I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Beer Shrimp Boil with Beer Sauce and Homemade Shrimp Boil Spice

Beer Shrimp Boil Summer officially kicks off with Memorial Day, and it is the perfect time for outdoor gatherings with big groups of family and friends. I think a shrimp boil makes a nice switch from the classic burgers-and-dogs grill fest. I have a big outdoor table on my patio, and this has become a favorite way to entertain. I simply cover the table with brown paper and scoop the boil ingredients onto it. Everyone gathers around the table, eats with their hands, leaving the shrimp peels and corncobs behind. When we’re all done, I just roll up the paper and take it straight to the garbage. It’s easy, fun and about the least amount of clean-up I’ve ever done after a party.

For an interesting twist, I make my own spice mix for the boil, add beer for an extra hit of flavor and serve a tangy beer sauce for dipping on the table. Don’t bother with a fancy, expensive beer, you’re basic Bud works fine, but serve a good, ice-cold local beer to drink. Corn, sausage and potatoes are the classic ingredients in a shrimp boil, but the last time I did this, I found some gorgeous artichokes and fresh asparagus, which made for a very nice addition. A friend recently clued me in to the idea of adding raw peanuts to the boil to make spiced up boiled peanuts, and I’m definitely going to give that a try. I also put some hot sauce on the table for the spicy folks and a few baguettes from a local baker. Put the beer sauce in shallow bowls spread across the table. Its great for dipping shrimp and potatoes or asparagus or artichokes, or slathering on the corn.

Here are my instructions for a shrimp boil, which easily feeds 12 people:

I use a 22-quart water bath canner on an outdoor burner, but you can use any very large stockpot and a burner on a grill, or do it inside on the stove. You can also divide the ingredients between two stockpots if you don’t have one big enough. I use a frying basket to scoop out the cooked food, but a large metal strainer with a long handle will work (protect your hands with an oven mitt around that hot boiling water). Grill tongs and a large slotted spoon come in handy too. If you happen to have a special shrimp boil pot with a straining basket, lucky you!

Line your outdoor table with brown paper, which you’ll find at a big box store in the mailing supplies section, or several layers of newspaper. Put several rolls of paper towels on the table, accessible to all the dinners. You’ll need lots of paper towels! If you need to do this indoors, scoop your ingredients into big bowls.

1 six pack or 3 (40-ounce) bottles lager beer 1 recipe Shrimp Boil spice (see below)

4 lemons, cut in half

3 heads of garlic, the tops cut off to reveal the cloves

2 pounds of smoked sausage cut into one-inch pieces

4 corn cobs into three pieces each (or thaw frozen corn cob pieces)

2 pounds very small red potatoes

4 artichokes (optional)

4 pounds of fresh, beautiful shrimp with the peels on, but heads removed

1 pound asparagus spears (optional)

3 pounds of beautiful, fresh peel on, head-off shrimp

Pour the beer into the pot, and add enough water to fill the pot halfway – remember you will be adding lots of food to the pot, so don’t fill it up. Stir in the Shrimp Boil Spice, the lemons and garlic heads (and the artichokes if using) and bring to a boil over medium heat. This can take up to 30 minutes, so leave your self plenty of time. If it comes to a boil before you’re ready to cook, just turn it down to a simmer until ready to go.

When the liquid is boiling, drop in the sausage and potatoes and bring back to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes then add the corn. Boil for another ten minutes, then test a potato to see if it is tender all the way through. When the potatoes are tender drop in the asparagus, if using, then the shrimp and give everything a good stir. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and scoop out all the delicious food onto your table and dig in.

Beer Shrimp Boil

For the Beer Sauce:

1.55 ounce jar ground mustard powder

½ cup beer

3 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)

2 cups mayonnaise

Put the mustard and the beer in the carafe of a blender. Blend for a few seconds to combine. Drop in the onion pieces and add the Worcestershire, hot sauce and mayonnaise and blend until completely smooth and combined. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the favors to blend and mellow. This is best made a day ahead, but can be made up to two days ahead.

