Recipe for a Grand Dinner Party

July 29th, 2013

My friend Penny of The Comforts of Home and From Harvest to Table is a multi-talented lady.  Not only has she turned her new home into a beautiful place to live by painting, sewing, digging in the dirt and creative decorating, but she is also an accomplished and creative cook.  This past weekend David and I had the pleasure of dining with Penny and her hubby.  The menu was posted in her kitchen.

We were seated in her cozy kitchen nook and enjoyed the crostini and brushetta while she stirred the risotto and we all had a chance to chat. It is fun to watch the hostess put the finishing touches on a meal.  It is smart though to have a place for your guests to sit well out of the way of the action.  Sometimes it is easy to get distracted when people are leaning over your shoulder and messing in your space.  Penny has the perfect set up.

Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the appetizers.  But they were just perfect with a glass of crisp white wine.

I cannot say enough about the Creamy Corn Risotto with grilled shrimp and truffle oil.  This is a perfect summer dish.  All of the flavors of fresh corn are extracted from the ears.  The cobs are used to make a stock and the corn kernels are used in both a puree and a saute.  The risotto is creamy and full of the flavor of corn.  The shrimp with truffle oil is just simply the perfect embellishment to the dish.  I can see why Penny said “there were a lot of mmms going on from her friends” when she first made this because we were doing it too.  We all ate our dishes with a big spoon and I scraped my bowl clean.

Ah, Poached Pears in Marsala wine with English Stilton Cheese.  This was such an elegant dish and believe it our not it was made in a crock pot.  Simple elegance.  Penny and I both have The French Slow Cooker cookbook by Michele Scicolone which we love.  But she also bought the Italian Slow Cooker and this recipe came from that book.  It is a no fail easy way to poach pears and the rich sauce and bleu cheese complemented it perfectly.  I have a feeling Penny will have the recipe on her From Harvest to Table website soon so be sure to go over there to view it.  Here is her recipe for the risotto.  It might seem long but it can be done in stages and each component held in the fridge until the final cooking of the risotto.

This is a perfect dinner party menu.  I hope you give it a try.  Thanks Penny.



RECIPE (serves 6)

Corn Stock

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise
  • 1 leek (white and light green part only), cut into 1-inch pieces


Corn Purée and Sauté

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs



  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Sartori Stravecchio cheese (or another domestic Parmesan  cheese)


  • 24 peeled and de-veined shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 2 medium summer truffles, very thinly sliced (optional)

Make the Corn Stock

Using a large chef’s knife, cut the corn kernels off the cobs and set aside.  Place the cobs in a large stockpot along with the onion, celery, and chopped  leek. Add 10 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat  and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain the corn stock through a fine-mesh  strainer into a bowl. Discard the solids. You should have at least 6 cups of  stock.

Make the Corn Purée

Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over  medium heat until the butter begins to foam. Add the onion and garlic and sauté  until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the reserved corn  kernels, season to taste with salt and pepper, and continue to cook over low  heat, stirring constantly, until the kernels begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the cream, thyme, and 1 cup of the corn stock and continue to simmer over  low heat until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme  and purée the mixture in a blender until smooth.

Sauté the Corn

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium sauté pan over  medium-high heat. Add the remaining corn kernels and sauté until the corn is  tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the Risotto

Heat the olive oil in a large wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion  and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir  to coat with the oil. Add the wine and reduce the heat to a simmer until most of  the wine has evaporated. Add 1 cup of the corn stock to the pan and continue to  cook, stirring constantly, until most of the stock is absorbed. Repeat the  process with the remaining 4 cups of corn stock, making sure the stock has been  fully incorporated after each addition before adding more. Once the rice is  tender yet firm to the bite, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the corn  purée, sautéed corn, and grated cheese and season to taste with salt and  pepper.

Prepare The Shrimp

Preheat a gas grill to high.  Lightly brush the peeled and de-veined shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Place on grill and cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side.

To Serve

Divide the risotto among 6 warm bowls. Arrange 4 shrimp atop each bowl of risotto. Drizzle with the truffle oil and garnish with sliced summer  truffles, if desired.

Shrimp and Grits

April 30th, 2013

The first time I had shrimp and grits was in the early 80’s at a small restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina called Crooks Corner.  As it turns out this was not just any restaurant and not just any dish.  Crook’s Corner was the birthplace of shrimp and grits. The dish has been copied all over the south and has made its way onto menus from New York City to Sante Fe, New Mexico.  The original chef, the late Bill Neal, caught the attention of Craig Claiborne who wrote about Shrimp and Grits and the Southern menu in The New York Times. Crook’s Corner is “sacred ground for Southern foodies”.

Today under the leadership of Chef Bill Smith, many of the original recipes of Chef Neal are still served.  Chef Smith has added many of his own signature southern classics, but the shrimp and grits recipe has remained the same.  We love it.  But over the years David, my in-house shrimp and grits guru, has combined recipes from several sources including Tyler Florence, Martha Nesbit of Savannah, GA, and Slightly North Of Broad restaurant in Charleston, SC.  I’m going to let him take over from here.

