Monday, January 24, 2005

Deep Fried Coconut Prawns

with Spicy Ginger Pineapple Plum Sauce

As I have previously stated, I love seafood. I was cruising through the local grocery seafood section the other afternoon and noticed that they had a number of sizes of shrimp for sale, precooked. They had these giant tiger prawns that looked incredible, but they too were already steamed or boiled and laying there on ice for sale. For some reason, in the past, they always precook the giant prawns.

I commented to the seafood clerk that I wished that they occasionally had the giant prawns uncooked because I wanted to grill or fry some oriental style. He said “come back tomorrow after 2:00 PM and I’ll have some for you.”

Well, I couldn’t wait until 2:00 PM, I was there at 1:30 and there they were, in the seafood display case—uncooked giant tiger prawns. Did you know that a giant prawn can weigh 1/8th of a pound? I bought ¾ pound of prawns and got six of them in my purchase. WOW!

Here is what I did to make diner for two:

1 package baby field salad greens (or greens of your choice)

6 giant tiger prawns (about ¾ pound)
½ lemon
Rice wine vinegar
Olive oil
½ cup flour
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup sweetened baker’s coconut
¼ to ½ tsp cayenne pepper (to YOUR taste)
½ tsp salt
2 eggs, whisked
Vegetable oil for frying

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Asian plum sauce
3 tbsp crushed pineapple
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3/8 tsp dried ginger
¼ tsp salt

Dipping Sauce:
2 tbsp plum sauce
1 tbsp crushed pineapple

First, toss two large salad or pasta bowls into the freezer to chill.

Put together the ginger pineapple plum dressing by combining the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stirring it all up. Now taste it. Does it need anything? Well, add it then, and when you are satisfied with the flavor, place it in the fridge to chill.

Rinse and peal the Prawns. Butterfly them by cutting them part way through from under the “curve side” with a sharp knife. You can cut them all the way through about 3/4” from the end if you want. Now place them in a small mixing bowl.

Squeeze the juice from your lemon half over the prawns and then drizzle in a little olive oil and some Rice Wine Vinegar on top. Let your prawns marinade for at least ½ hour, preferably longer. In addition to adding flavor, the marinade will tenderize them.

Once the prawns have marinated, put the vegetable oil in a large, deep, heavy skillet on medium heat. The oil should be about 1-½” deep, so adjust your oil quantity for your skillet.

In separate bowls, put your flour, the whisked eggs, and your bread crumbs/coconut mixture. Season the flour with the salt and cayenne pepper to your taste. I like lots of cayenne, and just a little salt.

Run the marinated prawns through the flour, then the eggs, then the bread crumb/coconut mixture to coat evenly on all sides and place them on a plate to the side.

Once your oil is hot (but not too hot) place the battered prawns, three at a time, into the oil. Cook three to four minutes, no longer. DON’T OVERCOOK YOUR PRAWNS. Now pull the first batch of prawns out of the grease with a slotted spoon and place them to the side on paper towels to drain. Add the next three, cooking again for three to five minutes until golden brown. Now remove them from the grease and reunite them with the other three on the paper towels.

Take the bowls out of the freezer and place a couple of handfuls of greens in each. Drizzle one third of the dressing evenly over the greens.

Now add the rest of the plum sauce and crushed pineapple to the remaining dressing to make the dipping sauce. Stir it all up.

Place three of the prawns in the middle of each plate on top of the greens and put some dipping sauce in a couple of small bowls on the table.

Pour yourself a glass of wine or iced tea, grab yourself a fork, and EAT.

Enjoy Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Arming Yourself For The Battle--Part II

(Figuring Out What Matters)

I appreciate you taking the time to come read The Redneck Gourmet and to follow my cooking exploits. I hope that you will keep coming back in the future. Back when I first got started writing in November I posted Arming Yourself For The Battle--Part I where I addressed some basic cooking stuff. My intentions were to follow up with additional postings along this topic and, in light of the lack of new recipes in my cooking recently, I guess it's time for an general cooking update.

If you are already an expert cook, please ignore this posting. Or perhaps if you feel you are already competent at cooking but you would still like to risk reading my thoughts and opinions about cooking, have at it. Then tilt your head back and laugh hysterically—unless by chance you happen to agree with me, who knows? Here goes…

What I hate about most of the stuff for sale in boxes and jars in the grocery store and dislike about half of what is written up and defined as “recipes” in recipe books and on web sites is this--they take too many shortcuts and they suggest using crappy, substitute ingredients in an effort to save time or unnecessarily simplify the recipe.

