Oyster shucking at home and chargrilled oyster recipe

Oysters are amazingly delicious, but not easy to get in to. It can be intimidating to open an oyster, particularly after seeing the professionals use special chain-mail oyster-shucking glove and knife. After our jaunt to New Orleans in March, we decided not to be intimidated by oyster opening anymore. Plus, we really wanted to recreate the chargrilled oyster recipe from Acme Oyster house.

What you’ll need: An oven mitt, a flat-head screwdriver and a pairing knife serve as a low-cost alternative to the traditional tools.

First set the Oyster  flat side up.  Second, near the hinge, insert the flathead screwdriver between the shells. Then twist to pop the oyster open.IMG_0360

It might take a few tries. IMG_0359

Use the screwdriver to twist and pry the oyster all the way around if it doesn’t just pop open. IMG_0358 IMG_0361 IMG_0362

Eventually, you’ll see the oyster flesh. IMG_0363

Scrape the oyster from the top shell. Then lift the top completely off. Take the pairing knife and release the oyster from the bottom shell. Now, you’re ready to move on to the recipe.

For the Chargrilled oysters we adapted this recipe from Food.com to mimic the dish we had at Acme Oyster house.

Ingredients:
12 fresh shucked oysters, on the half shell (we found these whole at Lucky’s in our town)
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
10 garlic cloves, pureed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 ounce white wine
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Directions:
Place in a baking dish (we used a pie pan) filled with ice cream salt (to keep the oysters steady) with the meat up. Melt half the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add your lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, green onions and all herbs and seasonings. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, and then stir in the wine. Keep stirring and remove from heat as soon as the green onions wilt. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rest of the butter and stir until completely incorporated.  Heat grill to 350 degrees and place oysters without the sauce on grill.
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When the oyster liquor starts to bubble, spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce on top of each, then top with 1 tablespoon of Romano cheese. Let the cheese melt. When oysters begin to slightly brown at the edges, remove from grill and place on a heat proof plate or tray.  Top each oyster with an additional tablespoon of the butter sauce and serve immediately with slices of French bread for dipping. Garnish with minced Parsley. Serve while still sizzling with Lemon wedges and fresh bread.

Note: It stormed the day we made this and there was no way we were going to grill, so we just made use of the broiler on high in our oven. It worked perfectly. Just make sure to keep an eye on the dish while it is under the broiler, you can go from perfect to burnt pretty quickly.

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My opinion:
The only thing missing was the family-style tables and neon signs.

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Oyster shucking at home and chargrilled oyster recipe
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Servings
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C’s Baklava

 

I always thought baklava was too complex to try at home. Then C found this amazing recipe in The Complete Middle East Cook Book and not only proved me wrong, but it was hands down the best baklava I’ve ever had.

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C's Baklava
Servings
Ingredients
Base
Syrup Ingredients:
Servings
Ingredients
Base
Syrup Ingredients:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If your walnuts and almonds are whole, or not ground pretty fine, throw them in the food processor.
  3. Mix the nuts, sugar and spices together in a bowl.
  4. Butter the sides and bottom of a large baking dish.
  5. Place one sheet of the fillo dough on the bottom of the baking dish and brush with melted butter. Repeat eight times.
  6. Spread some of the nut mixture over the buttered fillo dough. Top with another sheet of fillo dough.
  7. Butter that sheet.
  8. Top with a second sheet of fillo dough.
  9. Butter that sheet. ]
  10. Spread the remaining nut mixture over butter fillo dough.
  11. Top with the remaining nine sheets of fillo dough, making sure to butter each sheet. Brush the top with butter and using a sharp knife, cut a diamond shape and sprinkle with water to prevent the top layers from curling.
  12. Bake on the center shelf for 30 minutes.
  13. Then move up one shelf and cook for another 30 minutes. You'll want to keep an eye on it, if the top browns too quickly, cover with foil.
  14. While the baklava is cooking, make the syrup. Note: we've discovered the longer the syrup sits, the better it is. We've even canned it for later.
  15. Place the sugar, water and honey in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.
  16. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  17. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
  18. Be careful! This boils quickly and the last thing you want is for the mixture to boil over. Manage your heat and let boil for 15 minutes. We found stirring continuously helps prevent boil overs.
  19. Strain and let cool.
  20. When the baklava is done baking, spoon the syrup over the pastry. Leave it alone for several hours (this step is the hardest, but I promise it is worth it).

My opinion: This recipe takes more than the  hour of baking time and makes at least 30 pieces. You might want to cut them small, unlike some treats this is best in small, completely satisfying quantities.

Tyler Florence’s Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Puree

As promised, now that Thanksgiving is over and we have had a chance to do a post-mortem on what worked and what didn’t, I’ll be sharing the recipes that made the cut. First, is this delicious take on sweet potato casserole.

C found this recipe on the Fabulousfoodshow.com and has perfected it in the last year.  We kept it warm in a crock pot while other dishes took up precious oven and burner space.