Penny asked me stop at the grocery store and pick up some milk and orange juice.  I put the milk and juice in the cart and then took a stroll past the seafood case to see what Ingles had to offer that day, and there they were, some of the most gorgeous 10-15 per pound shrimp I had ever seen. Visions of shrimp and grits immediately flashed through my mind.  By the time I checked out, I had in my cart a package of the shrimp, packages of bacon and andouille sausage, a package of stone ground grits, a hunk of sharp cheddar, and some scallions.  The check-out girl looked at the shrimp and said, “Boy, those are some nice looking shrimp.”  I nodded and said, “Yeah, I know…I just came in here for some milk and orange juice until I saw those shrimp.”

This recipe uses both bacon and andouille sausage for the fat component, and the grits are cooked in milk instead of water, a la Tyler Florence, and  include cheddar cheese, a la Martha Nesbit.  Tyler actually cooks his grits in a mixture of whole milk and heavy cream, but in an effort to lighten things up a bit, I used Smart Balance skim milk which almost tastes like 2%.  Stirring in grated cheddar cheese at the end makes a deliciously rich bowl of grits.

We are traveling right now.  We have been visiting friends on Nantucket Island for the daffodil festival.  I hope to have some awesome pictures to share with you soon.  In the meantime, here is David’s recipe for Shrimp and Grits.


For the grits:
4 cups milk (We use Smart Balance Skim Milk)
1 cup stone-ground grits
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

For the shrimp:
3 strips of bacon cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound andouille or spicy Italian sausage, cut in chunks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Pinch cayenne pepper, adjust to personal preference
1/2 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 green onions, sliced

For the grits:
Place a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat.  Add the milk.  Slowly whisk in the grits.  When the grits begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  Allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese, thin it out with a little extra milk if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the shrimp:
Place a deep skillet over medium heat and coat with a little olive oil.  Add the bacon and cook until done.  Remove bacon to a paper towel.  Add the onion and garlic; saute for 2 minutes to soften.  Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until there is a fair amount of fat in the pan and the sausage is brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to create a roux.  Slowly pour in the chicken stock and continue to stir to avoid lumps.  Toss in the bay leaves.  When the liquid comes to a simmer, add the cooked bacon and the shrimp.  Poach the shrimp in the stock for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are firm and pink and the gravy is smooth and thick.  Add the cayenne pepper and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper; stir in the parsley and green onion.  Spoon the grits into individual bowls and add the shrimp mixture on top.  Serve immediately.

Printable recipe

Thai Shrimp Cakes

March 23rd, 2013

We love our seafood restaurants in Florida.  There are so many fresh and healthy options to choose from in any number of places especially from sushi restaurants near me to taste variety of fish recipes. David and I usually order broiled or baked fish when we are out.  But if fried coconut shrimp is on a restaurant menu, I can’t resist it.  Coconut shrimp, in my opinion, is the very best combination of fried shrimp with a hit of coconut sweetness.  It may not be the best choice, but I love it.

I was happy to see a recipe in Cooking Light Magazine for Thai shrimp Cakes.  One of the ingredients was unsweetened dried coconut.  This was mixed with panko crumbs for both the filling and the breading.  It sounded like it had all of my favorite coconut shrimp flavors.  The first hurdle was finding the coconut.  All that is available in our supermarkets is sweetened flaked coconut.  But we do have a wonderful health food store in town and they had unsweetened dried coconut in the bulk bins.  My 1 cup purchase cost me only $1.00. It was in tiny bits and had a heavenly coconut aroma.

This was an easy recipe to pull together.  Basically, all of the ingredients are chopped and mixed in a bowl.  They are formed into cakes and then coated with a combination of panko crumbs and dried coconut.  A quick saute in oil and you have succulent shrimp cakes with a hint of Asian flavors.  But what came through to me the most was the coconut breading.

This makes a great lunch with salad greens and a good viniagrette dressing.


2/3 cup panko crumbs, divided
1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut, divided (minced if large)
2 tablespoons minced green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons Sriracha (hot chile sauce)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lime, quartered

Combine 1/3 cup panko, 2 tablespoons coconut, and next 8 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add shrimp; stir just until combines.  Using wet hands, shape mixture into 4 equal balls.  Comine remaining panko and coconut in a shallow dish.  Coat balls in panko mixture; press to form 4 (4-inch) patties.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Add patties; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.  Serve with lime.

I served this with spring mix salad greens and a vinaigrette dressing.

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Jambalaya – A New Orleans Tradition

February 16th, 2013

We love New Orleans.  We have been there several times and are always charmed by the food, culinary talent, and history of the city.  We don’t spend much time on  infamous Bourbon Street; been there, done that years ago.  But there is so much more to the city.  One of my favorite shops in The French Quarter is Lucullus.

It is a wonderful antique shop that imports all kinds of French antique cookware.  I have a beautiful copper pot, circa early 1900’s, that I bought from the shop at least 15 years ago.  The name of the shop has great gastronomic significance.  Lucullus was a Roman general and politician in 80 BC.  He was known for his decadent banqueting and interest in food.  Today Lucullan means lavish, extravagant, and gourmet; ie, a Lucullan delight.

