Jalapeño Ranch Dressing

There will be no refunds on the future cookbook, folks. I mention this now because the first ingredient here is “store bought ranch dressing.”

This recipe is adapted from one at the country club where my husband was a bartender back in the day and ran the Martini Bar. I used to go and sit at the bar after a full nine hours working at a garden center and wait for him to get off work. I was always filthy, smelly, and sweaty and it gave me the utmost pleasure to see all the country club ladies look at me, then look at my husband, then back to me and get the most confused look on their stiff faces. What does he see in that filthy urchin and who let her in here? You’ll never know, ladies, you’ll never know. Except for the last part- I snuck in the side door. I guess I could have brought a change of clothes and some wet wipes, actually, but what’s the fun in that? Is talking about B.O .and filthy nails a good technique in a cookbook? I might have to rethink…well, everything.

serranos

I have a salad dressing jar with a lid that I make this in, but you can make it in a large canning jar as well.

 

1.5 cups of store bought ranch dressing

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup pickled jalapeno juice. The cans of pickled jalapenos from the ethnic section of any grocery store? Yup- that’s the stuff. Pour the juice right off the top.

 

Combine all ingredients. Shake to combine. Firmly close lid. Shake to combine.

Grown Up Fruit Salad

This is not buffet fare. Or potluck fair. This is no salad to wither away next to some forlorn cold pasta salad. This? This is a grown up, voting aged, “Honey, we need to talk about the kids” fruit salad. Griddle pan some chicken, serve next to some rice and lentils and POW! Right in the kisser with flavor! (Wait. That’s where all food goes, actually.) Healthy and tasty as the days of summer are long. Also? A lot of chopping. A lot. So, so much. But worth it!

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“I’ll take one of everything.” (image by Andrea de Stephani)

 

1 cup spring mix

1 cup cilantro

2 medium tomatoes

½ cup red grapes

3 strawberries

½ red or yellow bell pepper

1 green apple

1 orange

½ English cucumber

1 avocado

1 lemon

½ tsp salt

 

Chop first 10 ingredients fairly finely- you want the pieces to be small enough to have at least three or four different ingredients on each forkful. Chop, chop, chop. Chop. Keep chopping…good! Mix ingredients, season with salt, squeeze lemon over the top and you’re done! Now go ice your wrist.

Sautéed Soy Sauce Shrimp

Four foxes found five forks fascinating. The turtles thought tiny tremendous theories. Little ladybugs love lit lanterns. And so on. I dig me some alliteration, is what I’m trying to say.

So. About the shrimp. I buy wild caught Texas Gulf shrimp, myself. I’m not personally a fan of the frozen, bagged shrimp; but I understand how convenient those are. But it’s awfully easy to peel and devein my own, and I like supporting my beloved gulf economy, so that influences what I buy. Get one of the tools designed for cleaning them and it really is as easy as unzipping a coat. Also, get rid of the black vein running down the back. Yes that’s shrimp poop. It’s still easy to do, though, so don’t look at me like that. Author’s advice actually assists another’s acceptance of ack-inducing actions. Alliteration.

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“Psst, Buddy. How’s about I slip ya a fiver and you have chicken tonight, eh?” image by Mussaddique Naina

I serve this over rice… but they’d be awesome in lettuce wraps or for sandwiches too. Or a taco. Everything is good as a taco.

 

1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp

1 clove garlic

Small bunch chopped cilantro/ or small handful chopped green stems of scallions/green onions.

Marinade:

¼ cup orange juice

4 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Peel and devein your fresh shrimp (because I know I convinced you to support our local Gulf fisheries.) Add all other marinade ingredients to bowl and whisk to combine. Add shrimp and marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and stir until the garlic become aromatic. Add half shrimp to pan and let sit for 45 seconds to 1 minute without touching. Flip shrimp (they should be pink and have lost their translucency.) Repeat on other side. Remove from heat to a plate and cook the second set of shrimp the same way. Why not all at once, you ask? Because that would crowd the pan and drop the heat if you added to many at once. Once all the shrimp are cooked and removed to a plate or bowl, add all of the remaining marinade to the pan, increase the heat, and simmer. Once the marinade has reached a rousing simmer (Is that a thing? I’m making that a thing) let it reduce by around half and remove from heat. Serve shrimp over rice or however you’re eating it and sparingly drizzle with cooked marinade- I say sparingly because depending on how much you reduced it, it might be quite salty thanks to the soy sauce. Taste it before serving, to be sure of flavor.

