, I’ll post that recipe tomorrow.   xox   Nicole

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Duchess Soup

This lower-fat, alcohol-free soup is very similar to Olga’s Beer-Cheese Soup, published yesterday. 

Duchess Soup:

 c. butter
1 c. finely chopped carrots
1 c. finely chopped celery
1 small onion, finely chopped
¾ c. all-purpose flour
4 c. chicken stock
4 c. milk
16 oz. (500 g) aged cheddar, in small cubes
Chopped fresh parsley, as garnish

In large, heavy-based saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook carrots, celery, and onion, stirring often for 5 min. or until tender. Gradually add flour, stirring until blended. Whisk in milk and stock, bringing just to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat, stirring in cheese until melted. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley. Serves 10.

Note: This is a family-sized soup. Considering the cost of cheddar, you may want to cut the measurements in half. If you do that, use about 2-½ tbsp. butter and  c. plus 1 tbsp. flour as well as the simpler divisions.

Tomorrow: Creamed Shrimp in Scallop Shells.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Olga’s Beer-Cheese Soup

Forgive me, Olga Rumen, for I have sinned. Although you gave me permission to print your Beer-Cheese Soup recipe, I’ve made a few changes to the original. I feel bad because I forgot to mention that I’d monkeyed with your recipe 
Picasso would have approved.
when we spoke by phone last night. Would someone dare doodle on a Picasso? Exactly. 

Olga’s Beer-Cheese Soup has long been one of my favorites exactly as is. But I didn’t have any carrots and thought less stock and more mustard would be OK and the next thing I knew, the dish ran away with the spoon.

“Does anybody really make up recipes?” you asked. Actually, yes, they do. Those who do it often are gifted. Those who do it now and then are smart. And those who do it in a pinch are desperate, having have run out of one or more ingredients.

I fell into the latter category, Olga. And tinkered with your masterpiece. But you know what ...? Your/my Beer-Cheese Soup was almost as good as the original. The recipe below is a hybrid of yours and mine. 

Olga’s Beer-Cheese Soup:

¾ c. unsalted butter (no substitutes)
½ c. finely diced celery
½ c. finely diced carrots (I used mushrooms; carrots are best)
½ c. finely diced onions
½ c. all-purpose flour
4-to-5 c. chicken stock (Olga recommends 5 c. I prefer 4 c.)
½-to-2 tsp. mustard (Olga uses ½ tsp. I prefer 2 tsp.)
2-to-4 tbsp. Parmesan cheese (Olga recommens 2 tbsp. I prefer 4 tbsp. of the commercially powdered variety)
6 oz. aged cheddar (see Note
12 oz. (355 mL) beer (Olga likes 11 oz., so I drank what remained)

In a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until bubbly. Sauté vegetables 5 min. or until tender, stirring often. Slowly add flour to butter mixture, mixing until no lumps remain. Stir in mustard and gradually add chicken stock, cooking a further 5 min. on medium-low. Remove from heat. Blend in cheeses until fully melted. Stir in beer. Simmer to reheat to serving temperature. Season to taste (see Further Note). Serves 4-to-6.

Note: Olga suggests this amount - but is the measurement volume or weight? I didn’t want to take a chance, so used 1-½ c. cheddar, which seemed about right.

Further Note: Because cheese contains added salt, I found this soup perfectly seasoned without adding salt to the recipe. I suspect this soup would also be very good with a processed cheese spread such as Cheez Whiz substituted for the cheddar. I’m going to try that, next time. Oops! Ive just doodled on a Picasso.

Melt unsalted butter.

Dice celery.

Add carrots! They’re far superior for color
and crunch than the 
mushrooms I used.

Slowly stir in flour. 

Simmer to reheat before serving.

Tomorrow: Duchess Soup.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Danish Blue Cheese Soup

My love of blue cheese began in childhood, when I’d spend hours making and staring at blue cheese smears under the lens of my junior microscope. Unlike most scientists, I happily ate my research. Blue cheese cultures contain a lot of visible life. Did you know that the organisms in blue cheese ride commuter trains and buses, just as we do? I’m kidding, of course. As everyone knows, they ride Segways.   

Danish Blue Cheese Soup: Buses and Segways.
Danish Blue Cheese Soup:

1-½ tbsp. butter or margarine
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 c. chicken stock or bouillon
1 c. (13 oz. or 375g) Danish blue cheese, crumbled 
2 c. light cream
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped, as garnish (optional)

In large saucepan on medium heat, melt butter, blending in flour. Gradually add stock, stirring constantly until soup simmers. Add cheese, continuing to stir until cheese melts. Simmer 2-to-3 min. over low heat. Add cream, stirring constantly. Heat to serving temperature. Ladle into bowls, topping with a flurry of parsley. Serves 6-to-8.

Note: This is a large (and expensive!) soup. Small households may want to cut the quantity in half.

Add Stock to butter and flour roux.

