Shrimp & Grits, Part 2: Extreme Andouille Edition

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, this week's special at Bennett's focused around the classic southern comfort food Shrimp & Grits. I wanted to build it into something a little bit more complex, but still really heartwarming.  We made a special shrimp stock just for this recipe, as well as a house-made andouille sausage. I won't go into how we made the sausage here, but you can certainly substitute your favorite local butcher's andouille or chorizo instead.  Uli's Famouse Sausage in Pike Place Market is a great option if you're in downtown Seattle; just make sure to get it in bulk form. Sometimes when andouille is in its casing it can be a little harder than you'll want for this recipe. The other alternative is to just slice open the casing of the sausage and use the interior meat.

Makes 4 servings

Paprika-Prawn Olio
16 shrimp (about 1 lb)
1 small leek, rough chopped
1 bunch celery, rough chopped
1 red bell pepper, rough chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
10 cups water, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup white flour
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt




New Orleans Vegetable Mix
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno
1 1/3 Tbsp canola oil, divided
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped


1 cup grits
4 oz Smoked Flagship, grated (about 1 cup)
8 oz andouille sausage


Directions:

For the paprika-prawn olio, start by cleaning the shrimp, reserving the shells but leaving the tails on. Combine the leeks, half of the celery, half the red pepper and the garlic with the shrimp shells in a large pot. Fill the pot with water just until it reaches the top of the shells (depending on the pot, probably about 6 cups). Bring this to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the mixture, discarding the solids and reserving the broth.
Combine the butter and flour in a pot and mix over medium heat to make a thin roux. Add the shrimp broth and stir in the tomato paste, oregano, smoked paprika, red wine vinegar, Old Bay, black pepper and granulated garlic.  Add half of the cayenne pepper and half of the salt. Check the taste of the paprika-prawn olio and add the additional cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Reserve.

To make the New Orleans Vegetable Mix, combine the yellow and green bell peppers, red onion, jalapeno, and the remaining bell peppers and celery. Sautée the mixture in a medium-size pan over medium heat with 2 teaspoons of canola oil.  Sautée for 1 minute 30 seconds and add the parsley. Finish sautéeing for another 30 seconds. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


Boil the remaining water (about 4 cups) in a saucepan with a teaspoon of salt, and slowly stir in the grits. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for four minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cheese and cook until the grits have reached your desired consistency and the cheese has melted(about 1 to 2 additional minutes). A little “texture” is preferable. Reserve.

Break sausage into small 1-inch rounds, place them on a wax papered sheet pan and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Reserve.


Sautée the shrimp in a sautee pan in remaining canola oil over medium heat, just enough to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the roasted andouille for 10 seconds and then remove from heat and toss in the pan.

To serve, plate the grits in the middle of the plate with the vegetable mixture along one side and the sausage along the other. Place four shrimp on the grits just over the sausage, leaving a nice space of white where the grits show between the vegetables and the shrimp. Pour the paprika-prawn olio around the edge of the food to make a consistent pool of sauce.



Note: There are a lot of things you can play around with in this recipe. Increase the heat with more jalapeno (or decrease it with less), how creamy you like your grits, how creamy you like the paprika-prawn olio, etc. If you want to boost the seafood flavor of the shrimp stock, try adding a little clam juice. Shrimp and grits is one of those dishes that have as many different versions as there are families. Tell me if you try this recipe, or what your favorite version of it is!

Shrimp & Grits, Part 1

Shrimp & Grits, Part 1
Today we're doing a special at Bennett's that was inspired by a conversation I had with Elaine "Belle" Lincoln of the Port of Seattle. We were talking about food and given her slightly diluted southern drawl, it's not surprising that the topic turned to classic southern dishes. She told me she had a great recipe for shrimp and grits and was generous enough to send it to me a couple days later.  I loved the idea of the recipe, especially mixing sausage in with the grits, so I wanted to put my own spin on it for the restaurant. As a tip of the hat, though, I want to post her original recipe here for all of you. Feel free to use some great Beecher's cheeses in the recipe.

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup grits
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbsp butter
6 green onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound peeled and cooked shrimp
1 10oz can Rotel tomatoes
4 slices bacon or hot bulk sausage

Bring the broth with 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the grits, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes (length depends on the type of grits). Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheddar and all of the Monterey Jack.
In a skillet, melt the butter and sautee the onion, bell pepper and garlic until tender. Transfer from the skillet to the grits, stirring it in, and add the shrimp, tomatoes, remaining salt & pepper and the sausage/bacon.
Pour everything into a baking dish and top with the remaining cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes.

I'll have the full post of our version of shrimp and grits tomorrow, but stay tuned to facebook & twitter for progress throughout the day.

