Shrimp Scampi

February 6, 2016

Finally! Chris Kimball has badly needed to update his 16-year-old Shrimp Scampi recipe, which used just 1 tablespoon of vermouth and lacked lemon flavor. Over those 16 years I have adapted his old recipe, and published my own personal updates about 6 months ago. I felt that that recipe was much more well-rounded.

After adding them back to the reduced sauce

After adding them back to the reduced sauce

Today’s recipe is an even greater improvement. The biggest news with this recipe is a change in cooking technique; poaching the shrimp in homemade stock rather than sauteing them. By replacing the ever-so-slight caramelization of the shrimp, with a much more aggressive caramelization of the shells. Today’s recipe offers more tender shrimp and better flavor of the sauce; a win-win. 5-stars.

Caramelization from the empty shells; not the shrimp

Caramelization from the empty shells; not the shrimp

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball recommends serving with crusty bread. But to make a meal out of this I recommend serving with pasta, potatoes or rice.
  2. Extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound) can be substituted for jumbo shrimp. If you use them, reduce the shrimp cooking time in Step 10 by 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Chris Kimball says he prefers untreated shrimp, but if your shrimp are treated with sodium or preservatives (such as sodium tripolyphosphate) then skip the brining in Step 3.

Rating: 5-stars
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 5:10 PM.  Ready:  6:00PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Brine Ingredients:
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds shell-on jumbo shrimp (16-to-20 per pound)

Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus 1 lemon cut into wedges for serving
1 teaspoon cornstarch
8 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  1. The best way to defrost shrimp is to leave them in a covered bowl overnight in your refrigerator; The next day rinse then with cold water. If you didn’t defrost your shrimp last night, fill a large bowl of cold tap water. Put shrimp in colander and submerge in cold water. After 10 minutes change the cold water and allow another 10 to 20 minutes to defrost. Peel (and devein) the shrimp, reserving the shells for Step 2.
  2. Start to boil water for pasta, potatoes or rice. Starting at the beginning is imperative because it can take longer to prepare than the actual scampi.
  3. If your shrimp are treated with sodium or preservatives (such as sodium tripolyphosphate), skip the following brining steps (and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the sauce in step 12). To brine your shrimp, add 1 quart (4 cups) water to a large bowl and dissolve 3 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons sugar. Add shrimp to brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Remove shrimp from brine and use paper towels to pat them dry.
  4. Put a 12″-regular skillet over high burner and pre-heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add shrimp shells and cook for 4 minutes, stir frequently, until the shells and skillet start to brown.
  5. Briefly remove skillet from burner; reduce burner to medium. Add 1 cup white wine and thyme springs. Once the bubbling is over, put skillet over medium burner and gently simmer for 5 minutes; stirring occasionally.
  6. Meanwhile, thinly slice 8 cloves of garlic. Chop your 1 tablespoon of parsley. Cut 4 tablespoons of butter into 1/2″-pieces.
  7. Strain mixture through a colander into a medium bowl; discard the solids. You should be left with 2/3-cup of liquid.
  8. In a small bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon cornstarch.
  9. Wipe out your skillet using paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, sliced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to skillet, and set over medium-low burner for 3 to 5 minutes; until the edges of the garlic begin to brown.
  10. Add the 2/3-cup of reduced wine to the skillet and increase burner to high until it comes up to a simmer. Reduce burner to medium. Add raw shrimp to liquid, cover with lid, and cook for about 5 minutes; stir occasionally. When the shrimp are opaque, use a slotted spoon to remove shrimp to a medium bowl.
  11. Continue to cook sauce over medium burner and add lemon juice (from Step 8). Cook for just 1 minute to allow to slightly thicken.
  12. Remove skillet from burner and add 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.  If you did not brine your shrimp than add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and adjust according to taste. Return the shrimp to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Toss to combine, cut 1 lemon into wedges, and serve with the lemon wedges separately.

 


Easy-Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

February 4, 2016

Today, I gave a hungry co-worker a hard-boiled egg; mentioning that I made it using a new recipe. “Hard-boiled eggs don’t have a recipe,” they laughed. While 5-years ago I would have agreed; I have marveled at the perfectness of each hard-boiled eggs that I have cooked for the past 5-years (following this recipe). Look closely at the photo below; how often do your eggs look like that? Before I began following that recipe, my answer was never.

