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spicy

book review, of interest, recipe

Truly Madly Deeply + Grilled Shrimp and Corn

“It all began at a barbecue.” And so Liane Moriarty’s latest novel begins. It seemed innocent enough, but with a title like Truly Madly Guilty, I knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. I have been a fan of Moriarty’s ever since I read her best-seller Big Little Lies in 2015. With the HBO series adaptation recently wrapping up, I was excited for more when my hold finally came through at the library.

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For those of you who have seen or read Big Little Lies, the setup is similar. It becomes quickly apparent that something bad has happened, but it’s less clear who it happened to and what exactly it is. Over the course of a slow, every-other-chapter build, the consequences of a normal, spur-of-the-moment backyard barbeque become all too real.

I would consider some of Moriarty’s other novels to be quick-paced beach reads, despite her ability to sneak tough, sometimes dark subjects into an otherwise light, reality TV-style wrapper. Though the title Truly Madly Guilty definitely screams “get out your sunnies!” I didn’t get the same vibe this time.

The plot moved too slowly for me, and it’s real strength was in its character building. The relationships were messy and complicated in a way that felt authentic because it wasn’t over-the-top. By the end of the novel, I definitely appreciated its subtlety though it wasn’t what I expected going in.

But, since it all started with a barbecue, I used that as my recipe inspiration. And, since it took place in Australia, I couldn’t resist making (get your Aussie accent ready!) shrimp on the barbie. I was also mostly just excited to have an excuse to use our new grill on the deck.

I found a simple recipe for Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs from one of my faves Damn Delicious, and even though she bakes hers in the oven, I was easily able to adapt it to a grill. Alongside Grilled “Crack Corn,” this could easily impress at your next outdoor get-together! The best part about both of these recipes is that they don’t require a lot prep and they grill up in under 15 minutes.

To start, I shucked my corn and speared my shrimp and lemons onto the skewers. (I used metal, but if you’re using bamboo or wooden skewers, make sure you soak them first.) I chose to do a lemon slice on each end and 4-5 shrimp in the middle, but you can mix it up however you think it works best.

Then, Scott put the corn on the grill, since it took slightly longer than the shrimp, while I made the sauce for the corn and the shrimp.

To make sauce for the corn, I simply combined already melted butter with brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. I whisked it up really well and brought it outside to the grill. Scott began basting the corn and put the shrimp on.

Back in the kitchen, I made the sauce/glaze for the shrimp skewers. In a small saucepan, I melted some butter. To that, I added lemon juice, minced garlic and dried basil, oregano and thyme. I also seasoned it with salt and pepper – I used a generous pinch and a turn or two of freshly ground black pepper. After a couple of minutes, it was fragrant and ready.

We allowed the corn to cook while the shrimp finished up, even though it was basically finished – a little extra color never hurt anyone. Be sure your shrimp is fully cooked through, but be careful not to overcook it as it can be tough and chewy. The shrimp should be a nice pink color.

Both recipes were really delicious and really easy. Perfect for entertaining a small group, or a relaxing summer evening outside. I hope everyone has a safe, sunny Memorial Day weekend! See you next week!

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2-4 lemons, thinly sliced and halved
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Thread shrimp and lemon halves onto skewers. In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, melt butter. Stir in lemon juice, garlic, oregano, thyme and basil until fragrant, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. (If you have a side burner on your grill, you can do this while the shrimp cooks.)
  2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil grates and add shrimp.
  3. Grill each side for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
  4. Serve shrimp skewers immediately, brushed with butter mixture and garnished with parsley, if desired.


From: Damn Delicious

Crack Corn

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • 3 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • lime wedges, for squeezing

Directions

  1. Heat grill to high. Oil grates and add corn. Grill for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and melted butter. Whisk together until combined.
  3. Baste corn, while grilling, until totally slathered in crack sauce. Grill until charred and tender, approximately 5 minutes more.
  4. Squeeze with lime and serve.


book review, recipe

The Underground Railroad + Carolina-Style Pulled Pork

One of my book clubs unanimously selected The Underground Railroad for our latest meeting, and I was really excited. I began reading with high expectations – Colson Whitehead’s novel was not only recommended by Oprah (a book club selection) and Obama, it had won the National Book Award for Fiction as well.

