Three days of food!

For the holiday weekend, my parents decided to come visit.  So it was another long weekend of celebratory food.  Here is some of what we’ve enjoyed here in sunny, beautiful Austin.

Happy hour!  Started the weekend early at 4:00pm at Freddie’s.

Crème brûlée at the Driskill ($6 – and a ridiculous $3 during happy hour).

Breakfast tacos from Arturo’s (now open again for Saturday breakfast, 9:00am – 1:00pm!).

Milanos dipped in coffee!

My new favorite allergy medicine: the Tartufo cocktail at Sagra (regular $10, $8 during happy hour).  Waterloo Gin (from Treaty Oak Distilling Co.), honey, and lemon.

Gin and tonic, expertly mixed by one of my favorite bartenders in Austin, Dred at Clay Pit.

One of the specialties of the house at Clay Pit: Khuroos-E-Tursh.  Khuroos-E-Tursh ($15.00).  Medallions of chicken-breast stuffed with seasoned spinach, mushrooms, onions & cheese, simmered in a rich cashew-almond cream sauce.  Possibly one of my all-time favorite dishes.

Goan Yellow Curry with Shrimp ($15).

Perfect basmati rice.

Aloo Ghobi: braised cauliflower and potato curry  ($10).

Threadgill’s special: Shiner-braised pot roast served over mashed potatoes, with a side of black-eyed peas and macaroni and cheese ($12.95).

Chag Pesach Sameach, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring!

Skillet Paella at Joe’s Crab Shack on Town Lake: clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and sausage simmered in a tomato basil sauce served over rice and topped with crispy calamari.

Salmon Orleans, topped with a creamy Cajun sauce and crawfish, shrimp, and andouille sausage. Served on a bed of dirty rice. This was awesome.

Ragin’ Cajun Steam Pot: Dungeness crab, Queen crab, shrimp, andouille sausage, and corn on the cob.


Butter-Themed Dinner Party, Y’all

I’d been looking forward to it for weeks—no, months.

The butter-themed dinner party.

Inspired by previous loosely-themed dinner parties with a couple of friends, Eric and I headed over to the Windsor Park neighborhood one warm Thursday evening to enjoy a menu of which Paula Deen would most certainly approve.

Our gracious host started the evening off with a round of fancy jalapeño cocktails. While I didn’t take note of his top secret recipe, it was something like this, with rum and sugar. Refreshing, with just a little kick. Okay, okay – so the cocktail didn’t include butter. Stick with me here.

While we settled in for what turned out to be a marathon night of many small, artful courses more worthy of Andalucian lingering than Austin mouth-shoveling, our hostess brought out an appetizer I’m still salivating over: homemade radish butter with pumpernickel. It was rich, fresh, a little salty, and absolutely addictive.

Then we moved on to Eric’s homegrown salad, with freshly-picked mixed leaves, mint, oregano, basil, homemade croutons, cherry tomatoes, and (from Wheatsville) grated parmesan, Kalamata olives, and toasted pecans, all topped with a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This was enjoyed with a cup of my reheated Squash Soup, which included a generous amount of butter.

The next course was the One That Changed Everything. My first serving of fresh, homemade pasta. Yes, I am serious. Luckily for me, the cook is bit of an expert on all things Italian, and Eric and I were happy to reap the benefits of the time he’s spent in both Italy and Sardinia, as well as, apparently, the kitchen. This pasta was amazing. Since it’s about 300 degrees in Texas right now, and the pasta was so fresh and delicate, we didn’t ruin it by drowning it in sauce or weighing it down with heavy meats or strong flavors. Our hosts have the enviable problem of a rather profusive sage bush that’s growing in their front yard, so they just browned some butter, fried the fresh sage in it, and poured that over the homemade fettuccine with a quick shaving of parmesan. Squisito.

I’ve got to make this.

Finally, the main course. Perfect pan-seared scallops with daikon radish, carrot, and leek purée. Just look at it.

For dessert, we had ice cream bars and Scotch on the deck. And, despite all this butter-based indulgence, we weren’t even stuffed; spreading the many small courses out over a whole evening made for a sustained appetite and some great conversation.

I think Lucky Cat was a little jealousl

Zesty Baby Shrimp with Cheesy Creamed Cauliflower

This recipe is a low-carb twist on the classic Southern shrimp and grits meal. It’s fast and easy comfort food.

You might even be able to find a prepacked mix of dried spices very similar to this; if not, the more unusual ingredients can be had at an Asian market, mixed in advance, and saved in a sealed container in the pantry for months. I also highly recommend this herb and spice mix for any baked or grilled seafood or chicken; it’s a little spicy, somewhat complex, and very flavorful.  I based it on Henry Langdon’s Sea Salt Rub, a mix brought back from Australia by a couple of friends, to which I became rather addicted!

