Shrimp & Grits with Garlicky Roasted Poblano-Jalapeño Sauce

Annually, we treat ourselves to Southern shrimp and grits over Easter weekend. This year, I served the special dish using purple “unicorn” grits from Millers All Day in Charleston, South Carolina. Festive!

This version was topped with a spicy and garlicky roasted poblano-jalapeño sauce which had a terrific balance with the rich, cheesy grits. The shrimp was also cooked in garlic oil. It was a great variation to try for the garlic and sauce lovers in my house. 🙂 The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Marc Meyer. I modified the method and proportions.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk 
  • coarse salt 
  • 1 cup stone-ground white grits (I used stone-ground unicorn grits)
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup) 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 jalapeño chile 
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced 
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 T freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1/2 an orange)
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp, patted dry (I used 21-25 count per pound)
  1. Place oven rack in the highest position and set to broil. Place the jalapeño and poblano chiles on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil until blackened all over, about 3 minutes per side.
  2. Remove from the oven and wrap in the foil. Allow to steam and cool for 10 minutes, then rub off the skins. Stem and seed the chiles.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Whisk in the grits and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the grits are tender and very thick, about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the milk, cheese, and butter. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. (I used about 1/2 tsp salt.) Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then keep warm.
  6. In a small skillet, cook the garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat, stirring, until the garlic is softened and very lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a blender. Add the chiles and the orange juice and puree until smooth. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and puree until creamy. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Pat the shrimp dry and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of garlic oil. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Heat a very large skillet until very hot, about 2 minutes.
  10. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook until browned and just cooked through, about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.
  11. To serve, spoon the grits into bowls and top with sauce and shrimp. Serve additional sauce at the table.

Meyer Lemon & Orange Twist Bread

Happy Belated Easter! I made this elegant citrus twist bread for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter described it as similar to panettone but without the dried fruit. My son agreed but stated that this was much better. 🙂 It was very moist and tender.

This recipe was adapted from Food 52.com, contributed by Samantha Seneviratne. I used Meyer lemon zest and omitted the grapefruit zest. I also modified the method.

Because of the rise times, I prepared the dough through the first rise two days in advance and completed the second rise and baked it one day prior to serving. We ate it reheated- which was essential. The original recipe suggests sprinkling the top with confectioners’ sugar or drizzling it with glaze. I opted for the simple sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar but know it would also be delicious with the glaze. Lovely.

Yield: 8 servings

For the Dough:

  • 1/3 cup warm whole milk (110°F) (I used whole milk)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes

For the Filling and to Finish the Bread: 

  • freshly grated orange zest from 3 to 4 oranges (about 3 tablespoons)
  • freshly grated zest from 3 Meyer lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional

To Make the Dough:

  1. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the warm milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, or a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flour, and salt.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the yeast mixture, the egg, and the egg yolk, and mix until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (Alternatively, knead this mixture by hand on a clean work surface.) 
  4. Add the butter, a bit at a time, and continue to mix or knead the dough until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth, another 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky. If you’re doing this by hand, you can use a bench scraper to help scoop the dough up as you knead it. It may look like it’s never going to incorporate, but keep kneading and it will.
  5. Once the dough is fully incorporated, gather it into a neat ball and place in a lightly greased bowl.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 2 hours. (I used a proofing oven.) After the dough has doubled, you can punch it down, wrap it well and refrigerate for up to 2 to 3 days. (I refrigerated it overnight.)

To Make the Filling and to Finish the Bread:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the citrus zest, sugar, and salt together using your fingers to release some of the citrus oils. Add the butter and mix until well combined. (I reserved the soft room-temperature butter and spread it over the rolled out dough instead.)
  2. Tip the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead it once or twice to expel the air. Roll it out into an 8-inch by 17-inch rectangle.
  3. Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the bread.
  4. Starting from one of the long ends, roll the dough up into a tight coil. Pinch the ends to seal the roll.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise.
  6. Transfer the two pieces of dough to a piece of parchment paper, cut sides up. Pinch the two pieces together at one end and then carefully twist the two pieces of dough together. Take care not to stretch the dough and to keep the cut sides up.
  7. Coil the twist around to make a wreath and connect the ends, making sure to continue the twisting pattern.
  8. Transfer the wreath, on the parchment, to a rimmed baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise. (I used a proofing oven.) It could take up to 2 hours for the wreath to puff so it’s better to keep an eye on the dough rather than the clock. You’ll know it’s ready when it looks puffed and and it rises back slowly when you gently press it with your finger.
  9. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  10. Carefully brush the wreath with the egg wash.
  11. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 18 minutes, on convection, or up to 30 minutes in a standard oven. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bread should register between 190°F and 200°F.
  12. Transfer the wreath to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Notes:

