Fresh From the Gulf

 

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Time to plan the feast of the seven fishes dinner. I love this family tradition and any good excuse to eat lots of fresh seafood. This year I am looking forward to this dinner with a whole new outlook thanks to the hard-working folks down on the Gulf Coast.

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Do you ever really wonder where your seafood comes from? Do you read grocery store labels? Do you ask the restaurant server when, where and who harvested the shrimp or the crab or the oysters before placing your order? If not you should be.

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If you are a lover of the all-you-can-eat buffet I can pretty much guarantee those cheap eats are coming from some foreign land. I much rather eat a higher quality seafood and support the livelihoods of proud American families who work extremely hard to bring a fine product to my table.

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During the World Food Championships 2016 Blogger Summit I had the privilege of traveling to Bayou La Batre, Alabama and touring places like the Murder Point Oyster Farm, the Olympic Shellfish crabmeat processing plant and the Graham Shrimp Company. Fresh from the Gulf of Mexico generation after generation of Alabama families have built their lives on the commercial seafood industry. Share their passion for hand-crafted quality. Don’t let it disappear. Ask for it by name.

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Thank you to the Turquoise Place for the most upscale accommodations and amazing view.

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And to this fine lady who works tirelessly on behalf of us food bloggers. Nice work, Amy.

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Here is a recipe from our holiday table Christmas Eve 2015. Wishing you Peace, Health and Joy and may you be surrounded by those you love most.<3

Roasted Shrimp with Preserved Lemon

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

For the Garlic Confit Oil

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, halved

2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme

For the Shrimp

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup garlic confit oil

3 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon

pinch of sea salt

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley

Make the garlic confit oil: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Cook until the garlic is tender but has not started to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the oil cool. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, arrange the shrimp and toss with the garlic confit oil and preserved lemon. Season with salt and red pepper flakes then roast, turning halfway, until the shrimp are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the oregano and cilantro.

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Just Being In the Mix is Enough

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Like a hurricane competitive home cooks are a force to be reckon with. Our passion for quality food and proper cooking technique drives us to be the best of the best rating right up there with those more professionally trained. Our kitchen is our classroom. We study cookbooks like novels. We hone our skills by banging pots and pans together running recipes through countless trial and error practice drills. Sometimes we cause a stir and sometimes just being in the mix is enough. It’s rising to the challenge that makes us better.

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It’s a busy month in the Keys kitchen as I prepare and put the finishing touches on my recipes for the World Food Championships. I love being in the mix of food competition and sometimes just being in the mix is enough. Like the saying goes, “can’t win them all”, but simply making the cut, being judged and recognized as a potential winner keeps one focused and motivated to try, try again. This oyster recipe is just one example of a winner, but loser. It got the attention of a professional culinary organization known as Chef’s Roll. The recipe made the top 25 list among mostly professional chefs. In fact, only 3 home cooks made the list. Gotta love and feel proud when a home cook rates right up there with the professionals and when one (my friend Rebecka) takes second place overall!

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Montmorency Tart Cherry Crudo ~ photo by Rebecka Evans

 

Rebecka’s seafood recipe featuring montmorency cherries is as stunning as she is. You can check out her blog and get the recipe here: at home with rebecka and catch her next month on Food Network’s Clash of the Grandmas’ series. I hope she swoops in like a hurricane and takes those other grandmas down.

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In the meantime, mix up my cherry salsa verde and enjoy some oysters. It’s prime season for these fresh bivalves, so take advantage of it.

Fried Almond Oysters with Dried Cherry Salsa Verde & Chipotle Crema

Dried Cherry Salsa Verde (recipe follows)

½-cup Mexican crema

2-teaspoons adobo sauce from 1-can chipotle chili peppers

1 dozen fresh oysters shucked (reserve 12 rinsed and dried shell halves for serving)

1/3-cup almond meal flour

¼ cup finely chopped blanched almonds

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon cumin

avocado or canola oil for frying

Prepare dried cherry salsa verde; set aside. For chipotle crema, mix crema and adobo sauce until smooth; reserve in a squeeze bottle. In a shallow dish, whisk together almond meal, almonds, flour, baking powder, salt and cumin. In a medium skillet, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. In batches, dredge oysters in almond mixture until well coated, shaking off excess. Fry 1 to 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Fill each oyster shell with about 1 tablespoonful of salsa. Top each with 1 fried oyster. Drizzle with chipotle crema. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Dried Cherry Salsa Verde

2 medium tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, quartered

½ cup coarsely chopped sweet onion

1-tablespoon fresh lime juice

1-teaspoon sea salt

1-teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon seeded and chopped jalapeno

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

½ cup whole dried Tart Montmorency Cherries

½ cup small dice jicama

In a blender, process tomatillos, onion, lime juice, salt, sugar, garlic and jalapeno until nearly smooth. Add cilantro; blend well. Pour into a bowl; stir in cherries and jicama.

