Monday, November 19, 2012

Shrimp Popper Jammers

So is everyone knee-deep in Turkey Day planning? I am, as just last week I was completely blindsided, thinking that there was another entire week before I had to kick it into gear. Imagine my surprise! Suddenly I had to focus on planning the meal, making the tough decisions, the eenie meenie minie moes of what desserts to make, which sides, and how to cook the turkey. Thanksgiving is my favorite day to cook, and I do a big deal meal even if it's only for two. There will be leftovers a-plenty, and turkey reincarnations that have almost become ritual...turkey and dumplings, turkey tamales... Perhaps this year will bring new and interesting (and perhaps disturbing?) turkey twists.

Today however, our focus is on shrimp. The big, bold beautiful colossal jumbo shrimp that jumped in my path while I was working my way through my Thanksgiving grocery list. These bad boys were humongous, and called to me, seducing me with the promise of a crazy fabulous dinner. And so it was.

I liked the idea of shrimp jammers (butterflied shrimp with cheese, fried), and set about (unsuccessfully)  looking for a recipe. I had to wing it. And while we are winging it, may as well embellish! I decided to merge concepts - shrimp jammers and jalapeno poppers. Since I like to kick it up a few notches on the heat scale, I used serrano peppers (sort of like turbo-charged jalapenos). Ladies and gentlemen - these were ridiculously tasty. They take a little patience, but to me, the end justified the means. 


Colossal jumbo shrimp - 12, cleaned and deveined
4 ounces cream cheese
2 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced and diced (or serranos!)
4 slices of pepperjack cheese
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs (I used regular, but would use panko next time)
2 eggs
Cajun seasoning
Cooking oil (I prefer peanut)

Clean and devein shrimp. Pat dry.
Butterfly each shrimp by running a knife along the underside of the shrimp. Start shallow, being careful not to cut all the way through. Spread the sides, flattening the shrimp. 
Season with Cajun seasoning (or your favorite all-purpose seasoning).

Cut a thick sliver of cream cheese, and place in the center of the butterfly.
Press jalapenos into the cream cheese.

Break off slivers of cheese, place on top of serranos and cream cheese. Press cheese down gently so that it attaches to the cream cheese. Chill the plate of shrimp for 30 minutes.

Carefully dredge shrimp in flour keeping the cheese side up - drag it across flour on a plate, and sprinkle flour on top.

Beat eggs in a bowl. Combine crumbs and 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning in a separate shallow bowl. 
Carefully dip shrimp in egg, keeping cheese side up. Spoon egg over the shrimp to coat, if needed. 
Drag egged shrimp through seasoned crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs on top by hand if needed. 

Gently press crumbs onto shrimp to make sure it's coated. Gently place on a plate.
Heat oil in a small skillet on medium high (I use a medium skillet to ensure that the oil almost covers the shrimp once they are all in the pan). 

Finish coating the remainder of the shrimp. 
Once the oil is heated, gently place all shrimp in the pan cheese side up.

Cook until medium golden brown and crispy.

You will not flip these shrimp - this is why we want to cook them in oil that will just pop over the top enough to cook the cheesy part without melting it completely. 
When they are done, you will see the cheesy goodness just beginning to ooze through the crust.

Gently remove from skillet and drain. 


Thank you for stopping by to take a look at my blog. Please let me know if you have questions or comments. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Drunken Brats

Ahhh...the chill in the air! My very favorite time of year... I want to open all the windows and light a fire in the fireplace! I am so envious of you folks who actually have seasons, as there are only two seasons in Houston (Summer and Christmas). Thankfully, we are sliding into Christmas season. 

During this blessed transition, we begin to enjoy heavier beers such as Oktoberfests and winter ales, and slave over big batches of chili, gumbo, and hearty stews. It's the season for huddling around a fire, counting the stars, breathing in the rustic scent of the outdoors. We have festivals and parties and any other excuse to get out and enjoy the weather. We fire up the grills and smokers and outdoor fryers, with burgers and sausages and brisket and anything pork-related. And did I mention, bratwurst? 

Several years ago, a good friend from Wisconsin introduced me to an awesome way to prepare brats. Previously, I had simply grilled them, which I thought was awesome enough. But she took it to a whole new level. Drunken brats. What goes better with brats than, BEER? Throw in some onions for good measure, and you have a masterpiece. 


1 pound bratwurst (grilled, or otherwise cooked) - I used Johnsonville's spicy
1 large yellow onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium-dark beer (I used a brown can use any medium to dark beer that you enjoy drinking)
1 serving chicken bouillion

Spicy brown mustard

Fire up the grill! Or, you may choose to cook your brats in a skillet. Either way, we begin with cooked brats. I grilled these puppies with a side of pecan chips to give them a hint of smokiness. Oh yes. See the smoke swirling around those babies? Can't you just smell it?

Chop your onions by cutting in half, and then slicing into half-rings.

Heat butter in a pan - the pan needs to be wide enough to accommodate the brats and a couple of inches deep. 

When butter begins to brown, add onions.

Stir onions to coat with butter, simmer on medium.

Cook until the onions begin to give up and go boneless, about 10 minutes.

Add beer. All of it. Go ahead. You know you want to.

Stir in a serving of bouillon (I prefer the spoonable chicken stock, but a cube will work). Simmer.

How are those brats doing? Are they done yet? They are really looking tasty...