Perfectly cooked and a notable difference in peeling

Perfectly cooked and a notable difference in peeling

While extremely simple to make, hard-boiled eggs have two perennial problems. First, there is the green coating surround the yolk, which comes from overcooking. While green eggs are perfectly harmless to eat; it smells a bit like sulfur and usually turns slimy after a day or two in the refrigerator. Why is it so easy to overcook your eggs? Because adding eggs to boiling water requires a different time depending upon how many eggs you cook. Each additional egg delays the moment when the water comes back up to a boil. Getting the timing right is key; an issue that Chis Kimball solved 5 years ago. (and continues to solve using today’s recipe).

The second problem with eggs are their sticky shells. Nearly six years ago I did a comparison of different methods for peeling hard-cooked eggs. The winning method is best, but still is perhaps 90% (at best). I usually found myself peeling eggs while they were still warm and storing them in a tightly sealed container. Chris Kimball has claimed to have solved the problem; “There’s no need to peel the eggs right away. They can be stored in their shells and peeled when needed.”

Issues:

  1. The timing is for large eggs that are cold from the refrigerator.
  2. The recipe uses a steamer basket. But if you don’t have one, Chris Kimball says that you can place the eggs directly into the 1″ of water; using a spoon or tongs.  The smaller amount of water will come back to a boil more quickly that a fuller pot; which will work on 6 or few eggs without altering the timing.
  3. If you are using a steamer basket, this recipe will work on any number of eggs that will fit into a single layer.
  4. The prior cooking technique I had been using for the past 5 years is given by Cook’s Country is here.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: 60-cents.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time 6:00 AM. Ready at 6:30 AM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

6 large eggs

  1. Add 1″ water to a medium-saucepan. Set over high burner and bring to a rolling boil; about 5 minutes.
  2. Carefully set eggs in steamer basket and move into saucepan with boiling water. Cover and reduce burner to medium-low; maintaining a boil; and cooking for 14 minutes.
  3. When eggs are almost done; combine 2-cups of ice cubes with 2-cups of told tap water intoa  medium bowl.
  4. When eggs are ready use tongs or slotted spoon to move eggs into the ice bath; allowing to stand for 15 minutes before peeling.

Tuscan Roast Pork with Garlic and Rosemary (Arista)

January 30, 2016

This roast is perfect for mid-winter when its cold (and rainy) outside. As the roast slowly warns the kitchen, the anticipation slowly build and the delicious aromas permeate the house. That’s why this is my favorite time of year to spend the entire day cooking. Today’s Roast Pork is good; stuffed with pancetta, garlic and rosemary; but I thought that the flavors could have had more depth. The dominant flavor was rosemary; with only a hint of garlic. The lemon-oil helped to brighten the flavors a little; but didn’t go far enough. Good, solid weekend meal. 4-stars.

Well cooked, but a little unbalanced

Well cooked, but a little unbalanced

I did have a few minor technical issues with the recipe, which I’ve described below.

Issues:

  1. When I got to my supermarket on Saturday afternoon, there was only 1 roast to “choose” from. It was 3.1-pounds, which I thought was close enough (recipe calls for 2-1/2 lbs). However, the consequence was that the roast did not fit into my 10″ skillet. Instead I used a 12″ skillet, but because of all the extra space I had a little trouble browning the fat cap on all sides, as the roast rolled around. I should have either trimmed down the roast to fit in the 10″ skillet’ or stood over the pan as I cooked it in step 13.
  2. I had an issue with my paste not spreading evenly (see photo below). It clumped together and was not nearly as manageable as in the Cook’s Illustrated video. I am not sure if it is because I used 3-oz of pancetta (the recipe called for 2 ounces; but my roast was a little over-sized). Also I am not sure if it is because my slices were very thin (and pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped). Not how I imagined that I was going to buy the pancetta; but that’s all that was available.
  3. Chris Kimball gives one final warning; if you are only able to find enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution), then your should reduce the salt to 1 teaspoon per side in Step 7.
Paste clumped' I had trouble getting even layer

