Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo) – Top of the Tapas

If you ever find yourself in a Spanish restaurant, and they don’t have some version of this garlic shrimp recipe on the menu, immediately get up from your table, and leave. This would be the equivalent of a French bistro that doesn’t serve steak frites. What about vegetarian Spanish restaurants and French bistros? That’s a trick question, since those aren’t a thing.

Anyway, the point here is that every Spanish restaurant serves this, and for very good reasons. It’s fast to make, gorgeous to look at, and, if you’re into garlic, one of the most delicious things you’ll ever eat. Just be sure to use nice fresh, frozen shrimp. Allow me to explain.

Unless you live in a few choice locations, it’s rare to find true fresh shrimp at the market. All they do is thaw some frozen, and put it in the case, where it sits until you buy it, which is why it really makes a lot more sense to purchase frozen. Of course, not all frozen shrimp is created equal, so I encourage you to research the best sources, but the point is you don’t want something already thawed.

Speaking of which, I thaw mine by running cold water into the bowl of frozen shrimp, let it sit for about 10 minutes, before draining, and repeating once more. After that it should be fully thawed, at which point the shrimp can be drained, and prepped.

The last tip I’ll give, is to make sure you have all your ingredients together before you head to the stove, since start to finish, this only takes minutes to complete. This is another reason it’s so great for a party, since you can prep everything ahead of time, and finish it whenever you’re ready to serve. But, whether you feature this at a party, or not, I really do hope you give this amazing Spanish garlic shrimp recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 Spanish Garlic Shrimp Portions:
1 pound peeled and *deveined shrimp (look for the 21-25 per pound size or larger)
kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon hot, smoked paprika, optional
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves peeled garlic, slice thin
2 tablespoons dry sherry wine (or white wine and a pinch of sugar)
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

* This video from Allrecipes shows how to properly devein shrimp

Friday, June 15, 2018

Beet-Cured Salmon Gravlax – Easier and Slower Than You Think

Even though I only do it once every few years or so, making salmon gravlax at home is a fun weekend project, and with very little effort, you can produce some very impressive results. I’ve always done this with the traditional fresh dill sprigs, but after enjoying a beet-stained version at Plaj, I decided to try my hand. And, also stain my hand.

If you’re just doing a small tail piece like I did, these times and measurements should get you close to what you see here, but if you're feeling adventurous, and want to do something larger, then you may have to do some research for techniques that work better when doing a thicker piece of fish.

Those slightly more complicated methods involve turning, draining, and basting, to account for a longer curing time. So what I’m trying to say is, you can avoid all that by just doing a smaller piece, which, unless you’re hosting a large party, should be plenty. Speaking of large parties, and the litigious people that sometime attend them, please be sure to get your salmon from a reliable source.

I think a brick works great for a press, but anything that weighs a few pounds would be fine, as long as it’s large, and flat enough to distribute the weight evenly. A book with a few cans of soup on it would do the trick. Regardless of how you press yours, once unwrapped, sliced, and served on a toasted bagel, I think you’ll agree it was worth the wait. So, I really do hope you give this gravlax technique a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 to 10 ounces of Gravlax:
8 to 12 ounce tail section of fresh salmon with skin on (scaled)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup white sugar
cayenne and/or freshly ground black pepper to taste
enough grated beet and/or fresh dill springs to thickly cover fish

- Press with something heavy, and let cure in fridge for 1 1/2 days, or until salmon is firm, and translucent when sliced. You can carefully unwrap, and poke to test, and then rewrap, and let cure longer if need be.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bourbon Pepper Pan Sauce – Learning a Skill That Always Thrills

Mastering pan sauces is one the easiest things a home cook can do to raise their culinary game, since it allows one to produce dishes most people only see in restaurants. And not just any restaurants. The really good ones.

By the way, if you’re still looking for a Father’s Day gift, a nice bottle of bourbon, with a little splash going to finish a home-cooked steak, would make quite the one-two punch of manly goodness. And, even if your dad isn’t a sitcom stereotype, who doesn’t enjoy a well-executed pan sauce?

If you’re making this for meat that’s coming off a grill, you can still do the sauce separately, and just keep it warm until the main course is ready. Start with the sautéing garlic in butter step, and finish as shown. Of course, you’ll have to add some coarsely ground black pepper to the sauce, but that’s about the only adjustment.

Like I said in the video, this sauce’s rich, sweet, peppery flavor profile also works wonderfully with pork chops, and grilled chicken. You can also switch up the Bourbon for another liquor, since this really is just a technique video. Regardless of what you use, or what you serve it with, I really do hope you give this great pan sauce a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for two portions:
1 clove minced garlic, sautéed in 1 teaspoon butter
1 ounce bourbon
1/2 cup chicken broth or veal stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons cold butter
salt and cayenne to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Friday, June 8, 2018

Frangipane Tart – Have Your Cake and Eat Pie Too

Not only is this simple frangipane tart a perfect way to enjoy fresh summer fruit, but it’s also great for those times when you can’t decide whether you want cake or pie. This sort of seems like both to me, and unlike many fancy looking pastries, this one is not at all complicated to make.

Even made free form, with pieced together leftover puff pastry, this was a fairly simple operation. As I mentioned, most people use pie dough for this, and if you do, simply follow the exact same procedure for the pre-baking. Once whatever crust you’re using is baked about halfway, and cooled, it’s ready to fill, top with fruit and bake.

Another great reason to make this is that there’s a good chance one of your guests will ask you which bakery this came from, which will give you the opportunity to say, “Bakery? No, I made this.” But say it really casually, like it was no big thing. This travels well, so don’t be afraid to fish for compliments with this at the next picnic. Either way, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for Fresh Fruit Frangipane Tart:

For the filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons soft butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup almond flour, or very finely-ground blanched almonds
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the tart:
enough puff pasty or pie dough for a 9 or 10 inch shallow tart pan
enough fresh fruit to do the job

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons apricot jam 
2 teaspoons water
Bring to a boil in small pan or microwave. Let cool to just warm before brushing on.

- Pre-bake pastry shell at 400 F. for 15 minutes or until it starts to get golden-brown.
- Fill, top, and bake at 375 F. for 30-40 minutes, or until browned and the almond filling is set.
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