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Coconut Shrimp (China Inn Style)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2013 by groovychef

I was asked a while back to locate a recipe for a shrimp that was offered at our local Chinese Buffet. I myself happen to love this dish so now that I have a spare moment, I am all to happy to oblige.

1 can cream of coconut divided
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsps heavy cream
2 Tbsps sherry
1 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsps water

Reserve 1/4 cup cream of coconut, in remaining cream of coconut add cayenne and salt, dip shrimp in coconut mixture then flour, repeat with all shrimp. Fry shrimp in hot oil until golden, drain. Heat 1/4 cup cream of coconut, heavy cream and sherry to boiling. Mix water and flour together, add to boiling mixture to thicken, serve with fried shrimp.

Here is a second one that is NOT a tempura based breading but sounded good just the same. Let me know if you try it….

Coconut Shrimp
canola oil for fryer
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Coconut Rum
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preparation:
Heat oil to 350 degrees F.
Measure 3/4 cup flour into a medium bowl.
In a second, medium bowl combine, 3/4 cup flour, sugar and salt.
Stir rum and milk into flour mixture in the second bowl, let it stand for 5 minutes.
Combine breadcrumbs and shredded coconut into a third bowl.
Butterfly cut each shrimp before you start the battering. Use a sharp knife to slice through the top of the shrimp (where the vein was) so that you can spread the shrimp open.
Leave the tail intact.
To batter the shrimp, dip each one in the flour, then in the wet batter, then coat each shrimp with the bread crumb/coconut mixture.
Place shrimp on a plate to reserve for frying. Fry the shrimp by dropping six at a time into the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shrimp are golden brown.

Serve with pina colada dipping sauce.

Pina Colada Dipping Sauce
½ cup sour cream
1/4 cup pina colada nonalcoholic drink mix
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
sugar to taste

Preparation:
Mix all ingredients together. Chill.

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If Life is Like A Box oF Chocolates……

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 28, 2013 by groovychef

My oldest son just returned from his first “formal” vacation as an adult. He flew out of O’Hare and spent a wonderful week in the mountains of Montana.

The friend he had gone to visit sent a delightful little box of chocolates back for me (which I thought was truly sweet). Like most women, I adore chocolate, although my preferences have changed [evolved?] over the last couple of years.

And being that I do not date much, I do not get chocolates often. Generally, my chocolate consumption is limited to “Death By Chocolate” ice cream (which I eat directly out of the carton) or the occasional “reward” of a Godiva bar which I will purchase at the grocery store and eat the whole thing before I even finish shopping (where upon I hand the empty wrapper to the cashier for scanning and disposal).

But when I popped open this little box of chocolate treasures, I found myself doing something completely odd even for myself….I would pick a chocolate, take a bite and put it back in the box….pick another and do the same thing.

I did have a little self control but not much. I did go back and eat the halfsies I left in the box later that night. However, that was the only  time I did.

Over the last two days, I have gone into the kitchen, randomly picked one, took a bite and put it back.

It occurred to me that this is a rather odd behavior for me. I am not doing it in order to prevent someone from eating them nor am I doing it because I do not like them. I am just doing it because it seems like the right thing to do.

Maybe the old Forrest Gump saying “Life is Like a Box Of Chocolates…ya never know what your gonna get” really does apply. I take a little nibble and enjoy the chocolate and little crunchiness of the center (some of them have cookie, others candied ginger) and put the rest back to enjoy a little more later…no longer shocked by what is inside but capable of enjoying it for what it is and knowing what I am eating.

And maybe as a chef, it is a fitting analogy for my own cooking philosophy. I like to explore new recipes and flavors. But I also appreciate the comfort level I have with some old favorites. I love opening a cookbook and randomly picking something new try, not knowing what it will taste like and the anticipation my tongue feels. But I appreciate the fact that if I just want a comfort dish I can go right to something I have prepared a million times and know what I am getting long before I even start the dish.

I know that I can count on the Parmesan cheese being slightly salty when I make Alfredo sauce and that the amount of butter and heavy whipping cream in it will make a deliciously smooth and creamy coating for the fettuccine noodles. I know that if I am looking for the perfect topping for bread, all I have to have is roma tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt and basil.

So maybe this tiny box of chocolates is like a reminder to me that I need to explore a little more and be a little less hesitant to try new things…that the second time isn’t as thrilling as the first but without that first bite, you will never know what is on the inside.