Add cooked brats to beer and onion mixture. Cover brats with onions.

Cover and simmer for an hour. 

Prepare sauerkraut, set aside in a serving dish.

Serve bratwurst in a bun, with mustard and sauerkraut.Top with a layer of drunken onions.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Red White and Bleu Patty Melts

Here we are, finally. Election night. After months of enduring openly hostile Facebook postings from folks on both sides of the fence, I for one am ready for this to be over. Just get me through the next phase, where the winners and sore losers will square off with additional nastiness…hopefully that phase will pass quickly.

On to the tastier side of things – BURGERS! And let’s not forget… BACON! This recipe combines some of my very favorite things. Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens… bacon, ranch dressing, cream cheese and Frank’s Red Hot (wait, that doesn’t rhyme at all…)! Oh well. Also needed to in cram bleu cheese, gooey patty melts with crisp, buttery toast (and maybe a craft IPA on the side?)… this could turn into a national anthem of culinary debauchery.

Mildly sweet onions with the tangy, spicy rush of Ranch and Red Hot, the hearty beef, the bleu cheese bite, the bacon that brings it all together...this patty melt is truly a taste sensation. 

Red White and Bleu Patty Melts

2 Servings
2 Beef Patties (your choice on whether you go 1/4 , 1/3 or 1/2 pound) seasoned (I prefer spicy Cajun seasoning such as Tony Cachere’s, as it goes well with the rest of the ingredients, but you can go with salt and pepper if you like)
4 slices of your favorite bread, buttered on one side
1 cup diced yellow onions
6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp (you may need to add a couple - chef's bonus snack)

2 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons dry Ranch Dressing mix (Hidden Valley)
1 tablespoon of Frank’s Red Hot

2 slices of American (I used white American)
2 ounces of Bleu Cheese crumbles

Soften cream cheese in a small bowl, either by leaving at room temp for about 15 minutes or microwaving at half power for 15 seconds or so. (Note that this is a much larger portion of the Red Hot and Ranch sauce than would be needed for 2 patty melts - I basically quadrupled the recipe to use as a DIP with Fritos, and because basically, I am an extra sauce junkie. :)

Blend until creamy and smooth.

Add Ranch mix.

Add Frank's Red Hot, mix until well-blended.

Refrigerate until set.

Fry bacon until crisp. Ah the beauty of bacon frying… the smell, the anticipation of bacony goodness dancing on your tastebuds...

Set bacon aside, if you can. 
Drain bacon grease from pan. Add chopped onions, and simmer until golden.

Cook seasoned beef patties, by whatever method you prefer. Grilled, griddled, pan-cooked - it all works.

Place 2 slices of bread, butter side down, on a flat, hot pan surface. Place the American Cheese slices on top of each, and the beef patties on top of these. Top with sauteed onions.

 Add... BACON. 

 Isn't she lovely...

Spread a thick layer of sauce on the remaining slice of bread (this will get a bit messy, since it is buttered, but somehow we suffer through...). Sprinkle with bleu cheese crumbles, and place the slice of bread on top of the patty melt. 
Flip when sandwich becomes crispy and browned on the bottom. Cook until crispy and browned; remove from pan.
Cut in half, and prepare for your tastebuds to explode. Enjoy!

 I couldn't resist some additional bleu cheese, and a bit of extra Red Hot and Ranch sauce on the side. :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creamy Lemon Herb Pasta with Smoked Chicken

The weekend’s cool weather made me yearn for the outdoors. I didn’t go far, but I did make several trips to the grill and back. I can see a large-scale smoking session in my near future (I’m talkin bout pecan smoke, don’t ya know - maybe with a hint of mesquite tossed in for good measure).  Pork ribs, pork butt, brisket... oh my! But this past weekend I only had time to hit the grill, as I was knee-deep in cake pops (and those little suckers demand a great deal of attention).

When I fire up the grill, I like to make a small foil boat for some wood chips to set on the grate alongside the meat…a makeshift mini-smoker as it were. Just enough to add an earthy hint of smoky goodness to the layer of chicken breasts and sausage I was grilling. And I always throw a few extra chicken breasts on the grill/smoker, as they make excellent leftovers to be reincarnated into tacos, pastas, salads, nachos and more.

Tonight’s dinner – another quick and easy pasta with chicken. This whole thing takes about 5 minutes more than it takes the pasta to cook.

Creamy Lemon Herb Pasta with Smoked Chicken

(2 Servings)

Pasta – 2 servings cooked (you can use whatever you love – I usually default to Angel Hair)
Philly Cooking Crème Savory Lemon and Herb – ½ container
2 tablespoons dry white wine (or water/broth)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 large (or 2 small) smoked or grilled chicken breast(s)
Green onions, chopped, for garnish

Cook pasta according to directions. While water is boiling/pasta is cooking, chop green onion. Mix cooking crème and wine in a small saucepan over low heat to combine; cover and remove from heat. (If you do not have a wine handy, you can use water or chicken broth - this is to thin the sauce just a bit to a creamy sauce consistency.)

When pasta is al dente, drain and toss back in cooking pan with butter and olive oil. Toss to coat well. Cover pot.

Reheat chicken; slice. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Just before serving, toss pasta with sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Dish pasta into bowls and top with chicken slices; garnish with green onions. Sprinkle with Parmesan.