Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stopping to enjoy Beef and Guinness Stew for St. Patrick's Day

I spent much of this morning finishing a book for one of my classes.  As I sat down to lunch and was ruminating over what I read, I looked back over the class syllabus to find that I read twice as much as needed!  Of course, I was a little irked at myself, but then again, the book was so good, encouraging, and challenging that I am glad I finished it.  I'm not sure I would have the self-control to finish it had I not assumed the assignment entailed as much, at least not in the middle of the semester.  

The book was stimulating, and really spurred me to think about how much I pursue joy in my life.  How often do I proverbially "stop and smell the flowers?"  I go through phases in life where I rarely slow down for weeks on end, and I forget to enjoy life.  I forget to enjoy the flavors, the colors, the sounds, and bits of sweetness that are a part of life.  They are there, I just overlook them!  

The book reminded me that we pay attention to these gifts and details of life because they are signposts.  They point us to greater gifts.  I think that's one reason why I love celebrating and feasting so much; our feasts point to a greater feast.  Our fellowship points to a greater fellowship.  

Right now, we're enjoying this Irish-inspired meal of Beef and Guinness Stew, Roasted Cabbage and Apples, and Raisin Stout loaves.  The past few weeks have been busy for all of us around here; mid-terms and papers and such.  How sweet is it to stop, even for a few moments, and enjoy a good meal?  It really is a cause for joy.

Beef and Guinness Stew

Slightly Adapted from Cooking Light

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 pounds chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
12 oz Guinness
1 tablespoon raisins
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 carrots, peeled and sliced 3/4 inch thick
3-4 parsnips, peeled and sliced 3/4 inch thick
2 turnips, peeled and cubed 3/4 inch thick
parsley, for garnish

Pat the beef cubes dry.  Combine the beef, flour and salt in a large zip-top bag.  Shake to coat the beef.  

Heat half of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add half of the beef and cook for six minutes, until the beef is browned all over.  Remove to a plate.  Repeat with the remainder of the oil and beef.  

Once the beef is removed, cook the onion in the empty pot for five minutes, stirring often.  Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute.  Add the broth, beer, raisins, caraway and pepper.  Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the vegetables, cover and cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and cook for 10 more minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Waves, and Shrimp and Grits worth Making Twice

Last summer, a wise woman shared with me that grief is like standing on the shoreline; sometimes the water ripples and tickles your toes, sometimes a surprise wave hits and gets you all wet, and sometimes a surge hits you so hard that it knocks you over.  I think that life acts the same way; there are waves of emotion, but also waves of busyness, of good relationships, of daily enjoyment, and so much more.  

Last weekend was a wave of good fellowship with friends, but it also coincided with a wave of busyness this week.  And while we delight in enriched friendships and a challenging week of classes, sometimes those waves mean that our marriage receives very little attention. 

Love and Joy in Waves: Summer 2010 

My husband and I enjoyed some time investing in our own marriage this weekend.  On Friday night, we watched The King's Speech at a little community theater.  As we walked the Main Street of the little town after the movie, we enjoyed the rippling wave of the sweet, deepening friendship that will grow for the rest of our lives.  On Saturday,  in between studying and chores, we ran errands together and again enjoyed good conversation and sweet fellowship.  And of course, we enjoyed good food.  

This Shrimp and Grits recipe may just be my favorite so far.  It is easy, delicious, and perfect for both guests and date night.  It is excellent with collard greens and cornbread.  

Louisiana Shrimp and Andouille over Grits

Adapted from John Besh's My Louisiana Kitchen

For the Grits:
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup stone ground grits
1/2 cup goat cheese 
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup half & half

For the Shrimp:
2 pounds medium wild shrimp
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning (I use a mix of Tony Cachere's and Old Bay)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup andouille or spicy smoked sausage, diced (I use Conecuh Sausage)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 roasted red peppers from a jar, drained and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
15 oz diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
chopped parsley, for garnish

For the grits: 
In a medium pot, combine the water and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Whisk in the grits, and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.  

Add the butter and cheese to the grits, stirring until the cheese is melted.  Stir in the half and half, cover and remove from heat.  Keep warm until serving.  

For the shrimp:
Combine the shrimp and spices in a small bowl.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp become opaque, but are not quite done.  Remove the shrimp to a bowl as they become opaque.  

In the same skillet, add the sausage, garlic, shallot, red peppers and thyme.  Cook for about five minutes.  Add the vegetable broth and butter, and cook for six minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook for three minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice, tomatoes, and chives.  Cook until warmed through, and remove from heat.  

Serve the shrimp and sauce atop the grits in a bowl, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Dreaming of NOLA and a Mardi Gras Menu

Last summer, we celebrated our five-year anniversary wandering the streets of New Orleans.  It was my first trip to the Crescent City, and it was completely enchanting.  The beautiful streets, the art, the music, and the food was all everyone said it would be, and more.  I do hope we are able to visit again.  

If you are like me, and will not be making it to New Orleans or Mobile for Mardi Gras, we can at least dream, and cook, like we are!  Here are my suggestions for a delicious Fat Tuesday feast.  

Mardi Gras Feast:

Some other main dish suggestions are:

Crawfish Etouffee (Stay Tuned)

Enjoy, and Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Les Bons Temps for Roasted Shrimp Po'Boys

From mid-January to late February (or, in this year's case, early March), the celebration and anticipation of Mardi Gras leaves me craving the flavors of the South's coast and New Orleans (never mind that I have never actually been to NOLA, or even Mobile, during Mardi Gras).  It just seems right to eat Gumbo, Etouffee, Shrimp Creole or Bread Pudding during those few weeks.  It fits the weather outside, the duldrums of winter are losing their grip, and that deserves a celebratory, albeit comfortable meal.

I was all prepared to share my new favorite Shrimp and Grits, but we gobbled this Cajun-spice laden dish up before I had a daylight hour to photograph it (and while this delicious meal traditionally belongs to Charleston and the Lowcountry rather than NOLA and the Gulf coast, the recipe is from John Besh's My New Orleans and is his Cajun take on the Lowcountry favorite).  

In lieu of another Shrimp and Grits recipe, I have another delicious Cajun offering: Roasted Shrimp Po'Boys, which we shared with some friends who were in town last weekend.  I will say, I barely got a picture of this sandwich, and the one I took isn't all that enticing.  You'll just have to take my word for it; this sandwich is a flavorful taste of NOLA!  

Roasted Shrimp Po'Boys

Inspired by CBS News
Remoulade Sauce adapted from Cooking Light

1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet (Vidalia) onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon capers
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
2 12-inch soft French bread loaves
1 pound large wild shrimp, peeled
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (such as Tony Cachere's)
dash cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons cornmeal
3 tablespoons panko
1 tomato, sliced
green leaf lettuce 

Preheat oven to 375.  In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, onion, parsley, relish, mustard, capers and hot sauce, stirring to combine.  Set remoulade sauce aside.  Slice the French bread loaves in half lengthwise.  Place on a baking sheet.  

In a small bowl, combine the Cajun seasoning, cayenne, cornmeal and panko.  Add the shrimp and toss to coat.  Spread the shrimp in a single layer in a roasting pan lined with parchment paper.  

Place both the bread and the shrimp in the oven.  Roast for five minutes, then remove the bread and turn the broiler on high.  Broil the shrimp for three more minutes.  

While the shrimp are finishing in the broiler, spread the remoulade sauce on both halves of the bread.  Divide the shrimp between the two loaves, then top with lettuce and tomato.  Cut each loaf in half to make four sandwiches.  

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