Spicy Shrimp Po’ Boys

I’ve been on a serious sandwich kick lately.  It seems as soon as the weather warmed up, I’ve just been all about them.  In fact, when planning my menu recently I almost decided to do a week’s worth of sandwiches just because I have so many I love and so many I would like to try.  I nixed that idea for the sake of diversity, but rest assured you’ll be seeing a lot of great sandwich ideas in the near future.  Now, let’s talk about how fabulous this sandwich is.  I’ve made spicy pork po’ boys before, which are a favorite and frequent repeater in our house.  This is the first time I’ve tried the shrimp version and oh, we devoured them.

The shrimp are spicy thanks to the Cajun seasoning and the spicy remoulade sauce is so good, I kind of want to slather it on everything.  I did think the mustard to mayo ratio was a little to strong for my preferences, so I added a few extra spoonfuls of mayo to balance it out.  I enjoyed these so thoroughly that I ate a leftover sandwich for lunch the following day at work, even though our department had provided free pizza for all employees.  (It probably also had something to do with the fact that the pizza was Donato’s – gag me.)  But really, I’d take this over free pizza just about any day.

Spicy Shrimp Po’ Boys
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Yield: 4 sandwiches
For the remoulade sauce:
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
2 tbsp. stone ground mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tbsp. pickle juice
½ tsp. prepared horseradish
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. hot paprika
Dash of hot sauce

For the sandwiches:
1 lb. medium-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning blend
1 baguette (or 4 sandwich rolls)
Shredded lettuce
Sliced tomato

To make the remoulade sauce, combine all of the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  (If you don’t have a blender or food processor, you can just mix it in a small bowl with a spoon.)  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Chill until ready to use.

To prepare the sandwiches, combine the shrimp with the olive oil and cajun seasoning in a medium bowl.  Toss well to coat the shrimp.  Heat a grill pan to medium-high and grill the shrimp just until opaque, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Slice the baguette into 4 servings, and cut horizontally to open the bread.  Spread some of the remoulade sauce onto both pieces of the bread.   Layer the bottom slice of bread with shrimp, then top with lettuce and tomato as desired.  Top with the remaining piece of bread and serve immediately.

Source: adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Lots of people rave about lettuce wraps.  I know they are a favorite appetizer at a popular chain restaurant, but surprisingly I had never tried them till now.  I have been wanting to try them for quite a while but there are hundreds of versions out there and they are all so different!  Some seem not in the least authentic, some call for only ingredients I have no hope of finding here in my town – I was hoping for something in between.  Finally I turned to Jaden at Steamy Kitchen because I knew she would have a great recipe that didn’t require tons of hard to find items.

These were a really nice light and healthy dinner.  I loved the contrast of the warm filling with the cool, crisp lettuce.  I also really liked the play between the spicy-sweet flavors.  They weren’t super spicy, but just enough to give the mild, slow burn I love.  Part of the sweetness comes from the diced apple – it may seem like a weird addition but don’t skip it.  Ben and I both agreed that it made the dish.  Butter lettuce is recommended for lettuce wraps but I had no luck finding it in the grocery.  Maybe next time at the farmers’ market!

Asian Lettuce Wraps
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For the sauce:
1½ tsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce

For the filling:
2 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 green onions, chopped
1 lb. ground turkey or chicken
2 cups mixed vegetables (I used frozen peas and carrots, diced red pepper and onion)
½ green apple, finely chopped

To assemble:
Butter lettuce leaves, washed and separated
Shredded carrots for topping (optional)

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and mix to blend.

To make the filling, heat a skillet on high heat with cooking oil.  Once the pan is hot, add the garlic, ginger and green onions to the pan, and stir fry for a few seconds, just until fragrant.  Add the ground turkey or chicken, breaking into small pieces, and cook until almost cooked through.  Add the vegetables to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the sauce and cook for about 1 minute until thickened slightly.  Add the apples to the pan and toss to coat.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat.

Serve the filling in lettuce “cups” and top with shredded carrots, if desired.

