Shrimp Risotto

We boiled up several pounds of shrimp the other day and froze what we didn’t eat in pint bags. My girlfriend had given me some arborio rice last time I saw her and I thought making risotto would be super comforting as the weather is starting to turn colder.

If you’re starting with raw shrimp, just sauté the peeled and deveined shrimp in butter until pink and then set aside until the rice is ready.

My folks aren’t white wine fans, so there wasn’t any in the house. If you are, add a half cup to the shrimp when you sauté them and a cup to the softened onion before adding the rice and serve the rest of the bottle with the meal.

However you do it, make some risotto soon – it is as delicious as it looks.

Shrimp Risotto

5-6 cups unsalted chicken broth
¼ cup butter (half stick), unsalted
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
zest and juice a lemon half
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese

Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or other heavy saucepan. Sauté the onion until softened and golden, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add in the arborio rice and stir until well coated and begins to smell slightly nutty, about 3 minutes.

Traditionally, you add the warmed chicken broth one cup a time and stir until absorbed before adding the next. I cheat and add all the broth at once. I give it a stir and cover and simmer for 20 minutes, coming back and stirring every five minutes. After 20 minutes, I add in the lemon zest and juice and continue to cook just until the rice tender but still has some bite. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss in the shrimp for them to warm up and serve with some grated parmesan cheese.

Cucumber and Salmon Sandwiches

You don’t have to go to high tea at a posh noshery to enjoy a good cucumber and salmon  sandwich. Nor do you need to invite the Vicar.

These sandwiches are just elevated versions of the cucumber cream cheese sandwiches I used to sneak in to scarf during my mom and her friends bridge games and, later, mahjong games.

Light and refreshing originally, the addition of flaked salmon really kicks these up a notch.

Here is my salmon recipe. I just purchase a little more than I think I’ll need for dinner so I have about 1 extra serving (at least a cup) leftover for these sandwiches. The lemon flavor adds a nice touch so, if using canned, add a teaspoon of lemon juice.

Cucumber Salmon Salad Sandwiches

About a cup of leftover cooked salmon or 1 – 6oz can (drained)
1 cucumber, peeled
1 package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 teaspoon dill or 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped fine
1 tablespoon grated Vidalia or other sweet onion
salt and pepper to taste

white sandwich bread, crusts cut off

Cut cucumber in half and scoop out seeds. Grate cucumber onto a towel and squeeze out some of the liquid.

Stir dill into softened cream cheese along with the grated onion and cucumber. Fold in the flaked salmon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly mayonnaise or butter the sandwich bread. Spread on the cucumber salmon mixture and then assemble the sandwiches. For a nice presentation, cut into triangles. For a party, cut each into 4 triangles.

You can add a tablespoon of mayonnaise or yogurt to make it loose enough for a dip with crackers or crudités.

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

I had a craving for peanut sauce. What better way to get the stuff to your mouth than spring rolls?

The last time I had boiled a pot of shrimp, I made a couple of snack bags of the peeled leftovers so I could have shrimp to toss into things. They were perfect little bites in the rolls.

You can use most any veg in them but I like the coolness of the mint and cucumber and the crunch of carrots. This is especially handy if you get the peanut sauce too spicy!

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon honey

Thin the peanut butter with the hot water. Whisk in remaining ingredients and then taste for seasoning. Add more hot water if it needs further thinning. Make at least 4 hours ahead and taste again for seasoning before using.

The recipe is based on the number on shrimp I had and the number of rice paper wrappers in the package, so we knew we could make eight spring rolls.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

35 small shrimp, pre-cooked
1 cucumber, seeds removed
2 carrots
half package rice noodle vermicelli
bunch of mint
package of spring roll rice paper wrappers

Prepare the vermicelli according the package directions. Slice the cucumber and carrots into matchstick sized pieces. Chiffonade the mint leaves.

Wet the rice paper wrappers in lukewarm water. Set the softened paper on a plastic cutting board. Place some rice noodles down and then a few cucumber and carrot slices beside and on top of the noodles. Sprinkle on some mint leaves. Make one tight roll. Set down the shrimp and continue to roll, folding in the ends before the final roll.

