Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grilled Garlic Lime Shrimp

Florida apparently missed the "winter" memo, so we still have excellent grilling weather. I'm trying to put it to good use to give you all some recipes and some jealousy. For those of you who have access to a grill, this is an excellent way to make a gourmet meal in record time (and also record clean-up!), but you can make this dish in the stove or in a saute pan just as easily (bake at 350 for ten minutes or so, or saute in olive oil on medium high heat for three to four minutes per side). The grill just gives it this woodsy delicious taste and a great crisp texture. The flavors are also very simple but pack a lot of punch, and really, this is one of my favorite ways to prepare shrimp.

Total prep time: 45 minutes (including marinating time, but not including time to de-shell and de-vein shrimp if you purchase them that way)

Total cook time: 8 minutes

What you will need:

1 lb de-shelled, de-veined (butterflied) shrimp (I typically buy 21/25ers--you want to get them big enough that they'll slide on a skewer)
1 lime (there are two pictured, I know)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste

Note: I made these shrimp on skewers, but if you have a grill basket, you make them just as easily

First step is to peel and de-vein your shrimp. Some people prefer to leave the tails on, I personally hate it. Whatever floats your boat. If you bought your shrimp already prepped, then skip this step, obviously. Regardless, make sure you rinse your shrimp in cold water and let them drain in a colander in the sink while you do the rest of the prep work.

Next you want to make your marinade. In a glass bowl large enough to hold all of your shrimp, you will zest/grate the peel of one lime. 

Zesting is somewhat of a pain, but it's also one of those therapeutic kitchen activities after a long day of work. I use visualization techniques to get some particularly aggressive zesting going on.

There. Once you have that, slice your lime in half and squeeze (or ream, as depicted below) the juice from both half of the limes into your glass dish along with your zest.

The next step is to throw the rest of your marinade ingredients in and mix well with a fork. Taste the marinade to see if you like how it tastes...remember, this is all about you! It won't do anyone a lick of good if you follow my measurements exactly and it's not to your particular flavor palette. 

Alright, now that we have the marinade taken care of, we turn our attention back to the shrimp. If they're still wet, pat them dry a little bit with a paper towel, then dump the shrimp into the marinade. I know we all wonder why we dry the shrimp before immediately putting them into the marinade, but if you'll notice, water wasn't one of the ingredients in the marinade. Water and oil don't mix. If they are wet, they will repel the marinade and it won't absorb as much and then you have bland shrimp. Capice?

Let the little guys sit on the counter and marinate for about 30 minutes. You don't want to go too much longer than that because the acid in the lime juice will actually start to break down the proteins in the shrimp, which are pretty delicate, and will alter the texture of the shrimp. Now is a good time to make a side dish if you want, or to have a glass of wine.

About ten to fifteen minutes before you want to start cooking the shrimp, start pre-heating your grill. J is in charge of the grilling side of this operation, and he advised me that he turns the grill on medium to start the pre-heating process, then turns it up to medium high a minute or so before he actually cooks the shrimp. You'll also want to soak your skewers in water to keep them from catching fire on the grill.

After the shrimp have marinated, you'll stick them on the skewers, like so:

Get all your shrimp on skewers (I try and make sure I have an even number of skewers and shrimp since the most bitter fights in our household are about who got the extra shrimp), and then take them to the grill. Place them like so, over medium-high heat:

J says that at this point, the shrimp cook pretty fast so you have to watch them. He closes the lid of the grill, but after about three minutes on one side, it's time to flip them.

Sorry for the blur, that was an action shot as J was flipping. They pink up pretty quickly, and for the love of Pete, do not overcook your shrimp. Ruins all our hard work at marinating and zesting and what have you.

Cook for another three minutes or so on the second side and remove from the grill. They should not be translucent anymore, but still tender to the touch with some lovely grill marks on them.

