Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shrimp and Baked Cheese Grits

It's not unusual for the meals I cook to reflect my thoughts and feelings. Whether it's love I'm trying to share, excitement, joy, encouragement, or the need for simple comfort. What foods match my thoughts during this month commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11?

It's been ten years since we were attacked on American soil and so many lives were lost. Families and friends were devastated, and we as a nation were stunned, afraid, and not at all sure about what would happen next. Not only were we attacked, but it was a complete surprise, and it all happened right before our eyes. We watched in real time as the tragedy unfolded.

Some of us, and I fall into this category, went from being very naïve about our safety and security, to realizing just how vulnerable we are every day. I was over the half century mark, past the age of knowing better.

However, now that I look back, I realize I moved from one naïve mindset to another: after this life changing event, I believed our country would come together in brotherly love, working for the common good, righting past wrongs, moving forward united. It's never too late to begin.

As I watched the families and friends commemorate their losses of ten years ago I was reminded of the losses we have all suffered. No one is immune. There is no angel of the Lord passing down our streets marking the doorways of those who should be passed over. We're all vulnerable. Even more reason that we should be kinder and more caring.

It's fall, it's back to school, it's ballgames and changing leaves. It's hometown happenings with a family focus. Summer is over, and we're settling in. We're preparing for the colder months ahead. During this month of taking stock, I'm thinking of foods to share, foods to nurture, foods that say, “I care.”

My family's favorite recipe, the one they ask for more than any other, is my version of Shrimp and Grits. We've been eating it for as long as I can remember. It's good anytime of year. It's a great meal to share with friends or around the table with your family. Give it a try, and while you're sharing, think about how fortunate we are to live in this wonderful country, and what we need to do to preserve it.

Shrimp and Baked Cheese Grits


2 lb. shrimp, cooked* , and peeled

One and one-half sticks butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons minced shallot

2 minced garlic cloves

Zest and Juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

One-fourth tsp. Nutmeg

One-fourth tsp. red pepper

Three-fourths cup bread crumbs

*Boil shrimp in shells with bay leaf, quartered onion, and 3 tablespoons Old Bay or similar seafood seasoning mix in enough water to cover. Bring water to boil with bay leaf, onion and Old Bay. Add shrimp, cover pot and cook only 2 minutes, just until pink. Remove shrimp from water and cool immediately in ice bath to prevent further cooking. Drain. Peel and devein shrimp. Set aside.

Combine softened butter and remaining ingredients except bread crumbs, stirring and mashing together to combine. Put cooked shrimp in 9 x 9 inch casserole. Top evenly with butter mixture and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes (butter should be bubbling). Turn broiler on for just a minute to brown bread crumbs. Serve with Cheese Grits**

Baked Cheese Grits**

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups quick (NOT instant) grits

One-half stick butter

1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

One-half teaspoon Texas Pete

2 eggs

2 cups shredded cheese, half colby, have cheddar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly stir grits into simmering broth. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook for seven minutes. Remove lid and whisk to remove any lumps. Add butter, Worcestershire sauce and Texas Pete, stirring to combine.

Beat the eggs in a small mixing bowl. Slowly add about a cup of hot grits to bowl to temper eggs, stirring to combine. Then add egg mixture back into grits, along with cheese, and stir well to combine.

Pour grits into buttered 9 x 13 inch casserole.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until grits are browned and puffed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beaufort Clams

I've written before about my love for our new home-away-from-home. The friends we've made in this energetic community top my 'reasons why' list. Quickly following is the beauty of the area. No matter what time of year, it's a gorgeous place to be. Fighting for the number two spot is the food. There are so many good restaurants within walking distance of our house, not to mention frequent invitations to our neighbor's home just at the end of the street. Fred and Sue have given us such a good tutorial on the local fare. The other night we had clam chowder with cornmeal dumplings and fried cornbread (so I could try both). As I understand it, the cornmeal dumplings were cooked into everything with a broth, from beans to chowder, a generation or two ago.
My early exposure to seafood included fried catfish, occasionally grilled trout, and shrimp cocktail in a little glass jar found in the cold cut section of the grocery store. Oh, and fish sticks in the lunch room every Friday. Now, I can ride my bicycle to two fresh seafood markets. It's almost like heaven to me.
This week we enjoyed Clam Chowder with our neighbors, and then I made Beaufort Clam Soup with Cannellini Beans and Roasted Tomatoes. When the fresh, local clams are available, I can't help myself!
Beaufort Clam Soup with Cannellini Beans and Roasted Tomatoes (4 servings)

