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Shrimp Alfredo

Shrimp Alfredo

Shrimp Alfredo

A decadently creamy Alfredo sauce is probably the quickest and easiest pasta sauce to whip up. Made simply of butter, Parmesan cheese, and heavy cream, a homemade version of this sauce is infinitely better than anything you could buy pre-made at the store.

This popular sauce was invented by Roman restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio back in 1914.  He added Parmesan to a classic butter sauce in an attempt to create a dish that would be appetizing to his pregnant wife.  Little did he know that this simple three ingredient sauce would become a classic in the United States thanks to Hollywood actors like Douglas Fairbanks that frequented his restaurant.

Since the sauce is made of just three ingredients, it is important to use high-quality components.  Never use margarine or a butter substitute.  Also, look for a wedge of a good Parmesan in your deli department. Pre-grated cheese won’t give you as flavorful as sauce or melt as smoothly.

I like to add a touch of freshly ground nutmeg to all my cream sauces. It’s a trick I learned in culinary school in France.  The nutmeg adds another layer of flavor to a dish. A dish is fine without it, but a little can add that special touch to the end result. The trick is to always use freshly grated nutmeg and never use the powdered version.

Serve Alfredo sauce plain over your favorite pasta or dress it up with sautéed shrimp and mushrooms like I do in this version. Chicken could easily be substituted for the shrimp if you are not a seafood fan.

Shrimp Alfredo

For the Alfredo Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion (1 small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound medium shrimp (30/40 count), peeled and deveined
1 box (1 pound/16-ounce) fettuccine, cooked per package directions and kept warm
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

To make the Alfredo sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the heavy cream and butter to a boil. As soon as it boils, stir in the Parmesan cheese and cook until melted. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep warm.

To assemble the pasta: In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and they become slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes.In a large mixing bowl toss together the warm pasta, the Alfredo sauce, and the shrimp mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

 

 

Recipe from Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler

Story excerpted from Jennifer Chandler’s bi-weeky Commercial Appeal newspaper column Dinner Tonight.

Photo and Food Styling by Jennifer Chandler.

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The BEST Chocolate Frosting

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The BEST Chocolate Frosting

It’s all about the frosting!  Don’t you agree?!

I usually judge a cupcake based on the frosting.  If the frosting is not yummy, it doesn’t matter how moist and delicious the cake part is.

This past week was my husband’s birthday and I wanted to make some cupcakes for the party I was throwing him.

He’s a fan of chocolate so I knew that’s what was on the menu.  Being busy with work, I also knew I needed to take a short cut.  So I used a boxed Devil’s Food Cake Mix for the cake part.  Boxed cake mixes are so tasty and moist that I have no guilt about taking that short cut. (And you shouldn’t either!)

That said … I have yet to find a frosting that I like as much as one that is homemade.

I thought about a ganache or a buttercream … then my daughter mentioned how much she loves my classic Cream Cheese Frosting (click here for the recipe).  That got me thinking … how could I make that yummy icing chocolate?  Well, it’s simple! Just add cocoa powder!  The tang of the cream cheese was a perfect compliment to the richness of the cocoa powder.  It made for a super chocolatey frosting that was delicious on the Devil’s Food cake.

And as the biggest plus of all … this frosting is sooooo simple to make!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup cocoa powder

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the cocoa powder and beat until smooth and evenly incorporated.

Enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 cake.

 

Blackened Snapper Po-Boy

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Blackened Snapper Po-Boy

This particular sandwich combines two of my favorite Louisiana treats – blackened fish and the po-boy sandwich.

Legend has it that this sandwich’s name was coined in the Great Depression during a streetcar strike when a New Orleans restaurant owner served the strikers (a.ka. the “poor boys”) free sandwiches. When a striker came by the restaurant, the staff would call out “Here comes another po-boy!”

When making a po-boy, many consider the bread to be the most important part. It should be crispy and flaky on the outside, and soft on the inside. In New Orleans, bakeries make loaves specially designed for po-boy sandwiches. If you are outside of New Orleans, a classic French roll or baguette is the best option. As for the meat of the sandwich, the options are limitless.  Roast beef with gravy, ham and cheese, fried seafood, and grilled fish are some of the most popular. It really up to the creativity of the cook.

I like to use blackened fish on the po-boys I make at home. The main two reasons are that blackening is a really simple cooking technique and that it adds a delicious kick to an otherwise mild fish or meat. The key to blackening is the blackened seasoning. You can find blackened seasoning in the spice department at most neighborhood supermarkets. You simply dust the fish with a light coating of this dry seasoning and then cook it in a cast-iron skillet or on a grill.

I typically use red snapper when I make this sandwich since it’s a Gulf fish often found on New Orleans menus. Any firm white fish, like tilapia or grouper, can easily be substituted for the snapper.

I like to dress my po-boys with the classic lettuce, tomato, and pickle as well as a spicy remoulade sauce.

Enjoy!

Blackened Snapper Po-Boy

For the Remoulade Sauce:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely sliced scallions

For the Blackened Snapper Po-Boy:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 red snapper fillets (6 ounces each)
4 tablespoons blackened seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 crusty French rolls, split
1/2 cup sliced dill pickles
4 slices tomatoes
4 pieces tender leaf lettuce

To make the remoulade sauce: In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the scallions. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the blackened snapper po-boy: Season both sides of the fish with the blackened seasoning. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the pan.

Sear the fish on one side until the meat is well browned and releases easily from the pan, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn over the fillets and cook until desired doneness, about 5 more minutes.

About 1 minute before the fish is done, lightly toast the rolls.

To serve, spread remoulade sauce on the top and bottom of each roll. Place the fish on the bread and garnish with the pickles, tomatoes, and lettuce.

Serves 4.

