Grilled Shrimp on Mashed Sweet Potatoes

It was a bit cold last night, so rethought going outdoors to cook dinner. Instead, I cooked the shrimp on the grill pan on the stove top. The timing is the same.

I used my go to cheat – a bottle of Cajun Power Garlic Sauce on the shrimp. This isn’t a hot sauce but so well seasoned that it goes well with chicken, pork, seafood and even vegetables.

It was good to have friends over to enjoy the meal. Jess, Julie and Nancy helped warm up the house with laughter and good conversation. And, thanks again to Kenny for leaving the gallon jug of margarita’s – they were a hit!

Grilled Shrimp

1.5 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup Cajun Power Garlic Sauce

If using wood skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

In a bowl, mix the shrimp with the Cajun Power Garlic Sauce. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill, up to 2 hours.

Skewer shrimp and place on a medium hot grill or a preheated grill pan. Grill about 3 minutes per side or until they are opaque throughout.

I placed the shrimp on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes – quite a tasty accompaniment and a switch from the pasta I would have usually served with them.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 lb. sweet potatoes (roasted and peeled), warm
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

Roast sweet potatoes in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until done. Scoop out interiors and place in a bowl.

Mash together sweet potatoes, butter, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Taste and add more brown sugar, cinnamon or salt, if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Place warm sweet potato mixture on plates. Arrange shrimp on top.

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Grilling My Free Turkey From Winn Dixie

I walked in my local Winn-Dixie and saw a great offer: Now through 11/21/18 you get a free Thanksgiving turkey when you get a no cost flu shot. As I had been planning to get a vaccine anyway, I headed over to the pharmacist and got a jab and my coupon. Because my health insurance covers annual flu vaccines, I walked out with a 10lb bird for absolutely no cost.

I decided to cook it on the grill. The only way I was going to fit the bird on my Weber was if I spatchcocked it first. A bonus for cutting out the backbone and pressing it flat it it cut down the cooking time. By putting the legs closest to the coals, it also makes sure the white meat and dark meat reach 165 degrees F at the close to the same time.

I cut the backbone and wings off and added them and the neck to a pot with 3 quarts of water, a quartered onion, 3 stalks of celery and 2 carrots, broken in half. After about two hours of simmering, I strained out the solids and had around two quarts stock, perfect for making gravy.

I took a picture at an hour and then forgot to take another. Trust me, it looked prettier in person when done and tasted marvelous – juicy and flavorful.

Grilled Spatchcocked Turkey

1 10-12lb turkey
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon coarse salt
salt and pepper to taste

To spatchcock the turkey, use poultry shears to cut out the backbone. Flip the bird over and press down to snap the breastbone. Set aside the backbone and neck (and I also cut off the wings, as they tend to get dry and burn) to make a stock.

Mix half the herbs with the softened butter. Divide butter mixture in half. Gently lift the skin up and work half the butter over each breast. Massage it around for good coverage. Sprinkle both sides of the turkey with remaining herb mixture. Place the bird in the refrigerator, breast side down overnight to dry out the skin.

Pull the turkey out of the refrigerator about an hour before ready to grill. Coat with olive oil.

Build an indirect fire and place a wood chunk on the coals to smoke. Place a drip pan on the cool side and replace the grill. Set the turkey on the grill, bone side down and with legs closest to the coals. Grill for 60-90 minutes depending on the weight of the bird. Safe temperature is 165 degrees F. If you check it and find any parts getting too brown, cover those areas with aluminum foil.

Once turkey has been grilled to golden perfection, remove to a carving board and tent with foil. Let rest at least 15 minutes and as long as thirty while you make the gravy.

You need two cups of liquid for the gravy. I usually pour about 1/2 cup of stock in the pan with the drippings and use that to help loosen all the brown bits. I pour it in a two cup measuring cup and skim off the fat. I then fill the rest of the measuring cup with stock.

Turkey Gravy

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Pan drippings and stock to make two cups
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet. Whisk in the flour and stir until well coated. Keep stirring until lightly brown and the flour taste has been cooked out, about 5 minutes.

Slowly whisk in the liquid, adding only small amounts in at a time and stirring until incorporated and lump free. Once all the liquid is added, continue to stir and cook until bubbly. Reduce heat to low. Let thicken and then begin to season.

Should you get it too salty, you can add more stock, stir well and let thicken again. This is why I recommend not seasoning until the gravy has thickened.

Bourbon Milk Punch

This cocktail has a nice warmth from the bourbon which is a lovely contrast to the decadently rich combination of milk and cream. The hint of vanilla makes this really taste almost like dessert and definitely like more.

I’m really enjoying the vanilla paste Michelle got for me – it has vanilla seeds in it so it is a step up from regular vanilla extract but not as pricey as vanilla bean pods.

Bourbon Milk Punch

1 cup milk
1/4 cup cream or half & half
1/4 cup cups powdered sugar
1 whole vanilla bean pod or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste (or 1 tablespoon quality vanilla extract)
Bourbon

Combine milk, cream and powdered sugar in a container with lid. If using a vanilla bean, slice in half and run the back of the knife over the interior to remove seeds. Add vanilla beans and pod to the jar and seal, shaking vigorously to combine. If using vanilla paste or extract, add it and shake well. Refrigerate up to 3 days.

