Thursday, June 26, 2014

Easy Asian Spicy Shrimp And (Or) Chicken

Do you have any picky eaters in your house? I do. Yep, it's my husband, Mark. While I adore fish and seafood, Mark's word would be abhor not adore when it comes to things that swim. Not a deal breaking difference for sure, but one that can make meal planning a little difficult sometimes.

A few weeks ago, I came up with a very simple glaze for shrimp on the grill I thought it would be amazing...'thought' being the operative word here. Turned out that the glaze burned off and didn't leave much of the sweetness and tartness of the lovely orange, hot pepper, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger flavors behind. As we used to say in the old days of the sixties, "bummer." 

The glaze/sauce was spot on, but I'd used the wrong cooking method. Fail. Except...what if instead of using it as a glaze, I used it as a sauce? What if I dredged great big beautiful shrimp in cornstarch and egg white and made an Asian Spicy Orange Shrimp dish? I'd love it! Mark wouldn't. 

But. Since the sauce was going on after frying, it could be poured over both shrimp AND crisp chunks of chicken for Asian Spicy Chicken to keep Mark a happy hubby. sauce, TWO satisfied diners, one happy couple! That might just make it a win win WIN, happily ever after situation. And it was.

Easy Asian Spicy Shrimp And (Or) Chicken

  • 1 t fresh orange zest - save the juice to thin your sauce if needed
  • 1/4 C orange marmalade
  • 1/4 C Frank's Red Hot Sweet Chile Sauce - LOVE this stuff!
  • 1 t granulated garlic
  • 1/4 t ginger
  • 3 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" chunks
  • 12 extra large shrimp - peeled, deveined, tails removed if you wish 
  • 2 egg whites - feel free to use egg whites in a carton to make things even easier
  • 1/3 C cornstarch
  • 1/2 t Kosher salt
  • canola oil - enough to come 1 1/2" up the side of a cast iron skillet (or other skillet if you don't own a cast iron one)

First, in a small saucepan, whisk the sauce ingredients together over low heat - orange zest through red pepper flakes - just until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

In a deep bowl, make the batter by beating the egg whites until frothy, then beating in the cornstarch and salt until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Set aside

Start heating the oil in the skillet to about 350 degrees. When the oil is hot, start battering the chicken first.

Working quickly, add the chicken chunks to the batter. Give them a good stir and one by one take them from the batter, letting excess batter drop back into the batter bowl; carefully add each piece to the hot oil. Be sure allow enough room so each piece of chicken fries evenly. Turn over the pieces as they turn golden and cook on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider to a paper towel lined platter.

Now do the same thing with the shrimp. Why do the chicken first? So the picky eater's chicken doesn't taste like shrimp! Not quite enough batter to do the shrimp, too? Make another batch of batter!

Once both proteins are fried to perfection, make a bed of cooked rice (brown in this case) and spoon the sauce over the shrimp and the chicken. 

NOTE: I served steamed red peppers and broccolini with the meal for lots of color and healthy vitamins!

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Very Own Ideal Vodka Infusion For Just My Kind Bloody Mary...Spicy!

Bloody Mary brunches are anything but boring...especially when you start with one helluva vodka infusion. Last week a vacationing friend Facebook tagged me on his local beach bar picture of a vodka infusion. Does Greg know me or what?!

The picture was of a clear, spigoted and lidded glass crock that sat behind the bar. It wasn't immediately discernible what exactly was in the colorful mixture of red, dark green and light green vegetative objects bobbing in what I assumed (confirmed) was vodka. I mistook some of the lighter green spikes for Kosher dill pickle spears. Nope, Greg said...just various shades and types of hot peppers. Which got me to thinking. What would I put into my ideal Bloody Mary vodka infusion? I got to work.

Although that glass crock in the pic was beautiful, I already had a perfectly good large French canning jar that would work just fine for my experimental batch. Dark green jalapenos, bright red serranos and pale green long peppers went into the jar first. I like lots of pepper in a brunchtime Bloody so black peppercorns went in, followed by lots of lemon to brighten up the spiciness, garlic for zip, and yes, zesty Kosher dill pickle spears all made the cut. What an infusion! 