Simple, no? Just serve, and enjoy!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pan-Fried Soft Shell Crabs

I found these gems at a local seafood market just down the street from my new home, called The Fisherman's Dock. They were still alive and wiggling when I bought them, so I knew they'd be fresh, which I really think is the key with seafood. The fishmongers were kind enough to clean them for me, so I don't know that process, but hey, they were delicious, and VERY easy to make. We ate these bad boys by themselves, but I could easily see making a delicious po boy with them, or serving them up with some paella.

Total Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Cook Time: 15 minutes

What you will need:

Softshell crabs, cleaned and gilled (get the fishmonger to do this for you), the fresher the better
3 tbsps of plain flour
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Old Bay seasoning, to taste
Grapeseed or Canola oil, some oil that you can use for panfrying that has a high smoke point. Expect to fill a non-stick pan about 3/4 of an inch full of oil.

First you will set up your "assembly line." There should be one plate with the breadcrumbs and some old bay mixed together, a bowl with the egg gently beaten, and the crabs, sitting next to a small glass bowl with the flour and a bit of old bay mixed together in the bowl.

Rinse your crabs and pat them dry with paper towels. The drier they are, the easier it is to get the coatings to stick. Then, in a small glass bowl, mix your flour with old bay seasoning. It's as much as you want to taste; some people really like the flavor and others only want a hint of it. Mix it together with your fingers in your small glass bowl.

Next, you will dust your crabs on both sides with the flour mixture.

Mmmm, crabby.

After you get them dusted with the flour mixture, dip them in an egg bath. They don't need to be soaked, just lightly bathed in the egg mixture both back and front. Make sure all the legs get some egg on there, too.

Next, transfer them to the breadcrumb plate. Again, the breadcrumbs should be mixed with old bay, to taste. You're going to taste more of the seasoning in this stage, so keep it in mind when adding seasoning. You can also add some cayenne pepper or cajun seasoning here, if you'd like to alter your flavor profile.

Next, in a non-stick skillet, heat approximately 3/4" of oil to a high temperature. The oil will shimmer, and you want to stop it from overheating and smoking. Keep an eye on it. The way that I figure out whether it's hot enough is by taking a small bit of breadcrumbs held together by leftover egg wash and throwing it in the oil to hear whether it's "sizzlin hot." If it's not sizzling, then it's not ready.

Once it's ready, lay your crabs down with their legs spread. Now there's a sentence you wouldn't expect to read in a cooking blog.

I know the temptation is great to keep flipping them and checking them out. You have to trust that they are cooking and leave them relatively undisturbed, approximately 4 minutes on the first side. Then, flip them and they should look like this:

Cook for another four minutes or so, then flip one last time to make sure they are cooked evenly on both sides. Then remove to a paper-towel lined plate.

Let them drain and cool for a minute or two, then serve and enjoy!!!

Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas

So in my last post, I let you guys know how to make pulled buffalo chicken. You can use it in several different contexts: on salads, in sliders, and, our personal favorite, in quesadillas. They are quick and delicious for dinner, or for heavy apps for a tailgate party.

What you will need (sorry, no picture was taken)

a bowl full of the buffalo pulled chicken, slightly warm
1/2 bag of mexican blend shredded cheese (finer shreedded, the better)
flour tortillas (any size you prefer, but make sure it'll fit flat in the bottom of one your non-stick skillets)

First, put a non-stick skillet on the stove and put the heat on medium or so. Place a flour tortilla in the skillet, then sprinkle with cheese.

Wait approximately three minutes, until the cheese starts to melt a little bit. Then slurp on some buffalo chicken, but only put it on one half of the tortilla. Once you put it on one half of the tortilla, you will use a flat spatula to fold the other half over, sort of like an omelette:

Press down on the top of the quesadilla to get the cheese to "fuse," then flip over to make the other side crispy.

After about two minutes, remove to a plate and use a pizza cutter to cut the quesadillas. Serve and enjoy!!!!