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A piece of historical fiction, it re-imagines the Underground Railroad as an actual railroad that exists underground traveling from the south through various branches as it makes its way north. It was the idea that drew me in initially, even though on the surface it does seem like a real train would be a lot more difficult to run and much easier to find. In the end, the Underground Railroad wasn’t as much of a “character” in the story as I had expected; instead, our story revolved around Cora, a runaway slave from Georgia.

The structure jumps around quite a bit, and though I got used to it about a quarter of the way into the book, I found it difficult to follow in the beginning. Jumping back and forth also took away from my ability to connect with the characters, particularly Cora with whom we spent the most time. The lack of emotion combined with the mismatched historical events left me feeling a bit confused and mostly just glad it was over.

In a novel that mostly depicted the terror and hardship of American slavery, it still had some victories. And making it to the safety and splendor of Valentine Farm is a victory for Cora. There, on Saturday evenings, they all got together for a family-style meal – with “hogs [as] the first order of business” alongside “smoky collards, turnips, sweet potato pie, and the rest of the kitchen’s concoctions.”

Since the hogs made up the center of their meal, I decided to make Carolina-style pulled porkCora spends a great deal of time in both Carolinas, and her time there changes both her course of action and her outlook on the future.

Pulled pork needs to be cooked slowly over low heat so that it truly tenderizes. It can be made at low temperatures in the oven, in a smoker or in the slow cooker, which is how I chose to make mine.

First, I combined 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika, and 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and garlic powder. I rubbed the spice mixture onto my roughly 3-pound pork shoulder.

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While that soaked in, I sliced a large onion. (I used Spanish, but a sweeter onion would probably work just as well.) Mine probably ended up being a bit on the thicker side, but knowing that these are going to cook down all day as the bed of the pork shoulder, you wouldn’t want to slice them too thinly either. We didn’t mind the more prominent onions in our sandwiches, but use your best judgement.

I covered the bottom of the slow cooker with sliced onions and set the spice-covered pork on top.

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Next, I mixed together the wet ingredients – apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard and brown mustard – with cayenne pepper, crushed chili flakes and the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar. I poured that into the bottom of the slow cooker. I didn’t think I had quite enough liquid so I added some water as the recipe suggested.

I set my slow cooker to low and let the pork and onions cook for about 8 hours. Once it was tender, I used two forks to “pull” it into small flakes and stirred the pork and onions together with the cooking liquid.

We ate the pulled pork on sandwiches, but it can also be used to make sliders, pulled pork tacos or even quesadillas. This recipe makes plenty for two, so it helps to get creative!

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Carolina-Style Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork

  • Servings: 8-12 sandwiches
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Ingredients

  • 2–3 pounds pork shoulder butt roast
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar, separated
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard

Directions

  1. If pork roast is frozen, defrost in fridge. Trim off any large sections of fat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of brown sugar along with all of the smoked paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Rub spice mixture all over the roast until it’s soaked in.
  3. Place the sliced onions in a layer on the bottom of slow cooker with the roast on top.
  4. In small bowl, mix together remaining list of ingredients from apple cider vinegar to ground mustard, plus the leftover tablespoon of brown sugar. Gently pour liquid over roast. You should have about 2 inches of liquid on bottom; if not add a bit of water.
  5. Cook covered on low for 7–8 hours, until pulled pork is tender. Shred pork in slow cooker with a fork until flaked. Stir into liquid to incorporate flavor. Let sit for about 30 minutes, drain liquid and serve.
of interest, recipe

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life + Mac and Cheese in a Jalapeno-Chipotle Cream Sauce

I have been wanting to talk about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life since I watched the long-awaited last four words two weeks ago. Even though I started it a little late because of my trip, I still finished it before most of my friends. [SPOILER ALERT: Scroll down to the recipe if you’d like to avoid potential spoilers for any/all of the four new episodes.]

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Photo Credit: E-Online

I have to admit, like many, I was a little disappointed in the Netflix revival. It was certainly enjoyable to see the familiar faces around Stars Hollow and revisit the beloved characters. There were peaks where they seemed to really have their rhythm back (gotta love those fast talkers) and poignant moments that captured the essence of the show, but for me, those were few and far between.

I didn’t hate the final season or the final episode; in fact, I liked it quite a lot, and the series finale can make me tear up to this day. It was definitely a shame that it couldn’t be written and directed by the wonderful Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan, but I have to say, after hearing those last four words, I am beyond glad that Rory didn’t find out she was pregnant at the age of 22, just as she graduated Yale to conquer the world (which obviously she didn’t…).

In the context of these 4 episodes and the “circle of life” and all that, fine, I buy it and I’m okay with it. That doesn’t mean I wanted that future for Rory (and definitely not at 22). I don’t even think that she wanted it for herself. While it did not lack for nostalgia, the revival lost a lot of its small town feel and its charm, but what it really seemed to lose the feel of its most important characters – the Gilmore girls.

As Lorelai didn’t get the kids’ food she was expecting when a pregnant Sookie made mac ‘n cheese for their first foray into catering, I don’t think we exactly got what we were hoping for with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Still, it was good in its way. So, the recipe that seemed most fitting for this post (and the one Deanna and I were most excited to try) was the Macaroni & Cheese in a Jalapeno-Chipotle Cream Sauce.

First, we began preheating the oven to 350 degrees and put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.

I deseeded and coarsely chopped the jalapenos, cut the ends off of the garlic cloves, and cut 2 chipotle peppers into a few large pieces. I cooked the jalapeno peppers and the garlic with some olive oil in a large skillet until softened and then added the chipotle peppers. Fair warning: don’t forget to ventilate. If you can open a window or turn on an exhaust fan, it would be a good idea to do that before cooking the peppers. Deanna’s little apartment was so full of intense pepper fumes that we had a little trouble breathing for a while.

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Once the water was boiling, we salted it like the sea and added the noodles to cook. We chose cavatappi, but feel free to use whichever noodles you prefer – the original recipe called for farfalle.

We tossed the whole mixture into the food processor to make a smooth sauce. My food processor is pretty big, so I’m not sure if that’s why we had trouble getting them to come together, but if you have the same problem, I suggest adding some milk to the mixture a little bit at a time until it becomes smoother.

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We tossed the finished noodles in the pepper sauce so that they were evenly coated and began working on the cream sauce.

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We used 6 tablespoons each of melted butter and flour to create a roux. Then, we added 4 cups of whole milk and stirred until it thickened. At that point, in went the cheese and 2 teaspoons of salt, which we stirred until it was melted and combined.

Next, we poured the whole pot of deliciousness over the pepper-coated noodles and stirred until it was all covered.

We put the foil-covered dish in the oven and let it bake for 20 minutes, then removed the foil and let it bake for another 10 minutes. It was hard to not dive right in immediately, but even after waiting 15 minutes, it burned my mouth. Look at the ooey-gooey-ness. Yum!

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That’s a wrap on Gilmore Week! Thanks for sticking with me, and if you enjoyed the recipes, I suggest you pick up a copy of the cookbook, pop in some of your favorite episodes and whip up something delicious to eat while you watch.

Macaroni & Cheese in a Jalapeno-Chipotle Cream Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • Butter, for preparing pan
  • 1 lb cavatappi pasta [original recipe recommends farfalle]
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3 large jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 2 TBS chipotle peppers, coarsely chopped [I used 2 of the canned peppers in adobo]
  • 6 TBS butter
  • 6 TBS flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot, two-thirds full of water, bring it to boil over high heat. Salt generously. Add pasta and stir. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until pasta is al dente on the edges but still uncooked in the middle. [Use directions on box as a guide, especially if using a different kind of pasta. The cavatappi took about 9 minutes.] Strain and pour into a buttered 9×13 baking pan.
  3. While the water is coming to a boil, heat olive oil, jalapenos and garlic in medium pan over high medium-high heat. [It definitely helps to ventilate your kitchen! Turn on an exhaust fan if you have one.] Stir frequently to ensure peppers are evenly coated with oil.
  4. Once the peppers are lightly browned on the edges and the garlic turns golden brown, add chipotle peppers. Cook for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.
  5. Add entire pepper mixture to blender or food processor. Use the stir or chop setting until mixture turns into a smooth sauce without lumps. [If you have trouble achieving a smooth texture, add milk about 1 TBS at a time and pulse until the sauce becomes smoother.]
  6. Once the pasta is ready, pour the pepper sauce on top, stirring gently until evenly distributed.
  7. To make the cream sauce, use a medium saucepan to melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir until a grainy, yellowish paste is created.
  8. Add milk to the roux and stir constantly for several minutes until the sauce noticeably begins to thicken. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt.
  9. Pour the cream sauce onto the pasta-peppers mixture and stir gently until it is evenly distributed.
  10. Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.