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Shrimp Kebabs with Cilantro Dressing

shrimp kebabs with cilantro dressingLife is strange. I can’t recall the last time I made kebabs and yet in the space of two days I made two kebab dishes. I hadn’t planned it that way; it just happened. While I was food shopping the other day, not sure what I was going to make for dinner, I found myself hankering for grilled shrimp.  It was that simple, dinner was sorted but now I needed to think of a sauce that would enhance the shrimp but not overpower it. I had just passed the aisle where the cilantro (coriander) was and felt a Thai-infused dressing would be perfect for the shrimp kebabs. Continue Reading →

Clam Chowder

clam chowder by The Culinary ChaseAccording to The Oxford Companion To Food, the term chowder (derived from the French word for chaudière) first showed up in the 1730s by French settlers who brought their iron cooking pots with them when they settled in the Maritime Provinces of Canada.  It was here they found the Mi’kmaq Indians and their appetite for native clams.  The Mi’kmaq cooking technique consisted of hot stones placed in water in a hollowed-out piece of tree trunk.  It has been suggested that a natural marriage took place between the clams which the Indians had and the pots which the settlers brought.  Growing up in New Brunswick (one of the 3 Maritime provinces), clam chowder was a frequent visitor in my mom’s kitchen and it was scrumptious.  There are many variations of chowders out there and the true chowder lover will proclaim theirs is the best.  For me, it evokes memories of my childhood and I won’t say mine is the best but it’s pretty darn good!  If you like this chowder, then you might also want to try Manhattan Clam Chowder  which is made with tomatoes.

Serves 4
2 (8oz.) cans of baby clams, drained but reserve juice
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 to 4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 to 2 earns of corn, kernels sliced off cob
olive oil
1 celery rib, chopped

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and cook bacon. Then add onion, celery, and thyme. Cook until onion is translucent.
  2. Add potatoes and corn.  Stir to combine and add enough milk to cover potatoes (at least 3 cups). Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  3. Add clams and 1/2 cup of clam juice and stir. Taste and season to your liking. You may need to add more clam juice.  Allow chowder to reheat before serving.

clam chowderThe Culinary Chase’s Note: Do not let the milk boil. I use the back of a spoon to mash a few pieces of potato to help thicken the chowder.  Enjoy!

Shrimp and Cheesy Grits

Shrimp & Cheesy Grits by The Culinary ChaseWhat are grits?  There doesn’t seem to be a standardization or labeling rules as to what grits are and are they the same as polenta or cornmeal?  If you look at Bob’s Red Mill bag of corn grits you’ll notice it says also known as polenta.  Grits are typically coarse-ground cornmeal. Polenta and grits fall under the heading of cornmeal – are you confused yet?  Cornmeal comes from steel ground dried corn (maize) and is available fine, medium or coarse grind.  The most common is fine ground.  Stone ground cornmeal, however, keeps some of the hull and germ, allowing for a bit more flavor and nutrition.  My take? When all else fails, select medium or coarse-ground cornmeal and you can’t go wrong.

Serves 4
inspired by Soul Patrol

Grits Topping –
2 cloves garlic, chopped
handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 to 2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour
6 strips bacon
16 shrimp
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives
chopped parsley, for garnish
balsamic vinegar reduction (optional)

Cheese Grits –
4 cups water
1 cup stone-ground grits
2 cups aged cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons butter

coarse-ground cornmeal by The Culinary Chase1. To make the grits bring water to a boil and slowly add grits, stir. Turn heat down to medium and cook, stirring occasionally 25 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and add butter and cheese. Stir until combined. Cover.
2. In a large frying pan, cook bacon to desired liking.  Remove from pan and roughly chop.  In the same pan with bacon fat, sauté shrimp over medium-high heat until pink on both sides.  Remove from pan.
3. Add sun-dried tomatoes, celery and garlic. Sauté over medium heat 2 minutes or until celery is al dente. Add shrimp and bacon back to pan along with 2 tablespoons flour. Stir until flour is absorbed. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and stir until sauce is thickened (add more stock if too thick). Then add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice – add more if you like. Stir in chives and basil.
4. Place cheesy grits in 4 bowls and add shrimp mixture. Top with parsley, drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction and serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  While the gits are cooking, make the topping…you’ll have a meal ready for the table in half an hour.  Adding balsamic vinegar intensifies the flavors and you’ll be scraping the bowl clean!   Enjoy!

Seafood Soup

seafood soup by The Culinary ChaseJust when you think the frigid weather is behind us, mother nature shakes her head and delivers a polar vortex. Usually the polar vortex stays in the Arctic but this year it’s paying Canada and the United States a visit…a very cold one! Here in the Maritimes, we’re not going to be as hard hit as the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be cold. YIKES! Bring on the soup! Seafood soup is easy to make and the aromas from your kitchen will make you think you’re at an upscale restaurant.

Serves 4
adapted from Lucy Waverman

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup white wine
3 cups fish or seafood stock
400g can cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
16 mussels or clams
12 oz. (375 g) firm white fish such as catfish, grouper, cod, halibut, swordfish (cut into even chunks)
4 large scallops
8 large shrimp, peeled
2 squid tubes (cleaned), cut in rings

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and fennel and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and continue to sauté until fragrant. Stir in parsley and fennel seeds. Pour in ½ cup wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then add stock and tomatoes. Add dried chili. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Taste, and if need be, season with salt and pepper.

2. While the soup base is simmering, in another pot over medium-high heat, add mussels and wine.  Cover and steam until mussels open, about 3 minutes. Strain broth into soup and reserve mussels.

3. Add fish, scallops and shrimp to soup. Simmer gently until fish is cooked (about 5 minutes). Stir in squid and let it cook for 2 minutes or until opaque. Add mussels to reheat. Serve immediately and top with chopped parsley.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: A warming and hearty meal that’s dinner-table ready in 30 minutes!  Serve with bread to help mop up the juices.  Enjoy!