For the Shrimp Boil Seasoning:

2 tablespoons celery salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Cover the jar and shake until all the spices are blended. This will keep covered in an airtight container for up to a week.

Beer Shrimp Boil

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill


A good casserole is pure comfort food. And there are, I know, a million versions of casseroles out there, so coming up with new and unique versions is a welcome challenge for a recipe developer. So here’s my process for creating a recipe like this. I wanted to do something different – still a rich, creamy casserole, but with a twist. First I thought rice or noodles? Which led me to orzo, the small rice shaped pasta. Orzo, for some reason, always puts me in mind of Greek and Mediterranean food, and that made me think of lemons, much like one of my favorites, Greek Lemon Rice Soup. And of course, keeping with the Greek theme, feta cheese was an obvious ingredient. So I started to work out in my mind a recipe with orzo, lemon, feta cheese, herbs and chicken. Frankly, I had just finished my testing on another chicken casserole (recipe coming soon!), and didn’t really want to repeat myself, then the idea of using shrimp popped into my head. And with shrimp, I thought dill would be a bright herbal addition in keeping with the sunny Mediterranean profile. A quick shuffle through the ingredient library in my head led me to capers, to add a salty, briny note and a bit of texture.

That’s how these things work out with me. I wanted to create a creative casserole perfect for family meals or entertaining, and one thought led to another. And I am very pleased with the results, I think this dish meets all my points, unique, comforting packed with flavor and a change-up from the standards.

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ cups orzo pasta
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. zest of two lemons, divided
  5. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  6. 3 ½ cups whole milk
  7. 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, divided
  8. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  11. 1 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  12. 3 Tablespoons capers, drained
  13. 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  14. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen (18 - 20 count)
Instructions
  1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions, reducing the cooking time by one minute. Drain and rise thoroughly with cold water.
  2. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat, then add the minced garlic and the zest of one lemon. Cook for two minutes until fragrant, then sprinkle over the flour. Cook stirring, until the flour is pale and smooth. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking all the while, and cook until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Whisk in the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in half of the feta and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining lemon zest, dill and oregano. Add the capers and the lemon juice and stir until well combined. Stir in the cooked orzo until it is completely separated and coated in the sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry with paper towels then add to the warm sauce. Stir until everything is combined and well coated with sauce. The shrimp will just begin to turn pink in the warm sauce.
  5. Spoon the casserole into the prepared dish and sprinkle the remaining feta cheese over the top. The casserole can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours.
  6. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350° and bake until heated through and bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the feta cheese on top if you would like
Notes
  1. Personally, I prefer leaving the shrimp whole, but you may cut them in half before adding to the casserole if you prefer.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Classic Shrimp Bisque

Classic Shrimp BisqueSome years ago, I attended a lovely luncheon given for a friend’s birthday. The hostess laid tables on beautiful linens with her best silver and crystal and magnificent flowers. All the ladies in attendance were dressed in their spring best. It was a very sophisticated event that made me feel like a true grown-up in the best possible way. The first course was a fresh shrimp bisque, served in antique soup cups, and given the occasion and surroundings it seemed like an impossibly chic dish. The hostess told me that her grandmother used to serve shrimp bisque at luncheons, and though she had tried to duplicate that version, she just had to take shortcuts, using bottled and boxed stocks. Ever since, I have wanted to make a refined shrimp bisque from start-to-finish, but just didn’t have the patience.

For a good shrimp bisque, you need to use shrimp shells to produce a rich stock that creates layers of flavor. But peeling shrimp is a kitchen task I just hate. I can’t explain why, it is hardly the worst kitchen task, and many people I know do it without thinking. I simply do not like it. You can buy raw, peeled shrimp, of course, but then you don’t get the shells. I recently discovered, however, that the fish counter at a good market will peel and devein shrimp for you, and if you ask, they’ll save the shells for you. I should have figured this out years ago, but there you go. I soon went to work on a shrimp bisque recipe and this is where I landed.

