Friday, March 26, 2010

Basque Shrimp: A Swimming Success!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to visit his mother in Philadelphia, PA.  When we are up there, we try to find restaurants with cuisines not available in Memphis.  One evening we googled "tapas restaurant Philadelphia," and at random picked the closest to our hotel, Tinto.  As it turns out, it is owned by the newest American Iron Chef, Jose Garces.  What luck!

We had a wonderful meal of Spanish Basque area small plates.  One of the dishes we most enjoyed was "Lobster with Grapefruit-Vanilla Nage."   Garnished with Spanish smoked paprika croutons (called, in Spanish, "migas"),  it was delicious.

The French culinary term à la nage means "in the swim."  It refers to food, usually seafood, poached in a quickly simmered vegetable broth. called court bouillon, which means "short boil."   It is usually acidulated with vinegar, but at Tinto, grapefruit juice was used instead.  I didn’t think we’d all want to cook up a lobster, but I was pretty sure it would work with shrimp.

 Often in French cuisine the vegetables are served with the broth.  Although it wasn’t done at Tinto, when I served up my third and most successful attempt to my wine dinner group, I did serve the vegetables.

At the wine dinner we had it as a seated first course, but with addition of side dishes of rice pilaf and a salad it would make a light but tasty dinner.

Although it doesn’t take long to do, you can make the broth ahead of time and refrigerate for several days.  Bring up to a simmer for a few minutes before you poach the shrimp.


2 quarts vegetable stock (see note)
½ head of celery, including leafy greens, cut into 1" pieces, about 2 cups
1 bulb fennel, white and light green parts, sliced ¼" thick, reserving green lacy top for garnish
8 oz baby carrots (half a 1 lb. bag)
2 cups fresh grapefruit juice (must be fresh, not frozen or canned—trust me on this)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp. mixed whole peppercorns

To finish:

½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp (I used 16-20 per pound size)
4 oz. butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 cup ready made large garlic croutons
1 tbsp. Spanish smoked paprika

Place all the stock ingredients in a non-reactive pan and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and thyme stems.
    When ready to serve, add the vanilla and bring to a simmer.  Add the shrimp and simmer until just barely done, depending on the size of the shrimp.
    With a slotted spoon divide the shrimp and vegetables among 8 warm flat soup plates.  To the broth, add the butter and cream.  For best results, use an immersion blender to emulsify the broth with the butter and cream.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, whisk vigorously until well blended.  Even if it doesn’t emulsify totally, it will still be delicious.
In a small bowl, toss the croutons with the smoked paprika.  Ladle hot broth over the shrimp and vegetables, garnish with the croutons and reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately. Serves 8 as a first course, or 4 to 6 as a main course with side dishes.

NOTE:  I use Better Than Bouillon stock pastes, available at most supermarkets, for my vegetable stock.  You can use vegetable bouillon cubes or packaged vegetable stock.  But the BTB will be far better!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Pot Roast for St Patrick's day...

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I love pot roast. I know some think of it as only winter comfort food. But my mom made it frequently all year round, so I am not bound to that way of thinking. Recently a friend and I were talking about pot roasts and she said her mom made one with coffee, that it was an old "country" dish.

I got to thinking about it and decided to give it a try myself, but I wanted to add some sort of twist to it. Looking through my spirits cabinet, I spied a bottle of Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey. Aha! With St. Patrick’s Day coming, what better than an Irish coffee pot roast?

I used instant espresso for the coffee, because I like the darker roast flavor, but any instant coffee will do.

You might remember that I love those bags of prepared mirepoix you can now buy frozen: carrots, celery and onion, all chopped and ready to use. You can also get the same sized bag of little pearl onions.

You could, if you like, cook potatoes in with the pot roast, but I quite liked the mashed potatoes we had. I added zucchini (I mean really, you must have something green for St. Patrick’s Day!) brushed with balsamic vinaigrette and grilled on a stovetop grill pan. It made a delicious dinner for any kind of weather.


3 ½ to 4 lbs. boneless chuck or rump roast
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen mirepoix mix (see note)
½ cup Irish whiskey plus 2 tbsp. to finish
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee
2 cups beef stock
1 tsp. each ground black pepper and salt
2 bay leaves
1 large pinch ground cinnamon
1 bag (12 oz) frozen pearl onions
¼ cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350o. Pat the roast dry with paper towels. In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, brown the roast very well on all sides in the oil. Remove the roast to a plate.

Lower the heat a little. Add the mirepoix mix and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and just starting to turn golden brown. Add the whiskey. If you’re brave enough, stand back a bit and light with a match and shake the pan until the flames burn out. Otherwise, let it simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Whisk in the flour and stir for a minute or two. Whisk in the stock, bay leaves, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Return the roast to the pan, cover and bake for an hour. Add the pearl onions, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour more, or until the roast is fork tender.

Remove the pot roast to a carving board. Whisk in the sour cream and remaining two tablespoons of Irish whiskey. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove the bay leaves, Carve the roast into serving sized portions and put on a warmed platter with as many of the pearl onions as you can easily fish out with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with some of the gravy, passing the remaining gravy at the table. Serves 8.

NOTE: You can replace the frozen mirepoix mix with ¾ cup chopped onion, and ½ cup each chopped celery and carrot.