Petite Filet with rhubarb, smoked grits and portabello-leek straw

All the wine went in the sheet pan.
No sips. I swear.
The sun is out again today! I have to admit that every sunny Spring day in Seattle I secretly believe that it will now be that way the rest of the year. Yes, my 52 years of personal weather data in the Northwest tells me otherwise…  But at least it brings Rhubarb.
At Sugar Mountain, we recently held a fundraising dinner to help out the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club (you can see pictures on my facebook page). We put together a number of courses for the event, but the petite filet with roasted rhubarb was a particular hit.  So, we chose it to be this week's special at Bennett's and the featured recipe here on the blog.

This recipe has several parts, but don't get discouraged by the components. It turns out to be pretty simple.

The chopped rhubargb
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
3 stalks of rhubarb
1 cup plu 3 Tbsp sugar
1-750ml bottle redfruit-forward red wine
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large head of celery
8 tsp canola oil
3 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups water
Cut & dressed celery
1 cup grits
6 oz smoked flagship, grated
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/4 Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 Tbsp celery salt
6-6oz petite filets
1 portabello cap - gills removed
1 leek (1 1/2 inches diameter)
1/2 cup flour

Directions:

Preheat to 375 degrees F. 
Glistening, roasted rhubarb
Cut the rhubarb into similar 3 1/2 inch pieces, reserving trim. Place the 3 1/2 inch pieces onto a sheet pan and sprinkle liberally with one cup of sugar. Pour the red wine into the sheet pan, being careful not to wash the sugar from the rhubarb. Roast the rhubarb for approximately 15 minutes, until barely softened. Remove the rhubarb to a separate bowl and leave the wine in the sheet pan. Place the rhubarb trim onto the same sheet pan, add the remaining sugar and return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes, until it's not quite a syrup. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan over medium heat, whisk in unsalted butter and reduce to a syrupy consistency while stirring.
Roasted celery

Increase the oven heat to 450 degrees F.
Clean and trim the celery into 3 1/2 inch pieces. Toss with 2 teaspoons canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Place the celery on sheet pan and roast for approximately 15 minutes, until the celery has softened a little and has a small amount of brown. Reserve as a garnish.

Boil the water in a saucepan with a teaspoon of salt, and slowly stir in the grits. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for four minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cheese and cook until the grits have reached your desired consistency (about 1 to 2 additional minutes).  A little “texture” is preferable.

Mix the remaining canola oil,the remaining salt, chile powder, garlic powder, celery salt and a pinch of black pepper, and rub the mixture into the petite filets. Sear filets in large a pan over high heat for about 1 1/2 minutes a side, until brown.  This step can be done as much as a day ahead.

Place the steaks on a grill over high heat, cover, and cook to temperature. Let the steaks rests for several minutes.
The Portabello-Leek Straw
Slice the bottom half off of the portabello cap to remove gills. Ideally using a mandolin, cut into very thin straws, about 2 1/2 inches in length. Clean the leek and cut into pieces identical to the mushroom straws. Toss each separately with just enough flour to make them dry to the touch. Fry briefly in canola oil at 385 degrees F in a pan or a fryer. Straws should be lightly brown and crispy. Salt to taste while still warm.

For plating, I recommend a rectangular dish. Scoop grits into the center. A Tablespoon of  the rhubarb reduction under the steak. Cut steak on a diagonal to create three triangular pieces to be arranged on the sauce. Lay a piece of roasted rhubarb against the other side of the grits and cross it with a piece of roasted celery. Top with a hefty portion of the portabello-leek straw.

Voila!
The staff at Bennett's really liked the way this one turned out too. You can see more pictures of the process on Bennett's facebook page. Love to hear what you think!


Prawn & Rockfish Pasta Verde

I know what you're thinking. When you read "Pasta Verde," you think, "Oh, jeez, not another chef talking about how great tomatillos are." And although I do like tomatillos, there are none in this recipe.

Like last week's asparagus soup, the verde sauce for this recipe was inspired by the bounty of vegetables in the produce crate delivered to our house. This time, cucumbers were abundant and the sun was (finally) peeking out, getting me in the mood for a crisply flavored, summertime type of dish. To see the weekly process of how I put together a dish over the course of the day, check out my facebook page. Every Wednesday is dedicated to a new special for Bennett's Pure Food Bistro or one the Pasta & Co.'s.

Now, I think cucumbers are shamefully underrated. Not only do people misattribute them to the vegetable family, they're often left only with the mild supporting roles of slices to dip in tzatziki or as a salad component. Even more so, when they are used, they're stripped of their most interesting and nutritional part - the skin. Usually peeled off, the skin of the cucumber holds the majority of the fiber, vitamin A and Vitamin C of this clean-flavored relative of the squash. If that weren't enough to encourage you to use a bit more of the skin, it also adds a tannic complexity to the flavor that is completely lost without it. 


