Paying for Gluttony: Shrimp Salad Stir Fry

I am a glutton and proud of it. Unlike the typical red-blooded American addiction to “Mickey Dee’s” and Coca-Cola, my gluttony finds form in artisanal cheeses, dark chocolates, Sauvignon Blanc, and dry-aged rib-eyes.

Whole weekends revolve around food. Dinners are planned weeks in advance. Jim and I are known to turn down invitations to go out because we want a Saturday night with nothing to do but cook, snack, and watch reruns of The Wire. When we do go out, we hound friends about where and what we’ll eat, whether the restaurant is Zagat rated and—“just in case”—we stash some homemade snacks in my bag.

If you invite me over to your kitchen, I’m cooking dinner, and it will be a decadent, waistband-popping, many-plated meal. If I invite you out for dinner, rest assured that I’ve researched everything about the restaurant’s menu, making certain it will appease everyone’s palate.

I’m constantly pushing my favorite foods on friends and family, and long, languid afternoons are often spent talking about idolized chefs and perfect meals.

So, it’s no surprise that I spend Mondays popping antacids and sulking about my weight. It’s also a reason why I don’t normally blog about Mondays’ dinners of bare fish and salads. Tonight, however, things were different.

Cursing my lack of willpower—that fifth piece of pizza on Saturday, those chocolate dipped cookies on Sunday—I wallowed in self pity late last night, wallowing until it began to feel good. I felt happy about my indulgences—lucky that I can eat the foods I love, lucky to have loved ones to share with. And by embracing my gluttony, I started to feel good about my Monday healthy dinner and got creative. A variation on my fish and salad Mondays, this stir fry was almost too satisfying to be so healthy!

Shrimp Salad Stir Fry

Serve with a white sticky rice. If you don’t have a large wok, use the biggest skillet you have for this recipe—the lettuce takes up a LOT of room before it wilts!

  • 1 to 1½ pounds shrimp, deveined and tailed.
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 hearts of romaine lettuce, each head cut crosswise once or twice
  • 1 T canola oil
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 3 T dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

To make sauce, combine broth, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch and red pepper flakes. Set aside. Heat canola oil in a wok over high heat, once hot add garlic and fry about 1 minute, stirring. Add shrimp and fry for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add 1/3 of lettuce, stirring until it beings to wilt and make room in the wok. Add second 1/3 of lettuce and stir until that begins to wilt. Add remaining lettuce and sauce. Simmer for a few minutes. Serve over white rice (unless you’ve eaten too many carbs over the weekend!)

American Tamale Pie

Both Jim and I stake claim to Mexican cooking “know-how” in our household. Our reasonings, mind you, are totally unfounded. Jim thinks he’s Mexi-King because he spent a year in Southern California eating at “authentic” taco stands and burrito joints (and also doing drugs, which is why I discount his authority of taste during that time). Me, I think I’m the top tortilla because I’m generally the more-food-knowledgeable one, I’ve dated a few Spanish guys, and more importantly, I have a thing for Spanish literature, especially authors like Borges (who’s actually Argentinian), Márquez (who’s Colombian). No, not Mexican, so yes, that point is totally worthless, but somewhere in my unthinking brain I associate my fondness of translations (note: I can’t even read Spanish) with my ability to cook.

Moreover, we’re both highly competitive. Most of the time, we are able to function because we have different specialties–me cooking, him writing–but because I also write and he cooks, we have some overlap that usually ends in long conversations about why one knows more than the other.

The dish I’m blogging about today, however, proves that while we may know how to eat Mexican food, neither of us can hold bragging rights on how to cook it. Especially not me, since I’m the one who cooked this.

It started with me craving Chicken Pot Pie, then wanting to switch the chicken for beef, then wondering what this could be called—beef pot pie, burger pie, etc—and after a google search of “beef instead of chicken pot pie,” finding a bunch of recipes for Tamale Pie. One look at the words Monterey Jack Cheese, and Tamale Pie became dinner.

Instead of scoping out the many I’m-sure-delicious recipes on the internet, I decided to give this recipe a go on my own—confident that my Mexican-prowess would result in something sabroso!

The end product of my experiment wasn’t Mexican, though it was flavorsome. We wolfed the pie down in one satisfying sitting and my tamale pie was deigned a success, but something was off about the flavors, and we couldn’t pinpoint what wasn’t Mexican enough about it.

