Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Birthday Celebration

We celebrated Josh's birthday with a fun little dinner on Sunday before his birthday. Then on his actual birthday (also known as Valentine's Day) he surprised me with a fun little night out to see The Artist. If you haven't seen it, you must! It was so good and happens to be the winner of this year's Best Picture. And...if you watched The Oscars you might know that J-Lo and I had the same Valentine's Day date!

For our dinner on Sunday, here was the menu: Scallops with shrimp paste and grits, salad (which I totally failed to photography) and for dessert I made french silk pie.

Shrimp Paste

Shrimp Paste is something I've eaten, but never made or used in cooking. This recipe and the grits recipe are from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks by Scott Peacock and the late Edna Lewis. I think birthdays are kind of celebrations where you can pull out something as decadent as shrimp paste and grits. So much shrimp and so much butter! Who wouldn't love that?!?

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sherry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat 6 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet until it is hot and foaming. Add the shrimp, salt, and black pepper, and cook over high heat, stirring often, for 4-7 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.

Remove the skillet from the stove, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked shrimp to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Return the skillet to the stove, and add the sherry, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. Cook over high heat until the liquid in the skillet is reduced to approximately 3 tablespoons and is quite syrupy. Immediately add this to the shrimp in the food processor and process until the shrimp are thoroughly puréed. With the motor running, add the remaining butter in pieces and process until thoroughly blended. Turn the food processor off, and carefully taste the shrimp paste for seasoning, adding more salt, black pepper, sherry, lemon juice, or cayenne pepper as needed. Transfer the shrimp paste to a ceramic crock and allow to cool completely.

If not using right away, cover the shrimp paste and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Refrigerated shrimp paste should be allowed to return to room temperature before serving.

The shrimp paste was delicious. I think about the only thing I would change is buying some higher quality sherry instead of cooking sherry. I had intended to find something different, but just didn't make it by the liquor store. Does anyone have a nice sherry they use?

Old-Fashioned Creamy Grits

2 cups water, or more
2 cups milk, or more
1 cup stone-ground or regular grits
Kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat the 2 cups water and milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until just simmering.

While the milk is heating, put the grits in a large mixing bowl and cover with cool water. (If using regular grits, skip this step.) Stir the grits assertively so that the chaff floats to the top. Skim the surface carefully, and remove the chaff. Drain the grits in a fine strainer, and stir them into the simmering water and milk. Cook, stirring often, until the grits are tender to the bite and have thickened to the consistency of thick oatmeal. Regular grits are done in about 20 minutes, but stone-ground require an hour or a little more to cook, and you will have to add additional milk and water as needed. As the grits thicken, stir them more often to keep them from sticking and scorching.

Season grits generously with salt, and stir in the cream and butter. Remove from heat, and let rest, covered, until serving. Serve hot.

At this point I often stir in cheese! The suggestion from Miss Lewis follows:

"I like to stir in the paste thoroughly, which gives the grits a lovely coral color...For every cup of hot grits, stir in about 1/4 cup or more shrimp paste."


I could have made a meal out of just the shrimp paste and grits, but the hubby loves a lot of protein. The scallop recipe is from Alton Brown. I watched the video on how to prep the scallops, too. I hadn't ever made them so I needed a quick "how to" on cleaning and trimming them.

1 to 1/4 pounds dry sea scallops, approximately 16)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt (I just used regular salt..whoops)
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove the small side muscle from the scallops, rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.

Add the butter and oil to a 12 or 14 inch saute pan on high heat.

Salt and pepper the scallops. Once the fat begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. The scallops should have a 1/4 inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center. Serve immediately.

There are LOTS of great scallop recipes, but for my first try I thought Alton's purist approach to most foods would be a good way to start. These turned out to be so delicious. I couldn't believe how easy they were to whip up in just a few minutes!

Here's our little date night picture before The Artist, too!

I'll post pictures and the recipe for french silk pie soon!



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