Set on a plate covered with a damp towel until ready to serve. Don’t stack as they will stick together. They are best eaten soon after rolling but can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for a couple hours if necessary.

Wolf Bay Lodge in Foley, Alabama

For my birthday, we went to lunch at Wolf Bay Lodge in Foley, Alabama. I’ve been here before and written about it (here and here) but it has been several years, so I figured I’d post again. We’ve been going here since it was a private club across Wolf Bay from my folks place.

At lunch we had about a fifteen minute wait for a table, as they were pretty hopping at noon. We spent our wait at the bar and the time passed quite quickly, especially once I received my tea filled alligator cup. Dad enjoyed the house draft and Mom had an ice cold bottle of Budweiser.

Once we were seated and had perused the extensive menu, my mom ordered the coconut shrimp. This is an appetizer but is actually perfectly sized for lunch time. The shrimp were lightly breaded with flour and toasted coconut and it was served with a tasty tropical marmalade.

Dad had the shrimp kabobs – the lunch portion is 2 kabobs of shrimp, coated in a sweet bourbon glaze before being grilled. It is served over rice and comes with a couple of very light and delicious hush puppies.

Michelle had the blackened shrimp tacos with a chipotle tartar sauce. They were very well seasoned and came with cheese and coleslaw on soft tortillas. It was served with chips and a very tasty house made salsa. She really enjoyed the flavor and would definitely order them again.

I ordered the large plate of fried Gulf shrimp. These are some of my favorite fried shrimp ever with lots of shrimp on the plate, covered in a light, crisp breading and fried to perfection. As the sign on the wall states – if it ain’t fried, it ain’t food! It came to the table with a full plate of french fries and a couple of their hush puppies.

I hope you like my alligator cup as much as I do. As a bonus, it also comes with free refills. Crazy to say, they sell it as a kids cup!

Most of the meals came with one trip to the salad bar – they have a pretty extensive selection of items including some pretty darn tasty deviled eggs. I convinced Mom and Michelle to add one for me to both their bowls, so I was happy.

The servers are friendly, even considering how busy the place is. The selection on the menu will satisfy piscivores and carnivores alike and the portion sizes are plentiful. They have a wide selection of seafood but, as you can see from our orders, their shrimp is what brings us back, year after year.

Wolf Bay Restaurant
20801 Miflin Road, County Road 20
Foley, Alabama 36535
(251) 987-5129

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.

Butter Poached Shrimp With Grits

Shrimp and grits is a perfect food pairing. I’ve posted about making them before (here and here) and many more times when I’ve eaten them at restaurants. This time, I’m poaching the shrimp in butter (a la Michael Ruhlman). I can recommend this preparation (even without the grits) as it makes the shrimp velvety and delicious.

When the poaching liquid is combined with the grits, you end up with a dish that is rich, decadent but still quintessentially southern.

Butter Poached Shrimp with Grits

4 strips bacon, diced
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups grits (not instant)
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup butter, cut into 12 chunks
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon Cajun/Creole seasoning

Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until slightly crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and set aside. In the bacon fat remaining in the pan, sauté  the onion. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add in bell pepper and cook for just a minute or two. Pour in milk and water and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the grits and a pinch of kosher salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook the grits, stirring occasionally, until done, about 20 minutes.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer. Then whisk in the chunks of butter, one at a time until all are incorporated and you have an emulsion. Add the shrimp and then moderate the temperature to keep the butter just below simmering (170-180 degrees F). Poach the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Take the shrimp off the heat.

Add half of the poaching butter to the grits. Stir and add Cajun/Creole seasoning. Taste for seasoning. Spoon the grits into bowls, add the shrimp, sprinkle on the diced bacon and drizzle on a little more of the poaching butter. Serve.

Undertow

For Mother’s Day, my sister and brother-in-law took us to the Undertow in Orange Beach, Alabama for their $10 all you can eat Crawfish and Royal Red buffet. Sure, there were also potatoes, corn and sausage but we were there for the seafood.

Royal Reds are a variety of shrimp that live the deeper waters off the Alabama Gulf Coast and are large and sweet. The meat is comparable to lobster and that’s why we had ours with drawn butter.

