Spicy Shrimp and Polenta

My wife and I were discussing how much she likes grits for breakfast and I asked her if she ever has had polenta.  She said no, so I suggested that I make her some for dinner.  Dinner? As she looked at me funny, I said I bet you will like it, it would be my take on Southern shrimp and grits.  So this is what I did.

Start out with good polenta.  Make it to the directions on the package substituting one cup of water for one cup of heavy cream, add one stick of butter. Stir together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

polenta

cooking polenta

Pour off about half of the mixture into a buttered shallow pan if you have one. We are going to save that for another day. We will use this over the weekend for breakfast. Let it cool completely then cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Back to dinner now.

polenta in a pan

Take the shrimp you are having for dinner and marinate them in some olive oil, and whatever spices you like to make them spicy say some crushed red peppers, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper.

seasoned shrimp

With the rest of the polenta in the pot add about 2 cups of cheddar cheese and mix in until its smooth, if necessary loosen the mixture a little with some more heavy cream. You are looking for a consistency of very thick applesauce. Put the bowl off to the side over very low heat and cook the shrimp.

cooked shrimp

Heat a non stick pan to medium high, add the shrimp, and cook a few minutes a side just until done. Scoop some of the hot cheesy polenta into a bowl and top with the spicy shrimp. Serve with a nice cool glass of your favorite white wine. As for my wife she now likes polenta just as much as grits.

plated shrimp

Enjoy

Italian Chicken Breast with Cheese Tortellini and Tomatoes

Once again my wife and I bought too many little cherry tomatoes and I was really tired of eating them on salad so this is how I finished them up in dinner a couple nights ago.

First off cook the tortellini according to the package minus one minute, drain in a colander, and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set them aside, we will heat them up after cooking the chicken.

For the chicken, season with salt & pepper and sprinkle some Italian seasoning over the breasts. Just a quick note these were very large chicken breasts. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil, then put the chicken breasts in and cook for about five minutes then flip over for another four or five, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165 degrees. Take them out and set aside on a plate to rest for a minute while you make the sauce for the tortellini.

Turn the pan up to medium high and add one shallot sliced thinly to the oil left in the pan, cook it  until it becomes soft then add one tablespoon of chopped garlic, cook for a minute. Add ½ cup of extra dry vermouth to deglaze the pan. Toss in the tomatoes and the tortellini and stir around for a minute then turn heat off and add two tablespoons of butter. Let the butter melt and stir the sauce coat the tortellini. Make sure to check for seasoning. Serve right away next to the chicken breast. A salad and a glass of white wine goes nicely with dinner. Enjoy ~

baked chicken with tortellini

Honey BBQ Chicken Thighs with Mac-n-Cheese

As you might have figured out by now I just can’t cook for the two of us. So we had some chicken thighs left over from earlier in the week. They were just the thing I needed to make a quick dinner. My wife and I both had hard days and I knew this meal would make anyone in her family happy.

So here we go – turn the oven on to 275 degrees and let it preheat. Take a pan out and place some aluminum foil on it, this step will help greatly with clean up. Put the chicken on the pan and let them hang out for a minute. In a small bowl mix the following ingredients: tomato sauce, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, honey, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper. Play with the flavors that work best for you. You could even use premade honey BBQ sauce, if you do, I’d recommend adding extra honey. Carefully pour the mixture on the top of the chicken making sure to keep on the chicken. Put the pan in the middle of the oven and forget about it for about 30-45 minutes.

During the week sometimes you need some comfort food quickly. This time I reached up into the pantry and grabbed a couple of boxes of elbow noodles. I made a rue with butter and flour, then added about 2 cups of milk along with pepper and some chili powder. Stir on low heat for a couple minutes, then add in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese. We make mac-n-cheese often and will experiment with different spices and cheeses.

Carefully take the chicken off the pan, try not to pull up any of the aluminum foil, because it is going to be sticky. Give yourself a couple of big scoops of mac-n-cheese and take a few minutes to savor the flavor of your childhood and let the day’s troubles melt away.  Make a quick salad to round out the meal and for something healthy. Enjoy ~

bbq chix and mac n cheese

Blackened Scallops with Ginger & Garlic over Black Rice

My wife and I were shopping at Costco one evening and I noticed this new product- Black Rice. I have never seen it before and I thought it would be good to show off light colored foods. As we were driving home I told her that we will be having scallops for dinner with the new rice.

