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Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

The official grilling season is here!  Aren’t you excited?  I am!  I love grilling food–fat steaks cooked rare, with the bits of fat, crackling and brown;  eggplant and zucchini, smoky and tender; pineapple dipped in rum and sugar, caramelized by flame–it’s all so, so good.

This year, I decided to roll out an old favorite for my first meal on the grill:  Paella.  When Choo and I were first dating, I had purchased a paella pan.  Now, Choo was very anti-seafood (with the exception of some shrimp) back in those days, so I’d make it with chicken thighs, sausage, and a few shrimp–delicious by all means, but not as exciting as the Seafood Extravaganza that paella can be.  He’s comfortable with pretty much all seafood these days, so now I can have fun with adding tons of mussels, clams, and shrimp.  My old paella pan was lost in our big move in 2001, and I didn’t bother to get a new one until just recently when we recalled how much we loved cooking paella out on the grill, and how fun it was to have a big, brimming pan of savory rice and meats to share with friends on a Saturday night.

Everyone knows one of the key ingredients to paella is saffron, which creates the distinctive golden-yellow rice, but the important component to flavor the dish is sofrito–a combination of tomatoes, onion and garlic typical to several Mediterranean cuisines.  A Spanish sofrito takes those tomatoes, onions and garlic and finely minces  them (best done using a box grater or a the grater attachment in a food processor), and slowly simmers the mixture with olive oil until the liquids are evaporated and what is left is nearly a paste, a deep-reddish brown and rich in flavor.

Sofrito simmering away in the paella pan.

Why cook paella on a grill?  The first answer is that it is an authentic way to cook paella–they are traditionally cooked over an open fire, and the smoke adds more character to the dish as a whole.  Secondly, paella pans are large–mine happens to be an 18″– and they just do not fit well on a stove.  Sure, you can do it on the stove, but you will be turning the pan constantly to try to keep the heat even.

When making paella on the grill, one of the major components to having everything come together easily will be doing all your prep before heading outside to cook.  While you light your charcoal and wait for it to be ready (usually about 30 minutes or so), is a perfect time to get all your ingredients measured out and ready to go.

Once the sofrito has cooked down, the sliced sausage is added and browned quickly, chicken stock added and brought to a boil, rice sprinkled in, then all the seafood and vegetables carefully placed in the pan.  A few minutes covered with foil helps cook the shellfish.

When the paella comes off the grill, a generous sprinkling of fresh chopped basil and parsley finishes the dish.

Paella is such a great, fun communal meal to have with a few friends–a pitcher of sangria and a crusty baguette with some olive oil for dipping, and you’re set to go.

Paella Mixta

Proportions are for an 18″ paella pan–serves 6 generously.

  • 1/2 teaspoon Saffron threads
  • 7 cups low-sodium Chicken Stock
  • 3 large Tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed
  • 2 small Onions, trimmed and peeled
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse-ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry-cured Chorizo, sliced (Linguica or Andouille can be used as a substitute)
  • 2 1/2 cups Valencia or Bomba rice (a short-grain rice  like Arborio can be used as a substitute)
  • 2 pounds Mussels, scrubbed and beards removed (toss any with cracked shells or shells that remain open after tapping)
  • 8 Littleneck Clams, scrubbed
  • 1 1/2 pounds Jumbo Shrimp, deveined, shell-on
  • 1 cup frozen Peas
  • 2 cups frozen quartered Artichoke Hearts
  • 1/2 cup jarred Piquillo Peppers, sliced into 1/2″ strips (roasted red bell peppers can be used as a substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  1. Start grill–charcoal should have a full grey ash coat.  A hand placed 2″ above the grill can be held to a count of 4.
  2. While charcoal heats up, place saffron in a saucepan and break up threads with the side of a wooden spoon.  Add chicken stock to saucepan and bring to a full boil.  Once the stock comes to a boil, take off heat and let saffron steep in the stock.
  3. Using a box grater or grater attachment in a food processor, shred tomatoes and onions and pour into a bowl.  Finely mince garlic and add to sofrito base.  Stir in paprika, salt, and pepper and set aside.
  4. Once charcoal is ready, place paella pan on grill and heat; add olive oil.
  5. Pour sofrito into pan and stir frequently; simmer until all liquid has evaporated.
  6. Add sausage, toss and let brown for about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Pour in chicken stock and stir.  Bring to a full simmer.
  8. Sprinkle in rice and stir.  Distribute rice evenly with a spoon and then let rice simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the rice starts to absorb the liquid.
  9. Place clams and mussels hinge-down into rice, evenly distributing them around the pan.  Add shrimp, peas, artichoke hearts and peppers.  Once the stock is at a full simmer again, lightly tent with aluminum foil and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 8-10 minutes.
  10. Let paella rest for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle with chopped parsley and basil before serving.
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I thought I had everything.

