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11  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Grilled Freshwater Prawns on: September 17, 2013 12:25:42 PM
There is a Freshwater shrimp farm around 30 miles up from Fort Worth in Wise County. They have 3 ponds that they harvest in September on three consecutive Saturdays.

I picked up a couple of pounds last Saturday and grilled them on sticks. They have a sweet, lobster taste and are a steal at $8 a pound.

Here is a couple of picks and a video I shot of the farm.

Video of shrimp farm

Here is how I grilled them.

Grilled Freshwater Prawns

    2 pounds fresh prawns (or large shrimp)
    1 cup peanut oil
    1 cup fresh chopped herbs (I used parsley, thyme, chives and rosemary from my garden)
    cup chopped garlic
    cup fine diced sweet red peppers
    Salt to taste
    Wood skewers

Cooking Directions

    Soak skewers for 15 minutes in water.
    Mix herbs, garlic and peppers in bowl with peanut oil.

    Rinse prawns in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. De-vein prawns with shells on by cutting the top of the shells over the tail with a small knife making a shallow slit in the tail meat, then lift out the vain with the tip of the knife.

    Skewer prawns tail side first, then coat with herb/oil mixture and let marinade for 15 minutes.

    While prawns are marinating, pre-heat grill to high heat. Grill prawns on skewers for around 4 minutes then flip and grill another 4 minutes. Prawns are done when the shells turn from blue/gray to bright orange/red. Lightly salt prawns after grilling (while still in the shell), youre really just salting your fingertips.

These prawns were extremely tasty, heads and all! Eat the grilled prawns like crawfish, that is, suck the head and eat the tail.
12  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Homemade Hot Sauce on: July 14, 2013 09:22:27 PM
This sounds delicious!  I am pinning  Smiley  (Love your photos, too).

13  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Re: Herb Garden project on: July 14, 2013 11:35:27 AM

Updated picture from this year. Basil is growing like weeds...
14  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Homemade Hot Sauce on: July 14, 2013 11:16:42 AM
My pepper plants have been putting out a lot of peppers so I decided to make some homemade hot sauce!

I have both hot Apaches and a milder Pompeii peppers growing in my herb garden. The Apaches are small peppers that are a little hotter than Cayenne (and are from the same family). The Pompeii peppers is a larger sweet pepper, but I have noticed that mine have some mild heat to them when they turn red.

Apaches and Pompeii pepper from my garden.

First you need to roughly chop your peppers.

I also added some garlic and a shallot.

Making the hot sauce itself is actually pretty easy. You basically boil your chopped pepper mixture in vinegar and water with sugar and salt, then puree. There are some pretty strong pepper and vinegar fumes released when you boil the peppers, so make sure your stove area is well ventilated or fix this outside.

Then Push pepper mixture through a sieve to get rid of the seeds and skins, then bottle.

I used basically 3 cups of chopped peppers, 1/2 a cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of salt. I also added some garlic and a shallot.

This batch came out tasting very much like a very hot Sriracha sauce with the garlic and sugar flavors I added. Sort of what I was going for after making that Sriracha ketchup last week. Very tasty!

I have more step-by-step pictures on my blog here.

15  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Carbonara Recipe on: July 01, 2013 03:52:11 PM
Unless you are baking, I normally think of recipes as more of a guide and to adjust according to your taste and ingredients you have on hand. So, sounds good to me!
16  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Hand-cut fries with spicy Sriracha ketchup on: July 01, 2013 09:57:47 AM
Made some hand-cut fries the other day with some Sriracha ketchup. Got the idea when I went to Whataburger and tried there spicy ketchup. It really was not that spicy, so I decided to make some at home with some Sriracha, now that was spicy!

To make the Sriracha ketchup I added 1 tablespoon of Sriracha sauce to 1 cup of ketchup, stirred and gave it a taste, than went ahead and added a second tablespoon. I also let it set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to let the flavors meld.

To make the fries I decided to make both russet and sweet potato fries, hand cut and baked on my grill (you can also use an oven). Soaking the fries in vinegar water and coating them with a little cornstarch makes them nice and crispy when baked.

I evenly distribute the fries on the parchment paper, making sure none of the fries are touching, and bake at 425F for 20 to 30 minutes (turning the fries once).

The Fries turned out great! Plus the ketchup was nice and spicy.

I have more step-by-step pics and a little story here on my blog.

17  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Grilled Cheese Day! on: April 12, 2013 11:11:33 AM
Today (April 12th) is grilled cheese day!

Here is a few tips on making a grilled cheese sandwich.

Grilled cheese tips.

1. It is all about the cheese, so make sure you use plenty of it; 50/50 cheese to bread ratio is ideal. When using that much cheese, I find shredded cheese melts better than slices.

2. Make sure you use a soft cheese like American, cheddar or gruyere. Hard cheeses don't melt easily and should be avoided for grilled cheese sandwiches.