Source: slightly adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Creamy Taco Mac

Some people are very opposed to convenience foods such as Hamburger Helper.  While I suppose in general I have turned into such a person, I do think that those types of products have their place.  Obviously they are convenient, but they can also be a starting point for someone who knows absolutely nothing about cooking to slowly learning that they are capable of making something edible.  I certainly ate my fair share of Hamburger Helper growing up and during college and you know, it really doesn’t taste all that bad.  My culinary interests clearly have grown far beyond the boxed food realm, but every once in a while I crave the old childhood favorite.  Now that I tend to avoid most processed foods though, I opt for this homemade version instead.  With multi-grain pasta, ground turkey and homemade taco seasoning, this is a much healthier copycat that tastes better than the boxed version.  I made a few minor changes to add a bit more flavor, and I also reduced the liquid a bit to thicken the sauce.  This is a great meal that is bound to be a crowd-pleaser.

Creamy Taco Mac
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1¼ lbs. ground turkey
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Source: adapted from Delish

Shrimp Scampi

Aaahh, shrimp scampi.  One of my favorite go-to simple meals.  There are many reasons why I love it so much.  First, it tastes delicious – I think this goes without saying.  It’s a minimalist shrimp pasta dish with a lemony, garlicky light butter/olive oil sauce.  Yum!  But almost just as importantly, it is a very nice meal that can be thrown together in next to no time, with mostly ingredients I tend to have on hand.  Whenever I want a meal that requires little effort, this is where I turn.  Occasionally I add a splash of white wine to the sauce if I happen to be drinking some while making dinner.

Just a couple comments regarding the recipe.  I usually tend to omit the lemon slices but if you are a lemon enthusiast then by all means, add them!  You may want to increase the amount of butter and/or olive oil slightly if using a full pound of pasta, rather than the 12 ounces called for, just to make sure there is enough sauce to adequately coat everything.  If you were looking for a quick and tasty Friday night meal, here it is.  Enjoy!

Shrimp Scampi
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3/4 lb. linguine
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. pepper
3-4 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
Zest of ½ a lemon
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ lemon, sliced thinly into half-rounds
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, just until golden and fragrant.  Add the shrimp to the pan in an even layer and season with the salt and pepper.  As soon as the down-facing side of the shrimp turns pink, flip with tongs to cook the second side evenly.  As soon as the shrimp is pink and opaque, remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices and red pepper flakes.

As soon as the pasta is cooked and drained, return to the pot.  Add the sauce to the pot, and toss to combine.  Serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Source: adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network

Island Spice Pork Tenderloin

Most of the time when I save recipes, I do it because I know without a doubt that we will love the result.  (This is why about 98% of the recipes I have saved are desserts.)  Sometimes, though, I save things more because I think, “Hmmm…interesting…that might be good.”  This recipe was definitely a case of the latter.  In fact, I put it on our menu back in November or December but the day came when I was planning to make it and it just did not sound good to me at all.  So back into the freezer went the pork, and it has been there all this time waiting for me to change my mind.  I finally decided that I needed to either use the pork or get rid of it, so I put the recipe back on the menu and decided I would make it no matter what.  Turns out, we were blown away by this meal.

The combination of spices may seem a bit odd, but the end result is a little bit spicy but also sweet, and incredibly flavorful.  Ben even deemed this his new favorite kind of pork tenderloin.  I was very surprised by how quickly it came together.  Most pork tenderloin recipes I make require marinating of some length, but this is just a simple spice rub made from pantry ingredients, and a glaze to go on top.  I halved the amount of glaze because the original amount just seemed like overkill.  I’m glad I did because this was just the right amount.  Just be sure to spread the glaze out very evenly over the top of the tenderloins.  I had a bite or two that seemed overly sweet because of too much glaze.  All in all, this is a fantastic preparation of pork that is quick enough for a weeknight and nice enough to serve to company.

Island Spice Pork Tenderloin
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For the spice rub:
2 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 pork tenderloins (about 2-2½ lbs. total)
2 tbsp. olive oil

For the glaze:
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. (2-3 cloves) finely minced garlic
1½ tsp. Tabasco sauce

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Stir together with a fork to blend.  Pat the mixture over the pork tenderloins.

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the tenderloins in the skillet and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total.  Remove from the heat, leaving the pork in the skillet.

Stir together the brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco in a small bowl until blended.  Spread the mixture evenly over the tops of the tenderloins.