The twist bread can also be drizzled with a simple glaze of room temperature cream cheese mixed with some warm milk and confectioners’ sugar.

The bread can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

White Borscht

Before I was introduced to this recipe, I thought that borscht was always a deep red, beet-based soup. I now know that borscht means “sour.” The sour tang in this soup comes from soaking sourdough bread in the broth, puréeing it, and incorporating it into the finished soup, along with crème fraiche which is stirred in just prior to serving.

I made my first homemade borscht (the beet-based version) for Christmas Eve, and my husband purchased pierogies at a Polish store for the same meal. Luckily, I saw this recipe and he was also able to buy house-made garlic kielbasa for this soup. The quality of the kielbasa is very important because it is used to create the broth for the base of this soup.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Gabrielle Hamilton.  I followed the recipe closely, but may decrease the amount of butter next time- I’m not sure it was necessary! (but it was quite delicious 😉 ) It was a creamy, indulgent, and delicious upgrade of potato-leek soup. Fabulous cold-weather comfort food.

Yield: 5 quarts, Serves 10 to 12

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds full horseshoe link of high-quality smoked kielbasa
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 pounds leeks (6 long, lively leeks)
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes (about 4)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 large yellow onion, small-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (4-ounce) hunk of dense, very sour sourdough bread, crusts removed
  • 1 full tablespoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, woody stems removed, fronds minced

Traditional Ukrainian Easter Bread Podil’ia Style (Podil’ska Paska)

Happy Belated Easter! We were very lucky to enjoy beautiful weather yesterday. 🙂

I like to bake new Easter breads to serve for our holiday breakfast. This year, I looked through my Ukrainian cookbook collection for a paska (Ukrainian Easter bread) recipe.

My mother-in-law has given me several Ukrainian cookbooks and there were many variations of paska to choose from- all quite different from one another depending upon the region of their origin. Traditionally, a paska or babka is an essential part of an Easter breakfast. Many are beautifully decorated with a cross, braid, or birds. This version is more of a cake, with batter, and did not have dough that could be used to decorate the top.

The recipe was adapted from Festive Ukrainian Cooking by Marta Pisetska Farley. According to the book, this paska recipe, from the northwest province of Podil’ia, is at least a hundred years old! It is a golden paska, reminiscent of the sun, and is similar to a sponge cake.  It was very rich and indulgent.

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup dry white bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 10 large or extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 to 4 T powdered sugar
  1. Line the bottom and sides or a 9, 10 or 12-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Because I used a 9-inch pan (smaller than the original recipe suggests), I cut 7-inch tall pieces of parchment paper to line the sides of the pan, buttered on the portion lining the walls of the pan and sprayed with cooking spray above the walls of the pan.)
  2. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  3. Sift the bread crumbs until fine, then sift again with the flour baking powder, and spices.
  4. Add the grated lemon and orange zest.
  5. Separate the eggs.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the vanilla and beat again.
  8. Fold the bread crumb mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
  9. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the batter until no white streaks can be seen.
  10. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until set or a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour. (I was afraid that the cake would fall if I checked it too early- and baked it for 1 hour.)
  11. When fully baked, keep the cake in the oven with the door ajar, and allow to cool slowly. (The cake may fall slightly. Mine did!)
  12. When cool, remove the parchment paper and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. Serve.

Cinnamon-Date Sticky Buns with Vanilla Glaze

The photo of this special breakfast is on the cover of the April issue of Bon Appétit. I made it almost immediately after seeing the magazine! I really liked the idea of using dates in the filling to add a little bit of natural sweetness and fiber- and to reduce the amount of sugar. Yum.

This recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz, Sohla El-Waylly, and Sarah Jampel. It was included in an article titled, “Butter, Sugar, Flour, Magic: A Basically Guide to Better Baking.” There are a lot of other delicious treats included in the article. 🙂 I made the dough and the date filling the day before assembling and baking.

It would be a lovely breakfast to serve on Easter morning.

Yield: 9 sticky buns

For the Dough:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 7 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4-oz (2 1/4 tsp) envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Filling and Assembly:

  • 1 cup (180 g) packed Medjool dates, halved, pitted
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (83 g) Confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 T buttermilk or plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

To Make the Dough:

  1. Combine the buttermilk and 6 tablespoons of oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. (It won’t get smooth.) Heat in the microwave in three 10-second intervals until just about body temperature, or when it registers 98°F with an instant-read thermometer. (Alternatively, the mixture can be heated in a small saucepan on medium-low for about 1 minute.)
  2. Whisk egg, brown sugar, and yeast in a liquid measuring cup to combine, then whisk in the buttermilk mixture.
  3. Pulse the flour, baking soda, and salt in a food processor to combine.
  4. With the motor running, stream in the buttermilk mixture. Process until about 80% of the dough comes together in a ball, about 2 minutes. (The mixture will look very wet at first, then the sides will begin to pull away.)
  5. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto an unfloured surface. (It will be wet and sticky.)
  6. Knead, pushing it away from you, then pulling it back toward you, until a smooth ball forms, about 3 minutes. (You can lightly oil your hands if the dough is too sticky.) The dough will grow silkier, tighter, and easier to work with as you knead.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rough 8-inch square.
  8. Fold dough over onto itself to make and 8×4-inch rectangle, then flatten it slightly and fold over once more to make a 4-inch square.
  9. Roll dough back out into an 8-inch square.
  10. Repeat the folding process (Step 8); you will finish with a 4-inch square.
  11. Pour remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium bowl and add dough (still folded); turn to coat.
  12. Cover bowl tightly and chill dough until doubled in volume, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. (I refrigerated my dough overnight.)

To Make the Filling and Assemble:

  1. Place dates in a small bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups hot water to cover. Let soak until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain dates and transfer to a food processor; discard soaking liquid.
  3. Add cinnamon, salt, and 2 tablespoons of oil.
  4. Purée, scraping down sides as needed, until smooth, about 4 minutes. (You should have about 1/2 cup purée.)
  5. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  6. Transfer dough to a clean, unfloured surface and roll out to an 8-inch square.
  7. Fold in half into an 8×4-inch rectangle, then fold rectangle over itself to form a 4-inch square. If dough feels tough and uncooperative, let it sit for about 5 minutes to relax and try again.
  8. Roll out dough into a 12-inch square, about 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Dollop date purée all over. Using a small offset spatula, spread evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border without purée along edge farthest from you.
  10. Sprinkle brown sugar over purée.
  11. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll up dough into a tight log.
  12. Using a sharp serrated knife and long sawing motions, trim about 1/2-inch of dough from both ends. (These ends can be discarded, but I baked them in a separate small ramekin.)
  13. Slice log crosswise into 3 sections, wiping knife clean between cuts.
  14. Slice each section crosswise into 3 buns. (I used a ruler.) You should have 9 buns total that are each about 1-inch thick. Transfer buns to prepared pan as you go.
  15. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Place in a warm, dry spot. (I used plastic wrap so that I could monitor the rising process. I also placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
  16. Let buns rise until they’re doubled in volume and spring back when poked, leaving only a small indentation, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the humidity and warmth of your kitchen.
  17. Remove plastic wrap, if using, and cover pan with foil.
  18. Place a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  19. Bake buns, still covered, until puffed, pale, and mostly set, about 20 minutes. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces, covered with foil, at the same time.)
  20. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes if you prefer a soft and squishy bun and up to 25 minutes for a more toasted bun. Let cool slightly. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces at this point for about 5 minutes- uncovered.)
  21. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl to combine.
  22. Brush glaze over warm buns and serve in skillet.

