Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Firecracker Shrimp

This recipe won the party food contest sponsored by Marx Foods.

The contest attracted 95 entries (including my Easy Spinach and Artichoke Dip), and the winning Firecracker Shrimp garnered 353 votes from the readers of the Marx Foods blog.

The Firecracker Shrimp recipe came from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen: Modern Asia.

24 medium tail-on shrimp, shelled (leave tail on) and deveined
1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
1/4 cup (65 ml) water
12 egg roll or fresh spring roll wrappers, cut in half and covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth
Oil, for frying
1/2 cup (125 ml) sweet chili sauce , for serving as a dipping sauce

1. Lay the shrimp flat on a cutting board and using a sharp paring knife, cut a few nicks on the inside curve of the shrimp to flatten the shrimp out. Be careful not to cut through the shrimp. Season the shrimp with salt,
2. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the water to make a slurry,
3. Lay one egg roll wrapper so that the long side is vertical (short side should be closest to you),
4. Lay the shrimp with tail sticking out to the right and roll the shrimp up (tail should be sticking out),
5. Make sure that the roll is nice and tight. Big air pockets and holes will allow oil to seep in and shrimp to fall out. Dab your finger or pastry brush in the cornstarch slurry and brush on the wrapper to seal the final edge,
6. Lay the firecracker shrimp, seal side down in a single layer on a dry surface and keep covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying,
7. In a wok, deep fryer or large sauté pan, add 1-1/2 inches (3.75 cm) of oil and heat it to 375°F (190°C),
8. Add the firecracker shrimp a few at a time to the oil and fry until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes,
9. Drain on a baking rack and serve with a side of sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chocolate Crinkles

By Paul Briand

This is another Christmas cookie favorite in our family. This one comes from my sister Ella in Syracuse, N.Y.

So deep is the tradition of these cookies in the family she had to pass it along to my brother David's wife Pamela out in Phoenix because he had a hankering for this cookie, one of his personal holiday favorites. If he can't have the Christmas snow from his years as a kid in upstate New York, at least he can get the cookies.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
4 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven 375, grease cookie sheets,
2. Stir together flour and baking powder,
3. In mixer bowl stir together sugar, oil, melted chocolate, and vanilla,
4. Beat in eggs,
5. Add dry ingredients to chocolate mixture and beat till blended,
6. Cover and chill (I sometimes freeze, this is a really gooey batter for rolling),
7. Using 1 tsp dough for each, roll into balls,
8. Roll in powdered sugar,
9. Place on greased cookie sheet, bake in 375 oven for 10 to 12 minutes or till done.

Makes about 48 cookies.

My sister Margaret recently contributed a recipe for Bird's Nest Cookies. All the cookie recipes originated with our mother, Marge.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

By Paul Briand

This story and recipe caught my eye recently while poking through some news stories from the Associated Press.

Gloria Estefan, pictured at right, is best known for her music, of course. So it's interesting to see how she extends her interests beyond the studio and stage by publishing a cookbook.

Estefan and her husband Emilio own restaurants -- Larios on the Beach and Bongo’s Cuban Cafe -- in Miami Beach, Orlando and Mexico.

"We have a big hardcore following of the Cuban food, and we were getting so many questions from people that go to our restaurants, asking us ’How do you make this?’ and "How do you do that?’" Gloria Estefan said to the Associated Press. "We knew we had to come up with something."

What they came up with is a cookbook: "Estefan Kitchen".

One of the recipes is Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, a scampi really that they call Camarones al Ajillo. The Cuban twist here is the cumin.

1/4 cup olive oil
20 extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
Pinch salt
Pinch dried oregano
Pinch cumin powder
4 sprigs fresh parsley

1. In a large skillet over medium, heat the olive oil until fragrant,
2. Add the shrimp and garlic and saute until the shrimp starts to turn pink, about 4 to 5 minutes,
3. Use tongs to turn the shrimp once during cooking,
4.Reduce the heat to low, then add the wine, salt, oregano and cumin,
5. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes,
6.Use tongs to transfer the shrimp to serving bowls, then pour the sauce over the shrimp,
7. Garnish with parsley.
Serves two.