The pale pink you and delicate shrimp flavor make this a sophisticated dish for entertaining, ladies luncheon or grown-up dinner party. And curled, blushing shrimp balanced on the top of the soup make a beautiful presentation. But I also find this a comforting soup meal, with some crusty bread or corn muffins.

Classic Shrimp Bisque
Serves 6
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For the Stock
  1. 1 ½ pounds shrimp
  2. 3 celery stalks
  3. 1 carrot
  4. ½ yellow onion
  5. 3 gloves garlic
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 3 sprigs of marjoram or thyme
  8. ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
For the Bisque
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. ½ yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 celery stalk, diced
  4. 1 carrot, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 3 cups shrimp stock
  7. Reserved shrimp meat
  8. ½ cup cognac
  9. 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  10. ¼ cup butter
  11. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  12. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  13. 2 cups whole milk
  14. salt to taste
For the stock
  1. Shell and devein the shrimp. Place the shells and 4 of the shrimp in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Return the remaining shrimp meat to the refrigerator. Add the remaining ingredients into the pot, then pour over 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Place a strainer over a bowl and strain the stock through it. Discard the solids. Rinse and wipe out the pot and the strainer, then line the strainer with a piece of damp cheesecloth or a thin tea towel. Pour the stock back through the strainer into the pot and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the stock is reduced by about ¼ and it is very fragrant. Pour the stock into a clean bowl or 4 – cup measuring cup. You should have at least 3 cups of stock. You can make this a few hours ahead of time if you’d like.
For the Bisque
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are soft and the onions are glossy. Add the reserved shrimp meat to the pot and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begin to turn pink. Pour in the cognac and bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are completely cooked and the cognac has boiled away. Reserve 6 whole shrimp for serving. Place the remaining shrimp and vegetables in the bowl of a food processor. Add the tomato paste and ½ teaspoon salt and puree to a rough paste. Slowly add 2 cups of the shrimp stock until you have a smooth paste.
  2. Thoroughly clean the soup pot, making sure to wipe out any dark or brown residue. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat, then whisk in the flour and the paprika until smooth. Cook until the paste is thick and completely smooth, then add the milk, stirring constantly until it is thickened and smooth. Scrape in the shrimp puree and stir well to combine. Add the remaining 1 cup of shrimp stock and stir until heated through. If you prefer, you can use an immersion blender to give the soup some extra smoothness, or push it through a strainer.
  3. Season with salt to taste and serve with the remaining cooked shrimp.
Notes
  1. Ask the fish counter at your local high end or natural market if they will clean the shrimp for you and save you the shells.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Shrimp Perloo (Low Country Shrimp and Rice)

Shrimp Perloo

I love delving into traditional recipes from the South, learning new things or rediscovering classics. Perloo (pronounced purlow, and sometimes spelled that way, or pilau, or any number of variations) is a dish I first heard of when my brother returned from a trip to South Carolina and suggested that I figure out how to make it. He described is as kind of a jambalaya or dirty rice, but somehow different. So over the years, I have read recipes and fiddled around with the idea, but never really understood it. Until I traveled to South Carolina and had a version of perloo in Charleston. Perloo, you see, comes in all shapes and sizes. Chicken, duck, shrimp, oyster sausage or a combination. The one I ordered had several main ingredients, in a flavorful bed of rice. I settled on shrimp perloo, because I love the combination of big, juicy shrimp and rich, seasoned rice, plus the shrimp give it a low country feel.

I’ve streamlined more traditional recipes to produce the rich flavor that could be a great party dish or a weeknight meal. If you can get your hands on some Carolina Gold rice, use that for an authentic version, but long grain white works for me. I find good seafood stock made with shrimp at the grocery, but use a flavorful vegetable stock if you can’t. Of course, it you have fresh, head on shrimp, you can go full traditional and make your own stock with the heads and shells.

