Travel-Inspired Dishes

Creole Shrimp Fettuccine

image This fettuccine boasts Louisiana shrimp and classic creole flavors melded with rich fettuccine in a creamy, spicy Alfredo sauce.  This relatively simple dish is inspired by most recent trip home to Baton Rouge. My sister Dawn made it and everyone loved it. I used Creole seasoning and Louisiana gulf shrimp.  The base of this dish, the holy trinity-- onion, celery and bell pepper,  is the same as the base for many Louisiana classics such as gumbo or etouffee, giving it that familiar Louisiana flavor.

image

Once the ingredients are prepped, this dish comes together in about 25 minutes, making it a sophisticated weeknight dinner option.  I melted the butter in my round dutch oven, then sauteed the onion, celery and bell pepper. I then stirred in a teaspoon of flour to thicken it. Next, I stirred in the raw shrimp and chopped parsley. I reduced the heat and allowed it to cook until the shrimp were pink throughout. During this time, I also prepared the fettuccine according to the package's instructions.

Once the cheese has melted, stir in the cooked fettuccine

Once the shrimp is cooked throughout, I removed the mixture from the heat and stirred in the velveeta and half-and-half.  Once the cheese was completely melted, I stirred in the cooked fettuccine.

Creole Shrimp Fettuccine
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds raw shrimp
  • 2 table spoons Creole Seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s
  • 16 ounce package of fettuccine, uncooked
  • ¾ cup butter (1 and ½ sticks)
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Peel and devein the raw shrimp. Generously season the shrimp with creole seasoning. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the fettuccine according to the package’s directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
  3. Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until softened, approximately three minutes. Stir in one teaspoon of flour. Stir in the shrimp and parsley. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, until the shrimp is cooked and pink throughout, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Once the shrimp is cooked, remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the velveeta cheese and half-and-half. Once the cheese is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy, stir in the cooked fettuccine. Adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with grated parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.

 

Dutch Baby with Blueberries

Dutch Baby Recipe "Dutch Baby" is an oven baked pancake, preferably baked in cast iron. The skillet makes the edges crispy, and the center is puffy and custardy.  This dish is also similar to crepes. I used a blender to mix the ingredients, then I poured the batter into a hot cast iron skillet with  melted butter. However, you should really let the batter rest in the refrigerator overnight. I have made this dish three times in the past three days, and the one time I let the batter rest, it puffed like crazy all over the place!

Oven Baked Pancake

If you are on SnapChat, you can watch me make this. It's actually very simple. You put eggs, flour, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt into a blender and blend for about 30 seconds.  You then transfer the batter to the refrigerator to rest. (Mine only rested for about 15 minutes this morning! Although, at least 30 is a good idea, and over night is really best!) I put my cast iron skillet in a really hot oven (450F!) with some butter, and I let the skillet get hot and the butter melt. Finally, I poured the chilled batter into the melted butter in the hot skillet and baked it until it looked about done.  Since I love blueberries, I put some blueberries on a separate baking sheet and let them get really hot and blistery. Once the Dutch Baby was ready, I poured the blueberries into the center and drizzled some honey. And wow, so buttery and crisp and delicious!

Homemade Dutch Baby

Slice of Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby with Blueberries
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • For garnish: honey, powdered sugar, ice cream or whipped cream
Instructions
  1. Add the flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla to a blender. Blend on medium for about 30 seconds (I have a high power blender, so I blended on low).
  2. Transfer the batter to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or preferably, overnight.
  3. Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450F.
  4. Put 4 tablespoons of butter in a 12 inch cast iron skillet and set the skillet in middle rack in the oven for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the skillet and swirl the butter around to coat the pan. Pour the batter into the skillet, and place the skillet back into the oven. Allow to bake for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, add the blueberries to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place the berries into the oven at a lower rack and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the berries begin to blister.
  7. Once the dutch baby is ready, remove from the oven and pour the blueberries on top. Drizzle honey and dust powdered sugar. You may also add freshly whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Dutch Baby with Ice Cream

Recipe adapted from Sacramento Street.

