Shrimp and Curry Soup

shrimp and curry soup

Shrimp and curry soup is something that originally came from a New England and Soup Factory Cookbook, something I used for more than a number of good soups. And after trying it a few times and making some adjustments, it turned out to be as good a shrimp soup as I’ve ever tried. And while I tend to keep my own home made curry around, it works just as well with good ol’ curry powder from the grocery store. The main thing is to try the curry, adding more or less to suit your taste.

The secret here, by the way, is not the shrimp or the curry, but the wonderful way the soup uses okra, which adds color and otherwise just brightens up the whole soup. It’s amazing and really represents something new (for me) in a soup. Don’t even try making this without the okra.

Otherwise, while it looks like there is a lot going on here, there really isn’t much going on that you wouldn’t find in almost any good soup. 

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Sous Vide Pork Chops (Grandma’s Style)

sous vide pork chops

As I may have mentioned (once or twice before), I’ve had a very dysfunctional relationship to the good old fashioned pork chop. I’ve made plenty of them (and some very good, as a matter of fact), but every time I set  out to do chops, all I can think about is how bad they can be. Yes, it’s me perhaps, but the idea of failure always reaches out and grabs me by the throat. That’s over now. Not sure why I hadn’t done these sooner, but these sous vide pork chops are just perfect. Not some of the time, but every time. And these grandma style chops, with breading and everything, are very simple and done very easily.

The thing about pork chops in general, and really all meat, is getting them done without overcooking them. Using the sous vide cooking method, I set the time for about an hour at 140 degrees, cook the chops that way, and then, at the end, cook them in a simple flour-egg-bread crumbs mixture (with in my case loads of garlic shreds) that comes out perfectly every time, with none of my grandma’s occasionally overcooked versions. Serve them over onions and mushrooms and you’ve got a feast.

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Salmon with Honey, Lime and Cilantro

Salmon with Honey, Lime and Cilantro

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a good salmon here, so I thought this might be a nice way to get back to what is one of my favorite ideas — something nice and fresh with just a very little work. And this Salmon with Honey, Lime and Cilantro is right on the money for that.

This piece is something I try very hard not to do — take someone else’s blog post (in this case, several)  — and essentially try to make it just a bit better. The truth, however, is that this one just hit my fancy and I knew pretty much what I wanted to do to increase the flavor without ruining the underlying taste. So I did, and the salmon turned out to be very good indeed.

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Spaghetti Nero with Pesto, Sausage, Shrimp

spaghetti nero

I’ve actually waited a long time to find a recipe I wanted to make with this spaghetti nero. It’s not that it’s ALL that hard to find, but you generally have to make a little effort to locate it, and even once you can get some at one store or another, it typically seems to disappear rather quickly (and often because it really doesn’t sell all that well, I’m guessing). That said, in the right recipe, it can be amazing. And that’s how this dish came to be.

FYI, if you’ve never had spaghetti nero, it’s made with squid ink in the pasta and basically, looks black as you might imagine. The squid ink adds a very subtle flavor, but not so much you’d really notice it, unless you were paying close attention.

The typical spaghetti nero recipe generally comes with a red (or possibly a white) sauce with shrimp, calamari and maybe some clams or mussels — essentially a seafood sauce. But I had some very good sausage I wanted to try, along with some good pesto, so this sauce kept the shrimp but otherwise, I decided to up the garlic and onions, add some mushrooms and used the sausage and pesto. The result was better than good and I can promise we’d have eaten twice what was on the plate, no kidding. It has just the perfect mix of flavors.

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Harissa Chicken and Chickpeas

harissa chicken

Harissa Chicken and Chickpeas is a fairly simple recipe, and yet that incredible harissa sauce makes it something special despite the simple design.  In fact, apart from the pan-roasting, which takes about 25 minutes, the whole thing can be done in well under an hour, from start to finish.

I’ve probably mentioned harissa one or more times here, but it’s something that every kitchen should make sure is on hand, any time something just needs a little spice to it. It’s a red pepper sauce, I guess, but it is made with plenty of heat — almost a lot like a good chili but with it’s own kind of flavor profile. And the good news is, you can start with a small amount and increase it until you hit the right level of flavor, with almost anything you’re cooking. It’s perfect, in fact with almost any kind of saucy kind of vegetable preparation, especially.

I believe this recipe came from a Bon Appetite, originally, but it’s been modified a bit, especially with the garlic and onions.

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Low Country Shrimp and Grits

shrimp and grits

My first exposure to grits, a staple in the American south, was less than pleasant. A teenager ona Florida vacation, I didn’t have the most adventurous palate to begin with, so when a puddle of porridge-like stuff appeared on the breakfast plate along with my bacon and eggs at an inexpensive roadside diner, I was none too happy.

I dutifully tried these grits and immediately understood where the name came from. Flavorless and gooey beach sand would have been a perfectly good description. No more grits for me.

And I stuck to that pledge for four decades (or so I thought), through many more trips to New Orleans, Atlanta, various places in Florida and South Carolina. I deftly skipped anything on a menu that mentioned grits.

Along the way, however, I regularly enjoyed Italian dishes that included polenta, blissfully unaware that grits and polenta were one and the same, though prepared differently. When I finally figured that out, I knew it was time to revisit grits.

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Classic Beef Bourguignon

beef bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is one of those dishes that everyone who aspires to be a great cook should have to master. One the surface, its beef stew. And yet, calling beef Bourguignon a beef stew is like calling Beethoven’s Fifth a song. Technically accurate, to be sure, but nowhere near to conveying the subtle beauty of the dish. The great thing is that this dish is easy to make, but still requires the kind of attention and care that defines good cooking.

There are many versions of this dish around, and there is a great deal of variation from one version of beef Bourguignon to the next. The classic preparation uses whole small white onions, carrots and mushrooms in addition to the beef, some thyme and a red burgundy wine, which is 100% pinot noir. (I have this on the authority of no less than Julia Child, and that’s enough for me.)

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