Wanting to know whether I had been way-off with my attempt at the dish, we turned to wiki-pedia, finding that Tamale Pie is only a “meat mixture covered with cornbread topping that resembles a Mexican dish” and actually has American origin. So, my dish is authentic Tamale Pie, though it seems I’m more confused about authentic Mexican than I thought!

Tamale Pie

Oven Temp: 375º

  • ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ lb. hot chorizo sausage (about 2 links), out of the casings
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, sliced (reserve some slices for decoration later)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oz. frozen sweet yellow corn (about ¼ of a bag)
  • 6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp. ground chili pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon

for the topping:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 T. butter

In a medium dutch oven, begin to saute onions and peppers (reserving a few slices of the poblano for later). When onions are translucent, add garlic, ground beef, and chorizo and break it up into peices. Cook for 10 minutes then add cheese, corn, and spices.

Meanwhile: Bring water, cornmeal, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer, stirring, until cornmeal thickens. Turn off heat, add butter, and stir.

Using a rubber spatula, spread cornmeal mixture over the meat mixture. Decorate with reserved poblano slices. Bake, uncovered, in the oven for 40 minutes. ¡Buen apetito!

Craving: Portabello, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Frisée Salad

My cravings aren’t specific. Most of the time, planning dinner, I sense the type of dish I want–spicy, woodsy, basic bland, sweet, pungent, delicate—and I’ll go from there. I’ll often yearn for general flavors, the ol’ sweet tooth actin’ up, but I hardly ever crave a certain food.

And then there’s goat cheese. I’ll be minding my own business and all of a sudden I can’t control my thoughts, my drool, my urges—I need goat cheese. This is a stange thing for me since I’ve never been a believer in the cheese cravings that so many women claim to have, always assuming they were just making excuses to stuff themselves. And while I love all kinds of cheese, and eat it daily, I’ve never had cravings for a type. Now, in the middle of the day or night, I’m thinking goat cheese. Just the fleeting mention of those two words—goat, cheese—puts a giddy smile on my face, one of those eyes rolling in the back of your head, mouth open, exhaling deeply giddy smiles.

Perusing the cookbooks at Barnes and Noble the other day, I knew that a recipe containing goat cheese, mushrooms, and bacon would have to be on my dinner table that night. No way around it. This recipe, adapted from my memory of it in Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures, is a frisée salad with aged goat cheese. The frisee, which is more bitter and sharp than mixed greens or Romaine lettuce, allows for pungent goat cheese instead of the standard Parmesan topping. The mushrooms also stand up nicely against the cheese—a woodsy counterpart. And bacon, well, bacon tastes good in anything.

I recommend using a good red wine vinegar for this. I used O Olive Oil brand’s Zinfandel Vinegar. I’ve heard so much about this brand of oil and vinegar, and it seems that all the hype is justified. The vinegar was delicious by itself and would be perfect of simple salads of a little oil and vinegar.

I’m entering this recipe into Leftover Queen’s Royal Foodie Joust. The event looks like tons of fun, and we all get to talk about it on the website’s forum, so I couldn’t resist. You can check out the details here.

Portabello, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Frisée Salad

adapted from Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures

Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven at 350º until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the bacon slowly over med-low heat until crisp and fragile-crumbly (which is my preference, but by all means cook the bacon however you please). Transfer bacon to a plate and discard all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon fat. In a small bowl, whisk together the bacon fat, olive oil, vinegar, shallots, mustard and a pinch of thyme, salt, and pepper. Taste and vary the dressings ingredients to your liking (add more vinegar a little at a time if you think the dressing is to oily). Remove mushrooms when done and in a small bowl combine mushrooms with 2 Tbsp of the dressing. Let sit as you prepare the salad bowl with frisée lettuce, bacon, and dressing. Mix in mushrooms and grated cheese. Top with extra cheese if you like. Enjoy!

  • 5 portabello mushroom caps, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp dried or fresh thyme
  • 6 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1-to-2 inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 6 cups frisée lettuce
  • 4-to-6 oz grated aged goat cheese, I recommend this one
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Cranberry-Applesauce

    As crazy as it seems for a girl who on any given day has 3 pounds of apples on her counter, I’ve never made applesauce. And I adore applesauce—the spices, the chunks of warm apple, the sweet tart taste—but cannot stand the canned commercial stuff. Why, then, did I wait so long to start making homemade applesauce (really, if you can help me answer that one go ahead, because I’m at a loss.)