Current Projects

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2013 by groovychef

Current Projects

Current Projects

The PRESSURE is Not On For Me…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2013 by groovychef

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As details emerged yesterday about the Boston bombing and the type of bomb used, I had a great deal of friends inquire as to whether or not I owned or used a pressure cooker.

I believe I shocked them with my answer.

No…I do not use a pressure cooker and no…I do not own one.

When I was a personal chef 6 years ago, I belonged to an association of personal chefs and I know many of them used pressure cookers to complete their task.

I, however, was a different type of personal chef. I did not come in and cook weekly meals for families but cheffed private events such as cocktail parties, small dinner parties, intimate dinners for two, bbq’s, etc. I was not under the same time constraints as my fellow chefs to complete large quantities of foods in 8 hours or less. I know pressure cookers served them well but in my arena, I simply had no need.

So when I responded to the question on whether I had one or not, I followed my “no” with this reasoning: I enjoy the cooking process and everything about it. I enjoy the time it takes to make lasagna or beef burgundy or hand crank pasta. I believe cooking is not something that should be done under pressure.

This is not to say that I have not wondered how they worked or have not had interest in trying one out one time, but in general as whole, my style of cooking does not call for one. In fact, even using a Crockpot is a stretch for me at times because [to me] it just cooks food to the point of death (although my last ham was cooked in one over night and turned out rather good).

As a chef, recipe developer and avid foodie, my philosophy is really about taking the time to get to know your ingredients, taking the time to enjoy the smells and the color and the process. Taking each step at a time to appreciate the transformation food takes from raw ingredient to completed dish and internalizing this process as a form of therapy or meditation is you will.

I can have a horrible day at work, where nothing seems to go right, kitchen crashed, cooks called off, cranky servers…and I can come home and lose myself in making a simple supper. I can have a bad week and spend my day off cooking and creating and feel nothing but peace and tranquility.

So no, I do not have a pressure cooker. I do not use a pressure cooker nor do I advocate its use…especially now that it has hit the spot light for its use in mass carnage.

Outside of an occasional cartoon where a tardy husband comes home and gets hit over the head with a fry pan, stainless steel pans have never caused harm to anyone.

 

Rum Glazed Italian Green Beans and Pearl Onions

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 16, 2013 by groovychef

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2 Tbsp. butter

12 oz. pkg. frozen pearl onions

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tsp. Spiced Rum

12 oz. pkg. Italian cut green beans

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1. Melt butter in a large saute pan.

2. Add pearl onions and stir, coating with butter. Cook until onions become slightly translucent.

3. Add brown sugar and rum, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until the liquid becomes a light caramel color.

4. Add Italian green beans and stir again, coating green beans. Continue to cook until beans are cooked though.

5. Add butter and brown sugar to finish off. Stir well until coated.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

Artwork….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 8, 2013 by groovychef

Thank you to my photographer friend Brandy for using me as her subject in an assignment for her photography class. This made me smile.

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I Don’t Think This is How Julia Did It

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2013 by groovychef

 

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I had every intention of posting a blog yesterday. However, I had one of those weekends where you just want to push the delete button and make the whole thing disappear.

As a chef and expo (basically I do what Gordon Ramsey does only with a little less edge), I have to have my brain completely free of random junk when I work. So I have a technique that I use to clear the “noise’ out before I head to work.

I get up, I shower, I have an energy drink, then I spend quality time cuddling with my cat so that I am relaxed and free of worry. I do not do dishes or clean the house or check the mail and usually I do not get on the computer in the morning so that my positive energy is focused on work and my head is empty (I like to refer to it as the zen spot because literally my head is empty and free of thought. If there was a camera in there it would be a black abyss). Zen allows me to hear everything that is going on around me and to process it quickly, respond fast and stay extremely focused on my job. In zen, I can read my QA’s lips, hear what the servers are saying, hear what my grill line is doing and be aware of all the things that go on at once in a busy kitchen as well as get food in the window.

I went to work Saturday morning in zen.

By 11, I had fallen….no..was PUSHED out of zen. Our open counts hit 65-75 at any given point over a two hour period. The restaurant was full and on a wait during that crucial time when we are making the transition from breakfast to lunch, which can be scary on a normal Saturday. This was not normal.

THEN came the “seeing jesus” moment every chef has at some point in their life. That moment where your brain can literally no longer process what is going on, your focus disappears and it is like an out of body experience. Your head gets swimmy, your eyes glaze over, and you can not hear anything around you other then the buzzing in your head.