Would this mad mixture work in my leisurely Sunday brunch Bloody Mary? Would it work in a vodka martini? YES!

Here's how to start your own homemade Bloody Mary vodka infusion experiment. Be warned, this one is HOT! Adjust the number and types of peppers to your own personal heat tolerance. I did!

Hot Pepper Horseradish Garlic Black Peppercorn Lemon Dill Vodka 
For Bloody Marys

  • 750 ml bottle of vodka - use your fave....with this much ooph being added, you won't be tasting the vodka anyway!
  • 6 strips of fresh horseradish root, peeled - use your wide harp-style veggie peeler and cut strips about 3" wide and 4" long
  • 4 zesty dill pickle spears - your favorite brand
  • 2 dozen black peppercorns 
  • 1 long pepper, cut in half lengthwise from the bottom almost to the top - leave the halves connected below the stem
  • 2 red serranos, cut the same as above
  • 1 large green jalapeno, cut the same as above
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 3 strips of lemon peel - NO white pith at all - each about 3" long and 1" wide

Into a jar with a lid large enough to hold everything, add all the solids to the jar and top off with the bottle of vodka. Try to submerge the everything as best you can.

Refrigerate the jar, agitating once a day, for a week. The color will become a beautifully rich yellow and pack quite a punch! Decant the infused vodka by pouring the contents through a large strainer over a bowl with a pouring spout. Press the veggies against the strainer to get out all that precious vodka!

Pour the liquid into a pretty bottle, cap and refrigerate.

The Bloody

  • 3 oz. of the vodka infusion
  • 8 oz. Original V8 (I use low sodium V8 and add my own salt)
  • Kosher salt to taste 

In a 16 oz. glass, combine all the ingredients, add ice to top, stir gently and enjoy! 

NOTE:  I kept the Bloody Mary recipe simple - why muddy the pure flavors of the vodka infusion when I'd gone to such lengths to perfect it? You can add whatever floats your boat and makes your very own Bloody Mary the best you've ever had, JUST the way YOU like it. Worchestershire? Go for it. More lemon or even lime? Why not? Anchovies? Let those little fishies swim in a sea of vodka and tomato! Make it YOUR way! 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thai Peanut Coconut Chicken Banh Mi Sandwiches - Gluten-Free Version, Too!

Whether you call them hoagies, subs, grinders or any other iteration of the classic, substantial sandwich-on-a-roll most Americans take for granted as a God given right, we gluten-free folk yearn to once again sink our teeth into that long remembered gustatorial delight. Good crusty bread in the form of a roll is something we haven't been able to enjoy in a long, long time. Until. I found Udi's French baguettes and French rolls in the freezer section of Naturally Soergel's. The crunchy exterior-ed, soft interior-ed bread virtually demanded I make a hoagie with it...well, it would have had it spoken to me and frankly, I think it did!

My first hoagie in...well, since I had to go gluten-free nine years ago...HAD to be special. I searched my memory bank for sandwiches I'd lusted over for a while - cheesesteaks with mushrooms, peppers and onions, the classic Italian cold cut with a drizzle of dressing, a good old saucy meatball sub with melted provolone oozing out the ends. Sigh.

While every one of those long lost, delicious pleasures from the past sounded like it would more than fill the bill, the one sandwich I'd not been able to sample - and had been dying to try - was one of Lucy's Banh Mi sandwiches from her stand outside Bar Marco in the Strip District. THAT is what I wanted! So that's exactly what I made at home as I imagined Lucy's to be.

Starting with a sliced-open Udis baguette, I first layered on a couple of thin slices of hot pepper cheese, then a pile of sweet, tart and crunchy Green Curry Broccoli Slaw (the same slaw Kimber posted right here on Dinner Plan-it back in March of 2012), then a couple of grilled Thai Peanut & Coconut Chicken Tenders, a sprinkle of cilantro leaves and voila(!), my long-awaited banh mi masterpiece was a reality. The best part of all? It was everything I'd imagined and MORE!

Break out the grill, bust out the hoagie rolls and get ready to enjoy one of the best sandwiches EVER...gluten-free or not.