Paste clumped; I had trouble getting even layer

 

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 ounces pancetta slices
2-1/2-pound boneless center-cut pork loin roast
Kosher salt

  1. Chopped fresh rosemary, but be careful not to include any woody stems.
  2. Grate zest from one lemon, and add to a 10-inch non-stick skillet. Add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 8 minced garlic cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Set over medium-low burner and cook for 3 minutes; stirring often; until garlic sizzles.
  3. Add in chopped rosemary and cook for just 30 seconds. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl, press down on solids to extract as much oil as possible. Set both oil and rosemary-garlic aside to cool. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel.
  4. Cut pancetta slices into 1/2″ pieces and add to food processor. Process for 30 seconds until it forms into a paste. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in cooled rosemary-garlic mixture  and process another 30 seconds.
  5. Set roast on cutting board with the fat side up. You will double-butterfly the roast. Begin by cutting horizontally one-third of the way up (just where the fat-cap begins) and cut along the entire length of the long-side of the roast; stopping 1/2-inch before you cut all the way through. Open up the flap.
  6. Again, keep your knife level with the first cut, cut through the thicker side of the roast again stopping 1/2-inch before you cut all the way through. Open up the flap and lay your roast flat. If portions are uneven, cover with plastic wrap and even out with a meat pounder.
  7. Sprinkle each side with 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt and rub into the meat.
  8. Evenly spread the inside of the roast with pancetta-garlic paste from Step 4; but leave 1/4-inch border on all sides.
  9. Cut seven or eight 12-inch lengths of kitchen twine. Roll up roast; keep the fat cap on the outside’ and tie with kitchen twine.
  10. Put a wire rack over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Spray with vegetable oil spray, placing roast (with fat cap upward) onto rack and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  11. With 15 minutes to go, set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. After an hour in the refrigerator, move roast (already set up on rack) oven and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours; until the internal temperature of the pork is 135-degrees. Remove from oven and tent with aluminum foil for 20 minutes; during which time the temperature will continue to increase another 10-to-12-degrees.
  12. While the roast rests, set your skillet over high-burner; at 1 teaspoon of oil (from Step 3) and pre-heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Cut lemons in half and set into skillet with the cut-side down. Cook for 3-to-4 minutes until browned and softened; remove to a small plate.
  13. Use paper towels to pat the roast dry. Pre-heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in the skillet until it just begins to smoke, then brown the roast on the fat-cap side and the sides for a total of 5-to-6-minutes (but don’t brown the bottom of the roast). Remove to a cutting board and remove the twine.
  14. When lemons have cooled slightly, squeeze them through a fine-meshed strainer over a small bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add 2 tablespoons of the juice into the reserve oil and whisk together. Cut the roast into 1/4″-thick slices and serve passing the vinaigrette separately.

Cartagena, Colombia

January 26, 2016

In stark contrast to the humble colonial cities in the mountains, 500-year-old Cartagena has a rich political history and was a critically important port. It was responsible for sending silver and gold back to Spain; and for many years it was also a slave port.  Today, Cartagena is the brightest and most vibrant of the Colombian cities that I have visited (notably lacking both Cali and Medellin).

Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

For me, Cartagena has everything that I love in a historic city; old city walls, a castle on the hill, a lovely city center. But what sets it apart from other cities is the lively Caribbean vibe. It is extremely energetic, and becomes even more lively after the sun goes down. The party-like atmosphere feels a little like New Orleans.

The first time I even thought about visiting Colombia came 30 years ago in the movie, “Romancing the Stone.” Later I realized that it wasn’t even filmed in Colombia. In 1997, Cartagena was the place in Colombia I ever set foot. It has changed a lot, cleaned itself up, and has become one of the premier destinations in Colombia.

 

The huge fortress; Castillo San Filipe; overlooks the walled city of Cartagena. It is an impressive fort, and it’s unique shape made it extremely difficult to single out one battery for attack without controlling the entire system of defense.


Santa Marta, Colombia

January 24, 2016

If you are looking for fun in the sun in Colombia, Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast is for you. No matter what you are looking for in a beach; it is here. More or less, there are two kinds of beaches. First, wide, white sand beaches filled with hotels and people. Usually, these well-developed beaches are where people go who like to see, and to be seen. This the Rodadero Beach.