Shrimp Perloo
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup long grain white rice
  2. 1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  3. 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  4. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  5. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  8. dash of cayenne
  9. 6 strips bacon, diced
  10. 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  11. 2 celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
  12. 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (about ½ cup)
  13. 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  14. 2 cups seafood stock (or vegetable stock)
  15. 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  16. 1 bay leaf
Instructions
  1. Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cool water by about an inch. Leave to soak for ten minutes, then strain the rice through a fine mesh sieve. Rinse the rice with cool water, shaking it around a few times, until the water coming out of the sieve is clear and not cloudy. Don’t skip this step, it will keep the perloo fluffy and not gummy. Set the cleaned rice aside.
  2. Pat the shrimp dry and spread out on a plate. Mix the sweet and smoked paprika, celery salt, salt and pepper together and sprinkle evenly over the shrimp. Keep the shrimp in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid until it is crispy and brown. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon and set aside. Carefully pour off all but 3 Tablespoons of bacon grease and leave it to cool in the pot for a few minutes. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and the onions translucent. Do not brown. Add the rice and stir to coat with the fat. Cook for about 2 minutes until the edges of most of the grains are a little translucent. Add the tomatoes, seafood stock, parsley and bay leaf and stir a few times to combine. Do not stir a lot, just distribute the ingredients. Bring the perloo to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 12 minutes. Quickly peek under the lid to make sure the liquid is absorbed. If it needs another few minutes, cover the pot and keep cooking.
  4. When the liquid is absorbed into the rice, sprinkle the reserved bacon pieces over the top over the, then spread the shrimp out over the rice. It’s okay if there are two layers. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes on low, then turn off the heat and leave for a further five minutes. Take the lid off, and use a spatula to gently fold the rice over the shrimp. Do not stir like crazy or agitate things too much or the rice will get gluey. If the shrimp are not fully cooked, cover the pot and put it back on low heat for a few minutes.
  5. When the shrimp are cooked through, use two forks to gently fluff the rice. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Baked Coconut Shrimp with Tequila Lime Butter Sauce

Baked Coconut Shrimp with Tequila Lime Butter Sauce

Crunchy coconut shrimp are sort of a secret treat for me. I don’t eat at a lot of chain restaurants, but there are a few that really excel and I make the occasional visit to sample them. The first time I had coconut shrimp years ago, I was attending the trial run of a chain restaurant opening its first branch in town. The night was a real disaster…the waiters were not ready, there were problems with the lighting and the piped in music. One of the bathrooms hadn’t been finished and the bar wasn’t opened. But the shrimp sure were good.

I generally can’t be bothered with frying at home and this baked version is a bit healthier…leaving room for this creamy tequila lime sauce. I think it adds a little Cinco de Mayo tropical flair to the crispy shrimp. Serve these as a starter to a larger Mexican meal, or make this the main with some rice with lime and cilantro stirred through. Pop open a cold beer with a slice of lime and celebrate.

Baked Coconut Shrimp with Tequila Lime Butter Sauce
Serves 4
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Shrimp
  1. 1 ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  2. ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 pound large shrimp (26- 30 count), peeled, deveined, tails intact
  5. 1 egg
Sauce
  1. ½ cup tequila
  2. 6 Tablespoons heavy cream
  3. 2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  4. 3 teaspoons lime zest
  5. 1 ½ Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced
For the shrimp
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°
  2. Stir the panko, coconut and salt together in a large, deep skillet and place over medium heat. Stirring and flipping the crumbs constantly, toast until evenly golden brown. Be careful not to burn the coating. Spread the crumbs on a plate and leave to cool.
  3. Place a rack in a rimmed baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Beat the egg with 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl until blended. Pat the shrimp dry, then dip by the tail in the egg. Place the shrimp in the crumbs and press to coat each side fully. Place each bread shrimp on the prepared rack.
  4. Bake the shrimp for 10 – 12 minutes until opaque and cooked through.
For the sauce
  1. While the shrimp are cooking, stir the tequila, cream, lime juice, zest and cilantro together in a medium skillet. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently until reduced by half and thickened. Stir the butter in a piece at a time, stirring to melt after each addition.
  2. Serve the shrimp immediately drizzled with the sauce, or with the sauce on the side as a dip.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Shrimp and Corn Cobbler