First off I had to defrost the scallops in some cold water. After that I had to pat them dry with some paper towels so the blackening seasoning sticks to the scallops, as you can see here.

dryed scallops

seasoned scallops

Before you heat the pan, sprinkle a few drops of oil and spread them around with your fingers so there is almost non-detectable layer of oil on the pan. Then heat the non stick pan to medium high and place the scallops in the pan. Important don’t touch the scallops while they are cooking or you won’t get that good blackening crust on them.  Let them cook on the first side for a minute or so, then carefully with a non stick spatula turn over and cook for another minute. Remove them from the pan for a moment. Wipe out the left over seasoning left in the pan and pour about 1/3 cup of good olive oil in and let that heat almost to a simmer.

Cut a good thumb sized piece of fresh ginger into super fine dice and the same with about two tablespoonfuls of fresh garlic.  Place them in the oil and let them cook together for about two minutes. You can see the little bubbles coming from the garlic and ginger in the picture.  Then squirt 3 or 4 shakes of soy sauce into the pan. Stir together and turn off the heat.

ginger fried

Cook the black rice how the package directs, lucky for us, we have a rice cooker and lay a strip of the rice on the plate, top the rice with the scallops and then carefully spoon the garlic ginger mixture over the scallops.  Sit back and enjoy something new and delicious.

plated scallops

Roast Chicken Mash & Peas

It’s funny how dinner comes about some nights. I look over at the drawers where I keep the onions and potatoes and I see 3 big potatoes starting to sprout, so I know I will use them in some way for dinner tonight.  Some more poking around I find a half-open bag of frozen peas and I knew I was making roast chicken for dinner anyway.

Started by peeling the potatoes and cutting them up into chunks because I’m going to make mashed potatoes. I put them in a pot, bring them to a boil, cook until they are fork soft. Then drain them and put them back in the pot and on the stove. On low heat, and add a stick of butter and some half & half to get them to the desired thickness then I add the salt & pepper to taste. This is how they end up.

cut potatoes

mashed potatoes

Today I have chicken thighs that I seasoned with salt & pepper, a little paprika, some granulated garlic and sprayed them with a little oil. Set the oven to 400 degrees and put them on the next to the top rack. Cook until they are a dark golden brown or until a thermometer reads at least 165 degrees nearest the bone.

chicken prep

In a small pan I mixed together some chicken stock and some beef stock and let that reduce on the stove while the chicken cooked. While the stock was boiling, I mixed together 2 tablespoons of flour with 1/3 cup of water and while whisking the stock, slowly poured in the slurry in until the stock thickened into a sauce. Check it for seasoning, it might need some pepper to offset the saltiness from reducing the stock.

gravy

I took the frozen peas put them in a pot with some water to cover, brought them to a boil for a minute or two then drained most of the water. Add a good sized piece of butter and add some salt & pepper to your liking, turn the heat off under the pot, cover the pot and let it sit there until you are ready to serve dinner.

As you can see, I plated the mashed potatoes, made a well for the sauce, and filled it to the brim, put a couple of scoops of peas on the plate and then the crispy skinned chicken thighs on the plate.  Pour yourself some sort of refreshing adult beverage and dig in!  Enjoy ~

roast chicken and mash

Chicken with Red Onion, Thyme, Lemon and Pasta

Since my wife and I are still a little sick and our throats still hurt, I threw this together one evening knowing that it would taste good, be good for us and it would be soft on our throats going down.

I took 3 large chicken breasts and poached them in the water I was going to cook the pasta in. Took the chicken out and let them cool a little while I cut a red onion into large dice.

I then sautéed the onions in a tablespoon of oil until they became soft, then added a tablespoon of diced garlic and 6 to 8 sprigs of thyme to the pan.  Cooked that together for a few minutes and then added ½ cup of lemon juice and a ½ cup of the pasta water to the pan. Let that simmer for a minute or two.

onions with thyme

Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking and serve it over the pasta. It is quick, easy, delicious, and good for you too.

chicken, red onion on pasta

Enjoy ~

Orange Scallops

My wife and I spend the last two weeks of December with my family in Sarasota at my father’s place. We had a wonderful time with family. I always enjoy time with my father, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew. Unfortunately, my wife and I ended very sick after our trip. To infuse our bodies with some much-needed vitamin C, I came up with this easy dinner.

