Monday, July 29, 2013

Savory crepes with spicy shrimp and white sauce

 Okay, okay. So I might not get the consummate time-conscious, blogger extraordinaire award for the year (though it would be super impressive, I must say). But as warnings go, and I did warn you a couple typings earlier that this time of year is slow. And by that I mean vacation time and hot weather do not make for meaningful moments in front of a stove. Let me tell you though, numerous possibilities that model themselves in my head dance away and result in great distress and much regret happens on recounting all my missed opportunities. But I make up for it, carrying on and waiting for the next "next time", all the while knowing this is the only time of year I can exploit make use of certain seasonal labor. You know, when JZ sets up his grill and pretends to be Bobby Flay. Great amusement and those yellout yipeee! episodes might get lost once camera, lights and computer screen come into action. Thus, I refrain. You can commend me later.

I should  also mention that I have given birth to two peculiars (ahem), those of the less-evolved palates  and who unanimously prefer fixed (often annoyingly so) meal rotations on a weekly basis. Their mostly non-experimental minds play pony to their not-so-long- lived, yet robust South Indian tastebuds. So I save you from the nonexcitement that comes from everyday starch and protein, especially since most of that has been hyped right here on these pages.

But I have to put a stop to it, a recess once in awhile. Right? Moreover it would be a crime to keep today's unbelievable tasty mise en scène from you. And personally I believe to err on the side of fair and honest. You know, being the good friend that I am.

It is a smilingly simple 3 component dish. A crepe, shrimp filling and bechamel-ish sauce which takes you on the quintessential savory journey, and a soaring one at that. Nothing like you've ever tasted, but that which you've waited for all your life - a conundrum you strongly desire to be part of.

The crepes come together in less than a handful of ingredients. The shrimp curry happens fast and furious. Of course the sauce creams up right before your eyes. Two of the components can be done and stored in advance. Which leaves the white sauce for the day of. Perfectly thin pancakes offer a soft platform for the bed of heated shrimp. The pouring of rich creamy velvet tips the scale favorably and smacks you right in the face. You like it because it is good and absurdly so.
Officially I don't know if you can call these "crepes", since that name more often than not bears eggs as number one ingredient. But I"ve been on the side of breaking a few, and have later come to the conclusion after a certain "mishap of omission" that my eggless route led to a much crisper edged crepe. I haven't looked back since and believe those eggs here add nothing. Especially if the padding inside becomes the utter and beyond.
  • ¼ c water
  • ¾ c milk
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pinch sugar
  • 2 tbsp melted, unsalted butter 
  •  additional melted butted for coating the pan
  • In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 15-20 seconds.
  • Transfer to bowl and refrigerate for an hour, or up to a day.
  • After batter has rested, heat a 9" nonstick pan or flat crepe pan. Using pastry brush, swipe on  the additional butter on entire surface of pan
  •  Ladle ¼ c batter into center of pan to one edge and swirl to spread evenly. ( If too thick add 1/2 tsp increments of milk to thin the batter).
  • Allow to cook, then flip. Cook for an additional minute or two.
  • Once done, lay crepe flat on surface or plate and cover with a clean dry kitchen cloth.
  • Repeat till all the batter has been used up.
Spicy shrimp filling~
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 pearl onions or shallots, diced
  • 1 medium plum tomato, diced
  • 2 tsp ginger minced
  • 2 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, cut small
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ lb medium shrimp, cleaned, deveined
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • In a wide mouthed skillet on medium flame, heat oil.
  • Add mustard seeds. Allow to temper and pop, carefully shielding top of pan.
  • Wilt onions, then tomatoes. Cook until tender.
  • Add remaining ingredients to cayenne pepper. Allow to cook until blended, about two minutes.
  • Stir in shrimp, continue to stir and cook on medium high until moisture is absorbed and pieces are cooked through, 9-12 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Allow mixture to cool slightly.
Basic white sauce~
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 ¼c milk(more if needed), slightly warmed
  • ¼ tsp salt or enough to flavor
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. 
  • Stir in flour  until mixture cooks and becomes paste like and bubbles. Do not let it brown. 
  • Pour in milk, stirring constantly as it thickens. Add more milk depending on desired consistency. (All in all, I used 1¾ c milk). All the while keep stirring.  
  • Stir in salt and pepper.
  • Remove from heat.
Hot, Hot Hot! With 2 tsp of cayenne and unseeded serrano, it's how we here like it (speaking not for my youngest for whom I make a super mild alternative.)
  • Take a crepe and place flat. 
  • Drop in 1 to 2 tbsp of shrimp mixture down the length of  the middle. Fold over both sides. Repeat with the remaining crepes. 
  • If serving individually pour white sauce over filled crepe and serve or...
  • If serving a group, place in casserole or wide plate and line up finished crepes one after another. Pour white sauce over the assembled bunch.
~Likewise you could even pour some of the sauce into shrimp, thickening up the filling.
~You may end up with more crepes than filling. Refrigerate and save for later.
~This recipe is a brilliant blueprint for wrapping anything that you fancy. Other awesome filler options? Why not this chicken, shredded, no bones? Maybe some Kerala beef? Possibly try the sauce in some fish and vegetables?
Trust me they will, at least, be gone out twice before you even try to place a few in assembly. 