Shrimp and Corn Cobbler

Shrimp and corn pie recipes appear in a number of Southern community cookbooks, and I’ve tried a few.  But I have always thought they lacked a little oomph.  But the delicious combination of shrimp and corn deserves attention, so I put my mind to it and decided on a tangy filling and an old-fashioned biscuit top to make perfect transitional comfort food.  When summer has wound up, but it is not quite cool enough for heavy winter stews.

The clean, bright taste of white wine and lemon complement sweet corn and juicy shrimp without overwhelming either.  I forego a lot of extra add-ins to highlight that simple pairing. Tender biscuits soak up the light and creamy sauce with an extra hit of lemon and thyme.  This dish is simple enough for a family dinner, but sophisticated for a gathering of friends.

Shrimp and Corn Cobbler

For the Filling:

3 Tablespoons butter

2 bunches green onions (about 12)

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup white wine

2 cups whole milk

zest of one lemon

1 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1 (12-ounce) package frozen corn, thawed and drained

1 pound frozen Gulf shrimp, thawed and drained

For the topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

zest of one lemon

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

For the Filling:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (I use a 1 ½ quart oven safe pan).  Finely chop the green onions and add to the butter.  Sauté until soft and translucent.  Put the garlic clove through a press of finely mince it and add to the pan with the thyme leaves.  Cook for a bout a minute, just until the garlic is fragrant.  Sprinkle over the flour and stir until you have a smooth, pale mixture.  Add the white wine and stir until the sauce begins to thicken.  Slowly add the milk, stirring the whole time, and cook over medium-high heat until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the corn and stir until combined.  Take the pot of the heat and add the shrimp, stirring to combine completely.  The shrimp will begin to gently poach, but do not need to be fully cooked as the dish is going in the oven.  At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the filling for several hours. (If you are not using an oven-safe saucepan, scrape the filling into a baking dish).

For the topping:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix the flour, cornmeal, lemon zest, thyme, baking powder, salt and pepper together with a fork in a large bowl.  Mix the buttermilk, egg and butter together in a small bowl.  Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix well until you have a biscuit dough.

Scoop ¼ cup mounds of the topping over the top of the filling to cover.  Bake for30 – 35 minutes until the biscuits are firm and golden and the filling is hot through and bubbling.

Serves 6

Comeback Shrimp Salad

Comeback Shrimp Salad

Comeback Sauce is, according to my research, a specialty of Jackson, Mississippi.  It apparently originated in Greek restaurants and is now found on restaurant tables all over the city.  It really hasn’t made its way up to Memphis, but as you meander through the Delta, you do find in on some restaurant menus.  That’s where I discovered it.  And of course it shows up in community cookbooks in many forms with many uses.

Comeback sauce is a great dip for chicken tenders or fried catfish, but pairs wonderfully with big, juicy Gulf shrimp as the centerpiece dip in a Southern shrimp cocktail.  I frequently serve it with shrimp that I smoke in rigged-up stove top or grill smoker. I had in mind sharing a shrimp remoulade recipe as a nice, cool summer salad.  Then it occurred to me that I could make it a little more regional by using a comeback sauce dressing, and I haven’t turned back.  The flavor of the sauce is so punchy, that I only add a little celery and some capers to the shrimp for crunch.  Use beautiful wild-caught American shrimp – I prefer big chunks of juicy shrimp, but feel free to cut smaller pieces.  I suppose you could use pre-cooked shrimp, but this beer boil does add a nice zing.

You can serve this on lettuce to be eaten straight up, but it makes a great filling for a po’ boy.  Kind of a redneck lobster roll.

