Marsala Shrimp and Parmesan Polenta

Serves 6

This recipe is a mashup of traditional shrimp ‘n grits – mostly Creole with a nod to my Italian heritage. Polenta is more coarsley ground yellow corn vs. the finer ground white corn used for grits. Russ calls it a “heart attack waiting to happen,” because it is so rich.

I like to acheive creamy parmesan polenta using a slow cooker method. It saves all that stirring and it comes out perfect everytime. I typically get the polenta going about two hours before I start prep for cooking the shrimp.

After I have done the “mise en place” (everything in place – measured and prepped), the shrimp comes together very quickly. With the polenta ready by cooking in advance, the plating only takes a minute.

Ingredients

For the Polenta
1 Cup Polenta (I use Bob's Red Mill Organic)
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
3 Cups Chicken Stock, plus more if necessary
2 Cups Whipping Cream
1/4 Cup Parmesan, finely grated

For the Shrimp
1/4 Cup Butter
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
1 1/2 Pounds Raw Shrimp, peeled and pevined
2 Tablespoon Dry Sherry
3 Tablespoons Marsala Wine
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
3/4 Cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2 teaspoons Worchestershire Sauce
1/4 Cup Whipping Cream
Creole Seasoning to taste (go easy - too much will make dish too salty)
2 Tablespoons Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, minced fine, divided

Option for serving
Parmesan cheese, grated
Red pepper flakes for additional heat

Instructions

  1. Two hours before beginning to cook shrimp, place polenta, salt, stock and cream in a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Stir the polenta at the two hour point. If it is too thick add a little more stock. Cook for another 30 – 60 minutes until thick and creamy. Add in Parmesan cheese and stir until incorporated.
  2. While polenta is cooking for the last 30-60 minutes, gather and prep all the ingredients for the Shrimp.
  3. In a saute pan or wok large enough to hold all the shrimp, melt butter.
  4. Add raw shrimp and garlic and cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Remove the shrimp from pan with a slotted spoon to a platter or bowl.
  5. Add sherry and marsala to the pan with the butter and shrimp juices. Cook over medium heat to cook off alcohol.
  6. Add wine and cook for 2-3 additional minutes to cook off alcohol.
  7. Add the stock and the Worchestershire. Add Creole seasoning to taste.
  8. Add in cream slowly stirring constantly.`
  9. Add in 1/2 the parsley, and cook a couple of minutes.
  10. Return shrimp to sauce in pan and reheat for serving.
  11. Serve in shrimp and pan sauce over polenta. Garnish each serving with a bit of fresh parsley. Top with finely grated Parmesan if desired.

Meatloaf Parmesan

Russ usually eats whatever I put in front of him, preferring to be surprised, but every once in awhile he comes up with a request. When I was menu planning this weekend, he mentioned that we haven’t had meatloaf in a long time and that it sounded really good. I cringed inwardly.

As a general rule, I really dislike meatloaf. There have been a few occasions where friends have served it and I’ve really enjoyed it, but those have been few and far between.

Over the years, I have been trying to find a meatloaf recipe that I could even marginally enjoy. We’ve had dozens of meatloafs, but for 30 years it’s like a once a year thing. For some reason Russ liked them all, but I’ve never warmed up to meatloaf.

During this same discussion, Russ also asked me to make some Chicken Parmesan. Inspired, I decided to make a mash-up of the two which became Meatloaf Parmesan. The result was good enough to write down and make again. I could even be persuaded to take leftovers for lunch.

Ingredients

1 pound Ground Geef
1 pound Ground Pork
15 ounces Ricotta Cheese
2 Large Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Italian Style Bread Crumbs (I used Progresso brand)
1/2 medium yellow onion,grated or processed fine in food processor
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
32 ounces Marinara Sauce, divided (purchased or homemade) 
1 1/2 Cups shredded Mozzarella
1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Preheat ove to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients up the salt and pepper. Add in 1/3 cup Marinara Sauce. Combine well and form into a loaf in a 13 X 9 pan.
  2. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove dish from oven, remove foil, pour remaining Marinara Sauce on top. Add shrededded cheeses on top.
  4. Return to the oven and bake uncovered another 30-40 minutes until fully cooked and cheese is browned on top.
  5. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice into squares, spoon reserved sauce from pan on top and serve.

Linguine with Clams Bagna Cauda Style

This is actually a really quick meal to make. Lots of bold flavor. Don’t let the anchovies throw you off. They brighten the flavor, just like they do in Caesar’s salad dressing.