There are many wonderful restaurants in New Orleans.  My first food epiphany occurred in New Orleans.  I was newly married and we traveled there to a conference that my husband was attending.  Our friends, John and Georgia, who were also attending the conference, had heard of a small restaurant that was supposed to have great food.  We traveled across a bridge to reach it.  I wish I could remember its name.  It is long gone now.  We just called our old friends and they remembered the name.  It was called La Ruth’s.  Thank goodness for friends whose minds are still sharp.  There were only 30 seats but La Ruth’s was always busy.  Both David and I ordered Trout Meuniere.  Even today I can remember the taste of the buttery lemon flavored fish.  I think that was the beginning of my understanding that food could be a transporting experience.  We both still talk about that meal and have tried to duplicate the experience.  We are still working on it.  But sometimes there is only one first time; impossible to recapture.  I wonder if Julia Child ever duplicated her first experience with Sole Meuniere.

Today New Orleans is home to many culinary legends.  Among them is John Besh, a native son of Southern Louisianna.  He has nine restaurants.  Among them is La Provence in Lacombe, just outside of New Orleans.  Set on picturesque grounds with an extensive kitchen garden, La Provence looks like a typical Provencal auberge.  The stucco, tiled roof restaurant features an antique French bar, a huge stucco fireplace and oak beamed ceilings.  It has a sophisticated menu of French and Cajun inspired dishes.  But the closest thing you can find to Jambalaya would be a Quail Gumbo.  Nonetheless the recipe that I am featuring today is a John Besh jambalaya that was featured in People magazine of all places.

I must give credit where credit is due.  David found this recipe, bought the ingredients and cooked it.  He is still smarting over the fact that I never mentioned that he made the Braised Short Ribs that we had at Christmas.  Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish with Spanish and French influences.  Meats and seafood cooked with rice is reminiscent of the Spanish paella.  The Provencal word Jambon, meaning ham, is more than likely the basis of the word’s origin.  David included both chicken and pork in this dish, along with andouille sausage and shrimp.  It was delicious.

It is good straight out of the pot.  But I “fancied up” the presentation a bit.  I saved some of the shrimp, sausages and sauce separately.  After the jambalaya was done I placed a serving of it in a round bowl, packed it down and then inverted it into an individual serving bowl.  I surrounded it with sauce and sausage pieces and placed three shrimp on the top.  I sprinkled it with snipped chives for a little color.  This makes a lot so it is good for company.

JAMBALAYA (Adapted from John Besh)

3 slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced
3 cups uncooked, converted Louisiana white rice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce (I used Rao’s Marinara sauce)
1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (More for presentation)
2 cups diced cooked pork and chicken
3 green onions, chopped
Hot sauce

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until fat is rendered, about 3 minutes.  Add onions, stirring often until browned.  Add green pepper, celery and sausage; cook, stirring often, 3 minutes longer.  Add rice, paprika, thyme and red pepper flakes.

Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, pork, chicken and green onions; bring to a boil, stirring well.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 18 minutes until rice is done.  (Add shrimp after rice has cooked for about 5 minutes into the process.)  Remove from heat.  Seasons with salt and hot sauce.

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Fettuccine With Shrimp, Cream and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and a Give-Away

January 4th, 2013


I received a new cookbook for Christmas.  To me, that is the best gift under the tree.  I look forward to it every year.  Every year I research the new crop of books available and find the one that appeals to me most.  This year I chose a cookbook that is both visually inspiring and full of recipes that are new to me.

The book is What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies.  Katie is a food and lifestyle photographer and blogger whose blog of the same name has become an internet phenomenon.  She is Irish and lives in Australia.  I have been following her blog for a couple of months and am amazed by her photography.  She has a huge collection of vintage cooking utensils and her photo shoots are all about rustic presentations; not the prettily posed perfect shots.  There are crumbs and sauces dripping everywhere.  The photos in her cookbook are just as stunning and almost life size.  It is worth owning for its artistic merit alone.  But add to that the delicious recipes and you can’t go wrong.

The first recipe I tried was Fettuccine with Shrimp, Cream and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.  The ingredients were simple and in combination made a great weeknight meal.   Because January 2013 marks the 5th Anniversary of my blog, I want to share this lovely cookbook with you.  Please leave a comment and I will select one lucky winner by random generator to receive a copy of What Katie Ate.  Comments are open until Tuesday January 8th.  Thank you for all of your support over the years.



3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 1/2 pounds uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
2 tablespoons shredded basil, plus extra to garnish
1/2 cup drained sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
pinch of ground white pepper
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
11 ounces fettuccine
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty bread, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat and saute the garlic until softened but not colored.  Add the shrimp and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are opaque.  Remove the shrimp from the skillet and leave to cool, then chop into thirds.

Add the scallion, basil, sun-dried tomato, pepper, chicken broth, vermouth and cream to the skillet, and cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by about half.  Stir in the parmesan and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until melted and combined.

Return the shrimp to the sauce to heat through, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente.  Drain well.

To serve, add the pasta to the sauce and toss together with two forks.  Garnish with extra parmesan, basil and a grinding of black pepper, and serve with crusty bread.

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.