Chef Juje

A messy adventure in learning to cook

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Chef Juje Gets a Makeover

Wait. That might be misleading.

I did not get a makeover, though if anyone wants to give me one I would be more than happy to accept!

No, Chef Juje the blog got a makeover, as well as a new home. You can now find me over at chefjuje.com.

I’m hoping that the new site is a little more fun both for me to update and for you to read.

Enjoy!

Shrimp and Grits

{…in which I learn to make grits}

For almost all of my husband’s life, he and his family have traveled to the southern part of North Carolina to spend a week on the beach.   I was even invited last year for a relaxing week full of sand, sun and shrimp.

Seriously, one of my favorite memories of last year’s vacation was the delicious shrimp and grits that his mom made for us. And although we weren’t able to go to North Carolina this year (sorry, North Carolina, your beaches took a back seat to my honeymoon), we wanted to recreate our favorite vacation dish here in Ohio.

A Crash Course on Grits

Grits are basically dried corn that is ground to a coarse meal. It can usually be found in the breakfast cereal aisle, NOT in pasta or rice as I initially tried, which makes sense because it is neither pasta nor rice.   Most sources seem to agree that a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of liquid to grits is a good rule,  using lighter liquids like water or stock when heavier ingredients (cheese or butter) are used and milk with stock when making grits on their own.

Start with boiling your liquid. Then reduce to low and add the grits. You should see large, slow bubbles (not rolling bubbles!) in the grits.  Over time, the grits will begin to thicken and seem creamy.

On left – large slow bubbles. On right – grits start to become creamy.

After the grits are finished cooking, you can add your other ingredients like cheeses and butter.

See Saveur “Perfecting Grits” and Bon Appetit “Grits” for more information on my new favorite corn product.

Shrimp and Grits

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup grits
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (NOT instant) grits
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter (1 tbsp for grits, 1 tbsp for shrimp mixture)
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • chopped peppers or other vegetables
  • salt and pepper

Directions – Grits

  1. Bring stock and water to boil. As soon as liquid is boiling, reduce heat to low and whisk in grits.
  2. Whisk grits quickly at first, then continue whisking as the grits cook. Should be done frequently but not constantly.
  3. Allow grits to cook for about 20 minutes (if using old-fashioned Quaker Oats grits; stone grits take closer to 40 minutes)
  4. Stir in cheeses and 1 tbsp butter
  5. Turn off heat, cover with lid and set aside.

The shrimp mixture. This was a bit of an improvise-as-you-go situation.

Directions – Shrimp

  1. Salt and pepper shrimp
  2. Heat pan to medium high.
  3. Add a few teaspoons of oil to hot pan, then add shrimp
  4. Cook shrimp for a few minutes until pink, turning over once.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add the chopped peppers and sautee until soft. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
  6. Pour 1/2 cup chicken broth let it reduce in half
  7. Add tobasco sauce, lemon juice, 1 tbsp butter and cooked shrimp.

The finished shrimp and grits.

Zucchini Sticks and Onion Dip (Sans Zucchini)

I was really, really excited to share this recipe for baked zucchini sticks today. I was even a good (fine, improving) food blogger, took lots of pictures for each step along the way and was stockpiling advice for how to make such an excellent veggie dish even better.

I took the zucchini out of the oven, prepared a nice little plate of  vegetables, bit into a zucchini and…

I did not like.

The zucchini, that is. I’m starting to think that I’m not a squash person, given past experience with butternut squash in the fall.  If you’d like to try, by all means go for it and report back.

The onion dip, though,  was FANTASTIC.  I gave up on the zucchini and started eating the onion dip with all sorts of vegetables I could find.  Delicious!

Caramelized Onion Dip

This dip is pretty simple – mayo with caramelized Vidalia onion, natural honey, mustard, cider vinegar. The only tricky part can be caramelizing the onions, and I once again refer you to Simply Recipes for spot-on directions and insight into the process of caramelizing onions. Low and slow, stirring infrequently so as to not inhibit the caramelization.  In fact, I only discovered her instructions in the middle of cooking my dish in a panicked “Mr-Chef-Juje-I-think-the-onions-are-burning!!!!” moment.  Apparently this is a relatively common problem among newbie chefs, as Cooking Light even lists it as one of their “most common cooking mistakes.

What are your tips and tricks for caramelizing onions?  And, for moral support, what do you do when you encounter a recipe dud?