Ingredients

2 pounds Clams, live, scrubbed and rinsed well
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Butter
2 Ounces Anchovies in oil
4 Cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 Cups dry White Wine
8 Ounces Clam Juice
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, minced
8 ounces dry Linguine
Fresh grated Parmesan (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Follow package direction to cook the linguine while preparing the clams. When done boiling linguine, drain and keep warm.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a deep sided sauce or saute pan over medium high heat. Cook until butter is melted and beginning to bubble. Add Anchovies and stir into the butter and olive oil. Mash as you stir, incorporating the anchovies into the butter and oil.
  3. Add minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
  4. Add clam juice, white wine and red pepper flakes. Increase heat until liquid boils.
  5. Add clams to boiling liquid. Cover with lid. Cook until clams open fully. Discard any clams that do not open.
  6. Add minced parsley just before serving.
  7. To serve, place linguine in deep bowls or pasta dishes and top with the clams and broth.
  8. Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Spatchcocked Chicken on the Grill

Spatchcocking is a technique where the back bone of a whole chicken is removed and it is flattened out. This allows for quicker and more even cooking. I like to spatchock chicken, coat it in a mustard based herb paste and grill it.

For an easy summer meal, roast potatoes on the grill at the same time and serve with a salad.

Ingredients

1 Whole Chicken, 5 - 6 pounds, giblets removed
1 large shallot or several smaller shallots, about 4 oz in weight
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup flat leaf Italian parsley
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons himalayan pink salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 Cup Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Rinse chicken in cool water and pat dry. Place on a cutting board, breast side down. Using sharp kitchen or boning shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it. Open the chicken like a book.
  2. Turn the chicken over so it’s breast side up and press firmly against the backbone to flatten it out.
  3. Cut wing tips off so they don’t burn and trim off any excess skin and fat.
  4. In a food processor combine the remaining ingredients and pulse to make a thick paste.
  5. Rub the paste all over the chicken on both sides, coating liberally. Reserve unused paste for serving with the chicken.
  6. Cover and chill for at least an hour before grilling.
  7. Preheat your grill to 450 degrees. You can either use a smoker, or cook using an indirect heat method. If using the indirect method, heat your whole grill up to 450 degrees.
  8. For either method, place chicken on the grill breast side down directly on the grill grates. Close lid and cook for 8-15 minutes until the chicken is browned on breast side. Flip chicken over. If using indirect heat method, place chicken breast side up on 1/2 half of grill. Shut off burners under chicken and close lid. Chicken will brown with the initial contact with hot grates and then that side will cool and roast chicken for final cooking. If using a smoker, turn heat down to 350 degrees after turning chicken.
  9. For either method, keep grill lid closed and roast 30-60 minutes more. Check with a meat thermometer – grill to 160 degrees when thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast.
  10. Remove from grill, rest for 10 minutes, cut and serve with any reserved herb paste.

Notes:
I usually freeze the backbone for stock after removing.

I like to prepare the chicken and rub with paste in the morning. This allows time for the chicken to absorb flavors and it is easy to grill later in the day. However, the longer chill time requires additional cooking time.

Grill temperatures will vary. This is especially true with the indirect heat method and variations in outdoor temperatures. The first time you prepare this dish, allow an extra 30-45 minutes in your schedule in case the grill cooks more slowly than noted in the recipe.

Beef Tips with Rice

This may be the very first recipe I actually put on paper – over 30 years ago. my little sister, EO, used to stay with me in the summers during high school. I was a single mom back then and couldn’t afford a lot of higher priced ingredients, but on special nights I’d make this. It became one of her favorites and when she married and began her family cooking she asked me to write this down.

For some reason, I haven’t made this a lot in recent years, and decided to pull out my old recipe box and make it again. It’s finally warming up a bit and Spring officially starts next week, but the nights are still cold and a warm meal is still a satisfying way to end the day.

Turns out, this recipe stood the test of time. I was surprised my early attempts held up. The addition of fresh parsely and using long grain rice are about the ony changes from the original recipe in this version.