Add crumbled blue cheese to simmering mixture.

Stir in light cream.

Add a flurry of finely chopped parsley.

Tomorrow: Olga’s Beer-Cheese Soup.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Broccoli-Cheddar Potage

One of my many, many, ma-ny fans sent me an email a couple of days ago (Oh, all right, it was my sister, Paulette). In response to the Creamy Broccoli Soup recipe I recently printed, she emailed that: I like to add 1 c. grated cheddar to this soup … Wonderful!

Ever the pedant, I answered: “But that’s a different recipe!

Of course, there are many recipes for broccoli-cheese soups. This one just happens to be my favorite. All of which started me thinking about the many guises in which cheese soups come. Over the next four days, I’ll be featuring four different cheese soups, starting with today’s cheddar-broccoli version, tomorrow’s with blue cheese, another with beer, and one with vegetables. 

“Potage? Dating to 16th C. French usage, the word describes any thick soup. I should know: I was around when they coined it, Dollinks. Young, I aint. The photo accompanying this blog was taken during the last of the Boer Wars. 

Broccoli-Cheddar Potage:

3 c. broccoli pieces, including florets and finely chopped stems
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
¼ c. finely chopped onion
2 tbsp. chicken bouillon powder or 1 tbsp. bouillon concentrate
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. powdered mustard
2 c. milk, whole or 2% milk fat
2 c. water (see Note)
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
½ tsp. salt
Extra grated cheddar, as garnish

Cook broccoli in lightly salted boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside. 

In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter or margarine. Add onion, frying until soft and translucent. If using bouillon powder, combine with flour, paprika, and powdered mustard, blending with softened onion mixture. If using bouillon concentrate, stir into softened onion mixture before adding well combined dry ingredients. 

Gradually add milk and water to onion-flour mixture in saucepan, stirring until mixture simmers and thickens. Remove from heat.

Add cheese, stirring until melted. Add cooked broccoli and salt to saucepan. Reheat to serving temperature, but do not boil. Ladle into bowls, garnishing with additional cheese. Serves 6.

Note: If you prefer, substitute 4 c. skim milk for the whole milk and water in this recipe.

Tomorrow: Danish Blue Cheese Soup.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Peppered Beef Stir-Fry

This easy, nutritious recipe is a smart
Sooo easy! Peppered Beef Stir-Fry
and tasty way to ease more vegetables into your diet.
 If you need to, marinate the beef in the morning and leave it in the fridge all day. 

Peppered Beef Stir-Fry:
To Prepare the Rice:
1 c. long- or medium-grain white rice
2 c. cold water or broth
Begin cooking rice 10 min. before you start stir-frying and your timing should be perfect. Wash” rice in bowl with several changes of cold water to rinse away starch. Combine rice with water or broth, cooking 20 min. in a rice cooker on the stove top. Allow rice to sit several minutes until needed.  

To Prepare the Marinade:

2 tsp. tapioca starch or cornstarch
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
2-to-3 drops sesame oil
½ lb. boneless round or blade steak, uncooked

In small bowl, thoroughly combine starch, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Sliver beef across grain as 4-in. strips. Combine with marinade mixture until each piece is coated. Cover with cello wrap, marinating in the refrigerator at least 3 hr. 

To Prepare the Sauce:

½ c. cold chicken stock
1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine or rice vinegar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
Few drops sesame oil
1 tbsp. tapioca starch or cornstarch

Combine ingredients in small bowl, ensuring starch is well mixed in. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To Prepare the Stir-Fry:

2 tbsp. peanut or canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced 
1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
½ red bell pepper (capsicum), cut into squares
½ green bell pepper (capsicum), cut into squares
1 small or ½ medium onion, cut into squares
2 slices fresh ginger, peeled and slivered

Prepare and array all ingredients before starting, separating the sections of this recipe on trays, if that makes it easier for you. 

Over high stove-top setting, add peanut or canola oil to preheated wok. To sizzling oil, add marinated beef and minced garlic, stir-frying until meat’s pink color barely starts to disappear. Add peppercorns, stir-frying 30 sec. longer. Add red and green bell peppers, onions, and ginger, stir-frying a further 15 sec.

Give sauce a quick further stir to recombine settled starch. Add sauce around edge of wok, stir-frying all until sauce becomes glossy, slightly thickened, and until it coats meat and vegetables. Serves 4, with or over rice. 

Marinate slivered beef.

Stir-fry until pink starts to disappear.

Add bell peppers and onion to meat.

Toss in whole peppercorns.

Slice and prepare to sliver peeled ginger.

Add sauce around edge of wok. Stir-fry 
mixture until slightly thickened.

Next: March may have come in like a lion, but if it isn’t showing signs of going out like a lamb in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where You Live, the hearty, cheese-based soups featured over the next four days will fortify you until Spring.

Tomorrow: Broccoli-Cheddar Potage.