You know what I mean–you have an idea of what you’re going to make, and while you’re at the store, you’re picking everything you need, with the thought in mind that you already have one of the key ingredients at home.  You get home, and find that the ingredient you were sure you had isn’t there.

With the cooler weather finally taking root here, my thoughts turned to a creamy corn chowder, flavored with red peppers and bacon, and loaded with big, meaty pieces of shrimp.  I get home from the market, with everything I thought I needed for the chowder in tow.  I get the bacon cooking in the pot while I start chopping vegetables, and I bend down to retrieve a few potatoes from their storage drawer, and to my surprise, they were all gone!  It seems that Choo has taken a liking to making baked potatoes for his lunch, and I was completely out.

Now, see, it’s not a tragedy, because it certainly was a fine soup, but I can’t call it chowder.  Why?  One of our lessons in school was on chowders, and for a soup to be a true chowder, it must contain three items:

  1. Salt pork.  Traditionally, it’s fatback, but bacon works just fine.
  2. Dairy, either in milk or cream, or a combination of the two.
  3. Potatoes.

Ah, you see?

But it’s still a really good soup.

By the way, this recipe makes a rather big pot of soup, but this was even better the next day for lunches, and it freezes nicely.

Creamy Corn, Shrimp & Bacon Soup

1/2 pound of bacon, chopped

1 pound raw shrimp (medium-sized, 31-40), peeled and deveined

1 medium onion, small dice

1 red bell pepper, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds corn kernels (frozen is just fine in this case)

4-5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

2 1/2 cups chicken stock ( a little more if you like it a bit soupier)

1 cup half & half

Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, cook bacon until crispy over medium heat.  Remove bacon and set aside; drain all but 2-3 tablespoons of bacon fat from pot.
  2. In the remaining bacon fat, sauté shrimp until pink and flesh is firm, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to pot, and sweat until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add corn, then add thyme, bay leaf, and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and add half & half.
  6. Before bringing soup back to a full simmer, either use an immersion blender and give the soup a few pulses, or take about 2 cups of the soup and puree in a blender, and return to pot.
  7. Bring soup to a full simmer, and add bacon and shrimp.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.

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I have found myself addicted to Foodgawker these days–if you’re not familiar, go on, take a look.  I’ll wait.

Is that not just Food Porn Central?  I probably check that site about three times a day to see what goes up.  I’ve attempted an entry, but my picture wasn’t good enough (not bitter about it–I welcome constructive criticism, and it’s made me focus on trying to take better pictures with my little camera).  Some things don’t quite spin my salad, such as anything that puts the two words Vegan and Chocolate together;  bless your little organic cotton socks, Vegans, but I’m just not going there.  Sometimes, I find a recipe that catches my interest and I think with a few of my own personal tweaks, it would make a fine meal.

For Sunday lunch, I did just that.  I went with shrimp instead of chicken, since, well, Choo and I do love shrimp, and I felt it would fit this better for us personally.  I dropped the fish sauce (not a big fan) and went with soy sauce,  just went with the juice of one lime, and skipped the sugar.  As for the vegetables, I halved the amount of red onion and substituted the other half with thinly sliced radishes.  Instead of that crazy amount of mint, I reduced the mint to 1/4 cup, and replaced the other 1/2 cup with chopped cilantro.  I sprinkled the salad with about 3 tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar, with salt and pepper to taste.  Of course, once all was said and done, it was an entirely different recipe, and absolutely perfect for a lunch on warm Sunday afternoon.

Spicy Shrimp, Cucumber & Radish Salad

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound of large shrimp, shell-on,  deveined, defrosted

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more to taste)

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a very hot skillet or wok, add your oil, then toss in your shrimp, stirring often.  When the shrimp shells start turning pink (about 2 minutes), add in garlic, pepper flakes, lime juice and soy sauce, and stir until the shrimp have finished cooking, approximately 2-4 minutes more.  Put shrimp into a bowl and set aside to cool.

shrimpsalad1

Mmmm, garlicky sea bugs.

While your shrimp cool, prepare the salad:

1 English “hothouse” cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 small bunch radishes (about 8), thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

3 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste

If you have a mandolin, this is the time to break it out, as having everything thinly sliced is what makes this salad special.

Toss the sliced vegetables and herbs with the vinegar, salt and pepper.

shrimpsalad2

Let the salad sit for a few minutes to marinate while you peel the shrimp.

Toss in shrimp.

shrimpsalad3

Eat with relish; fight over seconds.

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