The cauliflower makes a surprisingly rich base in lieu of grits.  In fact, among my friends, this is the most popular of all my paleo/low-carb recipes.

For the shrimp
1 lb baby (or regular) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp fresh cilantro, finely diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp dried and chopped kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the cauliflower
2 Tbsp butter
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and washed*
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric, or to taste
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a baking tin, mix all shrimp ingredients until the shrimp are evenly smothered in oil, herbs, and spices. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, wash and roughly chop cauliflower. In a food processor (or by hand), finely dice cauliflower to desired texture (I like mine fairly smooth but still rough, about like the traditional grits this recipe is based on). With a small food processor, this may take up to four rounds. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in cauliflower and allow to cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure your cauliflower doesn’t stick; if it does, add more butter and/or reduce heat.

3. Stir cream into the saucepan and allow to come just to a boil, before reducing heat to simmer. Continue to stir frequently until the cauliflower mixture has evenly absorbed the cream, then add the rest of the cauliflower dish’s ingredients and stir thoroughly. Keep over a low heat until the shrimp are done.

4. As your cauliflower finishes cooking, briefly broil shrimp for approximately two minutes, but do not brown. Remove from oven; stir cauliflower mixture thoroughly.

5. Spoon cheesy cauliflower into two shallow bowls (medium pasta plates are ideal), and top with shrimp. Serve immediately.

*You can also use frozen, pre-washed cauliflower.  I keep some on hand in the freezer for just these occasions.

Stella’s Easy Shrimp and Grits

My friends Mike and Laura recently gave me a delightfully foodie souvenir from their recent trip to Australia: a jar of Henry Langdon’s Sea Salt Rub, with coriander, chilli [sic], and kaffir lime. My mind immediately started racing, trying to land upon the perfect recipe.

While lounging out by the pool today, I told my neighbor Johnny that I was considering using it to make baked chicken and rice, but he suggested I use shrimp instead, which led to the epiphany: shrimp and grits (and chicken).

This recipe took me 30 minutes, dirtied exactly three bowls/pans, and was out-of-this-world delicious. Proof that four minds are better than one.

2 cups fresh or frozen shrimp
6 chicken tenders (or breasts cut lengthwise into three)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup Henry Landgon’s Sea Salt Rub: Coriander, Chilli, and Kaffir Lime or, for those of you not in Australia, a mixture of same in roughly equal parts, including: sea salt flakes, red pepper flakes, dried coriander, garlic powder, black pepper, ground ginger, and ground kaffir lime leaves
~2 cups prepared grits (I suggest using my Horseradish Cheese Grits recipe, as I did here)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Pour olive oil in a baking dish, then stir in shrimp and chicken until well-coated. Pour in salt rub mixture and stir until all pieces of meat are evenly coated in herbs and spices.

2. Cook for approximately 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your grits and leave them thickening over low heat, keeping the cheese, butter, and horseradish to the side.

3. After 25 minutes, turn oven to broil. Fold butter, horseradish, and cheese into grits (as per recipe).

4. Spoon out grits onto the center of two large plates. Remove shrimp and chicken from oven and artfully arrange the pieces evenly over the grits. Sprinkle with leftover cheese and dust with a little more freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Rosemary Lemon Sauce

I had some salmon, fresh rosemary, and a lemon. This recipe is the result. Not bad!

It was both refreshingly easy and refreshingly lemony.  The lightly seared salmon was juicy and flavorful, so I’ll definitely be using this method again.  This fish dish is especially irresistible with a warm helping of cheesy mashed potatoes with rosemary; feel free to spoon some of the sauce over them, as well.

For the salmon
2 skinless salmon fillets
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups arugula, washed and air-dried

For the sauce
1 shallot, fine diced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 white wine
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
a dash of lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Gentle rinse the fillets under running water, then pat dry with paper towels. In a shallow bowl, gently rub 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper, into salmon and set aside.

2. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Once pan is hot, toss in about another Tbsp of olive oil so that pan is coated. Place each salmon fillet in the skillet, and cook for about two minutes. Then flip each piece and cook for a further two minutes. Move the skillet to the oven and cook for about six or seven minutes, or a bit longer if you are cooking a large fillet or steak.

3. Remove the salmon from the skillet and turn off the oven. Place fillets on a plate and cover with foil to retain warmth while you make the sauce. Pour of any excess oil, leaving just a bit, along with any flakes of roasted salmon, and put the skillet on high heat. Add chicken broth, wine, shallots, garlic, and rosemary. Stir constantly for about five minutes, as wine cooks off, then remove from heat and add butter. Whisk quickly until the sauce thickens slightly. Finally, add the lemon juice and zest, a dash of salt and pepper, and pour over the salmon.

4. Serve immediately on a bed of arugula.

Serves two.