Garnish with cilantro and or chopped scallions/green onions. Or not. It’s your life.

The Occasional Recipe Post: Pico de Gallo

The fun part of writing a cookbook is finding out the correct spellings to words you’ve been saying for years. Turns out it’s “de Gallo” and not “de Gailo”- who knew? My guess is all of my inlaws and everyone that took Spanish instead of French in high school or Dutch in college. Well, aren’t you the smarty pants, with your good life decisions and all!

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We all probably know what Pico is, but the trick is all about ratios of ingredients. The biggest tip? Make your pico look like the Mexican flag, minus the eagle, snake, and cactus. I mean, alright, I guess that looks more like the Italian flag, but how odd would that be? What I mean by that is you want almost equal parts green, red, and white to make a good pico.*

And the best peppers for this are serrano peppers, though I’ll admit they do have a serious design flaw: they can be brutally hot to mild as bell peppers.  I’ve spent some uncomfortable minutes of my life with my head under a faucet from mistakely taking too big of a test bite- but how else could you possibly determine how much pepper to add, and how finely to mince it? Rub it in your eye? So yes, they are tricky, but I’m also convinced these are the only peppers for the job.

Ingredients:

3-4 medium to large tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
¾ white onion, diced
Juice of 2 limes
Serrano Pepper- from ½ to 2 peppers depending on hotness- seeded and minced (finer for hotter peppers, larger pieces for milder ones)
Fine sea salt or table salt to taste
Combine all ingredients, and adjust amounts if more or less of 1 ingredient needed- remember, the Mexican flag is what you’re looking for. Stir well to distribute minced Serrano peppers. Refrigerate for an hour or two for best results, stirring again right before serving.
*If you are not a fan of cilantro you can change your ratios to reflect the Lebanese flag. You weirdo.

Coq au Vin

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(Image by Silke Rabung)

This recipe has a special place in my heart because it was on my Maternity Leave Bucket List when I was home with my second daughter. I decided to have a list to accomplish during that time with the second one because with my firstborn it seems like I pretty much didn’t leave the house for nine weeks and watched Magnum P.I. three times a day. (LOT of sitting around when you’re nursing a newborn; turns out.) A nice, involved recipe is good for getting you sane through a variety of trying times, not just new parenthood;  such as every single Sunday afternoon ever.

This is an old French recipe, and I’m sure about 65,350,000 French citizens will think I am royally jacking this up. But they put rooster feet and a cup of blood in theirs; so I can live with the French contempt. (With more French contempt.) And you need one bottle minus one glass (for le chef, of course) of red wine for this recipe and make it a middling to good one. Why go to all this trouble and have bad wine ruin the whole thing? Go ahead. Indulge a bit.

My least favorite thing about this recipe is peeling the pearl onions, but just consider it a lesson in patience. Feel free to watch a whole episode of Magnum P.I. while you do it- it makes the time go by faster. You won’t get tips like that from Julia Child! But don’t skimp or shortchange the quantity of them- you’ll thank me. And besides, Magnum P.I. is total gold. I will tell you, though I found it a pain, that if you boil them for 2-3 minutes and then put them in cold water immediately the onion jackets should slide right off. I must have done that one wrong though because it didn’t turn out that way… I’ll stick with the Magnum P.I. method, myself.

6 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs

1/3 cup all purpose flour

Salt and pepper

6 slices of bacon

8 oz Cremini mushrooms, cut in half

2 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces

12oz beef broth

1.5 Tbsp. tomato paste

25-30 small white pearl onions, peeled

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 fresh bay leaf (or 1 dried, if fresh unavailable)

4 sprigs fresh thyme (1.5 tsp. dried, if fresh unavailable)

1 bottle (minus one cup) quality red wine – Pinot Noir preferred

1 package Egg noodles (12 oz.)