To make the drinks, mix 3 parts vanilla milk with 2 parts bourbon. Place in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Pour into glasses. Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg, if desired.

 

Taking Chicken Kiev South

What’s not to like about the herbed buttery taste of Chicken Kiev? Some may consider the dish old fashioned but I dream sometimes of those hidden pockets of melted, herbed butter that spurt as you cut into it.

It is all good to dream but I knew it could be better if I grilled it instead of coating it in breadcrumbs and baking it. And, of course, everything tastes better with bacon. Here is this southerner’s take on the classic dish.

I did make a few without the bacon and, with judicious handling (and double the toothpicks), the butter pocket stayed intact until they reached the table. Even where the butter had leaked out a bit, the herbs had been left behind, so the chicken still tasted awesome.

8 chicken thighs, skinned and deboned
2 sticks butter
6 tablespoons tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
16 slices of bacon

In a food processor, mix the butter, tarragon, garlic and lemon. Place on a plastic sheet and form into a roll. Place in the freezer for a couple hours to chill.

Take the chicken thighs lightly salt and pepper both sides. Slice the herbed butter and place 2 tablespoons of butter inside each thigh. Close it up to envelop the butter inside and place on top of two pieces of bacon laid crosswise. Use the bacon to seal the chicken closed and secure with baker’s twine or toothpicks. Refrigerate while you prepare the grill.

Set up your grill for indirect cooking. Lay down a drip pan to contain any blowouts. I used a hickory chunk for smoke. Place the thighs on the grill, open side up and cook for fifteen minutes. Melt any leftover herbed butter and baste the thighs before rotating the chicken thighs one quarter turn, making sure to keep the open end up. Continue cooking, basting and rotating until meat is done, about 45 minutes to an hour. Safe temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F.

Remove twine and toothpicks and serve with any leftover basting liquid.

Any bacon that didn’t crisp, save and crisp in the microwave. Freeze in a zip top bag and crumble over salad or baked potato for the best bacon bits ever.

Sticky Sesame Drumsticks From the Slow Cooker

I bought a 10 pound bag of leg quarters and butchered the contents – grilling the thighs and setting the drumsticks aside for dinner during the week. I decided to use the slow cooker so it would cook while I’m at work. When I came home, I just had a few more things to do (make rice, thicken sauce, etc) to get it on the table. Further, the slow cooker gave time for the connective tissue in the drumstick to melt away to make for falling off the bone, tender meat.

It took me a few times to get this recipe ready for posting – I originally left the skin on and it came out rubbery, even after I put it under the broiler. This version delivers tender, well flavored chicken that is reminiscent of take-away, sesame chicken.

Because I was using the chicken from a 10lb bag, I doubled the marinade (but not the sauce) to ensure plenty of flavor. If you’re using less than 10 drumsticks, just use the recipe as written below.

Don’t worry if you have leftovers – it makes really terrific chicken salad!

Sticky Sesame Drumsticks

4-6 drumsticks

Marinade:
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Cooking Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce, optional

Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, garlic and oil. Remove the skin from the drumsticks and place them in a zip top bag and add the marinade. Massage the marinade into the meat and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Place the chicken drumsticks in the slow cooker and discard the marinade. Combine all the cooking sauce ingredients together and pour over the drumsticks. Set the slow cooker on low for 3 to 5 hours or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F. If you’re around, about midway through cooking, turn the chicken to coat with more sauce.

When the chicken is done, pour the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until thickened. Baste chicken and serve the remaining sauce at the table.

I served this with white rice and a spinach salad with grated carrots.

Asian inspired Spinach Salad Dressing

3 tablespoons minced onions
3 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (use white vinegar if you don’t have rice wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (if you don’t have light, omit the salt later in the recipe)
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Whirl everything together in a blender at least four hours (and up to 5 days) before using for the flavors to meld together. Pour over baby spinach leaves and grated carrot and toss. Store any remaining in an airtight container.

Thanks to my guinea pigs, Michelle, Charlotte, Linda and Robert, for coming over and helping me refine this recipe and eat all the food!

Skillet Rustic Olive Bread

I was in a yeasty mood when I spied a jar of Kalamata olives in the fridge. Perfect to do some olive bread. This is great bread with soup, plain dipped in olive oil or to make sandwiches. For day two, I made sandwiches with some turkey breast brought to me by my sister from Bates House of Turkey Restaurant outside of Greenville, Alabama.

2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4-5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
coarse salt for sprinkling

Combine water, honey and yeast.
 Let sit for ten minutes to activate yeast.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1 cup of flour and salt; whisk to mix. On low speed, stir in yeasty water. Mix in olives, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic powder.
 Switching to the dough hook, add remaining flour, one cup at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.
 Let the machine work the dough for 5 minutes. The dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl but will still be very sticky and loose.

Transfer to a large, well oiled bowl. Cover and set in a warm spot to rise for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size.
 I placed the bowl in the cold oven with the light on.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Coat bottom and sides of skillet with the olive oil.

Transfer dough to prepared skillet and shape into a disk. Cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes on the counter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush remaining olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle with coarse salt.
 Score the top of the loaf three times with a knife.
 Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is nicely browned.
 Remove from oven and turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

It is important to take the bread out of the skillet immediately or it will trap moisture and become soggy.