Low cal, I can understand. Low quality, I can do without. Maybe if I was cooking for five kids, three dogs, and a couple of cats I would be forced to be less smug and cavalier, but I arrogantly enjoy the luxury of only have one other mouth besides my own to feed in my home most of the time. Further, I really don’t believe that the quality of the food has anything to do with the quantity anyway.

My question is, why bother to cook in the first place if the result of your efforts isn’t going to taste as good as it looks (or maybe better)? Why not just order a delivery pizza with a genuine imitation cardboard crust or get in the car and go to McDonalds and eat a belly full of salty grease. It’s an easy way to inhale some calories, get the meal over with in a hurry, and not spend much money, you know?

I basically refuse to do this in my kitchen. Maybe I’m just into pain, but I believe that the results I achieve are worth the extra effort. To quote my dear mother, Betty, “I feel like I’ve been somewhere to eat” when I’m done with many of my meals. Not to brag unnecessarily, but it’s a nice feeling.

So what is my point besides self edification, you might ask? Well, it is this… I offer the neophyte cook some encouragement, along with a large dose of prodding for you to head to the stove and experiment with your cooking.

For the newcomers to cooking, I hope that you will follow my example and use the internet to research your own recipes before you cook them and then cook them well. I usually review at least a half-dozen recipes for a given dish before I start cooking something new.

Don’t just make an (un)reasonable facsimile of a given dish, make an authentic dish of food that tastes great and that you can be proud of—even if no one else is there to enjoy it with you. Unless you are creating something entirely new of your own design, this means looking into the origins of a dish and finding out as much as you can about it.

It also means investing in spices that didn’t come over with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower.

I hate to admit it, but I once had a spice rack that I had inherited from my grandmother. Having an antique spice rack wasn’t the problem. Attempting to use the spices that came in the jars from her kitchen for at least ten years after she passed away was of concern. I might well have been using dirt or dust for seasoning in my early cooking efforts. Fortunately, some things ran out and I finally disposed of the others last week (just kidding…)

And another thing, buy fresh herbs when they are in season, if and when you need them. You usually end up with more than you need for a given dish. There are numerous web sites that address how to dry your own fresh herbs when you have extra. When you do need dried herbs and spices, buy them in the quantities that you will use in six months or so and mark the jars so that you know how old they are. Seal the lids tightly after use or put them in zip lock freezer bags. Unlike fine red wines, most spices don’t improve with age and some keep longer than others.

Unless there are major health reasons, please avoid “imitation” anything because in spite of what your mother, your neighbor, and the label says, IT DOES NOT TASTE THE SAME. This includes imitation butter, imitation eggs, fake salt, and any other imitation seasonings. If you will take the time to get your herbs and spices right in a recipe, you won’t need a lot of salt and you can use olive oil (extra virgin-expeller pressed) or canola oil as a butter substitute in a pinch.

In spite of the news headlines, I have never seen butter or eggs actually listed as the cause of death on a death certificate. It’s usually the soft drinks, Stove Stop Stuffing mix, Velveeta “cheese food” products, MSG, and partially hydrogenated soybean fats that kill people; along with the overall quantity of food ingested.

Take my advice and you can afford to eat some real unsalted, semi-sweet butter and a half-dozen eggs every few weeks.

No get out there and start cooking, DARN IT.

Regards Y'all

The Redneck Gourmet

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Cooking Reruns

I try to post new recipes as I cook them so that the details are fresh in my mind. Rather than just reading my notes and reciting the ingredients, I find that writing up a recipe right after I've cooked and eaten it allows me to include tips and details that you won't find in an average cook book.

For this reason, I'm afraid that I've been cooking a lot of reruns or really basic things the past few weeks that in my opinion don't warrant listing here in The Redneck Gourmet. I did make cornbread twice this week and have made some modifications that produce good results, so I might get enthusiastic and write cornbread up later.

Keep checking back, I'm cooking Prawns tomorrow--six shrimp that weight 3/4 pounds (total.)

Regards Y'all

The Redneck Gourmet

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Carnival of Recipes

VW Val over at One Happy Dog Speaks blog just hosted the Carnival of the recipes this week. The Carnival involves blog readers and bloggers submitting their favorite recipes to share and be published on the Web in a common posting once a week. I submitted my Fried Seafood Salad recipe.

I’ve found that participation in The Carnival is a good way for me to meet some of my fellow bloggers and access some new recipes in the process.

Be sure and check out their web sites.