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and roast about 20 minutes, until an instant-read themometer inserted in the center of each tenderloin registers 140˚ F.  Loosely tent the skillet with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Source: adapted from Pennies on a Platter, originally from The Gourmet Cookbook

Chicken Tequila Burgers

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been all about burgers lately thanks to these fabulous oven fries.  When I saw this recipe for chicken tequila burgers, I knew I would love them.  I love margaritas.  I love grilled tequila lime chicken.  Obviously, I would love this dinner – and I did.  These are easy to make and extremely flavorful.  You can taste the tequila and the lime – not too much, just the right amount.  We simply topped ours with sautéed bell pepper, onion, and lettuce.  If you really need a condiment, I think the cilantro mayo from the salmon burgers would be a nice addition, but I prefer to leave these without a sauce so the flavor of the burger itself really shines through.

The recipe calls for the use of a food processor to pulse the ingredients into a mixture that can be made into patties.  I had never done this before, instead always buying pre-ground chicken.  But with a freezer full of chicken breasts, I decided to give this method a try.  It worked very well and I didn’t have any problems at all.  If you don’t have a food processor, you could just as easily mix in the seasonings to pre-ground chicken and it would work fine.  The patties aren’t quite as sturdy as those made with ground beef, so the use of the broiler is an easy way to get them cooked and nicely browned without too much disturbance.  But really once they started cooking, they firmed up and were easy to flip.  Enjoy!

Chicken Tequila Burgers
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2 cloves garlic, chopped
½-1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 chicken breasts (about 1 lb. total)
3-4 tbsp. cilantro
Zest of ½ a lime
1 oz. tequila
Dash of soy sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ cup panko bread crumbs

For serving:
Burger buns
Sautéed bell pepper and onion

Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil and brush lightly with olive oil.  Combine the garlic, jalapeno, chicken breasts, cilantro and lime zest in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse several times until the chicken is uniformly ground.  Mix in the tequila, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and panko.  Pulse a few more times until the ingredients are well blended.

Form the mixture into 4-5 patties and place them on the prepared baking sheet.  Broil the burgers for about 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking to brown both sides.  Check for doneness before serving.  Serve on buns with sautéed bell pepper and onion, and lettuce as desired.

Source: adapted from Cara’s Cravings

Scallops Provençal

Scallops are a food that I have not always had an affinity for.  In fact, I used to hate them.  When I was a child I remember my mom would make a dish with scallops that I really did not like, but I was always made to finish every last bite.  To me, the scallops seemed like fishy bites of rubber.  Now, I have heard from most who knew her that my mom was an excellent cook and I’m sure that was true, but I have a feeling she may have overcooked her scallops.  Good scallops that have been well prepared should not be tough at all, but instead practically melt in your mouth.

This is the recipe that converted me to a scallop lover.  It’s very easy to love.  The scallops really shine in a simple butter and white wine sauce.  Another huge plus is that this meal is so simple, it comes together very quickly.  It’s an easy, elegant dinner that would be wonderful for a special occasion, but is also suitable for changing things up from your usual routine on a weeknight.  I don’t really make any alterations to the recipe other than not cutting the scallops in half as Ina recommends.  They obviously need to cook a little longer this way, but it’s just my personal preference to keep them whole.  I served these atop a bed of wilted spinach with our favorite garlic rice pilaf and it was a lovely meal.

Scallops Provençal
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1 lb. fresh bay or sea scallops
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black peper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
½ cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2-3 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, halved

If using bay scallops, leave them whole.  If using sea scallops, cut them in half horizontally (or, leave them whole and cook a bit longer).  Season the scallops with kosher salt and black pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.

In a large skillet or sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat until sizzling.  Add the scallops to the pan in a single layer.  Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on one side without moving.  Then turn and brown lightly on the other side.  This should take about 3-4 minutes total (closer to 8 minutes for sea scallops left whole).

Add the rest of the butter to the pan with the scallops and let it melt.  Add the shallots, garlic, and parsley to the pan and sauté for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops.  Add the wine to the pan and cook for 1 minute.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Serve hot, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the scallops.

Source: adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I think nearly every single gift I received for Christmas this year was food-related, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  A few of the items were things I had asked for (my All-Clad sauté pan and these cute oven mitts, for example) but probably my favorite gift came from my brother-in-law.  He gave me The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated.  This was actually on my list last year but I didn’t get it, and forgot to ask for it again this year.  It was a huge surprise to both of us – to me, because I hadn’t even mentioned that I wanted it to anyone, and to him, because he was taking a shot in the dark when he picked it out.  Well, I don’t think he could have done any better.  This book is even better than I could have imagined.  I’ve already made several recipes from it and each one has been spectacular.  (Can you guess what I’ll be doing for my next giveaway?!)  I am just having so much fun with it!