Thai Peanut Coconut Chicken Banh Mi Sandwiches
 (Gluten-free Version, Too)

  • 1 3/4 pounds chicken tenders, raw...not the frozen breaded stuff
  • 1/4 C peanut butter
  • 1/2 C lite coconut milk
  • 1 T Thai red curry paste - I use the roasted kind, feel free to use the regular red or even go wild and use the green!
  • 4 cloves garlic - pressed or minced
  • 1 t ginger - yep, the powdered stuff in the little bottles
  • 1 lime - first zest it and THEN cut it in half and juice it
  • 1 T maple syrup - the REAL stuff, not the pancake syrup...or even use agave syrup
  • 1 T fish sauce

  •  1 Udi's gluten-free French baguette or a regular baguette if you don't have to worry about gluten -- sliced open lengthwise, but not all the way through...leave a hinge at the back!
  • broccoli slaw -- see the recipe
  • pepperjack cheese slices
  • fresh cilantro leaves

In a large zip top plastic bag, put all the marinade ingredients peanut butter through fish sauce, seal and smoosh it all together until the mixture is completely blended. Add the chicken tenders, squeeze out all the air and seal securely. Put the bag into a bowl big enough to catch any drips that might happen and put into the fridge for at least 2 hours4 is better.

While the chicken is marinating, make the broccoli slaw.

Start the grill and when its good and hot, put on the marinated chicken tenders. Grill until beautifully browned and cooked through. Remove.

Now it's time to make the sandwiches! Open the baguette and lay on a few slices of pepperjack cheese in a single layer. Then spoon on some of the broccoli slaw, then the grilled chicken and finally garnish with a few cilantro leaves. Close the baguette, slice into individuals portions and serve.

NOTE: I like to serve these with Japanese Cucumber Salad for a crisp, refreshing, tart and spicy side.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Green Sriracha Basil Marinade for Chicken (pork or shrimp, too!)

Sriracha is red, right? Not if it's GREEN sriracha! Never heard of it? Neither had I, but as soon as I saw it in a recent new products section of Bon Appetit, I had to try it! Oh, yeah. It. Is. AWESOME!

The new (to me) hot sauce still packs a nice wallop of heat, but has more nuances of my humble opinion, anyway. Hotter than jalapenos, the sauce is made with green serranos that are kissed with an herbal sweetness along with fresh citrus and floral notes. It's consistency has more oomph, too. That help to give the marinade a nice stickability (that's a perfectly acceptable word to explain how the marinade clung to chicken without pooling into the corner of the ziplock plastic bag!).

Although there are a couple of green sriracha brands out there, the one I found (thank you Amazon) and used was a Japanese variety (made in New Jersey in the good old USA!) by Musashi. The Musashi people call it Midori Sriracha. Why? No clue here except that maybe it's green color is a nod to the green Japanese liqueur, Midori. It sure doesn't taste like the sweet melon liqueur!

You got a little hint above that my inaugural use involved a marinade for chicken...what else carries flavors so well on the grill?! In keeping with the green theme of the hot sauce, almost everything else in the emerald amalgamation was also green...lime zest and juice, fresh basil, avocado oil with just a bit of non-green garlic and agave syrup.

Oh my, that grilled chicken was good! The flavor profile was unlike any marinade I'd done a VERY good way. Sweet, spicy, hebal, citrusy...all the flavors of Musashi Midori Sriracha and then some.

Hmmmmmm....I wonder what the result of a Midori liqueur and Musashi Midori Sriracha cocktail would be? I think further experimentation just might be in the offing this weekend. Summery new deck drink perhaps?????

Green Sriracha Basil Marinade for Chicken
(Pork and Shrimp, too!)

  • 1 t Musashi Midori Sriracha (this is the only one I can vouch for at this time)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 T fresh basil, finely minced
  • 1 T agave syrup (or a mild honey)
  • 1 juicy lime, zested and then juiced
  • 2 T avocado oil - or other mild cooking oil
  • 1 t Kosher salt

  • 4 chicken breasts or protein of your choice such as pork or shrimp

In a zip top bag large enough to hold the chicken (or whatever protein you use), add all the marinade ingredients and smoosh them around until homogenized. 