If you'd like a great article
about cucumbers check out
gapersblock.com blog post.
Of course, the problem with leaving the skin on is that most cucumbers you find in the store (with the exception of English cucumbers) are coated in wax that is difficult to remove. I mean, sure, I like candles as much as the next guy, but they don't belong in my food. So to keep that tannic flavor element and all those good nutrients, I soak the cucumbers in almost hot water and then scrub the squash with a brush to remove all that unwanted wax.


Now that your cucumbers are wax-free and flavorfully liberated, let's head into this week's recipe.

Makes six entrees.

Ingredients:
1 lb fresh vermicelli, capellini or 2/3 lb dried
2 cucumbers, soaked in hot water to remove wax,

               cut into 1-inch pieces
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp Old Bay
1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 very large yellow onion
, chopped
1 ½ lb rockfish
1 ½ lb prawns
4 shallots, sliced and separated into rings
3-4 Tbsp. cornstarch for dusting shallots and rockfish
Salt & Pepper to taste for fish and shallots
Canola oil for sautéing and cooking shallots
1 bunch spinach leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Get the pasta ready to cook but hold off until you are ready to assemble the dish. Cook the pasta until al dente.
Combine cucumber and jalapenos with 1/3 cup olive oil, rice vinegar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Old Bay, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor and purée until it is the texture of thick salsa. Set aside.

Toss the onion in the remaining olive oil with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Spread the onions out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until they are slightly soft and barely crisped at the corners, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Toss the shallots with 1 tablespoon cornstarch, salt and pepper and fry in canola oil until crispy and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined dish. Set aside.
Cut the rockfish into six four-ounce portions. Season with salt and pepper and dust lightly with cornstarch. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until shimmering (before it smokes), place the rockfish pieces in the pan and cook until golden brown. Turn the fish over and cook for one minute on the other side, remove from pan .
Season the prawns with the remaining 1 teaspoon of Old Bay. In the same pan used for the rockfish, cook the prawns on one side until the edges are pink, turn over and cook briefly until the very center is opaque. Remove from the pan.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.     
Using the same pan again, toss the pasta with the onions and cucumber sauce. Cook over high heat, add the spinach and toss to combine. Cook until the spinach has wilted.


To serve, portion the pasta mixture onto plates. Top with a portion of rockfish, a few prawns and a mound of fried shallots.




The result is a fresh tasting pasta that is light and healthy with that signature clean flavor of cucumber that pairs really well with blue sky and sunshine. Bennett's  (whose patio has been opened up a couple times already this season) will be serving this special through the weekend, until it runs out. So, stop by the restaurant to try it out (and fall in love with it) and then have the recipe at home for when you're craving it again!
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week (or earlier on facebook or twitter)

Asparagus soup with hazelnuts and Cholula

I told you to expect a soup recipe this week, and here it is!

Really, this recipe comes from the simplest kind of inspiration: a box full of vegetables.
Like a lot of people in Seattle, we get a regular delivery of organic vegetables and recently one of those boxes had, among other things, asparagus, potatoes, and fennel.  And it was cold out (surprise, surprise). So, I determined to make a soup. From that starting point came this recipe that enhances the asparagus with the sweet yet tannic flavor of hazelnuts and the signature kick of Cholula.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

What you'll need:

3 small russet potatoes, peeled & chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1.5 quarts chicken stock
Large bunch of asparagus
Medium bulb of fennel
Salt
Pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 bunch spinach
2 ounces Flagship cheese, shredded
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
Cholula sauce
1/4 tsp ground fennel
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp crumbled rosemary
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for approximately ten minutes until fragrant and slightly browned.

Once the potatoes are peeled and chopped, put them in a medium pot with the leek and chicken broth, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.  Once your potatoes are soft (fork-test), put everything from the pot into a food processor, purée and reserve.

Bring the oven to 500 degrees F. Cut the asparagus and the fennel into 1-inch pieces and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them evenly on a sheet pan. Roast them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until brown on edges, but not soft. Remove from the oven, place in a food processor with the cleaned spinach, and pulse 4 to 8 times to achieve a rustic, rough-chopped look.

Ingredients can be held separately for several days. When ready to serve, combine the potato mixture and the asparagus mixture in a pot with rice vinegar, cheese and spices and heat through.

Garnish with one teaspoon of hazelnuts per serving and several drops of Cholula or your favorite bright red hot sauce.

It all comes out with a great trio of color - the mild green of the asparagus, the crispy brown of the hazelnuts, and the vibrant red of the Cholula.

Try this recipe out! Let me know what you think. As I said in post number one, I really would love to even workshop some recipes on this blog and would love your feedback.

Eat well,
Kurt Dammeier
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