June 25, 2012

Shrimp and Pasta in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

My mom was visiting this week, helping keep my son entertained during the two (long) weeks between school and camp. Thank God. I'm pretty sure only grandmothers have the patience to play six straight hours of pirates.

my basil plant
As usual, I had a list of favorite dishes I was going to ask her to cook. But before she took over the kitchen, I wanted to make her at least one nice meal.

I found this recipe in one of my newer cookbooks, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, by blogger Ree Drummond. I haven't tried many of the recipes yet, but I've got lots of them tagged. 

This dish is shrimp and pasta in a creamy tomato sauce. The technique and ingredients are simple and straightforward. It's the little details that bring home the flavor, infusing every bite of pasta and sauce with the flavor of the shrimp.

My mom loved it. She was excited to be eating a dish that I was going to be blogging.

I was happy too. The next night I sat down to a bowl of chicken curry.

Set a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Peel and devein the shrimp and pat it dry.

In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Cook until the shrimp is just opaque on both sides. Remove the shrimp and place it in a bowl.

In the same skillet, add more butter and olive oil. I still had some shrimp juice in the skillet so I boiled it down a bit before adding the butter and olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender. 

Now add the wine and reduce it down.

Then add the tomato sauce.

Add the cream and give everything a good stir.

While the sauce is simmering, pull the shrimp out of the bowl and place them on a cutting board. If any liquid has collected in your shrimp bowl, add it to the sauce. It is going to add a ton of shrimp-flavored goodness. Chop up the shrimp.

Thinly slice your basil.

At this point, turn the heat down under the sauce as low as it will go and add your pasta to the boiling water. When the pasta has about a minute left to cook, turn up the heat a little and add the basil to the sauce.

Stir in the shrimp. Yes it tastes as good as it looks.

Then toss in the pasta.


Shrimp and Pasta in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

Recipe barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

3/4 lb penne pasta
1 lb shrimp (you're going to chop up the shrimp later, so no need to buy large, expensive shrimp)
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp fresh basil

1.    Set a pot of water to boil.

2.    Peel, devein and rinse (under cool water) 1 pound of extra large shrimp. Pat dry.

3.    Heat about 1 Tbsp butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes until just opaque. Do not overcook them. Remove shrimp from the skillet and transfer to a bowl.

4.    In the same skillet, heat remaining butter and olive oil. (If there's some liquid from the shrimp left in the skillet, boil it down a bit before adding butter and olive oil, so that it will flavor the entire dish.) Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and completely tender.

5.    Add the wine and let it evaporate for a few minutes.

6.    Add tomato sauce and then heavy cream. Stir well until combined. Turn heat down to low and let simmer.

7.    Add your pasta to the boiling, salted water.

8.    In the meantime, put the cooked shrimp on a cutting board. Add any shrimp liquid that's collected in the bowl to the sauce (more flavor!).Chop the shrimp into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

9.    Thinly slice the basil.

10.  When the pasta is about a minute away from being done, raise the heat under the sauce to medium. Add in the herbs and the chopped shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste.

11.  Finally add your cooked penne pasta and give it a good stir.

12.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

June 3, 2012

Dark Chocolate Milkshake with Fluffy Coconut Cream

There are days when I want need a chocolate milkshake. These are not the days when I'm going to walk into an ice cream shop thinking about a chocolate shake, then decide that coffee chip sounds better. No, these are the days when nothing is going to come between me and a chocolate shake.

Sadly, the last couple of times the craving's hit, I've been sorely disappointed. The first time was probably my fault. I walked into a McDonald's and ordered a chocolate shake. I don't know what was in that shake, but it sure as heck wasn't chocolate. It tasted like overly sweetened something. But not chocolate. I know I have rose-colored memories of McDonald's. But still, I really do remember their chocolate shakes at least tasting like chocolate. 

The second time really wasn't my fault. I went to a bona fide gelato shop, one that had been written up to glowing reviews. But again, when I tasted the shake, it just didn't taste like chocolate. It was closer than the McDonald's version, I'll give it that. But it didn't satisfy my need for chocolate.

Obviously it was time to take matters into my own hands. I went straight to the source: Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries and Shakes. If the man serious enough to put the shakes right up there in the title with the burgers, then I knew he must be onto something. 

I turned the pages, looking at one chocolate shake recipe after another: banana-chocolate, black and white, chocolate-almond, chocolate-mint. But the one that stopped me in my tracks was the Dark Chocolate Milkshake with Fluffy Coconut Cream.

Dark chocolate. I repeat, dark chocolate. And fluffy coconut cream. Not just whipped cream. Whipped cream and cream of coconut and marshmallow fluff. I think I may have died and gone to heaven just reading the recipe.

But then I made it. And I died and went to heaven all over again.

First, make the chocolate syrup. I had some leftover chocolate syrup in my fridge, so I used that. Sorry, no photos of the process, just the end result. But I've included the recipe, below.

Next, make the fluffy coconut cream. Yes, that's what you get when you whip together heavy cream, cream of coconut and marshmallow fluff. You can even make this ahead and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours until you're ready to use it.

Finally, make the milkshake. Combine the milk and chocolate syrup in the blender and blend for a few seconds, until combined.

Add the ice cream and blend until smooth.

Immediately pour into a glass and top with fluffy coconut cream. Devour.

Dark Chocolate Milkshake with "Fluffy" Coconut Cream

Recipe slightly adapted from Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries& Shakes

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream
3 Tbsp cream of coconut such as Coco Lopez
2 Tbsp marshmallow fluff
1/3 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp chocolate syrup (see recipe, below)
11 ounces premium chocolate ice cream (make sure to use premium, it really makes a difference)

1.    Combine the heavy cream, cream of coconut and marshmallow fluff in a bowl. Whip until stiff peaks form. (You can refrigerate this for a couple of hours before you use it.)

2.    Combine the milk and chocolate syrup in a blender and blend for 5 seconds.

3.    Add the ice cream and blend until smooth, about 10 seconds.

4.    Pour into a glass and top with fluffy coconut cream. Serve immediately.

Makes one 16-ounce milkshake

Chocolate Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
2/3 cup unsweetened good-quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1.    Bring 1 cup water, the sugar, and the corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.

2.    Whisk in the cocoa powder and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

3.    Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 1 1/2 cups