    This applesauce is based on a recipe from Cooking Light magazine—which gave me the idea to add cranberries, another sentimentally Fall ingredient. The cranberries lend the applesauce a tarter, intriguing taste, and give the applesauce a rich pink-red color, so if you are thinking of gifting your applesauce, this one looks beautiful! I used brown instead of white sugar, feeling like brown is somehow cozier, warmer, than white. I also added allspice and used extra ground cinnamon, because I like my applesauce spicy! Once you get the peeling and chopping done, applesauce is so easy to make—and so worth it!

    Now, I’m off to sit on my patio in the crisp air with a bowl of warm applesauce, to ponder what to have for dinner. Oh, how I love Saturdays!

    Chunky Spiced Cranberry-Applesauce

    The amounts of this recipe are based on the amount of apples I had in my kitchen today—2 pounds. If you have more or less, however, just tweak the other ingredients to match and don’t worry about it—applesauce is very forgiving!

    Makes 3 heaping cups

    • 2 pounds apples (anything on hand—I used Pippen, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 2 cups fresh cranberries
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 tsp allspice
    • 1/3 cup water
    • lemon juice for sprinkling

    Peal and chop the apples. Place them in a bowl with cold water covering them, sprinkle in lemon juice. In a dutch oven, bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and stir until cranberries begin to “pop,” about 3 minutes. Drain apples and add them to dutch oven. Turn heat down to low-medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover and bring back to a boil. Mash the apples to your chunkiness level—using the back of a spoon or potato masher. Cook for 15. Pour applesauce into a big bowl, throw on a sweatshirt and go sit on your patio, watch the falling leaves, and enjoy!

    Peal and chop the apples. Place them in a bowl with cold water covering them, sprinkle in lemon juice. In a dutch oven, bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and stir until cranberries begin to “pop,” about 3 minutes. Drain apples and add them to dutch oven. Turn heat down to low-medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover and bring back to a boil. Mash the apples to your chunkiness level—using the back of a spoon or potato masher. Cook for 15. Pour applesauce into a big bowl, throw on a sweatshirt and go sit on your patio, watch the falling leaves, and enjoy!

    Hey Shorty: Braised Short Ribs

    In a country where food is prized for it’s cheap prices, quality time is considered an hour in front of the TV watching 24, and “fast and easy” recipes are all the rage in cookbooks and food network shows, it’s easy to understand why one would want to write a braised short ribs recipe that took only 2 hours.

    But, is two hours enough for tender, fall-off-your-fork, melt in your mouth short ribs?

    It wasn’t for me. I even knew it wouldn’t be beforehand but, like the majority of my fellow Americans, I was too lazy Friday night to start on Saturday night’s meal and on Saturday morning I was too busy with other things to start cooking early. So, the plan for succulent short ribs on the first Saturday night that Jim and I have had alone in a while was doomed from the start, but the short ribs were in the fridge and I wouldn’t have time to cook on Sunday, and instead of waste, I decided to cook from a short ribs recipe by Alfred Portale in his Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook (highly recommended despite what I say in this post).

    Now, I knew this was a bad idea. The last time Jim and I had short ribs was at Daniel in NYC. After leaving the flawless restaurant, with full bellies and empty wallets, we decided the short ribs were the best thing we’ve ever tasted. Not the best short ribs—the best food that we had ever eaten. Hard to beat that.

    Of course, no short ribs of mine could compare to those at Daniel and my only hope would have been to cook from Boulud’s bookdamn you laziness and errands! In Boulud’s recipe, you begin by marinating the short ribs with wine, onions, bacon, and some spices overnight. In Portale’s there is no marinating prior. The next day, in Boulud’s recipe, you cook the marinated meat and vegetables in a oven with high heat for about 75 minutes. The short cooking time works because the collagen of the short ribs would have begun to break down marinating overnight. The high heat also facilitates tenderness.

    In Portale’s recipe, you brown the meat, then the vegetables, then add some red wine and reduce for a while. After this, you add the browned meat to the liquid and braise for about 2 hours, or until tender. That or is a big one, too ambiguous for me, during my first time cooking short ribs, clinging to my recipe like life or death. Too nervous to stray into the land of making my own decisions, I stopped the cooking time at 2 hours.

    Even though the ribs didn’t turn out fall-off-your-fork tender, they were delicious with a reduced red wine sauce that is out of this world. The recipe is worth it simply for the sauce, which I recommend you load on your plate of ribs like a soup. Salty, rich, and perfectly spiced, it was comforting in my depressed state of not-so-tender beef.