Thanks to all of you who faithfully read, those pretty follower pictures to the side and the silent readers that drop in from time to time. When vision is dulled on certain days, I go over the messages, mail and encouragement which brightens my day and makes photographing food fun again. All your feedback and connections charge me up, get my cooking engines ready, and set course for the next tête-à-tête. I'm grateful. Thank you over and again, friends.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it."Colossians 3:12-14 (The Message)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Crostata di marmellata: Daring Bakers' Challenge June 2013: Life of Pie

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!  Smile

Yes, it makes one swoon. A piesighting may be followed by the eyebulging-tongue-tied demeanor, often accompanied with extreme emotion and possible occurrences of fainting. It is a bounty of dreamy love made better when piled into a wide, shallow, generously butter endowed shell. Are we ready? Let's speak pie! 
I was fortunate to get behemoth sized berries this time round, though the simmering juices in a forty minute bake took their size down tremendously.

With four options to pick and choose, it was the crostata that fascinated me. Although I've heard so much about the Momofuku Legend and it begs me try, I 'll save it for another day. As this wasn't my first time at crostata. I'd kneaded my way through several rustic, freehand (read ugly and fall apart) discs of dough. 

Here, I wished to turn history around, my attention focused onto this one elegant- than- most crust option, that too, with much filling potential. According to its description on the challenge page, "Crostate are a traditional Italian sweet treat, most often filled with jam, preserved or fresh fruit, or nut-based fillings such as almond/ hazelnut paste, they can be filled with pastry cream, citrus curd or numerous other delights". A crostata di marmellata would then be best defined as a preserve- filled pie crust, somewhat to the likes of a giant shortbread/ jam cookie. 

What makes this dough, the pasta frolla so delicious? The two-thirds cup of glorious butter, softened to touch. This only needed fat works its way through the pastry, so also the addition of a sole egg which pulls brilliantly into a  no- fail and easily put- together base shell.

The simplicity of strawberries sitting over a bed of blackberry spread made this 9 inch tart lofty and luxurious, to epic proportions I must say. The tartness that plays off the fruit balances almost even thanks to the sugar thats thrown in. Much kudos to parbaking of the shell, for that led to no more soggy bottoms and rendered firm and unintimidated edges.

With July 4th up and coming, I knew that there may not be a chance to bring over another themed update. So, further to the as- is late entry, I decided on a festive splash of cookie cutter stars to crest Crostata di Marmellata. Though I will add, it was a different take, to my visionary second child, who noticed only "starfish floating on a red sea". Seriously, his imagination one-ups my pie artistry skills.  You don't need to agree with me on that, please.

( Pasta Frolla and glaze recipes adapted from Daring Bakers' Challenge Page)
(My additions/modifications in purple italics)

Pasta Frolla~

  • ⅔ c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ⅓ c sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt


(My own)

  • 1 c blackberry preserves
  • 2 c strawberries, hulled and halved
  • ⅓ c granulated sugar  ( more or less depending on level of fruit sweetness)
  • 1 tbsp flour

  • Combine strawberries with sugar and flour. Set aside.

Crostata di Marmellata~
  • Using a paddle attachment on a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer or using hand and whisk, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, 2 - 5 minutes. If you want to do a more intricate lattice, I'd recommend a shorter creaming time so you have a firmer dough.
  • Whisk in egg, vanilla and lemon zest, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  • Add flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together but remains soft, about 1 minute using a stand or electric mixer or a wooden spoon if mixing by hand. Don't over-mix.
  • Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
  • When getting ready to bake, rest dough at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • Lightly grease a shallow 9" metal pie dish.
  • On either a piece of parchment or a lightly floured surface, roll 2/3 of the dough (about 12oz) out to a circle slightly bigger than the pie dish. Use parchment with a circle traced to roll as quickly as possible, before the dough gets too soft to handle, then use the parchment to transfer it to the dish.
  • Transfer the dough to the pie dish, press in gently and roll the edges to form a good lip for attaching the lattice later. Prick all over the bottom with a fork.
  • Refrigerate the dough-lined pie dish for 30 minutes to reduce shrinkage during baking.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Line pastry with parchment and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake until set, around 15 minutes.
  • Remove the weights and parchment and allow to cool. If using a springform or loose based pie dish, remove the side of the pan.
  • Preheat oven to  400°F.
  • Roll the remaining dough to fit the pie dish and cut it into roughly half "strips. Or bring out your  cutters and create your own design.
  • Spread the preserves over the par-baked crust. Top with strawberries.
  • Arrange the strips of dough in a lattice pattern over the filling, trim as needed and lightly pinch the ends onto the rolled edge of the bottom crust.
  • Place pie dish on a baking sheet and place in center of oven. Bake until lattice is golden, around 20 minutes. Mine took 35 minutes to brown. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.
  • ¼ cup apricot jam
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Glaze Directions:

  • Heat the jam and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Alternatively, you can heat it on medium-high in a bowl in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve if it's chunky.
  • While glaze and pie are both still warm, brush over top crust.
Rachael's notes~
The amount of time you cream the butter will affect the final dough - longer means lighter which in turn means a softer, more fragile dough which is less easy to work, similar to that of cooked pastry.

Thanks Rachael for such an apt and season appropriate challenge. Life without pie would be a sad one, indeed.

 Last year : Smoked salmon rolls
 4th of July inspiration~Why not these tarts?

For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God in your life giving light." Psalm 56:13 (NLT)