Homemade Ricotta

how to make ricotta My love for Italian food is far and wide, and fresh ricotta is a staple of Italian cooking. It's used in everything from ravioli and stuffed shells to lasagna, and dessert dishes too.  This was my first foray into cheesemaking, and it was surprisingly simple!  It used only four ingredients: milk, cream, vinegar and salt.  Although, you will need a thermometer and cheesecloth.  In the coming weeks, I'm going to focus on making a few dishes, inspired by my travels in various countries, including Italy. So, I decided to get a leg up on making ricotta so my handmade spinach-ricotta ravioli or ricotta gnocci will be that much fresher!

Gently stir in the vinegar. Then allow it to sit undisturbed for 20 minutes.

Carefully ladle the curds into the strainer, leaving as much liquid behind as possible

Homemade Ricotta
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 8 cups pasteurized whole milk (1/2 gallon)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
Instructions
  1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.
  2. Place the milk, cream and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until a thermometer reads between 175 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the stove. Slowly pour in the vinegar while gently stirring.
  4. Once all of the vinegar has been poured in, allow it to sit undisturbed for 20 minutes.
  5. Carefully ladle the soft curds that have formed at the top into the strainer. The remaining liquid (whey) can be discarded.
  6. Allow the curds to drain for one hour. (Do not press on the curds or manipulate them in any way).
  7. Once drained, transfer the ricotta cheese to a container and refrigerate until use. Discard the whey (the liquid).
  8. The ricotta may be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

 

Vanilla Bean Macarons

  vanilla bean macarons

Day five of my Advent holiday delights is the ever-elusive French macaron.  I have made my fair share of macarons--enough to last more than a lifetime, surely.  But something about these little pastries is whimsical, and the vanilla bean macaron recipe I'm sharing below is packed with the flavors of potent, fresh vanilla beans from the world's highest quality producers--Madagascar, Tahiti, and Mexico.

Day 5: Vanilla Bean Macarons

Difficulty: Impressive Challenge

Anyone can make macarons.  Like most things in life, the more you do it, the better you become at it. It helps if you have a steady hand, as you'll need that steadiness when you are piping the macaron shells.  Using a piping bag can be tricky and takes practice, but eventually, you'll get the hang of it.

I was inspired to make these somewhat daunting desserts back in 2011 when I was living in France.  My roommate came home with a macaron cookbook, and even though she had practically no baking experience, she was able to successfully follow the recipe and make some decent-looking, excellent-tasting macarons.  I made up my mind then that if she could do it, I could too.

After much trial and error, and using a book completely in French and the metric system (including strange oven settings such as, "mark 1"), eventually, I mastered these. There is more than one way to make a macron--such as which type of meringue to use for the shells. But, they all contain the same ingredients: pulverized almonds, sugar, egg whites, and a filling.

If you are a perfectionist who is devastated by mistakes, this recipe is not for you!  If you aren't afraid to try new things and enjoy spending half a day in the kitchen, then step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and try this recipe!

