Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fluffy Puffy Omelets

I make lots of omelets, but I don't usually go to the effort of separating the yolks and whites and beating the whites to create a fluffy omelet. A recent feature in Cook's Illustrated inspired me to make one this morning. It was easy and turned out perfectly.

Start by making the filling. My refrigerator's pretty empty today, so I made a shallot-mushroom filling. Sautee sliced shallots in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes.

Add 4 oz. chopped mushrooms, salt, and pepper and continue sauteeing for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 and set the filling aside while prepping the eggs. Separate 4 yolks and 4 whites. To the yolks, add a tablespoon of melted butter and some salt and whisk together. If your melted butter is warm, whisk rapidly!

Beat the whites (with some cream of tartar) until they form stiff peaks.

Gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in an oven-proof skillet. Using a spatula, fill the skillet with the fluffy egg mixture.

Top with mushroom filling and 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese.

Bake on middle rack of oven until the center of the omelet springs back when lightly pressed (4-5 minutes). Run a spatula around the edges and then fold the omelet in half.

You won't see anything but a pile of fluffy egg until you cut it into servings. Here's mine.

This served two generously. If you're serving four, you'd either want to make two of them or serve with lots of sides.

Fluffy Puffy Omelets thanks to the food scientists at Cook's Illustrated. That's what we're having.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shrimp DeJonghe

I first had Shrimp DeJonghe at a dinner party in 1978. Here's the batch I made tonight.

I loved it the first time I had it, but for whatever reason (maybe the amount of butter involved?!?), I have only cooked it a few times. Bill said he'd never had it before, which means I haven't made it since August 1990.

I have to admit I lightened mine up--using lots of herbs, spices, garlic, sherry, and panko but less butter. I mostly followed this recipe from, but based on what I knew of the dish's provenance (invented in late 19th  or early 20th c at DeJonghe's Restaurant & Hotel in Chicago) and perusal of some other recipes for the dish, I added sherry and a little cayenne to the herb/butter mixture and used less butter. Oh, and I didn't pre-cook the shrimp for one minute as the Epicurious recipe directs. As quickly as shrimp cooks, that just seemed silly.

It's really easy. Preheat oven to 350. Peel large shrimp and place them in a baking dish. I used a deep pie dish.

Mix softened butter, minced garlic, minced shallots, sherry, panko, tarragon, parsley, thyme, cayenne, salt, pepper, and a little freshly grated nutmeg. It'll be sort of pasty. Drop pieces of it on top of the shrimp.

Envisioning how much butter that was going to be when melted, I reserved some of the mixture for another use.

This next step may seem overkill, but it's what helps make the top of the dish crunchy. Mix melted butter, panko, salt, and pepper. I made mine more crumbly than buttery.

Sprinkle the buttery crumbs on top of the whole dish. I started to reserve some of the buttered crumbs for another use, but in a what-the-heck-move, I used them all. Here is the Shrimp DeJonghe ready for the oven.

While the shrimp baked for 15 minutes, I threw together a salad of spinach, pink grapefruit, sliced red onions, toasted slivered almonds and a dressing made with grapefruit juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, coarse-grain mustard, minced garlic, and honey and topped the whole thing with some toasted poppy seeds.

Note the smaller dish? That's for the buttery shrimp.

The Shrimp DeJonghe was delicious--even with a minor screw up on my part. Distracted by pan cleaning and dancing to doo wop on Pandora, I left the shrimp under the broiler--the final step--for a tad too long. I recommend taking the dish out when the crumbs are merely browned as opposed to slightly blackened. I have to say the blackening makes for a less photogenic dish, but it didn't affect the taste.

After his first serving, Bill said something along the lines of "Don't make this again--it was way too good." I will admit that we ate every bite--a pound of buttered, herbed, seasoned, crumbed shrimp. The missing butter wasn't missed and made it a healthier but still delicious dish. Note: Multiple additional helpings do lessen the effectiveness of the small entree plate!

Shrimp de Jonghe and a big plate of spinach salad. That's what we're having.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Picadillo and Sweet Potato Fries

I have been craving the unique flavors that make up picadillo, so I made it last night. Tonight, with the leftovers, I added spicy baked sweet potato fries. It proved to be an excellent combination.

Picadillo is a Cuban dish. There are various versions. Here's an easy one, taken from a fun cookbook called "A Man & His Pan," by Memphis native John Boswell. All the recipes are designed to be prepared in a 9 inch non-stick skillet, but, trust me, you can use the skillet of your choice.

Saute onions.

Add chopped green peppers and garlic and saute a bit more.

Add cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

Add crumbled ground beef and cook until meat loses pink color. Vegetarians: You can use soy crumbles. I use those about half the time.

Add a can of diced tomatoes (with juices), a splash of balsamic vinegar, a bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.

After simmering 15-20 minutes, stir in raisins, slivered almonds, and sliced pimento-stuffed olives. After simmering about 10 minutes, add 1/4 cup sherry and simmer a few minutes more. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve in a small bowl or over rice. I love the combination of flavors and textures.

The sweet potato fries are a great companion. Peel the potatoes and create flat slicing surfaces as soon as possible. The easiest way is to cut in half and then cut the halves in half.

Then slice the pieces into fries.

Toss with oil, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt and spread on baking sheet. Tip: Use silpat or parchment paper to keep fries from sticking.

Bake at 425 for about 30 minutes, tossing periodically. I like to let them get a little brown & crispy.

Picadillo and sweet potato fries. That's what we're having.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

African Stew

My friend Laurie Stapleton gave me this recipe years ago. It's quick, easy, and healthy--and I've never served it to anyone who didn't love it.

4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cans black-eyed peas, drained & rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 c. peanut butter dissolved in 1 c. hot water
8-10- oz. spinach, torn

Saute garlic and onion for a few minutes in a small amount of oil. When onion is softened, add beans, tomatoes, and dissolved peanut butter. Simmer for a few minutes. Add spinach and cook until it wilts.

Here's the result.

I make only one modification. I add red pepper flakes to the dissolved peanut butter.

I hope you like this as much we do.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fun in the Beverage Science Lab

Think it's easy to come up with a great signature cocktail for an event? Well, it's not easy, but it is fun--especially when you're working with beverage virtuoso Dennis Perkins.

Here are some of the ingredients Dennis Perkins and I gathered while constructing the "Hi, Bob," the signature cocktail for the VIP party at the Tennessee Theatre prior to the Bob Newhart concert, part of the annual Stars on Stage fundraiser series for the Tennessee Theatre.

Our plan was to create a beverage in honor of the famous "Moo Goo Gai Pan" episode. That didn't work out, but it proved to be a great starting point.Here are some rejects.

The menu, executed by six local caterers, is called "Six Faces of Bob," with each caterer creating a menu based on Newhart's life and career. We've got Beverly Hills Bob (Holly's Eventful Dining), Chicago Bob (Luxe Catering), 70's Bob (Knoxville Catering), Irish-German Bob (Abner's Attic), Vermont Bob (Rothchild's), and Button Down Bob (Rosa's). This obviously called for a special beverage.

The winner was a fresh concoction that includes vodka, apple cider, rosemary simple syrup, club soda, and a rosemary/apple/garnish. Like Jerry in the "Moo Goo Gai Pan" episode, we started with vodka & cider. Like Bob's career, we evolved.

Support the beautiful historic Tennessee Theatre by purchasing tickets to the show or to the VIP party showcasing Six Faces of Bob along with the "Hi, Bob" which includes tickets to the show.

Hope to see you there! It's going to be a great night.