Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fish Soup

Believe me; this dish is so much better than it sounds. I probably should come up with a better name but figured fish soup is better than fish stew.  In actuality, it is more of a seafood bouillabaisse.  In Italy it could be called cioppino or acqua pazza; acqua pazza is Italian for “crazy water,” which is an aromatic fish broth flavored with white wine, garlic, and tomatoes.  Enough about that, you get the idea…..

This is the recipe I chose for Valentine’s Day per my husband’s request.  It is a recipe I came up with and have tweaked and perfected over the years.  It's a great winter meal.  

We normally don’t go out for Valentine’s Day because I don’t like holidays where the restaurants have a set menu and the place is packed.  Usually the service and the food suffer and it ends up being a less-than-stellar experience and, quite frankly, a waste of money.  (I feel this way about New Year’s Eve too.)  I think these busy, popular holidays are a good excuse to cook at home and make something a little extra special.

Romantic Table Setting

Fish Soup Recipe

  • 1 Leek (chopped)
  • 3 Garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 small Shallot (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp. Flour
  • 1 cup White Wine
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of one lemon)
  • 2 bottle of clam juice
  • 1 tsp. Saffron threads
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (pureed in food processor until smooth)
  • ¼ cup Whipping Cream
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (unsalted)
  • 1 lb. mussels
  • 8 shrimp
  • ½ lb. Bay scallops (small scallops)
  • 6 oz. fish (halibut or grouper)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes (depends how much heat you like, but about 1-2 tsp.)
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Cutting the Leeks
Clam Juice
Mincing the Shallots
Minced Garlic - Using my favorite kitchen gadget (mini food processor)
  1. Melt butter in a big pot over medium heat (do not substitute olive oil). Sweat/sauté leeks for about 1 minute, add shallots and sauté for another minute, then add garlic and sauté until soft (don’t let it get golden).
  2. Add the flour. Make sure to cook out the flour until it starts to turn golden (4-6 min.).
  3. Add the wine and reduce for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add the lemon juice and pureed tomatoes.
  5. Add the saffron, red pepper flakes, and clam juice.
  6. Simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, while the “broth” is still simmering, sauté the shrimp and fish in a pan with olive oil.
  8. Make sure to season the shrimp and fish with salt, pepper, and cayenne. The shrimp will take about 2 minutes on each side and the fish about 5 minutes each side depending on thickness. I add the shrimp and fish to the bowls and set aside (cover with foil) - I don't put them in the broth because I do not want them to get overcooked (the mussels and scallops are more forgiving).  The will warm back up once you pour the hot broth on top.
  9. Cook the mussels in a separate pot (you can use wine, clam juice, or chicken stock). Just put a little bit of liquid in the bottom of a sauce pan, bring to a boil, add the mussels and put the lid on. Stir occasionally. When all of the mussels are open add them to the broth.
  10. Sauté the scallops for 1-2 minutes (they won't be fully cooked but lightly seared) and add to the broth.
  11. Turn the heat up for the broth to  medium-high.  Add the cream and parmesan. Taste the broth before adding salt (the cheese will add a salty flavor).  Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add more cream or red pepper if you feel it is necessary.
  12. Dish into bowls and enjoy!   

Stirring in the flour with the leeks, garlic, and shallots.
Adding the tomatoes and the saffron.
Cooking the fish and scallops
Setting the shrimp aside in the bowl

Sides: I served it with a Bibb lettuce salad and French baguette, which is perfect for dipping in the broth.
Bibb Lettuce Salad
Miko can smell the cheese on the counter.....

Pairings: I like to serve this dish with a creamy, lightly oaked Chardonnay from Burgundy, France or a brut-style Champagne.

Dessert?   Strawberries dipped in Chocolate fondue.   


What is your favorite “romantic” meal to cook or eat?  Talk to me…..

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sweet-and-Sour Shrimp

I was looking through some of my pinned Pinterest recipes and I actually had all of the ingredients for this recipe so I thought I would whip it up for dinner.  

If you find it odd that I just happened to have shrimp laying around with no plans for it, I always have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer.  I buy the big bag of raw, big 21-25 count) shrimp at Costco (Kirkland brand).  It is easy to defrost a couple shrimp really quickly to use for a variety of dishes.  FYI - I don’t like to buy pre-cooked shrimp because when heating it up the texture changes and not in a good way.  Raw is the way to go, cuz you have more control over the cooking process.  