*small handful minced flat leaf parsley for garnish

In your biggest pot over medium low heat cook the bacon, being careful not to burn. While that is cooking mix the flour, salt, and pepper together on a plate and then dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture. Remove the bacon, once it is cooked, and then increase the heat to medium in the pot. Brown the chicken pieces in batches in the bacon grease, and remove to a plate. Add 1 tbsp butter, if needed to any remaining bacon grease and sauté the pearl onions, carrots, garlic, mushrooms and celery. Remove vegetables from pot. Pour off any remaining grease or oil, carefully. Place the pot over medium heat again and deglaze the pot with a cup or so of red wine. Add chicken, vegetables, thyme, bay leaf, remaining wine, tomato paste, and beef broth to barely cover the chicken and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Cook the egg noodles in a separate pot, drain and return to pot. Place one chicken thigh on a bed of noodles in individual bowls and spoon sauce over the top. Garnish with the minced parsley.

King Crab Legs

So, I’m writing a cookbook. And considering that I’ve been working on said cookbook for almost as long as my husband has been in grad school- and the fact that he just graduated-  it’s about time I wrap this project up, me thinks! It’s, well… you’ll see, because I’ll periodically post some recipes here. Just know that I don’t in any way put on airs about my cooking skills, but we cook at home constantly, so… that’s gotta count for something.

King Crab Legs

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(sand crab image courtesy of Caetano Lacerda. Just use your imagination because there were no king crab images on the free image website I use. If those grains of sand were cars you’d have the scale almost right for king crab)

Here’s the thing, this meal is not cheap- but it is one of the quickest, fastest, hardest to mess up meals you’ll ever have to make. How many ingredients are there? One. Crab legs. That’s it. So why is this going to be in a cook book, you ask? Aside from how easy this one was on the lovely author to write, the more important (up for debate) answer is: technique.

Before we get into technique though please know that there are LOTS of crabs out there to choose from, but I picked king crab for the simple reason that it is my very favorite. The meat is easy to remove from the shell and the taste is sweet and clean. Sure, snow crab legs are less expensive, but to me they have an undertaste of garbage and mud (similar to mangoes that way). But this is coming from the chick who prefers Mediterranean sea salt to any other kind and swears she can taste the difference, so take my preferences on crab with a grain of Mediterranean sea salt.

I also like eating king crab because their leg span is up to 6’ and that makes me feel like some kind of monster-eating Greek god. “Verily, what is that leggy monstrosity, Hermes? Bring it to me and let us ingest it with copious amounts of melted butter! And what are the Sibyls up too these days? Oh ho ho! And they didn’t see that coming, you say?! Oh that is as rich as this crab-monster!”

Soo… back to the crabs. When I say crab, you say…boil, I bet. Boil, boil, boil… crab boil. The term crab boil is in the dictionary, so it has to be the correct technique, right? Nope. Please note- crab boils are ONLY for smaller, whole and uncooked crabs! All king crab legs (snow crab too) are ALREADY cooked! Are the crab legs in the seafood section reddish orange? Yup- that means they’re already cooked so do not boil them! Doing so does nothing except ruin the texture and dilute the flavor- all you really need to do is to steam them to reheat.

Ingredients:

King crab legs- figure on around ¾ of a pound per person

*(try not to get the large white top joints- those don’t have the same flavor as the legs)

Serve with:

Melted butter

Lemon

In a large pot over high heat, add enough water to just cover the bottom with about a half-inch of water and bring to a boil to create your steam. (Watch carefully so you don’t boil your pot dry.) If you can fit a colander or steaming basket in the bottom, do so now: but if you don’t have them it isn’t the end of the world-  just try to have as little of the crab touch the water as possible. Add your crab legs, cover with the lid, and steam for 5-7 minutes. Remove to a platter for serving, leaving the steaming liquid behind. Go ahead and dump that steaming water out and wash that pot as fast as you can because the smell… the smell is not what the crab tastes like, we’ll just put it that way.

Serve with melted butter and lemon.

Enjoy!

(Totally counting this as a legitimate recipe for the cookbook.)