3. Thick slices of bread. It is common practice to press a grilled cheese sandwich with a spatula while grilling (you have to make sure everything sticks together), so use thick slices of bread -- unless of course you want a really thin sandwich. I find that good ol' Texas Toast works great.

4. Use a well-seasoned cast iron pan. It browns the bread better. If your pan is not well seasoned, use a non-stick pan instead.

5. Butter the bread and not the pan. This gives you an even distribution of butter on the bread when grilling. Just make sure the butter is at room temperature for easy spreading, then butter one side of the sandwich and put that side down in the pan. Press sandwich with spatula, then butter the side facing up (if you butter the top side before pressing, the top piece of bread tends to stick to the spatula).

6. The thicker the sandwich, the lower the heat when grilling. Medium high heat is good, but if your sandwich is extra thick, use medium heat. That will give you a little extra time to melt the cheese without burning the bread. You can also cover the sandwich while grilling with a lid or pan to trap the heat and help the melting process.

And here is a few pics of a Bacon & Jalapeno Grilled Cheese Sandwich I made for the occasion.

More pics and a recipe here.
18  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Basic steak on: March 26, 2013 10:01:23 AM
Did a post on my blog going over the basics of steaks. A friend of mine had a bad steak experience recently which inspired the post.
To make things even better, my local Albertson's had choice rib eye steaks on sale for $5 a pound last week. I don't know how it is around the rest of the country, but around here in Cowtown, steaks are on sale all the time.

So here is what I look for when picking out a steak

The USDA grades beef for quality, not with an A, B, C, like in school, but with Prime, Choice and Select. Actually there are eight grades, going all the way down to canner, but in grocery stores you are going to find Prime, Choice and Select.

Prime is the best grade of beef, less than 3% of all beef is graded prime, so it is hard to find and expensive. Prime steaks are normally sold to high-end steakhouses, so if you ever wondered why you cant seem to cook a steak at home as good as that high-end steakhouse, it might just be the steak and not you.

In grocery stores you normally find Choice and Select, with Choice being the better grade than Select. If you want to give Prime steaks a try, both Costco and Central Market have them. I normally try to stick to Choice steaks, and every once in awhile I will splurge and pick up some Prime steaks at Costco.

So what is the best cut of steak? Rib-eye. Sure, the tenderloin (filet) is more tender, and T-bone steaks are king here in Texas, but for flavor the rib-eye is hands-down the best. That is not to say that I will not pick up a nice looking T-bone if I see one. In order of preference I like rib-eyes, strip, T-bone and bacon wrapped filets.

For me, a steak needs to be at least an inch thick (preferably 2 inches). Steaks thinner than an inch are way to easy to overcook. So when buying steaks, it is much better to buy one thick steak to share, than buying two thin steaks. Also, do not trim fat off from around the steak before cooking. That fat will add flavor and protect the steak from overcooking. You can always trim the fat after cooking.

Marbling is the white flecks/streaks of fat within the meat that resembles a marble pattern. Marbling adds flavor and is one of the main criteria used in grading meat. The rule of thumb is the more marbling, the better the steak. So when picking out a steak, try to find one with lots of marbling.

And here are some pics of my $5 a pound rib eye that I picked out using these tips.

And here is a link to my blog post that also has some grilling tips from local Chef Tim Love.
19  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Grilled Okra, no slime on: March 07, 2013 09:56:18 PM
Made some grilled okra fries with an aioli dipping sauce. They turned out pretty good, I think I like these better than potato fries. The main problem with cooking okra can be the slime.

Here are a few tips to keep the slime under control with okra.

So whats up with this slime thing?
Turns out okra has mucilage, a syrupy substance that is also in aloe vera. It is nature's way of helping dry-climate plants retain moisture, and when you cut up okra, that syrupy substance is released.

So what can you do to minimize the slime?
Water and cut okra makes slime. So, whatever you do, dont boil it unless you are using it as a thickener in something like a gumbo.

When prepping okra, make sure the exterior is totally dry before cutting. The more crosscuts you make, the more mucilage is released, so try making fewer cuts or cut lengthwise to reduce the slime potential.

Salt your okra just before or after cooking; salt tends to draw out moisture, or in this case, slime.

Try using a breading, like corn meal. It will help absorb the slime.

Use a dry method of cooking, like roasting or frying.

And last but not least, if you do cook okra in water, acids like lemon juice and vinegar can help break down the slime.

Here are a few pics of the fries. Like I said, they turned out great!

There are more pictures and recipe here.
20  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Edible Gold Popcorn on: February 28, 2013 12:43:44 AM
Good idea...doesn't HAVE to be caramel but looks like it.

I tried plain popcorn and it absorbed some of the alcohol taste from the spray. Caramel popcorn did not have that problem.
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