    I do want to make this recipe again–maybe marinating the ribs overnight, and then going ahead and following Portale’s recipe. Or, maybe following the recipe without marinating, and just cooking the whole thing longer. I need suggestions, so if you got ’em, send ’em over.

    I searched the web night, looking for a little tenderness. I found someone on ChowHound who suffered from my same 2 hour dilemma. Many smart foodies answered her question of whether 2 hours was really enough for tender short ribs.

    Some believed 2 hours could do the job:

    You can increase your oven temp to 350 F. The meat needs to have an internal temp of around 200 for at least 30+ min or so for the collagen to break down. I do mine at 325 to 350 in a covered dutch oven with enough liquid to just cover. They come out falling off the bone in 2-3 hours.

    Others weren’t so certain:

    I am wondering why the recipe called for cooking them only 2-2.25 hours for fork tender (and I’ve seen other recipes that have a similarly short cooking time that have had similar not tender results). So far, I’ve never been able to get them close to where they should be in that time period, so I am not sure what sort of magical meat these cookbook writers are buying (mine was from a very nice butcher shop, so I’m confident it wasn’t a meat quality issue).

    And a few were down-right unhelpful, especially if you don’t own a pressure cooker:

    All ribs are not created equal. Some are tougher, some are more tender, some have more connective tissue, some less and some are just going to take longer than others to get to where you want them to go. If you have the time start cooking long in advance of when you want to serve the meal. That way if you need an extra half hour or so you’ll have it. The ribs won’t go bad if you gently keep them warm while you wait to serve. Me, I like my pressure cooker for going through long braises at warp speed.

    In the end, I learned that short ribs are probably best cooked over a long period of time, marinated the night beforehand, and then refrigerated once cooked, reheated and served the next day.

    Though I’m beginning to consider myself a foodie, I’m not sure I’m ready for a 3 day recipe just yet. If you would like to play around with the cooking times of this recipe in order to get some more tenderness, go for it. But, if you are like me and too scared to stray from a perfectly good recipe, make this one as is—it’s really exquisite if you aren’t hoping for fall-off-your-fork fare.

    Braised Short Ribs

    adapted from Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook

    Oven Temp: 300º

    • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
    • 6 large, meaty short ribs
    • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
    • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
    • 1 medium celery rib, coarsely chopped
    • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 bottle dry red wine, such as Zinfandel
    • 4 cups beef stock
    • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
    • 2 sprigs thyme
    • 2 sprigs rosemary
    • 1 dried bay leaf
    • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
    1. Preheat the oven. Heat oil in a oven-proof large dutch oven with a lid. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Cook in batched without crowding, until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
    2. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp of the rendered fat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are nicely browned. Add the garlic and paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the stock, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Return the short ribs to the dutch oven and cover tightly. Braise in the oven for about 2 hours, not letting the liquid get past a very slow simmer (reduce heat if necessary.)
    3. When tender (about 2-3 hours) take out the short ribs and keep warm on a plate with foil covering the ribs.
    4. Skim fat off the top of the liquid in the dutch oven. Return to the stove top and bring to boil over high heat. Cook until the sauce is reduced to about 1 ½ cups, highly flavored, and delicious.
    5. Whisk in the butter one Tbsp at a time. Plate ribs and cover with sauce.

    Blog or Bust #3!

    Hey Guys! I’ve been putting off the blog or bust because I couldn’t think of a creative event title. But you know what, I’ve decided against all that—Blog or Bust #3 is going to be simple. It’s fall. We all love fall food—pumpkin, apples, squash, with it’s comfy spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) and warm-up your heart feel. So, Blog or Bust this time asks for you to create a “Fall” dish—pumpkin pie, chili, gratin, soup, the possibilities are almost endless. Something comfortable, something cozy, something hearty. Something that screams “Come on, holidays, do your worst!” We need to prepare ourselves for winter, people, and the best way to do that is to fill our bellies with something delicious, nourishing, and homey.

    We don’t, however, want to feel like stuffed turkeys, so keep things healthy.

    Here’s the details:

    • Post a healthy recipe on your blog (or email me a recipe if you don’t have a blog) before November 25th. (Thanksgiving recipes would be great!) Don’t worry if it’s not the healthiest thing ever—the most important aspect is that you won’t feel you’ll bust the scale when you eat it! We’re talking guilt-free deliciousness here!
    • Mention Blog or Bust in the post and add a link back here.
    • Email me the link to your post at
    • Check back at November 25th (or the day after if I’m too stuffed with turkey that weekend to blog!) to see your post!!