This was the first recipe I tried from the book, and it made for a great dinner.  Of course, I have yet to meet a shrimp pasta dish that I don’t like, but this was delish!  According to the book, fra diavolo is Italian and means “brother devil”, apparently in reference to the kick provided by the garlic red pepper flakes.  Honestly I didn’t think this was spicy at all and I would double the amount of red pepper flakes next time, but it was still very tasty.  The amount of garlic seems like a ton, and I was hesitant to add it all, but I figured I would try it once and it actually seemed to be just right – garlicky for sure, but not too much.  Two other things I love about this meal are that it involves flambéing (so fun!) and it comes together quickly so it would be fine for a weeknight.  This is a dinner we’ll be returning to very soon 🙂

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine
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1 lb. large shrimp (31-40 per lb.), peeled and deveined
1 tsp. red pepper flakes, divided
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1½ tsp. salt
¼ cup cognac or brandy
12 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about ¼ cup), divided
½ tsp. sugar
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 lb. linguine

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat until the pan is very hot.  Combine the shrimp, half of the red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and half of the salt in a medium bowl; toss to blend.  Add the shrimp to the skillet and spread into a single layer.  Let cook without stirring until the bottoms of the shrimp turn a spotty brown, about 30-45 seconds.  Off the heat, flip the shrimp over.  Add the cognac or brandy to the pan.  Let stand briefly to allow the cognac to warm slightly, about 5 seconds, then return the pan to high heat.  Wave a lit match over the skillet until the cognac ignites.  Shake the skillet until the flames subside, then transfer the shrimp to a bowl and set aside.

Cool the skillet for 2 minutes.  Return the skillet to the burner and reduce the heat to low.  Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and 3 tablespoons of the garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is sticky and light golden and begins to foam, about 7-10 minutes.  Mix in the remaining red pepper flakes, the remaining salt, the sugar, tomatoes and wine.  Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until thickened and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, add the linguine to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water.  Return the pasta to the now empty pot, add about ½ cup of the sauce and 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta water.  Toss well to coat.

Stir the reserved shrimp and accumulated juices, remaining garlic and the parsley into the sauce.  Simmer until the shrimp are heated through, about 1 minute.  Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.  Divide the pasta among warmed serving bowls and top with the shrimp and sauce.  Serve immediately.

Source: The New Best Recipe from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Thanksgiving Leftover Panini

Just in case you still have some leftover turkey in your refrigerator or freezer, and are looking for a way to use it up, I give you this fabulous sandwich.  Leftover turkey, cranberry sauce and delicious, heavenly brie sandwiched between two slices of pumpkin yeast bread.  A truly wonderful creation and a delightful lunch for sure.  I’ve actually been thinking of this sandwich since before Thanksgiving and to be perfectly honest, I think I’ve been more excited about this than the food on the actual holiday.

This is barely a recipe, so I won’t even bother typing up a formal version.  Start with a couple of slices of pumpkin yeast bread.  Spread one side of one piece of bread with leftover cranberry sauce.  Top with leftover turkey.  Layer with thin slices of brie.  Cook on a panini press or in a skillet until both sides are browned and the cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

Want another way to use your leftover turkey?  Try making turkey pot pies!

Island Chicken

This is another of those recipes that is such a staple in my house, and I have been making for so long, I can’t believe I haven’t shared it on the blog yet!  I really don’t know what it is about this chicken that is supposed to be “island”, but regardless, this is one of my favorite dinners ever.  It is a super simple marinated chicken breast with tons of flavor.  Another reason to love it is how gosh darn easy it is!  It takes about 5 minutes to prep before work in the morning, and then when you get home you just pop it in the oven to bake.  It couldn’t be easier!  Served with mashed potatoes, a green veggie and yeast rolls this meal is pure comfort food to me.

Island Chicken
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½ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1½ tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2-4 chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a mixing bowl or large airtight plastic bag.  Whisk or shake well until the marinade is well mixed.  Add the chicken breasts to the bowl or plastic bag so that they are covered by the marinade.  If using a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap.  If using a plastic bag, press out all the excess air and seal the bag tightly.  Refrigerate and marinate up to 10 hours.

When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour the excess marinade over them.  Bake in the oven until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165° F, about 45 minutes (exact baking time will depend on the size of your chicken pieces.)  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from a recipe passed on by a family friend, Sidney L.