 

 

 

 

 

Turning the Tables

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Team Saucy Mama

You all know how much I enjoy a good recipe competition. Well, recently the tables turned and I became a judge instead of a competitor. My favorite ladies at Saucy Mama sponsored a recipe contest looking for a third competitor to join us at the World Food Championships 2016. I was so very honored when they asked me to do some preliminary blind judging of the recipes they received in the categories of Bacon, Seafood, Steak and Burger.

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So what was it like reading through many recipes, preparing them as written and then judging them? It was a real learning experience and it was fun, but I won’t lie I was harsh. As my kitchen got a work-out I was looking for the best of the best to represent this company that I love so much. I wanted the Saucy Mama flavors to shine without over powering the star of the dish. I wanted innovation and I wanted beauty. No doubt the flavors had to be balanced, but dance on my tongue. It was no easy task, but a few recipes did all those things and easily rose to the top of the list.

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Once the judging was complete it was great fun to learn whose recipe belonged to whom as the owners posted their recipes to their blogs and social media. Today, I want to share a few dishes that really highlighted Saucy Mama in a most innovative way. First up is Paula Todora’s Saucy Shrimp Pad Thai in Roasted Spaghetti Squash Boats with Candied Pecans. I love a good Pad Thai and Paula’s clever twist of using strands of spaghetti squash in place of noodles was not only delicious, but a refreshing healthy spin as well. Topped with some very flavorful candied pecans this recipe was one of my husband’s favorite recipes and I will be making it again. Maybe next time I will top it off with some fresh herbs. Well done, Paula. You can find her recipe here: twistedhomecooking.com

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Next up is Debbie Reid’s Grilled Steak Slices with Apricot Ginger Cream Sauce and Pacific Rim Ginger Fried Rice. Debbie’s quick and easy and super flavorful fried rice is out of this world delicious. Her innovative cooking method of adding one of my favorite Saucy Mama dressings to the rice cooking water completely eliminates the need to cook and cool the rice ahead of time. I prefer frozen peas to canned so that is the only change I will make going forward with this recipe. Check it out at debbiescookingaddiction.com

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Finally, and just to further illustrate how versatile Saucy Mama products are I just loved the pickled onions created by Areli Valles Biggers with her recipe Orange Habanero Tacos Al Pastor. I love topping a taco or a sandwich with pickled vegetables and Areli’s red onions are crisp tender and fully flavored with Saucy Mama’s Red Raspberry Vinaigrette, clove and Mexican oregano. The red onion color and flavor really pops from the red raspberry dressing. Areli does not have a blog, so here is her recipe.

Pickled Onions

2 cups water

½ cup Saucy Mama Raspberry Vinaigrette

3 whole cloves

1 tsp. Mexican Oregano

1 Pinch of salt

1 red onion (sliced)

In a small pan, combine water, Saucy Mama Raspberry Vinaigrette, cloves, oregano and salt. Mix well. Add red onion and let the mixture come to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn it off and remove from heat. Let onions cool, drain and refrigerate until ready to use.

Saucy Mama Products

you can buy on-line at www.barhyte.com

Back to judging as a learning experience. I have always appreciated a judge’s feedback following a contest. It has made me a better competitor. I think it is very important to share constructive criticism with contestants. So here is what I recommend when it comes to putting your best recipe down on paper or in this age the computer.

  • Please consider putting your ingredients in a list in order of use.
  • Check your ingredient list against your instructions and vice versa to insure all the ingredients are accounted for. Proofread!
  • Be detailed about the ingredient measurements. For example: an “8 ounce steak, cut 1-inch thick” tells exactly what a tester needs. Just an “8 ounce steak” comes in many shapes and thicknesses and leaves too much open to interpretation. Same thing when it comes to vegetables. Your idea of a large onion may be different than the tester, so be more specific and add a weight or measurement like this: “1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)”
  • Be detailed in your cooking times and temperatures. Give precise times and a visual for what “done” looks like and use an instant read thermometer, if you want your dish perfectly cooked by a recipe tester.
  • Take a critical look at your final presentation. Those small points for appearance can make all the difference in the world. Don’t forget a fitting and fresh garnish.

For the grand prize winning recipe check out Kim Banick’s  Orange Habanero Coconut Shrimp Po Boy Lettuce Cups with Spicy Orange Slaw and for the runner-up Veronica Callaghan’s Mini Chipotle-Lime Steak Tostadas with Pomegranate-Avocado Salsa and Poblano Ranch Sauce Try these stunning and prize worthy recipes to better understand why it was so deliciously awesome to be a judge. Welcome to Team Saucy Mama.

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Then this happened and the tables sure turned for me. Best prize ever!? You be the judge.