Add your chicken (or whatever) and marinate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Heat up your grill, remove the chicken from the marinade and grill to perfection!

NOTE: I grilled veggies at the same time for a simple, healthy dinner. AND it made for a great salad on top of greens for lunch the next day!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bacon-Wrapped Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Pork Tenderloins

Local blueberry season doesn't start until July around here, but I'm not about to let a little thing like THAT stop me from getting a jump on the season!

Grocery store prices on those bountiful, beautiful, USA-grown blue berries (the ones in my fridge are from Florida) are nearing rock bottom prices right now, so until my local farm markets have them fresh from the bush, the supermarket variety will do just fine.

For the next month or so around the Dinner Plan-it household, bargain blueberries from Kuhns, Giant Eagle and Costco will be studding breads and muffins, pancakes and waffles and fruit salads galore. When the REALLY sweet local berries hit the farm markets, that's when I'll crank it up to blueberry pie time. (I may be drooling just a bit thinking of a deep dish, sugar topped and lattice-crusted delightful dessert...WITH vanilla ice cream, of course!)

Last Sunday I took a couple of pork tenderloins, bespeckled them with a healthy polka-dotting of blueberries and garlic cloves, then wrapped them in thinly sliced bacon before roasting the tenderloins off until the bacon was crisp on top and the pork still juicy.

While the tenderloins roasted, I threw together a simple glaze/barbecue sauce that amped up the blueberry-ness of the dish. The result? Pure savory blueberry and pork deliciousness!

Until those precious blue gems make their all-too-short annual appearance at the markets of Shenot's and Soergel's (and hopefully in my Dillner Farms CSA basket...fingers crossed), here's the recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Pork Tenderloins. Enjoy!

Bacon-Wrapped Blueberry Bourbon BBQ 
Pork Tenderloins

  • 2 pork tenderloins - NOT the preseasoned kind that's shot up with all sorts of artificial flavors and such...just the plain, pure, pork tenderloin itself, thank you
  • 1 C fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 head of fresh garlic, separated into cloves, peeled and sliced lengthwise in half (or quarters if the cloves are very large)
  • 1/2 pound very thinly sliced bacon - more or less to cover the pork tenderloins

Remove the tenderloins from their packaging and dry them off...the ones I buy come packaged 2 to a package which explains why I specify two. (If your package only contains 1 tenderloins, cut the recipe in half!) Nestle the tenderloins into a roasting pan they will fit into nicely.

With the tip of a sharp knife, cut rows of slits into the tenderloins about 1" apart almost to the bottom of the roast. (See pic.) 

Alternate inserting as many blueberries as a slit will hold with a sliver of garlic until all the slits are filled. I push the berries and garlic deep into the meat with a finger. Works nicely.

Once the slits are filled, lay slices of bacon lengthwise until the roast is completely covered. 

Roast at 400 degrees for about half an hour and then brush the reserved sauce over the bacon covering the bacon completely. Brush with the reserved sauce a couple more times and continue roasting until the bacon is browned and the pork still juicy. (I know the hot chefs today cook their pork to still pink inside. I can't do that...I like mine cooked through with NO pink. Sue me. That's why I don't give you a time to take it out of the oven...take it out when it's done to YOUR liking!) 

Remove the roasts from the oven and let rest ten minutes before slicing.

While the tenderloins are roasting, make the sauce.


  • 1/2 C store-bought BBQ sauce - I used Soergel's own Sweet & Smoky, but use any GOOD bottled BBQ sauce that fits the sweet/smoky profile
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 C fresh blueberries
  • 3 T bourbon

In a small, deep saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil and stir until the blueberries begin to burst. Remove from heat and whir smooth with an immersion (stick) blender or carefully pour the sauce into a regular blender and process until smooth. Pour 1/3 of the sauce into a bowl to use as a baste and keep the rest warm to serve as a sauce when serving.

To Serve:
Slice the tenderloins into nice thick pieces, serve with sauce and start looking forward to LOCAL blueberry season and blueberry pie!

NOTE: This would be fabulous on the grill!