Comeback Shrimp Salad

For the Shrimp:

3 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

12 ounce bottle beer

1 lemon, quartered

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

2 bay leaves

3 celery stalks

2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

For the Comeback Sauce:

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 Tablespoons chili sauce

1 Tablespoons ketchup

1 teaspoon stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

dash hot sauce

1 garlic clove

¼ a small white onion or a small shallot

½ teaspoon salt

several grinds of black pepper

For the Shrimp:

Place the beer, 2 cups of water, the lemon, peppercorns, mustard seeds and bay leaves in a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid.  Bring the liquid to a boil, drop in the shrimp, then cover the pot and remove from the heat.  Leave the shrimp for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid.  The shrimp should be nice, pink and curled now.  Leave them in the liquid, uncovered, for a further ten minutes.  Remove from the cooking liquid and drain. I usually do this with tongs – you don’t want peppercorns or mustard seeds stuck to the shrimp when you make the salad.

Cut the shrimp into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl.  String the celery and cut it into a very fine dice and add to the bowl.  Add the capers and toss to combine.

For the Sauce:

Place all the Comeback Sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and combined.

Pour the sauce over the shrimp and gently fold everything together until thoroughly coated with sauce.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors combine.  The salad can be made one day ahead.

Serves 6

Crab Cake Bites with Artichoke Tartar Sauce

Many years ago, I picked up a recipe card in the checkout line at a grocery store in London.  It had a complicated fish recipe, but what attracted me was the artichoke tartar sauce.  That card sat in my recipe file for years, until I rediscovered it and decided to give it a go.  The recipe was a complete dud.  Weird ingredients, lengthy procedures and it just didn’t come together.  It left me with a bowl of gloopy, oddly colored mess.  So I threw the card away (and the sauce).  But the idea stuck.  A tangy, creamy sauce with a nice bite from artichoke hearts that would be a great accompaniment to seafood.  So I persevered and came up with this version.  I first took it to a friend’s house for a fish fry – they fried the fish caught that morning.  It was a big hit, so I wanted to share the recipe.

But it has taken me another few years to figure out how to do it.  I don’t particularly enjoy frying fish myself, so no duplicating the tartar sauce’s triumphant debut.  Then it hit me – crab cakes.  Like a semi-deconstructed crab and artichoke dip.  I fiddled with a classic crab cake recipe, paring it down to basic flavors so the tartar sauce wouldn’t be overwhelmed.  And pressing the mixture into little muffin tins makes them easier to cook and perfect bites for a party – they tins can be filled and refrigerated just until ready to bake.  A little dollop of tartar sauce makes them pretty, and the mini-sized, crispy sides make them easy to eat.

Crab Cake Bites with Artichoke Tartar Sauce

For the Crab Cakes:

2 eggs

1 pound lump crabmeat (see note)

2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 Tablespoon mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley

½ cu panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

½ teaspoon mustard powder

For the Tartar Sauce:

4 medium sized whole artichokes hearts (see note)

2 egg yolks

2 garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons flat leaf parsley leaves

2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

¼ cup safflower, grapeseed or canola oil

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Pick over the crabmeat to make sure there are no pieces of shell, then add the crab to the eggs.  Add the melted butter, mayonnaise and parsley and fold together gently.  You want everything well combined but try not to break up the crabmeat.

Mix the breadcrumbs, baking powder, Old Bay and mustard powder together in a small bowl.  Add to the crab mixture and gently fold through.  Again, you want everything combined, but don’t break up the crabmeat. Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour, but several is fine.  This binds the mixture together and makes it easier to fill the tins.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Spray 24 mini-muffin cups well with non-stick cooking spray.  Fill each cup with crab cake mixture, pressing it in to fill it well.  Press a rounded teaspoon down in the middle of each cake to make a little well in the center (this will keep them from mounding up and create a nice flat surface for the tartar sauce).  You can cover the tins with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for several hours at this point.

Bake the crab cakes for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown, then cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Use a knife to loosen the cakes and remove them from the pan.  Spoon a little tartar sauce on top of each cake and serve immediately, though these taste lovely at room temperature.