Original Recipe:

Food & Wine Magazine; Contributed by Grace Parisi
  • TOTAL TIME: 25 MIN; SERVINGS: 4 to 5

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese chile sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled 


  1. In a small bowl, whisk the ketchup with the soy sauce, chicken broth, sugar, chile sauce, cornstarch and vinegar.
  2. Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 10 seconds, until fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook until curled, but not cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk the sauce and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and the shrimp are cooked through, 3 minutes. 
The Sauce
Blanched Snow Peas

I seasoned the raw shrimp with salt, pepper, and cayenne

The cooked shrimp

Reducing the sauce
Cooking the snow peas over high heat
Finishing up the shrimp in the sauce
My Version: I followed the recipe except that I didn’t have any fresh ginger or garlic so I used them from my spices (minced garlic and ginger powder).  I also cooked the shrimp almost all the way (less than 2 minutes on each side) and then pulled them out of the pan and reduced the sauce for a bit (3-4 minutes); then I returned the shrimp to the pan for the last 45-60 seconds to warm them up and cook them through.

Sides: Serve with Snow peas and jasmine rice.  For the snow peas, I blanched them (put in boiling water for 30-60 seconds and then put in ice water) to set the color and cook them a bit and then I sautéd them in a pan on high heat with a little bit of sesame oil – it is quick; 2-3 minutes.  Top with toasted sesame seeds.   

My Verdict: I thought it was really easy and good.  I’m not sure if I would make it again but it was fun to try a new shrimp dish.  If I did make it again, I might do half ketchup and half Sriracha to add a little more spice.  

Pairings: I didn’t have wine with it, but it would be good with a Riesling or Gewürztraminer.

(2013 New Recipe #4)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Authentic New Orleans bread pudding with Bourbon sauce

A friend of mine has an annual Super Bowl party in which she asks guests to bring dishes from the cities of the playing teams or the location of the game.  I debated San Fran clam chowder or Baltimore crab cakes, but ultimately opted for New Orleans bread pudding.

I’ve never made bread pudding before so it was a fun new recipe to try.

Original Recipe:

Bourbon Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  •  1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey

Bread Pudding:

  • 1 loaf French bread, at least a day old, cut into 1-inch squares (about 6-7 cups)
  • 1 qt (4 cups) milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  •  2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup raisins (soaked overnight in 1/4 cup bourbon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  •  1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Bourbon Sauce:
In a saucepan, melt butter; add sugar and egg, whisking to blend well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. (Do not allow to simmer, or it may curdle.) Whisk in bourbon to taste. Remove from heat. Whisk before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth.

Bread Pudding:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Soak the bread in milk in a large mixing bowl. Press with hands until well mixed and all the milk is absorbed. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices together. Gently stir into the bread mixture. Gently stir the raisins into the mixture.
  3. Pour butter into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour in the bread mix and bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan. Can also make in individual ramekins.
  4. Serve with bourbon whiskey sauce on the side; pour on to taste. Best fresh and eaten the day it is made.

My version:
  • I decided to toast the bread.  I figured it would give it a bit more texture and help it hold up better when soaking it in milk.  I cut up the bread, melted 2 Tbsp. of butter and mixed it with the bread.   I then baked it in the oven at 380° for 10 minutes and let it cool down before I soaked it in the milk.
  • I just buttered the pan with a stick of butter, I didn’t melt 3 Tbsp. and pour it in.  I figured there was plenty of butter in the sauce and the bread that it wouldn't stick to the pan - I was right.  
  • Instead of serving the sauce on the side I just drizzled it over the top of the whole thing when it came out of the oven so that it would kind of melt into the bread. 
  • I didn't have Kentucky bourbon in my liquor cabinet and used Maker's Mark instead.  
  • Instead of using 1 cup of booze, I only used ½ cup.  Which was plenty; you could definitely taste the booze.  I was surprised how prevalent it was since I had cut the amount in half.   I highly recommend just using ½ cup.     

Cutting the bread into 1-inch pieces

Ready to toast

Butter Toasted Bread

The Sauce

Soaking the bread in milk

Ready for the oven
The bread pudding was delicious and a big hit at the party - people were eating it with their fingers as they would walk by.  It was irresistible.  One guy who said that bread pudding is his favorite dessert confirmed that "I nailed it."    
I would definitely make it again.  One thing I would do differently is cut the bread smaller, I forget how much the bread "grows" after absorbing the milk.


(2013 New Recipe #3)