Ingredients:

  • 2 small to medium Vidalia onions
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mustard (I used Dijon)
  • 2 tbsp natural honey
  • 1 tbsp butter (for onions)
  • 1 cup mayo (Greek yogurt can be substituted)
  • tiny bit of sugar (to aid caramelizing process)

Directions:

  1. Caramelize Onions.  Heat 1 tbsp butter, add sliced onions, keep on low to medium low, stirring occasionally, until onions brown.  Add a tiny bit of sugar if you would like.
  2. Add onions, vinegar, mustard, honey and mayo/Greek yogurt into food processor and blend.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Blueberry Buckle

A second baking post in a row!

I am learning that baking often creates giant messes (flour! mixing bowls! splatters!) and there is nothing in the world that I like more than GIANT messes.

Also, a second trip to the Worthington Farmer’s Market led me to pick up these beautiful blueberries.

My first blueberries

Given that I am brand new to this cooking thing and even newer to baking, I had never actually purchased a blueberry before and had no idea exactly what to do with them. A quick search led me to a blueberry buckle, a dish I liked for the alliteration alone.

The actual finished product!

Buckles are basically cakes with fruit mixed in or sprinkled on top. The original recipe called for half the blueberries mixed and half baked on top, but I got a little over-eager and thew all the blueberries in without seeing the word “half.” I am a big picture person and sometimes it works out okay.

Not two hours after I made the buckle that I received my Food Network recipe of the day featuring Alton Brown’s own blueberry buckle.  Imagine my excitement!! (Fine, summer’s a little slow chez Chef Juje.) Honestly, the one here is kind of extra delicious because it involves a lemon syrup on top.

Make the crumble first and then freeze.  Then make the cake and sprinkle the crumble (hehe fun sentence!) over top.  While the cake is baking, prepare the lemon syrup and drizzle over the cooked cake. Also, I cheated and did not use lemon zest and used “Real Lemon” juice instead. I did just buy a juice attachment for the mixer, though, so maybe my cheating days re: lemons are numbered.

Ingredients:
Crumble

  • 1/2 cup AP Flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • dash salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon (I omitted)
  • 1/4 cup room temp unsalted butter, cubed

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 tbsp room temp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon (I omitted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups blueberries

Lemon Syrup

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons

Directions:
1.) Make the Crumble

  • Sift flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest (for you non-cheaters). Mix in butter so that little crumbles form, then store in the freezer until the cake is prepared.

2.) Make and Bake the Cake

  • In a large bowl (YES another bowl!), sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
  • In another bowl (oh yes…), cream butter, sugar and lemon zest. I used the beater attachment on medium for this.
  • Add one egg at a time to the butter mixing bowl and mix after each egg.
  • Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/2 of the butter milk. Mix.
  • Add another third of the dry ingredients and the final half of the butter milk. Mix.
  • Add the remaining third of the dry ingredients. Mix.
  • Fold in 1 cup of blueberries (or all, like I did)
  • Spread cake batter over square greased baking dish. Sprinkle blueberries on top if you have them. Spread the crumble from the freezer over top, then bake at 350 until it starts to brown.

3.) As cake is baking, make lemon syrup

  • Bring the sugar and lemon juice to a boil.
  • Reduce to simmer and cook 8-10 minutes until a syrup has formed.

4.) Drizzle lemon syrup over cake.  Cut and serve.

Recipe Source: Taylor Takes a Taste (AGAIN alliteration!)

Chef Juje Thoughts:
I have heard that a lot of baking is measuring. I was very careful to measure each dry ingredient, pack it not-too-tightly, then even the top of the measuring cup using a back of a knife. This worked perfectly with the exception of sugar, in which I confused the 1/4 measuring cup and the 1/3 measuring cup.

I’ve also heard of people measuring ounces. I would be open to this if I start baking enough to warrant a baking scale.

Any preferences out there? Any other baking tips for a newbie baker?

Mudslide Cupcakes (in which Chef Juje Learns to Bake)

This post is a result of several life-changing acquisitions and discoveries I’ve made in the last few weeks:

1.) A working phone, with a working camera, and therefore Instagram.  Leave no meal un-photographed!

2.) A Kitchen Aid standing mixer.  I was almost in *tears* opening it,  both because I was so thrilled to receive the mixer and because I never thought I’d reach a point in life where I’d get teary over a standing mixer.

3.) A Martha Stewart cupcake holder/transporter,  which was a wedding gift from one of Mr. Chef Juje’s single guy friends. There’s something about a 20-something guy going onto a registry and buying something so domestic that I just find absolutely sweet.