First cut the skins off of 4 oranges like you see here then here comes the tricky part.

peeled oranges

Carefully supreme the oranges and place them in a bowl. To supreme is to cut the orange segments from the membrane. I recommend you do this over another bowl to catch all the juice that will be running down your hand, you will need the juice for the sauce.

supremed oranges

In a large sauté pan set over medium high heat put 2 tablespoons of butter in and cook the salt and pepper seasoned scallops for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once, until almost done. Take them out of the pan and set aside for few moments. Deglaze the pan with about a 1/3 of a cup of extra dry vermouth and reduce a little. Add the juice from the oranges, the segments, and the juice that has collected on the scallop plate to the pan. Add another 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan and remove from the heat. Carefully swirl the pan to not break the segments until all the butter has melted and thickened the sauce. Then toss in the scallops in at the last moment just to heat through.

scallops

oranges

This evening I served the scallops over some brown rice and some steamed broccoli. It was an easy meal to eat with our sore throats and a healthy meal to make us healthy again!  Enjoy!

orange scallop plate

Oxtail Stew

I know that there was a request for this item a while ago but I had to track down a Jamaican woman that used to work for me who made this dish and it was always really good. So here we go. My take on oxtail stew.

Start with 2.5 to 3 pounds of oxtails washed and dried and dredge them in a mixture of 50% flour 50% sugar and sear them in a hot pan on all sides. When done set aside for a few minutes.

oxtail seared

seared oxtail

To the hot pot add 2 chopped onions, 2 chopped carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 2 Tbsp of chopped garlic, some fresh thyme, 17 whole allspice, and I had a scallion kicking around the refrigerator, so I threw it in too. Cook together making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.

celery and allspince

all veges and spices searing

Put the meat back into the pot and the juices. Now add ½ cup of red wine, 2 cups of water, a quart of beef stock, 3 tbsp of soy sauce, 3 tbsp of ketchup, 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 3 tbsp brown sugar and one whole scotch bonnet pepper. Even though I had 2, I only used one, being this is the first time making ox tails. In retrospect, I should have used them both for more spice.

scotch bonnet pepper

Here is the easy part, put the lid on, turn the pot down to the lowest simmer your stove allows and let it cook for the next 4 hours. Stir once in a while and you will see the broth reduce and thicken by itself.  Now add 2 cans of drained and rinsed cannelloni beans, stir them in and let simmer uncovered for about an hour. About this time make some rice to serve with the stew. I made brown rice in this case.

oxtail cooking

This dish made the house smell so good. When eating just watch out of the little bones, the meat is tasty and just falls off the bone. So sit back, grab a bowl and Enjoy!

oxtail stew on rice

Chicken Pot Pie

There was a “cold front“ that came through Florida last week and as a tribute to my wife’s New England upbringing I thought I would make my version of chicken pot pie. So I started poking around the fridge and here is what I came up with.

1 large onion, 3 medium carrots, 3 celery sticks all chopped into medium pieces and set aside.

cut veges

Cut 4-6 red potatoes into small pieces, boiled them for about ten minutes then tossed them into some ice-cold water to stop the cooking because we are going to cook them again with everything else.

potatoes

Start with four 6 oz chicken breasts and cut them into uniform chunks like in the picture.

whole chicken breast

chopped chicken brast

Dust them in some seasoned flour and sear them off in the pot you will be making the stew in then remove and set aside on a plate.

floured chicken

seared chicken

Now take the vegetables you already cut and sauté them with some garlic, when soft add the potatoes and the chicken cook for a few minutes. Add a quart of chicken stock or broth and a cup of heavy cream.

Reduce the heat to simmer and let cook for about an hour uncovered, stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. It will thicken as it cooks and makes the house smell really good.

Before serving, taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

chicken pot pie in a bowl

As a side note, by using the potatoes instead of puff pastry you are saving some calories so you can have another bowl or two.

Enjoy

Blackened Corvina with Pineapple Relish

My dad came down to Florida to visit for a few days and I know he likes fish so I whipped this one up for him after getting him from the airport while he enjoyed the warm weather and the sunset.

Lightly oil a sheet pan and heavily season both sides of the fish with blackening seasoning.

blackened fish

Peel a nice ripe pineapple and cut into small pieces, toss into a mixing bowl add 1 of each finely diced red & green peppers and ½ of a red onion, 1 jalapeño finely diced, ½ cup of good quality olive oil, 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, a bunch or so of cilantro (some people love it and others hate it, it is up to you) and some salt and pepper. Mix well and set in the fridge of about an hour.

pineapple relish

I had some zucchini in the fridge so I cut it up, rubbed it with some olive oil and dusted them with some seasoned salt. Headed out to the grill and fired it up on high.

seasoned salt zucchini

Put the fish on a pan onto the grill and close the lid.  Cook for about 10 minutes then flip over while you cook the zucchini on the other side of the grill maybe for another 10 minutes. You will know the fish is cooked when it flakes apart.

Take the pineapple relish out of the fridge before you head out to the grill so it comes to room temperature.

Today for dinner as you can see I served the blackened fish over some sweet potato mash with the pineapple relish and the grilled vegetables.

plated fish with pineapple relish

Enjoy