Terikyaki Shrimp Skewers

Quick, easy, and tasty – what more do you want? These grilled shrimp work great as appetizers or as part of a meal. Double skewering the shrimp makes it easier to flip them. Feel free to add bell pepper slices or pineapple hunks to the mix.

Ingredients

1 lb large shrimp (26-30 count), shelled and deveined
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
6-8 bamboo skewers

Directions

Place skewers in water to soak.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high heat (about 400°F).

Combine teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, 5 spice powder, and garlic powder in a lidded container. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Skewer the shrimp – run one skewer through the head end and then another through the tail.

Grill 2 minutes per side, or until shrimp turn pink. Do not over cook.

Steak and King Crab on a Budget

We love to eat out, but with the way the economy has been, we just can’t afford to do it nearly as often as we’d like. Our solution has been to eat at home, but we still like our fine dinning experience.  By doing some bargain shopping and taking full advantage of our FoodSaver and freezer, we were able to put together this gourmet meal for a fraction of what it would have cost in a restaurant.

The Cook

Make sure your steak and crab are well-thawed. Pull the steak out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.

Set your grill up for direct cooking at high heat (about 500-700°F).

Season the steak on both sides with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Put the steak over the hottest part of the grill and close the lid. Give it 60 seconds of undisturbed searing. After a minute, flip it over. If the steak won’t come away from the grill easily, give it another 30 seconds. Once flipped, close the lid and give it another 60 seconds of undisturbed searing.

Now open the lip and leave it open for the rest of the cook.  Flip the steak again – flipping the steak often minimizes flareup and maximizes the amount of steak that’s done the way you like it. Keep flipping the steak once a  minute until they are done to your taste. Press on the center of the steak or use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness. I like mine medium-rare, which  is 135°F internal with a mostly pink center with a hint of red and yields easily to a little pressure.

Remove the steak the a warm plate and let it rest while you cook the crab and asparagus.

Decrease the heat of the grill to medium-high (about 400°F).

Place the legs on the grill with the spiny side up. Close the lid and let cook for 5 minutes. Flip the legs and add the asparagus to the grill. Leave the lid open and grill for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears begin to brown and caramelize and the crab is heated through.

Remove the asparagus to a plate and drizzle with olive oil and a little lemon juice. Keep warm.

Wearing food prep gloves, or using a thick disk towel, break the legs at the joints. Use a seafood cracker or pair of kitchen shears to further crack the leg segments. Serve with melted butter.

The Math

We bought 2 full clusters of crab legs at a significant discount from a local yuppiemart that had ordered way too many of them. We bought the value-pack of steaks from Cosco. Everything got separated into meal-sized portions, sealed in FoodSaver bags, and frozen.

5 pounds of King Crab clusters @ $9.99/pound = $49.95
5 pounds of beef tenderloins @ $6.99/pound = $34.95

So, for $80.90 we got enough steak and crab for 4 meals for 2. That’s $20.26 a meal. Add $10 for a  bottle tasty, mid-priced red wine, a couple bucks for the veggies and dessert, light a candle and we’re still talking fine dining at under $40 a couple.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This is a quick and versatile alternative to grilling plain, old chicken breasts. The stuffing provides a lot of moisture and flavor to what could otherwise be a pretty bland piece of meat. I used a bacon, basil, and Parmesan cheese combination for this recipe. Other tasty combinations include ricotta, spinach, and prosciutto; or mozzarella, deli ham, and parsley.

2 (6-ounce) chicken breast halves
Kosher salt
Lemon pepper
2 slices bacon
2 thin slices Parmesan cheese
4 fresh basil leaves

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.

Season both sides of the breasts with lemon pepper and a little salt. Put the breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound firmly with the smooth side of a tenderizing mallet until evenly flattened and about a 1/4 inch thick.

Remove plastic wrap and top with the fresh basil, bacon, and cheese. Roll up tightly and secure with a couple of toothpicks.

Grill the rolls seam-side up for 10 minutes, flip and grill until the rolls are done, about another 10 minutes. They should be golden brown and the inside temperature should be 160°F. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the rolls into 1-inch rounds for serving.

Pancetta Polenta Pizza – Meat in a Minor Key

Meat around our house usually appears in the form of a steak, slab or roast. So when my wife proposed making this Mark Bittman pizza recipe that claims to serve 4 but only calls for a scant 4 ounces of meat, I was more than a little skeptical. In the end, the pancetta added a great depth and wonderful pork flavor to the already rich and crispy pizza.  It was a big hit.

Ingredients

1 cup coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped pancetta
1 pound spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush a layer of olive oil on a baking sheet.

Combine milk with 2 1/2 cups water and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just about to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and add cornmeal, whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until the polenta thickens and it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan like thick oatmeal.

Stir 1 tablespoon oil into the cooked polenta, then pour it out onto the oiled baking sheet. Spread the polenta out until it’s about  1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let cool. When it’s no longer hot, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for an hour to firm up.

Once the polenta is chilled, bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to brown and crisp on edges. While the polenta crust is cooking,  heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and pancetta is nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Remove onion, garlic, and pancetta out of pan and set aside. Add spinach to skillet and saute until it releases its water and pan becomes dry. Add the pancetta mixture back into the pan, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the polenta crust from the oven, sprinkle with gorgonzola, then spread pancetta-spinach mixture evenly atop cheese. Top with basil and tomato slices, then drizzle with another tablespoon olive oil. Put pizza back in oven for 2 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and pancetta and veggies are warmed through. Cut into slices and serve.

Corned Beef & Cabbage

This Irish-American dish appears on many a St. Patrick’s Day table. You can buy pre-seasoned corned beef brisket at most grocery stores,  but I’ve been curing my own for a couple of years now and it’s well worth the effort. While the dish is traditionally braised, I like the firmer texture and greater depth of flavor I get from smoking it a little first.

The Cure

Start with an uncured, trimmed 3-4 pound brisket flat (the bottom portion of the brisket).

Combine all of the following ingredients to make your dry cure:

3 tablespoon  Morton’s Sugar Cure (plain)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons corned beef spices (I like Penzey’s with brown & yellow mustard seeds, coriander, allspice, cracked cassia, dill seed, bay leaves, cloves, China ginger, peppercorns, star anise, juniper, mace, cardamom, red pepper, whew…)

Place brisket in a large freezer bag and coat with the cure. Rub the cure into the meat, covering all sides. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Store in the refrigerator for 5 days, flipping the meat over once a day. Liquid will begin to collect n the bag – this is a good thing as it indicates that the cure is working. Do not drain it off.

On the 6th day, remove the brisket from the cure and rinse under cold water to remove most of the pieces of spice. Then soak the brisket in cold water for 1-2 hours to remove some of the salt. Dry off the meat and season lightly with a little fresh-ground black pepper.

The Smoke

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at between 225 to 250°F. Use a drip pan under the brisket to catch the fat. Add wood for smoke (I like grape vine). Cook at 225°F for about 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat hits 160°F. Remove the brisket from the smoker.

The Braise

1/2 large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut into thick wedges
6 Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), quartered
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Place the brisket in a large roasting pan, surround with the remaining ingredients and add enough water to barely cover. Braise in the oven until the vegetables are done and the meat is very tender, about 30 minutes to an hour.

Remove the corned beef and slice thinly across the grain. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a large platter. Lay the sliced meat over vegetables and ladle over with a little of the remaining liquid.