Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Kitchen Successes and Failures

Last night was a kitchen win for Becca. I marinated shrimp and created homemade teriyaki sauce, then pulled out the wok and successfully stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms and shrimp to perfect doneness with yummy flavor (with water chestnuts thrown in at the end to make the husband smile). Also tossed together an impromptu pear crisp with a couple of ripe pears from our CSA. Served warm with just a drizzle of cream. Mmm....

Stir fry might not be the most earth-shattering new recipe, but hey, when you get it right it is definitely comfort food, and it is simple, healthy, and can be fairly inexpensive depending on ingredients (I bought a big bag of frozen uncooked shrimp on sale so they are really cheap for us) which all supports my January goals of being healthy and not spending a lot of money on groceries. So I am putting this one in the success column for sure.

This win was especially satisfying after a serious fail on Monday. We have been watching Emeril Green on the DVR and the recipes always look awesome. I tried his Roasted Veggies with Heritage Grains because it looked healthy and yummy and I have been wanting to learn how to cook quinoa and millet. Well, it might have come together fine on the show but the directions online were less than helpful. The veggies have different cooking times-I know this, but trusted the recipe-and so the parsnips and potatoes were still crunchy although the zucchini was falling apart. The grains had good flavor but also turned out terribly in regards to texture, as the millet and quinoa need different amounts of liquid and cooking times. The recipes says 20-25 mins, and it took about 35 mins to soak up the liquid and the millet was still not done. The grains were a waste and the veggies were eaten under protest covered in a lot of pepperjack cheese.

Next time I review a recipe I am going to trust my instincts when the instructions look suspicious and do more research beforehand. In the meantime, I give you last night's dinner, FTW!

Pear Crisp

This is the simplest thing ever. Start this before dinner-it will bake while you cook and then cool while you eat dinner and be perfect for dessert.

Preheat oven to 375. Peel and slice 2-3 pears that are just ripe but still firm. Toss with 1 Tbsp. each of flour and sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Place in a small buttered baking dish (I used my pie plate).

For crumb topping:

1/2 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. butter

Mix together dry ingredients, then cut in butter. Mix until butter pieces are no bigger than a pea and mixture resembles granola. Spread over pears. Bake for half an hour at 375. Topping will be crunchy on the edges and pears should be soft. Let cool slightly and then serve with just a drizzle of heavy cream on top.

While that's baking, make dinner:

Easy Teriyaki Stir Fry

The instructions I give are long, but this is super simple and comes together in half an hour start to finish. Best to serve over perfectly cooked rice.

For teriyaki sauce (adapted from Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat):
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c. mirin
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. chili garlic sauce (more if you want it super spicy)
1 tsp. ginger juice

Mix ingredients together and let sit while you chop your veggies. This is a very easy sauce to change up according to your tastes-just start with the soy sauce and mirin and add from there.

For stir fry:

Marinate large uncooked peeled shrimp, 6-8 per person, in 2 Tbsp soy sauce and 1/4 c. sake or white wine for 5-10 minutes while you prepare your veggies.

Pick two veggies to go with your shrimp. I used broccoli and mushrooms, you could use bell peppers, bok choy, snow peas, anything that strikes your fancy. Try to stick to only two or three veggies though so you can focus on perfectly cooking each element. If using broccoli, peel and chop the thick stems and get the florets to a mostly uniform size.

Heat up a tablespoon or two of cooking oil in your large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. We use sesame oil whenever we cook asian food for the flavor and good cooking results. Using tongs, place your shrimp in the pan with just a little of the marinade. Cook quickly-2 mins per side at the most-if you overcook they will get tough and rubbery. Remove from pan.

Add mushrooms and broccoli stems and half of the teriyaki sauce to the same pan. Saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms start to soften and release some of their water. Add broccoli florets and the other half of the teriyaki sauce. Cover for just a minute to slightly steam the broccoli, then remove the lid and saute for 3-4 mins more. You can add a can of water chestnuts at this point if you'd like-make sure they are well drained. When veggies are tender-crisp, add back in the shrimp and toss to coat with the sauce.

The key is the order of cooking-you do it all in one pan, but each one is at the right point of doneness because of the timing.

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