Friday, July 11, 2014

A lot of times, I'll throw together a dish that has no real basis for being.  It's not really like an actual signature dish like Shrimp Alfredo, but maybe more in 'the spirit of'.  I won't consult a recipe or recipes as a starting point, I'll just 'wing it'.   At times, that means using what I have on hand in the cupboards and refrigerator, at other times, it means using whatever I toss in my shopping cart, and still other times, it's a combination of both.

Such is the case with "Shrimp Almikay".  I originally made this one Sunday afternoon when my dear wife Kathy was tasked with taking our son back home to Platteville, WI, where he attends college, about a 6 hour round trip from our home.  I wanted to make something 'nice' for her...and being that pasta is one of her favorite things to eat, I drove about 20 miles to the nearest larger grocer and wandered the aisles and threw this recipe together in my head.  It turned out so well that I made it again last night, and decided to name it and cycle it in to my favorite recipe box and into this blog.

This recipe is relatively quick and easy and unpretentious enough to use alfredo sauce right off the grocer's shelf.

You'll need:

1 jar of Alfredo Sauce (Both times I have used Newman's Own Roasted Garlic)
1/2 box Angel Hair Pasta
1 bag 31/40 Uncooked Frozen Shrimp
1/2 Lemon
1/4 cup white wine
1 T minced garlic
1/3 stick butter
3 T Olive Oil
1 T Salt
Black pepper
Small wedge Parmesan Cheese

Start by thawing and peeling the shrimp.  Melt butter on medium/high heat in a fry pan.  Dump jar of Alfredo Sauce in saucepan over low heat.  Add minced garlic, 2 T  Olive Oil and wine to fry pan, toss in Shrimp.  Cook shrimp til firm and pink, reduce heat to simmer.  Squeeze 1/2 lemon over Shrimp.  Simmer shrimp for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is reduced.  Add entire pan contents to Alfredo Sauce.   Heat water for pasta in large pot.  Add 1 T Olive Oil and 1 T Salt to pot, cook noodles til Al Dente (just to the point of being 'done', not past...almost 'chewy' yet...this is so that the noodles will soak up some of the sauce).   Drain noodles, serve on plates, spoon alfredo/shrimp sauce liberally over the top, grate fresh parmesan cheese on top.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

French French as French Toast or French Dressing.  That is to say, completely Pas D'Origine Française -- about as French as Sauerkraut or Swedish Meatballs.

However, just about EVERYONE loves French Fries.  Or, as we will refer to them for the rest of this blog post, simply "Fries".  They’re a staple at fast food restaurants from coast to coast and a regular compliment to any hamburger plate anywhere.  Yet, making truly great fries at home – from scratch – has evaded me for years.  They’d turn out fairly tasty, but would end up lacking of those qualities that almost any drive-thru fry could possess…a firm exterior, fluffy interior and wondrous flavor without sogginess or greasiness.  How infuriating to someone like myself who almost always prefers home-made to mass-produced when it comes to food!

I even know of one famous hamburger chain who prides themselves on making homemade fries and even displays bags of potatoes around the restaurant and a sign saying who’s farm the spuds were grown on…who’s fries suffer from the same soggy, greasy results as my own did.

True, I could go half-way and buy a bag of frozen fries and fry them myself, and that was slightly more satisfying, but still…it really wasn’t the same as a good and proper fry.

So one day, with nothing better to do than ponder the mysteries of the Fast Food Fry, I began my internet search on how to make proper fries like that Famous Chain With The Arches does. 

This search led me to one very over-the-top individual who went into extreme research, scientific study and detail on the subject (and quite a lot of other burger-related subjects) who finally cracked the code on how to make a decent fry at home.  I’ll spare you all the background detail (though you can read about it along with other burger science geekdom here). and cut right to the recipe.  To do it absolutely the best way takes an additional step and some planning, but the ‘short version’ works very well also.  So without further ado, here’s how to make AMAZING fries at home.

You need:

5 or 6 nicely sized Russet potatoes
2 quarts Water
3 T Vinegar
2 T Salt
Oil for frying
Candy or Deep Frying Thermometer
7 to 10” diameter pot with fairly high sides

Firstly, you need to slice the potatoes into fries that are about ¼” X ¼”.  You can buy a fry cutter or just do this with a very sharp knife (be careful!).   You can peel them first or leave the skins on, your choice.  Immediately toss them in a bowl of water as you cut them, so they don’t turn bluish.

Next, put the Water, Vinegar and Salt in a large pot on the stove and bring to a violent boil.  Gently add the fries and boil in this mixture for 9 minutes.  Remove carefully and drain in a colander, then lay out on paper towels to cool and dry.

Now take the 7” to 10” diameter pot with high sides and put 3 to 4 inches of oil in the pot.   Make sure that you have enough oil in the pot to deep fry, but not so much that it could boil over and start a fire.   If you have an actual deep fryer, that would be preferable to use, set it to 375 degrees.  Else, you’ll have to experiment with your stove and use the candy / deep frying thermometer til you can get a steady temp of the oil at 375 degrees.

Working in small batches, add fries to the oil and fry each small batch for ONE MINUTE.  Then remove and drain on paper towels.   Do this til you’ve gone through all of the fries that you plan to make.

Now, here comes the really weird part.   Take all of the fries and put them in a bag and freeze them.

When you’re ready to make the fries to serve (presumably at least 12 hours later), again heat your oil up to 375 but this time deep fry the fries til they are golden brown.  After each batch, put the fries on a paper-towel lined cookie sheet and keep on “warm” in the oven.  Lightly salt the whole works when done and serve. 

You and your guests will be amazed at how well these turn out!

In a hurry?  Skip the freezing step.  Just drain and cool all the fries after the one minute fry session, then start over, frying till golden brown.  They’ll be about 85% as good as the ‘long’ way, but still amazing!

What I like to do is work with several bags of Russet potatoes, changing the water/vinegar/salt mixture every 2 batches, and make up a whole bunch of fries to freeze at once.  I then pack them away in meal-sized bags…they should keep for 2 or 3 months that way.

About the Author

Mikay is an avid cook, musician, sailor, writer and computer dork who lives in Sturgeon Bay, WI in the heart of Door County with his wonderful wife Kathy and their 3 dogs.

He loves to share his recipes and develop new ones. He's been on Green Bay's Fox 11 "Good Day Wisconsin" show and is working on a cookbook as well.