Cooking Tips:

Don’t like it spicy? Just omit the blackened seasoning and season your fish with salt and pepper.

This fish can be cooked on a grill.

 

 

Recipe from Simply Grilling by Jennifer Chandler

Story excerpted from Jennifer Chandler’s bi-weeky Commercial Appeal newspaper column Dinner Tonight.

Photo by the talented Justin Fox Burks.  Food Styling by Jennifer Chandler.

Cabbage Soup

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Recently I was at my friend Lucia’s house and she gave me a pint of the veggie soup she was making.  I am not normally a huge fan of cooked cabbage so I was pleasantly surprised to find out how tasty the soup was.  When she told me how easy it was to make, I knew this was one I needed for my repertoire. And to top it all off – this soup has nothing bad for you in it!

Lucia uses fire-roasted canned tomatoes and I think that is the key.  They add a nice depth of flavor to the soup.

I made a big pot and then froze it in one serving portions so I have a quick go-to lunch or supper when I don’t have time to cook!

Enjoy!

Lucia’s Cabbage Soup

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 head of green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 cup diced carrots
2 cans (15-ounce) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt and black pepper
Hot sauce (optional)

Place the onion, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, and vegetable broth in a large stock pot. If needed, add water until all the vegetables are covered. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm. Season with hot sauce if desired.

Serves 6 to 8.

Freezes well.

Vegetarian and Vegan

Freezer Veggie Soup

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Freezer Veggie Soup

My friend Nevada Presley runs a vegetarian prepared foods business called Get Fresh Memphis.  All her healthy options are yummy, but her soups are one of my favorite things to order.  They are always simple, uncomplicated, and delicious.

I was so happy when she shared this recipe with me for my next cookbook. It is so easy to make since it uses pantry staples like frozen vegetables and canned beans.  Plus, you will be surprised at how flavorful it is. I whip up this soup on days when I feel like a quick and healthy meal. I also keep several servings in my freezer for quick lunches.

Excuse the format of the photo … it’s just a sample of what it’s going to look like in “The Southern Pantry Cookbook.” (Which by the way is due out in the Fall 2014.)

Enjoy!

Freezer Veggie Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion (1 small onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14.5-ounce) Italian-style diced tomatoes
4 cups (1 32-ounce box) vegetable broth
1 bag (12-ounce) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (about 3 cups)
2 cups frozen cut okra, thawed and rinsed
1 can (14.5-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the pot. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, broth, mixed vegetables, okra, and beans. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6.

Cooking Tip: Italian-style diced tomatoes are simply diced tomatoes flavored with Italian seasonings.  If you don’t have a can in your pantry, use regular diced tomatoes plus 1 tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning.

Pantry Short-Cut: A bag of frozen mixed vegetables contains carrots, corn, green beans, and green peas.  You can always add whatever frozen vegetables you have on hand. You can also substitute chicken stock for the vegetable broth.

Freezes well.

From “The Southern Pantry Cookbook” by Jennifer Chandler (release date Fall 2014)

Photo by Justin Fox Burks

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

Doesn’t bacon make everything taste better?

It’s so funny to think about … but when I was a kid I used to say I was allergic to brussels sprouts!  I hated them that much!  Fast forward to adulthood … and now they are one of my favorite things!

Part of the trick is not to overcook the brussels sprouts.  They get too smelly and pungent if you do. You want them to be just fork-tender after boiling them.

The second part is the bacon.  As I mentioned before, doesn’t it just make everything better?! I like to use a really smoky bacon like Benton’s when making mine.

My friend Kelly English inspired me to come up with this recipe. He serves a version of this warm dish as a first-course salad at Restaurant Iris, his popular Memphis restaurant. I dish it up as a hearty side.

Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
Kosher salt
3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper

Trim the bottoms off of the Brussels sprouts and slice in half.

Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the sprouts and cook until fork tender, about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and reserve.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Reserve.

Pour all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the sprouts and sauté until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the bacon to the pan and toss to combine. Serve warm.

Serves 6.

Cooking Tip: Regular bacon is fine, but for an extra bacon-y flavor, use thick-cut artisan bacon or Italian pancetta.

Do-Ahead: The Brussels sprouts can blanched ahead of time and then reheated when sautéed. 

From Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler

Grilled Bok Choy with Ponzu Ginger Sauce

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Grilled Bok Choy with Ponzu Ginger Sauce

Looking for a different side dish?

Try grilled bok choy!  This Asian cabbage is in season in the summer months and it truly is delicious.  I prefer to use baby bok choy because it is more tender than the regular size. That said, you can use the larger heads of bok choy for this recipe if you prefer.

When cooking or grilling it, I find that the toasted sesame oil adds a nice flavor to this Asian-inspired dish. For a more neutral flavored bok choy, substitute olive or vegetable oil.

Drizzle a simple but flavorful Ponzu Ginger Sauce  over the top for the finishing touch!

Enjoy!

Grilled Bok Choy with Ponzu Ginger Sauce

For the Ponzu Ginger Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tablespoon grated fresh peeled ginger
1 scallion, thinly sliced

For the Bok Choy:
Vegetable oil, for the grates
4 heads baby bok choy (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the Ponzu Ginger Sauce: In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, ginger, and scallions. Reserve.

To make the bok choy: Preheat a clean grill to medium with the lid closed for 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly brush the grates with oil.

Cut the bok choy heads in half lengthwise. Brush the bok choy with the sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the bok choy on the grill, cut side down. Close the lid and cook, turning once or twice, until tender and lightly charred, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Place the bok choy on a platter and drizzle with ponzu sauce to taste.

Serves 4.

Do-Ahead: The Ponzu Ginger Sauce can be made the night before. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

This recipe is from my book Simply Grilling.

Photo by the talented Justin Fox Burks.

Food styling by me.


Jennifer Chandler

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