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Tyler Florence's Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Puree
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and put them on a roasting pan.
  3. On another roasting pan prick bananas and lay out in a single layer.
  4. Roast sweet potatoes for 45 minutes until very soft and roast bananas for 25 minutes. (If you are in a huge hurry, you can boil the sweet potatoes, but do not try boiling the bananas!)
  5. Remove both pans from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  
  6. In a small sauce pot heat cream with bay leaf until reduced by half, then keep warm until ready to puree potatoes and bananas. 
  7. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into the bowl of a food processor (A blender will work, but only if the potatoes are cool).
  8. Add peeled bananas. Season with salt, add butter, cream (make sure you took the bay leaves out!), cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and puree until smooth (or if you like it a little chunky, a little chunky).
  9. Pour into an oven-proof dish. 
  10. Make the topping by combining flour, cold butter and brown sugar in the food processor and pulse until you have the texture of coarse bread crumbs.
  11. Sprinkle on top of the puree and place under the broiler until golden brown and crispy, about 4-5 minutes.

My opinion:
I really love this dish. This year we actually forgot the topping and it was still just as wonderful! You can make it a couple of days (no more than 2!) ahead of your holiday meal and keep it refrigerated. Then reheat in a crock pot like we did or in the oven. If you are keeping it in the crock pot, sprinkle each serving with the topping and use a brûlée torch to make it golden brown and crispy.

Texas sweet onion casserole

It does not look pretty, but it tastes amazing!
It does not look pretty, but it tastes amazing!

Homesick Texan doesn’t disappoint. This recipe makes both J and I miss Texas sweet 1015 onions terribly. Vidalia onions are good substitutes, but don’t quite have the flavor. Since we can’t find the onions in Mid-Missouri, we had to make a few changes to the recipe, but it still turned out quite well.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2  pounds of your favorite sweet yellow onions if you can’t find Texas sweet 1015 onions. Vidalia onions are a pretty good substitute.
3 cups cooked rice (we used long grain white)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne (just about 1/4 teaspoon. The heat int he dish comes from the chipotles in adobo)
2 cloves garlic, minced (or a bit more, we often err on the side of more garlic)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, diced (the original recipe calls for one or two. One just doesn’t seem to get properly dispersed through the dish. We like every bite to have some chipotle chile flavor)
2 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded Gruyere (8 ounces), divided
Salt to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional, but so worth it if you have it)

Directions:
In a large skillet (the original recipe called for cast iron, sadly, ours is a bit too small, so we use the largest skillet we have and then a casserole pan) on low heat melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and while occasionally stirring cook for 10 minutes until soft. Don’t try to caramelize. Stir together the cooked rice, cumin, allspice, cayenne, garlic, chipotle chile, sour cream and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings (we usually add more), then add salt to taste. Original recipe says to add the rice mixture to the skillet and stir until onions are mixed well with the rice, but since our skillet isn’t big enough we combine everything in the casserole dish. Top with the rest of the Gruyere cheese and bake for 30 minutes uncovered or until brown and bubbling. Serve topped with cilantro, it’s worth it.

My opinion:
It’s no secret I don’t love sour cream. It’s a mouth feel thing. But in this dish, it combines wonderfully with the chipotle chiles and cheese. Plus, this dish freezes well and is perfect for a night when neither J or I want to cook.

Green Chili Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Green Chili Chicken macaroni and cheese

In case you missed it, we love macaroni and cheese and have graduated from the blue box to homemade amazingly delicious recipes. While we love, love, love our original recipe, every now and then we want something a little different. Not to mention, some of our favorite San Antonio memories involve sitting at a table at Silo and sharing the amazing green chili and orzo macaroni and cheese with friends. J found this Serious Eats recipe, which with a few modifications is really close.

Ingredients
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk (we used fat-free because it’s what our local HyVee had)
2 eggs
2 bone-in, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound total) (we used boneless skinless because it’s what we had on hand)
Kosher salt
Half pound dry elbow macaroni (Or the whole box like us)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces grated American cheese (or your favorite mild cheese, we like Monterrey jack cheese)
8 ounces grated pepperjack cheese
1 (3.5 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 cup homemade or store-bought salsa verde (in a pinch you can use the Texas Two-Step green chili stew)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
6 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions:
Combine cornstarch, evaporated milk, and eggs in a small bowl and whisk until homogenous. Set aside.

 

Season chicken with salt. Place chicken breasts in a large Dutch oven or stockpot and cover with water by 4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes after a boil is achieved. Using tongs, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.



Return water to high heat until boiling and add pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until barely al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. While pasta is cooking, pull chicken meat into bite-sized shreds and set aside, discarding bones (which is why we used boneless, skinless in the first place.) 
When pasta is cooked, return to low heat. Add butter and stir until melted. Add evaporated milk/egg mixture and cheese. Stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in chopped chilies, salsa verde shredded chicken, cilantro, and scallions.

Green Chili mac and cheese

We baked this for about 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven to let it set.

My opinion:
This is now my second favorite macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Plus, it freezes well.