The cookbook is dedicated to older Estefan family members with a long cooking tradition.

According to the AP story, Estefan’s great-grandfather served as the chef for two Cuban presidents, while her paternal grandfather managed one of the first Cuban restaurants in Miami. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Consuelo Garcia, shortly after arriving from Cuba in the 1960s started a business serving homemade pan con lechon (roasted pork) sandwiches, ham croquettes and tamales to little leaguers at a Miami park in Miami.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Party food recipe contest

The good folks at Marx Foods are getting into the spirit of holiday gatherings by sponsoring a contest that seeks the best party food recipe.

"We are hungry for the holidays and looking for the best party foods and ideas! Tell us a story, give us party food ideas, presentation tips or original recipes," says the blog.

"What are your favorite party foods, festive appetizers and holiday bites? What do you do to make your party fun? Do you set up your spread under the mistletoe; pair your bites with champagne, or use candy canes as cocktail stir sticks?"

Marx Foods, a mail order that sells upscale food in bulk, sponsors a variety of recipe contests throughout the year, the most recent one for the best comfort food recipe.

The deadline to submit a recipe is Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. EST. The bloggers -- Emily, Katy, Justin and Ryan -- will select the finalists and put them to a vote of readers between Dec. 17 and 21.

The winner, who will receive a $400 gift certificate, will be announced on Monday, Dec. 22. Two runners-up will each receive a $50 gift certificate.

I'm thinking my entry will be my Easy Spinach and Artichoke Dip.
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Tomato Basil Tart

By Paul Briand

The story behind this recipe is, frankly, a little hazy. It comes from my sister Kate, who got it from her friend Karen.

It has to do with it was a party and grilling steaks, and how my sister's rear car window got blown out by a stray rock while someone was mowing a lawn.

"And anyway," Kate writes, "Karen is a fantastic cook, and this pie was so good."

1 unbaked pie crust
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 medium tomatoes
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp ground pepper

1. Unfold pie crust according to package directions,
2. Place in tart or pie pan and flute edges,
3. Line the shell with double thickness foil,
4. Bake in 450 degree oven for 8 minutes,
5. Remove foil and bake 4-5 minutes longer until set and dry,
6. Remove from oven and sprinkle crust with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Cool slightly on a wire rack,
7. Dice tomatoes and arrange in the bottom of the pie shell,
8. Coarsely chop the basil and garlic and sprinkle over the tomatoes,
9. In a bowl combine the remaining mozzarella cheese, mayo, parmesan cheese and pepper,
10. Spoon cheese mixture over the basil/garlic, spreading to evenly cover the top,
11. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly,
12. Serve warm and enjoy.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bird's Nest Cookies

By Margaret Briand Wolfe

This cookie recipe is a family favorite. My mother has made them for us every Christmas for the past 50 years (several batches, actually) and now many of her eight children and grandchildren also make them.

The whole family tries to get together for Christmas at my mother’s house in Maine every other year. Everyone shows up with presents (of course) and tins of home-made cookies. Since we are a large crowd these days (the eight children have added spouses and children of their own) multiple batches of cookies, especially these cookies, are required.

There have been taste test competitions to see who makes the best Bird’s Nest. Try them and perhaps you will have found a new Christmas tradition for you and your family. However, proceed with caution: I have friends I must make them for every Christmas as well as for my extended and much loved family.

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks, unbeaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour (unsifted)
¼ teaspoon salt
Raspberry jam (buy good jam such as Trappist or Smuckers – I lost the competition one year because I used cheap jam)
Powdered sugar

1. Pre-heat over to 350 degrees,
2. Cream butter, gradually add brown sugar,
3. Add egg yolks and mix well,
4. Blend in vanilla, salt and flour,
5. Chill dough for several hours (until easy to handle) or overnight,
6. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake for 5 minutes,
7. Remove from oven and depress a well in the center of each cookie, about thimble sized. (I use the flip-side of a wooden spoon to create the well. The well should be large enough to hold some jam once the cookie is cooked),
8. Return the cookie sheet to the oven and bake 8 minutes more,
9. Remove the cookies from the oven, remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire racks,
10. When cooled sprinkle with powdered sugar,
11. Fill well with raspberry jam.
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