Regards Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Our local grocer is killing me with buy-one-get-one-free specials. You see, it’s very quiet here on St. Simons Island these days due to the tourism lull associated with the kids all being back in school. The Snow Birds from Canada and New York and other seasonal residents have all settled in to play golf in our back yard and enjoy the weather, but the island is still running at about 50% capacity. We love it…

This low occupancy level apparently makes the grocery stores start giving things away to encourage shopping. I go almost every day and just cruise the isles looking for sales. Recently they’ve had whole beef tenderloins, pork tenderloins, and London Broils on sale for half price or buy-one-get-one free. Needless to say that I bought some, and at this rate we are going to need to buy that deep freezer we’ve been coveting.

The other night I concocted my own stuffed pork tenderloin recipe and served it with smashed red potatoes and canned asparagus with Knorr’s Hollandaise sauce. I won’t bore you with the details on the vegetables, but the tenderloin came out quite nicely and here is how I cooked it to make dinner for two:

2” to 3” diameter piece of pork tenderloin about 6” long (about 2/3 to 3/4 of a pound)
1 apple, cored and chopped
¼ onion, chopped fine
1 stick celery, chopped fine
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
½ tbsp dried sage
½ tbsp dried thyme
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Rinse your tenderloin and pat dry with paper towels. Working on your cutting board with your sharp chef’s knife, cut the tenderloin down the middle lengthwise, stopping about 3/8” short of going all the way through. Fold the meat open like a book. Now, working from the center (near the end of the last cut), slice outward on each side through the middle of each half again, stopping about 3/8” short of severing the meat in two. Now fold the two sides of the pork open again like a book.

Redneck Tip: If I can write and you can understood my blithering, you should now have a piece of meat about 9” wide x 6” high x about 3/8” to ½” thick. If not, do a Google search for pork stir fry and come back to see me next weekend.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium skillet over medium low heat, melt your butter, then add the onion and celery and cook until clear. Next add your sage, thyme, and the apple and cook for a few minutes stirring occasionally. Now add the bread crumbs and stir some more. Turn off the heat and let things cool a bit

Redneck Tip: If the mixture looks too dry and crumbly, you can add some more butter or a bit of olive oil to moisten things up so that it will stick together.

Now let’s get our hands dirty. Scoop out the stuffing and pile it on top of your sheet of pork tenderloin. Press it out evenly with your hands so that it covers the entire piece of pork. Now starting from the edge of the short side, simply roll the pork up on itself like a cinnamon roll. You can secure it with butchers twine or toothpicks so that it doesn’t unroll while cooking.

Place the whole thing in a greased baking dish and pop it in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the interior temperature is 160 degrees F.

Pull it out and lift it onto a cutting board to rest for five or ten minutes while you fuss with your vegetables. Now carve off slices or cut the whole thing in half and dive in to EAT.

Enjoy Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Fried Seafood Salad

I grew up eating seafood in South Alabama. Back in the 60’s and early 70’s, before Federal Express and UPS overnight delivery, you couldn’t get good seafood unless you lived within a few hours of the coast where the restaurants had their seafood delivered by truck each day or you were willing to drive yourself to wherever the seafood was located. We did both.

The effort isn’t required today. You can get fresh seafood from everywhere delivered almost anywhere. Here on St. Simons Island we have, in addition to the local shrimp and commercially caught flounder, a variety of seafood available from all over the world. On any given afternoon at our local grocer I can find four or five sizes of shrimp, farm raised catfish, grouper, salmon, mahi-mahi, monkfish, two grades of tuna, scallops, Alaskan king crab, and lobster. Needless to say I am in Heaven. I go to the grocer almost every day.

Tonight I constructed my own version of a seafood salad. You can make it by grilling the seafood, but tonight I chose to batter and fry my seafood in a seasoned batter. Here is what I did to make dinner for two:

1 package baby field salad greens (or greens of your choice)
1 cup watercress
1 apple, cored and sliced
chunks of blue cheese

4 large sea scallops
½ pound (16 to 20) medium shrimp, shelled and de-veined
juice from ½ lemon
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
old bay seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 eggs, whisked
2 cups vegetable oil for frying

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cocktail sauce:
½ cup ketchup
½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
juice from ½ lemon
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tbsp hot sauce
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

First, toss two large salad or pasta bowls into the freezer to chill.

Put together the cocktail sauce by combining the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stirring it all up. Now taste it. Does it need anything? Well, add it then, what are you waiting for? When you are satisfied with the flavor, place it in the fridge to chill.