Ingredients

1.5 to 2 lbs Siroloin Roast or Steak, cubed
1 Medium Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
8 Ounces Fresh Mushrooms
1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil (high heat avocado or canola)
1/4 Cup cooking Sherry or Red Wine
2 Bay Leaves
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Sage
2 Tablespoons Beef Base or Beef Soup Granules
4 Cups Water
2 Tablespoon of a Flour & Butter Roux
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
1 Tablespoon Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, minced
2-4 cups Steamed Long Grain Rice


Brown
Simmer
Beef Base Used

Instructions

  1. Add oil to a deep sided cooking skillet or stock pot and heat to medium high heat.
  2. Brown sirloin cubes in oil until beginning to caramelize.
  3. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are translucent and mushrooms have released a lot of moisture.
  4. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes.
  5. Deglaze pan with sherry or wine and cook til nearly evaporated.
  6. Add Water, beef base, bay leaves, and sage.
  7. Bring liquid to a simmer and cover pot. Simmer for 2 hours.
  8. Approximately 40 minutes before beef tips are done simmering, cook long-grain rice to your preferred recipe.
  9. When beef tips are done simmering, make a roux using butter and flour and quickly whisk about 2 tablespoons of roux into the simmering liquid to thicken into a gravy.
  10. Add pepper to taste.
  11. Just before serving, stir in fresh parsley.
  12. Serve over steamed rice.

Notes:

  • Best served with a simple green vegetable or salad.
  • A sprinkle of parmesan as shown is a great compliment.
  • You can substitute noodles, polenta, quinoa or whole grains for the rice.
  • Garlic bread is a nice accompaniment.

Corned Beef Hash

This dish is one of the rewards of patiently slow cooking a traditional corned beef dinner. I deliberately cook twice as much corned beef as necessary for Rueben sandwiches and a great hash. Corned beef hash doubles as both a breakfast food and casual evening meal on a busy work night. It reheats well for lunch too!

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
1/2 Medium Onion, Diced
3 Scallions,sliced thin
2 Cups boiled red potatoes, skin-on, cubed (I use the
leftover potatoes from the corned beef dinner made before)
2 Cups cooked corned beef, cubed
2 Tablespoons minced Flat Leaf Italian Parsley


Instructions

  1. Heat avocado oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add diced onion and cook until translucent and beginning to brown.
  3. Add cubed potatoes and corned beef. Continue cooking until the potatoes and corned beef begin to brown, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add sliced scallions and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in minced parsley.

Notes: Great on it’s own or topped with a poached or over-easy egg.

Corned Beef And Cabbage in the Slow Cooker

St. Patrick’s Day is still a week away, but we just couldn’t wait another week to enjoy a nice slow-cooked Corned Beef and Cabbage. This time of year, just before spring, the evenings are still cold and this hearty meal is welcome after a day of pre-spring yard cleanup. This version is my own take on the traditional dish and is cooked in a slow cooker giving us time to do some chores and then come into a meal that is ready to serve at the end of a busy day. Most of the prep can be done the night before if you happen to want to have this waiting for you at the end of your work day.

Ingredients

1 - 3 to 4 pound corned beef brisket (can also use the round, I just prefer the brisket for slicing for Rueben sandwhiches if there are any leftovers)
1 large or 2 small onions
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon Pickling Spice
2 12 oz. bottles of Guiness Stout Ale (optional)
1.5 oz. of Madeira (optional)
24 oz. water - more or less as desired
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and cut into bite size pieces (alternately, these days small peeled carrots in the bag are available in most grocery stores)
3 - 4 stalks of celery, cut into bite size pieces
1 - pound of small red potatoes, washed, skin-on, cut in 1/2 or quarter if potatoes are larger than a walnut
1 large head or 2 small heads of green cabbage

Instructions

  1. Dice onions, celery, and carrots. Place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Add peeled garlic.
  3. Open corned beef from package and rinse, reserving spice packet.
  4. Add corned beef and spice packet, along with pickling spices to the slow cooker, on top of the carrots, onion, celery and garlic.
  5. Add the two bottles of Guiness, the Madeira, and the water to 1/2 cover the corned beef. The vegetables will float a bit.
  6. Set the slow cooker to high heat, and cook on high for 2 hours if you are home to mind the cooker. If you are not going to be home, continue with the next step immediately.
  7. After two hours, or at the outset if the cooker is going to be unattended, set the slow cooker to low heat and add the potatoes and cabbage to the cooker.
  8. Continue cooking until potatoes and cabbage and corned beef are fork tender. Cook time should be around 6-7 hours for the high/low heat method. 8-10 hours for the slow heat method. This will vary based on the slow cooker.

Note: A good way to finish the corned beef is to remove it from the cooking juices, place in an oven safe dish and slather with a mustard and brown sugar glaze. Roast in a 325 degree oven until the glaze carmelizes and develops a crust, but does not burn. For the glaze use 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup whole grain or brown mustard. In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar and water. Heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the mustard. Continue simmering for another 2-3 minutes. Coat corned beef with glaze and bake until the desired carmelization occurs. You will need to check the corned beef in the oven after 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes to make sure the glaze is cooking to the desired carmelization. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before carving.