Do Ahead: Purée can be made 3 days ahead. Place in an airtight container, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Union Square Cafe’s Seared Salmon with Spinach, Corn & Mushrooms

I made this lovely dish for Easter dinner. The sauce was absolutely incredible. I also loved that the salmon was served over a plate of sautéed vegetables. The recipe was adapted from one of the most popular menu items at NYC’s Union Square Café in the 1990’s.

The recipe is from the 40th Anniversary Special Edition of Food and Wine magazine titled “Our 40 Best-Ever Recipes,” contributed by Michael Romano.  I am keeping this issue as a “cookbook” because I want to try so many (practically all!) of the dishes. The issue states that this salmon dish is one of the best recipes Food and Wine has ever published. Very special.

We finished our meal with a celebratory Bunny Cake, of course!

Yield: Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course (this recipe can be doubled easily)

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 ounces), divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (I used 1/2 of a large red onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves (2 thinly sliced and 1 whole), divided
  • 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps quartered, divided
  • 1 medium-size ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3-4 ears)
  • 1 (1 to 1 1/2 pound) center-cut salmon fillet, sliced crosswise into 4 to 6 strips
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Make the Sauce:

  1. Cut 6 tablespoons butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-low.
  3. Add onion, sliced garlic, shiitake stems, tomato, black peppercorns, and bay leaf, and cook until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add balsamic vinegar and 1/3 cup water, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, about 4 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to low, and add cubed butter, 2 to 3 pieces at a time, whisking thoroughly between additions.
  6. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids.
  8. Keep sauce warm over a double boiler.
Prepare the Spinach:
  1. Spear whole garlic clove with a dinner fork. (I’ve never done this before- genius!)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high until just beginning to smoke.
  3. Add spinach; cook, stirring using fork with garlic clove, until spinach is wilted.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste; transfer to a colander to drain. Discard garlic clove.
Prepare the Corn & Mushrooms:
  1. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Reduce heat to medium, and add 3 tablespoons butter.
  2. Add shiitake caps, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in corn kernels; cook until completely heated through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, and keep warm.
  1. Increase heat to high, and add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet.
  2. Season salmon strips with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add fish to skillet, and cook until browned but barely cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
To Serve:
  1. Divide spinach among 6 plates; surround with corn and shiitakes.
  2. Place a salmon strip on top of spinach, and spoon vinegar sauce on fish.
  3. Garnish with a sprinkling of chives; serve immediately.

Shrimp & Grits with Mustard Seed Chowchow

Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. As a tribute, I make a lot of Southern food. 🙂 I also make shrimp and grits as part of our traditional Easter celebration.

We were lucky enough to travel back to Charleston recently and we brought home a couple of different types of grits. The fresh from South Carolina grits really made this dish extra special. I also baked the grits for the first time and the results were amazing. I used a blend of stone ground white and yellow grits for this dish, but, I also have special pink “unicorn grits” from Millers All Day which I’ll be sure to share with you in another dish.

This dish is from a Food and Wine “staff-favorite” recipe, contributed by Isaac Toups of Toups South in New Orleans. It was absolutely incredible. (We need to go to his restaurant!)  It may be quite difficult to try a new version next year. I served it with roasted asparagus. Lovely.

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Toss together shrimp and Cajun seasoning in a medium bowl. Cover; refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Place milk and 1/4 cup butter in a medium ovenproof saucepan. Bring to a vigorous simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.
  4. Gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and grits are evenly suspended in milk, about 6 minutes.
  5. Cover saucepan; transfer to preheated oven. Bake until grits are tender, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven; stir in 2 teaspoons salt and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Cover to keep warm until ready to use. (I put the pot in a warming oven.)
  6. While the grits are in the oven, stir together vinegar, 3/4 cup water, sugar, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil over high.
  7. Stir in mustard seeds. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until seeds are tender, about 35 minutes.
  8. Add tomato and bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and mixture has thickened, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from heat.
  9. Remove shrimp from refrigerator. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high until smoking.
  10. Add shrimp to skillet in a single layer; cook until opaque and lightly charred, about 1 minute and 30 seconds per side.
  11. To serve, divide grits among 4 bowls. Top evenly with shrimp and chowchow; sprinkle with sliced scallion.

Note: The chowchow can be made up to a week in advance.

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