Sunday, August 29, 2010

Perfect Shrimp Etouffee

This recipe blew my socks off. I was shocked how simple and quick it was to cook an otherwise gourmet meal! If you get the roux right - you will be so impressed with this dish. Add a bit more cayenne pepper if you like it hot. I served the Etouffee and rice in a 1:1 ratio - 1 cup of Etouffee for one cup of prepared rice.


1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced celery
2 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 cup fish or shrimp stock
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
2TBSP chopped parsley
1 TSP cayenne pepper
1/12 lbs peeled & deveined shrimp
1 TSP fresh lime juice
Steamed white rice
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Slowly add the flour to the melted butter. Whisk/stir constantly for around 5-7 minutes on medium heat until roux is a golden brown color. To the roux, add onion, celery and garlic. Cook veggies until translucent - around 5 minutes. When vegetables are cooked, whisk in stock and water, bay leaf, parsley and cayenne pepper - bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and add shrimp to mixture. Stir and cover. Let cook on low for 8 minutes. Top with lime juice. Serve steaming hot over rice and top with choppen green onion. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

Straight from the famous Nick & Toni's in the Hamptons, I decided to try my hand at an authentic Italian Vodka sauce from scratch. The restaurant chef was featured on the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network preparing this exact recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly. However, I added a bit more red pepper flakes than the recipe called for. The smell was invigorating. My little apartment smelled like a restaurant straight out of Florence. The result was near perfection. I don't think I'll add the extra pepper next time around though - as the dish was a bit on the spicy side. I served the sauce with Rigatoni instead of Penne and it was a hit with my friends. We ate the dish with French bread and a big salad. Wonderful first recipe and experience to post about! Serve with a full-bodied Cabernet or Pinot Noir and enjoy.


1/4 cup good olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta
4 tablespoons fresh oregano
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

TIPS: I used one medium white onion instead of a "spanish onion." I also used Hunts whole peeled tomatos (no mention of "plum" on the label).

Beginning My Collection of Colorful Culinary Creations

Thus begins my culinary journey. I'm infamous for losing recipes I have made, not writing down recipes I've created and forgetting some of my favorite dishes. Therefore - I have decided to begin a blog that will capture not only recipes and dishes that I love - but will also host related articles, recipe feedback, ideas/suggestions and cooking tips galore.

Please note: I am by no means a chef or professional. This is just a down and dirty way for me to track my life's culinary journey and make notes of my learnings along the way. I hope you enjoy reading the posts as much as I know I'll enjoy writing them.


Feel free to make comments, offer suggestions, send tips or ideas and offer feedback to any of the recipes I post.