The second kind of beach is more elusive; private, remote, difficult to find and inconvenient to visit. But the second type is also here; very near to Santa Marta; Tayrona National Park. The park is 50 years old and is the area traditional inhabited by the Tairona tribe; who were wiped out after rebelling against Spanish-rule in the late 1500’s.  There are three entrances into Tayrona National Park; two of which are highly regulated and are difficult to visit. (1) The furthest entrance; requires taking a series of buses and hiking/horses for 2 hours. I went here many years ago; and it is the best option if you want to camp on a spectacular beach. (2) The second entrance takes you to Playa Cristal (Crystal Beach). This requires waking up in the middle of the night to wait in line at the entrance; because only 300 people are admitted into the park. In off season, you can get boat from Taganga. (3) The third entrance in unregulated and takes you to Playa Concha, which is a well developed beach very similar to Rodedero. Very crowded, but still very beautiful.

Much of Colombia’s Caribbean coast is dominated by the Rio Magdelena; comparable to the Mississippi River; which empties is muddied waters into the sea; clouding the Caribbean’s famous turquoise waters. While the waters of Santa Marta are only slightly clearer than Cartegena, the geography of the Eastward coastline provides just enough shelter to keep the pristine clear.

Lastly, the part of Tayrona that I have still not been able to visit is the Lost City; Ciudad Perdida. It is a 45km, 5-to-6-day hike through steamy jungle. It’s similar in distance to Peru’s more famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Though the ruins are of a much smaller scale than Machu Picchu, I will hopefully be able to visit someday soon.

 


Villa de Leyva, Colombia

January 22, 2016

After a frantic pace running around Bogota, I really loved my days in quiet, colonial Villa de Leyva. The town was founded in 1572. Obviously I am pre-disposed to love quiet, colonial towns; see here, here, here, here, here  and here for example. Colonial architecture in Latin America comes in a few different forms and flavors. Perhaps Colombia’s most famous colonial city; Cartagena is bright and colorful. By contrast, Villa de Leyva is simple, white masonry structures.

A view of Plaza Mayor

A view of Plaza Mayor

My favorite thing about Villa de Leyva is that it gave me a chance to relax; to simply hang-around the Plaza Mayor. Colombian claim that Villa de Leyva has the largest cobbled square in South America. While I am not sure if that is true, the Plaza is very impressive.

But the one thing that the Plaza Mayor is lacking is shade; the midday sun so near to the equator is intense, even as the air temperatures are pleasant. Perhaps for this reason, the quiet Villa de Leyva springs to life after the sun goes down. There are three times as many people out and about in the evening.

I was planning to visit some local hot springs, but the drought has caused them to close. So instead of relaxing in hot springs, I went on a bit of adventure. I jumped off a cliff (zip lining), reppelled down the face of a waterfall, and went caving (spelunking). Much more of an adrenaline rush than hot springs.


Zipaquirá, Colombia

January 18, 2016

My trip to Colombia felt like a whirlwind, each day was filled to the maximum with exploration and adventure. One of my most memorable visits was a day-trip just outside of Bogata to the small town of Zipaquirá. The town is one of Colombia’s oldest; dating back to the Spanish conquest around 1600. The center has lovely main square, with a colonial-era cathedral and filled with traditional buildings.

Cathedral in Zipaquirá

Cathedral in Zipaquirá

I was in Colombia for nearly 2 weeks, at it took me my entire stay to finally figure out how to pronounce Zipaquirá. Everyday I would try to pronounce it; and every day my Colombian hosts would gently laugh at my mispronunciation. Finally just as I was preparing to return home, I became accustomed to the uniqueness of Colombian names.

The highlight of my trip to Zipaquirá was my visit to the Salt Cathedral. 660-feet below the earth’s surface is a massive cathedral built within a salt mine (main cathedral can seat 8,000 people). It has a series of 14 chapels as you make your way deeper and deeper underground, until you finally reach the huge main cathedral. While the mine dates back to pre-colombian times; the cathedral was built in phases mostly beginning in the early part of the last century.


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