October 20, 2016

The Best Ever Shrimp and Grits--Seriously!

A Decadent Shrimp Mix on Creamy Grits
Every cook should have at least one signature dish in her repertoire that can be whipped up quickly with whatever is on hand, impress at the dinner table, and instill self-confidence and pride. Though I never thought my own signature dish would turn out to be shrimp and grits, I cooked it often enough over a short period of time and with varying ingredients on hand, that I quickly decided to improvise until I arrived at my latest masterpiece. So good is this rendition, I think it's worth sharing.

For those living outside of the Deep South or never having visited, grits might seem formidable, not only to make well, but as a side dish worthy of any breakfast--or, dinner plate. Truthfully, making good grits requires patience, plenty of milk or cream, and lots and lots of butter. I can make a pretty good batch of grits, but I'll never make them quite as good as my sister-in-law who lives in Georgia and is fearless when it comes to adding the butter. But, I digress.

My latest and thus far, best version of this Southern classic, is fortified with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and spicy Cajun-style Chorizo, along with the classic ingredients of shrimp, garlic, butter, parsley, and white Vermouth. It pairs perfectly with a glass of red wine and warm slices of French bread for wiping up any juices that manage to get past the grits.

October 17, 2016

French Pork and Beans

Saturday Night Dinner Party


Once we got word that Pop was headed our way for a long overdue visit, Mr. B couldn't think of anything else but sausage making. It seemed every time I'd round a corner and walk into a room, I'd find him deeply engaged in one of the many tomes dedicated to meat that lined our library shelves. The day he came home with a professional sausage maker in tow that he borrowed from a friend, I knew for certain that there was going to be a lot of meat headed our way.

True enough, he made the rounds of almost every grocery store in our town, headed straight for the meat counter and without hesitation, introduced himself to whichever butcher happened to be on duty.

Over the course of the week, I'd see him jotting his notes down into a small pocket notebook that he kept tucked away in his briefcase and every few days, he'd update me on how it was all coming together--where he was picking up a pork belly, who was ordering hog casings for him, and when the fresh pork shoulders would be available.

Once the logistics of his sausage making enterprise were worked out, he moved on to his ultimate goal--creating the most decadent, delicious, and impressive cassoulet outside of Languedoc-Roussillon, the famed region in the South of France known for its many gastronomical delights.

In truth, while cassoulet may be nothing more than a fancy French version of pork and beans, a hearty stew of slow cooked white beans, fortified with a medley of duck confit, pork belly, and sausage, this rustic staple is incredibly delicious if done right and just about the most soul-satisfying dish imaginable--especially on, as it turned out, the first rainy night in a very long time.

So there we were, gathered around the dinner table, the windows open, the rain coming down heavy and hard. The cassoulet was rich with pork belly, duck confit, and Mr. B's famous duck sausage delicately flavored with Chinese Five Spice Powder. The French bread was crisp and warm, the butter cold and salty; our favorite jazz tunes played in the background. Mr. B opened the wine and I passed a plate of fresh greens, lentils, beets, and goat cheese. As plates were served and forks made busy, everyone fell silent, absorbed by the richness of the duck broth, the firm, yet tender beans, and the sound of the rain falling in syncopation with the music.

We stayed like that, deep in reverie, for a very long time. And then, the oven timer sounded, reminding us that the pear and apple tart tartin that I'd prepared for dessert was ready and waiting for us.

October 14, 2016

Coffee Rubbed New York Strips

Mr. B Gives Our Steaks a Jolt of Java

 In our world, we're still in the heat of grilling season and there's nothing that can spur Mr. B's imagination like two thick, well-marbled New York Strip steaks.

He's been famous for at least a decade for his secret rib rub recipe, and anyone lucky enough to have garnered an invite to sample his grilled Jamaican Jerk chicken can attest that he's the master of both flavor and flame.

I may not have the same carnivorous streak that my husband has, but every once in a while

I get a craving for red meat that I just can't shake. I've always preferred a thick, lean filet, pan broiled and extra rare, or what is more commonly called a blue steak--seared on the outside and blood rare throughout. But, Mr. B likes his meat a little more cooked, right between medium rare and medium. And, unlike me, he likes a steak with fat and bone. Don't get me wrong, though, when Mr. B is fanning the flames and the steak fat hits the grate, I'm definitely in.

His recipe for coffee rubbed New York Strips is a winner, especially with a generous glass of red wine.