These moments rarely happen for me anymore but when they do, the recovery can be hard. When you reach that point, it is like a domino effect….every ticket after that is simply a piece of paper with words on it, like hieroglyphics, and you have to decipher the code.

I like to make the joke often that its not really Jesus I see but  John Lennon, Mother Mary, and sometimes Janis Joplin. Its that trippy.

After the lunch crush, I had my usual Saturday break where I had the chance to regain composure and get my head back in zen. Second shift (dinner) is never the same level of zen for me because by then my brain is tired and has to focus a little differently since the pace is a little less aggressive.

Saturday night was not as bad…steady ebb and flow. Nice pace, not rough but rather calm.

Then Sunday morning hit. Before I even climbed out of bed I made the random decision ( and I say random because this is totally out of character for me) to email a group of Indie writers/publishers that I have been following for sometime and ask them to critique my work. I do not know what possessed me to do this-on a Sunday morning. I was not even out of bed yet. I am a big fan of stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring new things, seeking honesty in everything I do…BUT this was one of those moves that I just should have thought out first.

By the time I left my house at 7:30, I was still not in zen. My head was filled with thoughts of my grocery list, the pile of laundry I had to do, what I wanted to make for supper, and whether my new camera was going to arrive so I can start taking food pix again.

Then came the tornado. It was like an F5 on the scale of bad kitchen days. One half of my kitchen seemed to not be 100% for whatever reason (and we all have days like this), and because my mind was not cleared 100%, my fuse was a lot shorter. And it progressed-quickly.

At one point, I actually heard myself say “Ya know what? All I am hearing from you is blah blah blah”[insert the duck bill finger movement one does when they are referencing talking].

I do not know who I said it to, not even sure what brought me to that point but I know the words came out of my mouth (much less scary then the “bloody red ticket” incident a year ago where I lost complete control and screamed in my best Gordon Ramsey accent “I do not want another bloody fucking red ticket!”. I needed an exorcism after that shift).

By the time our breakfast/lunch transition took place, I had gone beyond the checkout point mentally. I was completely on mental vacation. I had seen Jesus, John, Janis, Jimi, Elvis, AND Micheal. I was at the “talking to myself” stage. The point where I hold whole complete conversations with myself out loud…hahaha.

When the shift ended, I was able to slow down and browse my email via phone. BIG mistake. HUGE mistake.

You know that old saying “be careful what you wish for…you just might get it”? Well, it applies to this.

I popped open the email from “Dave” and low and behold he gifted me with utter ugly honesty. That honesty was like the sting of 10,000 angry wasps on my pinky finger.

The words “your cover is crap” was at the start of the email.

Now I am not arguing with his email and I truly truly am thankful for his honesty. Honesty can be a motivational tool, although I do not think Julia Child ever asked a total stranger for their honesty and got it so glaringly in the face, but hey…you get what you ask for.

He said that he liked the inside (formatting issues still plague the Kindle version but I think that has to do with which one you use) and found the inside photos engaging. But the cover was crap. Now, normally, a woman might take this as a criticism to her looks. BUT I think what he was trying to express was the fact that no one was buying the book because I was the hot ticket item on the cover. They wanted food. Hmmmm…now THERE is a novel concept. Food porn on a cookbook cover. Hmmmm….

So I came home yesterday, and despite my growing need to pour the biggest martini ever, I sat down at the computer and spent the next 4 hours creating a new cover.

Then I emailed him (yes…I kept it pleasant and thanked him for the honesty).  What I wanted to tell him was that I thought he was blatantly rude and insensitive and had hurt my feelings and that he needed to learn to be nice. I wanted to tell him that he could go F@@K himself. BUT by the time I got home I was already beaten into the ground mentally and took it as sage advice from someone with more experience then myself (this is not to say that I didn’t cry a little on the car ride home). So my email to him was pleasant and to the point with no bitterness.

He liked the revision on the cover 100%.

I wish I could say with a loud resounding voice, that being a writer and a chef (cookbook author) is glamorous and exciting. That its all cooking all the time and wonderful parties. What it really is is a daily lesson in humbleness and a constant need to keep the inner self in check. A big ego is the greatest destroyer of a chef.

And that is why Julia, even til the day she died, never called herself a chef but rather a cook. Humility is a virtue we all must possess in kitchen.

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