For the Tartar Sauce

Drain and rinse the artichoke hearts well and pat dry.  Drop them in a food processor (I use the mini) and add the capers, egg yolks, parsley and garlic cloves.  Pulse three to four times to break everything up into a rough paste; scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the motor running, drizzle the oil into the bowl in a thin, steady stream.  Process until the sauce is thick and creamy.  Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through.  Scrape the tartar sauce into a container and keep covered in the fridge until ready to use.  It will keep overnight.

Makes 24 crab cakes

Note:

I prefer pasteurized lump crab meat that I find in containers at the seafood counter at better grocery stores.

I generally used canned artichoke hearts in brine, rather than the marinated, quartered ones in jars because the marinated ones have some flavor additions.  If you can only find those, rinse them really well.  If you can only find quartered, use 12 quarters.

Crab Cake Bites with Artichoke Tartar Sauce

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

It’s winter.  Generally, it’s cold and grey, though here in Memphis, the months are punctuated with weirdly frustrating days of seventy degree weather.  I love winter food, but I have souped and stewed and braised myself silly and I’m ready for something lighter and fresher.  This recipe started as just that.  A quick whip-up with the last citrus at the bottom of the fruit bowl and some shrimp from the freezer.  But this good enough to share, and could not be a quicker family meal or company dish.

Big juicy shrimp remind me of summer, and citrus is sometimes the one spot of sunshine in the winter foodscape.  Add a little garlic and fresh, leafy parsley and this is a bright, sunny dish.  A touch of cream adds some body, but mostly this sauce just glazes the pasta and shrimp with zest.  Use a high-quality olive oil to make sure the citrus really shines.

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

12 ounces linguine

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

3 garlic cloves

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup heavy cream

small handful flat leaf parsley leaves, plus more for sprinkling

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

salt and pepper

Cook the linguine in a pot of well-salted water according to the package instructions.  Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Grate the zest the orange, lemon and lime into the carafe of a blender.  Juice the citrus to produce ¾ cup juice combined.  Add the juice to the blender with the garlic, parsley, olive oil, cream, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Blend until smooth.

Pour the sauce into a large skillet or pot that will hold the pasta.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until cooked through. They will be pink and firm and curled tightly.  Immediately add the pasta to the pot and a couple of Tablespoons of cooking water.  Use tongs to toss everything together, coating all the pasta with the sauce.

Serve immediately sprinkled with a little chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 4

Mardi Crawfish Spread

As Mardi Gras time comes around, I start to get a good craving for some Louisiana cooking.  And what is more Louisiana than crawdads?  This creamy crawfish spread is perfect for a Mardi Gras party, or any time you need a little Creole kick.  I like to serve this as an appetizer or on the buffet with some thick rounds of baguette, but it ain’t bad over pasta!

Mardi Crawfish Spread

Look for frozen crawfish tails in the frozen seafood section.

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ cup finely chopped celery (about 3 stalks)

½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper (about 1 small pepper)

½ cup finely chopped white onion (about ½ a medium onion)

1 pound peeled, cooked crawfish tail meat (thawed if frozen, rinsed and drained)

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

3 teaspoon Creole mustard

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil and cook the celery, pepper and onion until soft and translucent.  Add the crawfish meat (if it is in large pieces, chop into bite-sized bits first) and 1/3 cup water.  Bring to a boil and cook until the water has completely evaporated.  Sprinkle on the Creole seasoning and cook one more minute, stirring.  Add the tomato paste and mustard and stir to coat.  Cut the cream cheese into cubes and add to the crawfish bit by bit, stirring until all the cream cheese is melted.

You can transfer the dip to a serving dish and serve immediately, or cool it and refrigerate, covered, overnight.  Stir in a couple of Tablespoons of milk to loosen the dip and gently reheat in the oven, stirring occasionally.  Serve with French bread rounds or sturdy crackers.

Serves 8 – 10, but can be easily doubled