4.) drumroll…..The discovery that there is an entire world of people out there making COCKTAIL CUPCAKES.  Seriously.  Google it.

The result – mudslide cupcakes!!  I made them for a 4th of July party yesterday. True, there’s no red, white or blue, but all the cutesy cakes-shaped-like-a-flag desserts would have really been lost on the crowd we were with.  Booze, though, definitely was NOT lost on them.  Alas.  The key to a crowd-pleaser is to know your audience.

The recipe came from The Curvy Carrot (awesome name, by the way) and she does a phenomenal job of explaining all the steps.   The best part was her explanation of the swirls — simply take two pastry bags, one with each type of frosting, then insert into a third pastry bag fitted with a tip.

Chef Juje Thoughts
1.) This is a messy, messy, messy endeavor.
2.) I made mini cupcakes and they were gobbled up.  Mini things are easier to grab and eat.
3.) These are an indoor treat.  The icing gets a little melty.
4.) These are not before-work treats.  They’re not cupcake shots by any means, but the Baileys and Kahlua icings are a little punchy.  This also makes the cooking/taste-testing process VERY INTERESTING.

ENJOY!

Glazed Salmon with Cucumber Avocado Salad (…and Chef Juje is back!)

Chef Juje is back!

Phew, those were a crazy couple of months!  And now, I’m excited to announce, that Chef Juje is now Mrs. Chef Juje.

The last few months were just a whirlwind of wedding planning, traveling, wedding planning, visitors, finally wedding and eventually more traveling.  It was all so much fun but I’m secretly excited to get back to the normalcy of every day life.  Believe it or not, there is only so much champagne you can drink and hors d’oeuvres you can nibble before you start craving a home cooked meal.  That threshold is quite high, mind you, but it exists and I’m excited to be back.

Today I present our first meal as an official family of two.   I found this recipe in the Food Network Magazine that was waiting for me post-honeymoon.  I normally gravitate toward the fancy “weekend night” recipes because I like to make things as complicated as possible (you know this already), but this fell into the everyday cooking category and it’s just as delicious.

Glazed Salmon with Cucumber-Avocado Salad

Ingredients

2 8-oz salmon filets (I used skin-on to save some cash)
1 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp olive oil (original recipe called for sesame oil; I did not have and was unwilling to buy. Nothing seemed to be lost)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 cucumber cut into chunks
3 scallions sliced
1 avocado, chopped
pickled ginger in a jar (delicious addition if you have it; not a deal-breaker)

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut your avocado, scallions and cucumbers if you haven’t already. This makes life much easier for everyone.
  • Mix honey, 2 teaspoons soy sauce and corn starch in microwave bowl. Microwave for 10-20 seconds until hot (note: I originally did as recipe said and cooked for 40 seconds. No. You want sauce, not honey crust.)
  • Rub fillets with with a dab of oil and salt. If you use skinless, rub both sides. Place in clear baking dish and bake five minutes. I put nonstick spray on the bottom of my glass dish because my filets had skin and were not oiled on the other side. I have no idea if this was necessary.
  • After 5 minutes, remove fish and brush with the honey mixture. Return to oven and bake 7 to 9 minutes or until layers flake easily. It’s most delicious when center is slightly translucent.
  • While fish is cooking, make the salad.  Whisk rice vinegar, mayo and 1/2 tsp soy sauce and oil in large bowl.  I whisked the heck out of it to make sure that the mayo was fully integrated into the oil mixture.  At first it looked like there were tiny blobs of mayo and I don’t think that’s what you want.
  • Add cucumber, scallions, salt and toss.
  • Gently add avocado.  I added mine piece by piece to avoid the salad becoming a guacamole.
  • Serve salmon with the avocado and cucumber salad and pickled ginger (again, not deal-breaker)

Chef Juje Thoughts

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I have a lot to say!

First, I purchased the cucumbers and scallions at Worthington Farmer’s Market.  Maybe it’s effort justification on my part, but foods from farmer’s markets just taste so much better and are so much more fun.  It makes me feel like I’m one of those people who really savors life, you know?

Second, I recently realized I have spent many years spelling avocado as advocado.  Ha.  I have to remind myself that the avocado is not advocating anything.

Finally, cucumber, fish and avocado work really well together. This makes sense given what’s in a lot of sushi but it’s nice to figure this out first hand.

Source: Food Network Magazine, July/Aug 2012

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