Whisk the balsamic vinegar and olive oil together in a small bowl to make the dressing.

Redneck Tip: Add your olive oil a little at a time and whisk enthusiastically (without getting the dressing on yourself or the ceiling.) The trick is that you only need enough oil to emulsify the vinegar and it takes practice to figure out exactly how much to use. The vinegar will appear a little foamy when you are done.

Put two cups of vegetable oil in a large, deep, heavy skillet on medium heat. The oil should be about ½” deep, so adjust your oil quantity for the size your skillet.

Rinse and peal the shrimp, de-veining them as necessary. Also rinse your scallops and place everything in a small mixing bowl. Squeeze the juice from one of your lemon halves over the seafood, then drizzle in a little olive oil, some Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, and grind some pepper on top. Let your seafood marinade for five minutes while your oil comes up to temperature.

In separate bowls, put your flour, your whisked eggs, and your bread crumbs. Season the flour and breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, and some Old Bay seasoning to your taste. I like lots of Old Bay and pepper, and just a little salt.

Run each piece of seafood through the flour, then the eggs, then the bread crumbs to coat evenly on all sides and place them on a plate to the side.

Now let’s fry some seafood. Once your oil is hot (but not too hot) place the scallops in first and cook them on each side for two or three minutes until golden brown. Place the scallops to the side on paper towels to drain, and add your battered shrimp to the oil. Cook three to five minutes, no longer, turning once. DON’T OVERCOOK YOUR SHRIMP. Now pull the shrimp out of the grease and reunite them with the scallops on the paper towels.

Take the bowls out of the freezer and place a couple of handfuls of greens in each. Drizzle the oil/vinegar dressing evenly over the greens.

Place the apple slices around the rim of the bowl and place a handful of the berries around the edge of the greens also. Toss in four or five chunks of blue cheese and the pine nuts.

Place the scallops and shrimp in the middle, put some cocktail sauce in a couple of small bowls on the table, grab yourself a fork, and EAT.

Enjoy Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Thai Chicken Wrap With Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

I love this recipe. I also love Rachael Ray, the Food network cooking diva whose TV show “30 Minute Meals” is responsible for the original recipe.

For those not familiar with her, Rachael is articulate, vivacious, intelligent, and if I were fifteen years younger, thirty five pounds lighter, and a few million dollars wealthier, I would be seriously chasing her lovely visage around the world hoping for the opportunity to cook with her ( you can read into this statement whatever meaning you will…sorry Patricia…)

This should say a great deal about Rachael as those that know me also know that I am not a pop-culture-Hollywood-bimbo-admirer and can’t name three supermodels and most actresses on sight…I have better things to do with my time.

Now as to Rachael’s recipe, it is really easy, and it is really good to eat.

I’ve modified the ingredients to suit my taste and to serve two people. You’ll need:

1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 large flour tortillas
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon peanut oil
¼ teaspoon Asian five spice powder

Spicy peanut sauce:

1/3 cup room temperature chunky peanut butter
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2/3 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons peanut oil


1/3 seedless cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on an angle
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 scallion, sliced on an angle
8 leaves basil, chopped or torn
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves (about three sprigs)
2/3 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoons sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Rinse the chicken breast and slice it down the middle part way through to “butterfly” it. This will help speed up the cooking. Place it in a bowl with the soy sauce, peanut oil, and five-spice powder for a few minutes to marinade.

Rinse and peal your cucumber and slice thinly. Slice the scallion, chop the basil and mint leaves, and grate the carrot. Toss all the veggies together in a medium bowl and sprinkle the sugar and vinegar on top. Toss again to distribute evenly.

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat and toss the chicken in to cook on each side for three to five minutes.

While your bird is cooking, whisk together the chunky peanut butter, the soy sauce, cayenne pepper, and rice vinegar. Slowly add the peanut oil a little at a time as you whisk vigorously. Whisk I said, keep whisking darn it.

Sprinkle two flour tortillas lightly with water, wrap them in aluminum foil, and toss them in the oven on low heat for a few minutes.

Once the chicken has cooked through, turn off the heat and place the chicken on your cutting board to rest.

Pull your tortillas out of the oven and place on plates. Put half your salad mix on each tortilla. Slice the chicken into thin diagonal strips and divide evenly between the wraps. Drizzle the spicy peanut sauce on top. Fold and roll the wraps and spoon the extra sauce on the side.

Redneck Tip: I like to slice the leftover cucumber peal and carrot into very thin slices and place it on the side as a garnish and sprinkle the plate lightly with sesame seeds.

Enjoy Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet