Wish Upon A Dish: I am a Chopped Champion in my own home

September 12, 2012

I am a Chopped Champion in my own home

As organized as I like to think I am, there are those weeks when chaos reigns.

This seems to be one of them. I'm not sure if it is because of the Monday holiday, the weather or just a total lack of enthusiasm for cooking.
It would be easy to blame it on the usual suspects, but my lackadaisical view of food this week comes from the simple problem that I have used up my food budget for the month (the Nudge said "No more buying, we have a freezer full of food") and am forced to use what is already in my pantry. Sad thing is, what ever is still in my freezer after the month is up was never anything I put on the menu. It was probably on sale and I thought I would use it at one time or another.
Well, that time has come.

The Nudge, when prompted to pick a Mexican dish will always say enchiladas, an Italian dish is manicotti or spaghetti with meatballs, a soup is always French Onion and a sandwich is always grilled cheese. He likes breaded chicken cutlets with a boxed Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and a meatloaf with mashed potatoes and Lima beans. He is as transparent as a typical man can be.

While I do ask him if there is anything special he would like to eat, I realized the other night when he sat at the dinner table with a demon-like laughter, and said "Oh wait babee, have I got lots of dinners planned for the fall" that I may have been pushing the 'gourmet' a little too hard.

I think he's afraid to tell me when he's not fond of a dish I have made, thinking I will take it personally when in actuality it is the food writers recipe, not mine. Lately, there have been more misses than hits. My attempts may not be a professional's recipe but they can't be any worse then the misses, can they?

So here's the challenge I presented myself.....The Nudge gets to pick the main ingredients for three meals. I have to make the meal using only whats already in my pantry (fridge and shelves).

I am playing Chopped with myself.

He choose shrimp, burgers and fluke.

First challenge is the shrimp. I saw a unique way to butterfly and stuff jumbo shrimp and I always wanted to try it. Surely I can make a stuffing.

Step #1 - done.

The next is a sauce that the shrimp can sit in. I had three leeks, a bunch of spinach and homemade chicken stock bubbling on the stove. At first I was leaning towards a sauté but with the stuffing that might have been too much.

Step #2 - done.

I have to admit, this meal was not only easy, the shrimp were tender, the stuffing had texture and the sauce was a hit.

While The Nudge proclaimed it delicious, Harry Caray said it best. "It could be, it might be... It is, A home run!"....and the Chopped Champion is...

This means the challenge is on, I am expected to defend my title. Next dish up..... bison burgers.

Stuffed Shrimp w/Pernod Leek Sauce
makes 2 servings

makes 4 servings
* 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 1/4 cup bottled clam juice or chicken stock
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
* 2 scallions, chopped fine
* 2 garlic cloves minced
* 2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
* 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* Salt
* 8 colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined (1/2 pound)

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to coarse crumbs. Transfer crumbs to broiler pan bottom and bake until golden and dry, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove crumbs from oven and reduce temperature to 275 degrees.
2. Combine toasted bread crumbs, mayonnaise, clam juice, parsley, scallions, garlic, lemon zest and juice, mustard, cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon salt in large bowl.
3. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt. Grease empty broiler pan bottom. Butterfly and cut hole through center of each shrimp and arrange cut-side down on prepared pan. Divide bread crumb mixture among shrimp, pressing to adhere. Bake until shrimp are opaque, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Remove shrimp from oven and heat broiler. Broil shrimp until crumbs are deep golden brown and crispy, 1 to 3 minutes. Serve.

makes 1 cup
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 large leek, chopped
* 1 large handful of fresh spinach leaves
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
* 1/4 cup Pernod (Sambucca, fennel or fennel seeds would also work)
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. In saucepan, heat oil until rippling. Add in leeks and spinach and sauté until soft. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and cook out the rawness, adding a drop of water to dilute it slightly.
2. Add the Pernod and simmer until it almost evaporates.
3. Using a hand blender, puree the vegetable mixture adding water to loosen the mixture enough to help the puree liquify.
4. Return 1/2 the mixture to the saucepan, all the cream and the other tablespoon of tomato paste. Stir, heat and serve.
5. You can refrigerate the remaining puree for sauce when needed, this makes an excellent choice with seafood, licorice (Pernod and fennel) is the perfect pairing.

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