The Undertow is a casual, local hangout and the staff are friendly, even as they worked their tails off keeping up with refilling the buffet and slinging drinks. They run the buffet on weekends during the shrimping season but get there early – it runs from 2pm to 7pm or until they run out! Smoking is allowed at the bar and there is outside seating as well.

The Undertow
25025 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, Alabama

Cha Cha Cha Cajun Shrimp

When I lived in San Francisco in the 1990’s, one of my favorite restaurants was Cha Cha Cha in the Mission. The menu is Cuban and Puerto Rican inspired while also fusing some of the best of many other cuisines.

I recently came across the restaurant’s cookbook in the used cookbook store in New Orleans (Kitchen Witch). The literary revisiting of their restaurant made me hungry and sent me to the kitchen to cook. One of the dishes that I really liked, I fixed for my folks this week. Cha Cha Cha Cajun Shrimp is a tapas dish there and is colorful and flavorful. It can be a little spicy, so I dropped the spice level from the original (1 1/2 cups!). Serve it with lots of crusty bread to dip into the delicious sauce.

We ate it as a main course after doubling everything and served it with rosemary sweet potatoes medallions.

I will be returning to their cookbook for other recipes soon!

Cha Cha Cha Cajun Shrimp

1/2 cup Cajun Spice Mix
12 ounce dark beer
2 cups heavy cream
1 lb peeled medium sized shrimp

In a heavy saucepan, mix cajun spice mix and beer. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk to make a thick paste. Gradually stir in cream to make a smooth sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add shrimp and stir. Reduce heat and cook shrimp over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Revisiting Oceana Grill

After Latoya Cantrell’s historic inauguration ceremony, my friends Lisa and Vincenzo and I followed Madam Mayor’s second line out of the Mahalia Jackson theater into Armstrong Park.

Madam Mayor in the light blue dress and white umbrella, stage left

Afterwards, we went seeking sustanence. It was Monday and our first two options weren’t open. We went with number three – Oceana Grill on Conti @ Bourbon. The last time I was here was 8 years ago and it stands the test of time as a casual dining establishment. It was as filled with local workers as tourists and we were served quickly with large portions of good food.

I went with the fried shrimp platter. Lots of them on the plate, plus hushpuppies and french fries. Nice bite to the jalapeno hush puppies and a nice fry on everything else.

Lisa had the Black and Bleu burger with blackening seasoning and blue cheese. Nice and beefy burger with a tangy sauce.

Vincenzo had the seafood platter, pilled high with oysters, catfish, shrimp. Lovely cornmeal batter on the thin and crispy catfish.

The server was friendly and quick with refills. For French Quarter dining, the prices are reasonable. I’d definitely stop by here again.

Oven Baked Shrimp Fajitas

My dad will pull a shrimp trawl several times over the summer and then we get to enjoy Alabama shrimp for the rest of the year. Here is a picture of him sorting the catch – we throw all the small fish back and the dolphins and pelicans come to feast.

This recipe uses a dry spice mix on the veggies and a one hour marinade on the shrimp for a quick, weeknight dinner. I served these on flour tortillas with refried beans, cheese, salsa and guacamole. 

The picture illustrates my family’s preferred shrimp to veggie ratio!

Oven Baked Shrimp Fajitas

1.5 to 2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 to 2 14.4 packages of bell pepper and onion stir fry
10 flour tortillas

Shrimp Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves minced garlic

Veggie Spice Mix

1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon dried cilantro flakes
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of smoked paprika

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the shrimp marinade and place in a zip top bag with the peeled and deveined shrimp. Smoosh the bag around to completely coat the shrimp. Place in the fridge for one hour.

Put together the dry spices. Place the veggies in a large bowl and toss with the spice mixture.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly oil a large, rimmed baking sheet. Put down the veggies as a base layer. Sprinkle the shrimp on top. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 8 minutes. Remove the shrimp and turn on the broiler. Cook for 2 additional minutes until shrimp is done.

Squeeze a little lime juice over the dish and serve with warm tortillas and your choice of add ins.