vanilla macarons

Vanilla Bean Macarons, inspired by Pierre Herme's Vanilla Macarons
Author: Vallery
Serves: 6 dozen macarons
Inspired by my time in France and the all-time great macaronier, Pierre Herme. Absolute precision is so important in this recipe that I'm only using grams, as any conversions to the English system would be less precise.
Ingredients
  • FOR THE SHELLS
  • 300 grams of almond flour (finely ground almonds)
  • 300 grams powdered sugar
  • 110 grams + 110 grams egg whites (for a total of 220 grams)
  • 300 grams granulated sugar
  • 75 grams water
  • FOR THE FILLING
  • 350 grams heavy whipping cream
  • 6 vanilla whole vanilla bean pods
  • 440 grams highest quality white chocolate, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. PREPARE THE VANILLA BEAN WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING
  2. Place the finely chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Add the heaving whipping cream to a small pot. Cut the vanilla bean pods in half. With a spoon, carefully scrape out the vanilla beans, and add to the heavy whipping cream, along with the vanilla bean pods. Heat the whipping cream on low heat. Bring to just a boil, then remove from heat. Carefully "wring out" the vanilla bean pods. Then, pour the hot whipping cream over the finely chopped chocolate. Allow to sit for 30 seconds. Then, using a rubber spatula, mix it until the chocolate has melted completely. Then, cover with plastic.
  3. PREPARE THE MACARON SHELLS
  4. Sift the almond flour with the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add 110 grams of egg whites, and using a rubber spatula, fold until the egg whites are completely incorporated.
  5. Place the remaining 110 grams of egg white into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk on low. Here is the tricky part: You want to gradually increase the speed on the stand mixer so that the egg whites are forming between medium and stiff peaks just as the next step reaches 235F.
  6. While the egg whites are whisking, place the water and granulated sugar in small pot. Bring to a boil. Using a candy thermometer, heat until it reaches the "soft ball" candy stage (235F).
  7. Once it reaches 235F, remove from the heat, and slowly pour it into egg whites as the stand mixer is vigorously whisking, at it's highest or near-highest speed. [CAUTION: SLOWLY pour the hot sugar water. Otherwise, it will splatter and burn you, while simultaneously cooking the egg whites!]
  8. Continue whisking a high speed until the mixture has cooled to 122F. Don't worry about over-mixing at this point. Unlike egg whites, it is impossible to "overmix" a meringue (which is what you have just created!)
  9. Now, you must work quickly. Remove the meringue from the bowl, and fold it into the almond flour/powdered sugar/egg white mixture. Be careful not to overmix, but make sure the meringue is completely and thoroughly incorporated.
  10. Then, transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with an 11 pt tip, and pipe into equal-sized rounds on a parchment paper or silplat-lined baking sheet, of 1.5-2 inches in size.
  11. Then, allow the macaron shells to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325F. Pick up the cookie sheet about two inches off of the table, and then drop it. This step assists in the formation of the "feet" of the macaron shells. Then, transfer the cookie sheet to the center rack of the oven and bake for about 12 minutes. They should be completely dry, but not yet brown. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the parchment paper or silplat and place it on a cooling rack. Allow the shells to cool completely. Then, remove from the paper and group the like sizes together in pairs.
  12. Check your ganache to make sure it isn't runny. If it is, stick it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Then, add the ganache to a piping bag with an 11-pt tip. Pipe the ganache onto half of the macaron shells. Then, place the other half on top of the ganache.
  13. Store the macarons in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. When ready to eat, allow them to sit until they reach room temperature.

 

Orchard to Oven: La Tarte Normande

  Normandy TartI had to bake something with my freshly-picked apples, so I settled on a Normandy French Apple Tart. This was my first attempt at making a French Apple Tart.  I never got around to making one because I think American apple pie is one of the few desserts where the American version is better than the French one.  But I have been thinking about Normandy lately, and Calvados—the apple-flavored brandy that is customary of the region. Since I’m not going to France anytime soon, I decided to make this tart with the flavors of the Normandy region of France.

 

New York Golden Delicious Apples

Unlike other classic “Tartes aux pommes,” this tart is a custard.  Typical French apple tarts consist of a tart crust, filled with pureed apples and topped with apples in a beautiful, spiral design.  With this tart, you pour an egg-cream-flour mixture on top of apples and bake it until the custard is set. What makes this tart special is the Calvados.  There is a hefty three tablespoons of the apple brandy in this recipe. The Calvados adds some pizazz to an otherwise g-rated pastry.

Apple pie dough

Arrange the apple wedges in a par-baked tart crust

Arrange the apple wedges in a spiral in a par-baked tart crust

Once the apple wedges are arranged in the crust, bake it in the oven for 20 minutes.

Oven to Orchard: La Tarte Normande
Author: Vallery
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 par-baked tart crust or store-bought pie crust
  • 2 pounds apples, peeled and cut into ¼ inch wedges
  • 1/3 cup sugar + 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup almond flour or all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons Calvados or Cognac
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Toss apples wedges with 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon. Arrange in the pastry shell in a spiral formation. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  2. While the tart is cooling, prepare the custard. Beat the egg and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium until the mixture is thick and yellow. Add the almond flour and mix until combined. Add the cream, followed by the Calvados, and mix until combined.
  3. Pour the custard mixture into the tart. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, until the custard is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

 

Pour the custard into the tart. Bake an additional 25-30 minutes.

The tart is done when the custard is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Serve warm and enjoy!