4 dozen fresh clams, cleaned (discard any clams that remain open)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups chardonnay wine
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained
1 can (15 oz.) fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons fresh basil cut into a chiffonade

Add butter and olive oil to wide bottomed pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion, cook until transparent (3-4 minutes) and then add garlic and cook for another minutes, stirring to combine. Add parsley, red pepper flakes and wine. When wine is heated to a simmer (you may need to increase heat a bit) add clams and cover pot. Let clams steam in wine for about 5 minutes, until they open. May take an extra minute or two. Discard any clams that do not open.
Remove clams to separate serving bowls and add beans and tomatoes to pan. Stir to combine and simmer for a few minutes. Sprinkle basil over clams. Then spoon hot soup mixture over clams and serve with crusty bread.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Campfire Cookery

I just read the book Campfire Cookery by Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young. 'Roughing it' never sounded so good.

My Dad was a dutch-oven master. We enjoyed his outdoor cooking over many years of wagon train vacations and weekend camping trips. His most popular dinner was Chicken with Dried Beef and Potatoes followed by Peach Cobbler. No one ever turned it down. They never said 'no' to his cornbread or biscuits, either!

And I can't tell you how many potatoes and onions I peeled over the years to satisfy the hungry faces around his breakfast fire. 'How you want your eggs?' was the question asked, but it was more of a polite morning greeting than a promise of giving a choice. They were always fried over easy, and served up with toast, fried potatoes and a big slice of tomato.

This new book, Campfire Cookery, throws a new light on camping meals. These ladies give all the needed tips on how to build and hold the fire, what type of wood produces the best coals, and the necessary cooking implements—all information you need to be a successful camp cook. But their recipes branch out with a near gourmet appeal.

Basic camp food is nothing short of delicious, even if it's a hotdog on a stick (as long as it's a good hotdog), but if you would like to take your campfire (or back deck) cooking to a new level, give this book a try. I'm sure you'll enjoy the new twists on old tried and true camping recipes, along with completely new ideas to tempt your adventurous side.

Pine-Smoked & Maple-

Glazed Wild Salmon



For all the robustness of the ingredients of this dish, the end result

is notably delicate. One might ask, “Oh, but won’t the bracing scent of

pine make the dish taste of Christmas fir or, worse, freshly waxed parlor?” It

will not. The smoked needles impart a light, balsamic flavor akin to rosemary

(indeed one might substitute a bundle of that herb in this recipe), and the light

glaze allows the pine flavor to shine through. The overall effect proves an excellent

complement to the moist, flaky fish this cooking technique yields. Should

one desire a more intensely flavored glaze, one might make a bit extra to brush

over the fish before serving.

1 to 2 large handfuls green

pine needles

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup grade-B, freshly

tapped maple syrup

3 tablespoons Dijon


2 teaspoons freshly milled

black pepper

Four 6-ounce salmon fillets,

patted dry

Kosher salt, to taste

One 9-inch round wire

cooling rack

1. Prepare a medium-high-heat fire, with

the flames occasionally licking the grill

grate. Let it burn for at least 30 minutes.

Whilst the fire heats, soak the pine

needles in the bourbon.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the syrup,

mustard, and pepper. Season the salmon

generously with salt and coat with the


3. Place a large cast-iron skillet upon the

grill grate. Let it heat until very hot.

Using tongs or one’s own gloved hand,

press the needles into the bottom of the

skillet, taking care not to drizzle combustible

bourbon into the flames, and place

the rack on top of the needles. Place the

fish on top of the rack and cover the pan.

Cook until the fish is just opaque, about

15 minutes for medium. Serve, brushed

with additional glaze, if desired.