I love cooking.
I especially love cooking in the FALL, when the kitchen gets nice and toasty warm, and you can make a mug of tea and roast some vegetables or fill your kitchen (and eventually your stomach) with all kinds of melty, saucy, crispy, tasty, coze-you-up deliciousness. Though we often dine simply on salad or roasted vegetables around here, at least once a week I like to pull out all the cookbooks and find something more complexly delish to make.
Thanks to the enthusiasm of some friends on Twitter, I decided to share a couple of my most recent successes, so that your kitchens can be even more full of goodness too.
Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque
(from THE HERBFARM COOKBOOK, by Jerry Traunfeld. Scribner, 2000)
1 lb large shrimp
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 c. dry white wine
3 c homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock
Pinch saffron threads
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 fresh bay laurel leaves, torn, or 2 dried
3 3-inch sprigs fresh sage
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 c heavy cream
About 3/4 tsp salt (less if using canned chicken stock)
Scant 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage.
1. Shrimp stock. Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells. Cover the shrimp and refrigerate. Heat the olive oil in a medium (3 quart) saucepan over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the shrip shells to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn deep orange and are just beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. This step–pan-roasting the shells–gives the stock much of its flavor, so take the time to do it carefully. The roasted shells should release a concentrated, toasty, shrimp aroma that will fill your kitchen. Add the wine to the pan, first turning off gas flames to prevent the alcohol from igniting, then boil it over medium heat until all the liquid is evaporated. Add the chicken stock, saffron, celery, onion, bay leaves, and sage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Partially cover the pan and summer gently for 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine sieve, pushing down on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. Rise out the saucepan and pour the stock back into it.
Whisk the pumpkin, cream, salt, and cayenne into the shrimp stock. Bring the soup to a simmer, then cook very gently uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Bring the soup to a simmer, then cook very gently uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, taste, and season with more salt or black pepper if needed. (The soup can be made up to this point up to 1 day ahead stored covered in the refrigerator. Keep the peeled shrimp in a resealable bag buried in a bowl of ice in the refrigerator.)
3. Finishing the Soup
Pour the olive oil into a large saute pan placed over medium heat. When hot, add the reserved shrimp and the sage and cook, tossing often, until the shrimp is just cooked through, pink, and no longer transluscent, but not curled into a circle: 2-3 minutes. They should still have a tender snap when you bite into them. Arrange the shrimp in warmed soup bowls or a serving tureen. Bring the soup back to a simmer and then ladle it over the shrimp. Serve right away.
ROSEMARY SALTED CARAMEL POPCORN (courtesy of Martha Stewart.com)
2 Tbsp safflower oil (I used regular vegetable oil)
1/2 c. Popcorn kernels
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 Tbsp minced rosemary leaves (I used more)
1 tsp gray flaked sea salt, preferably sel gris
1/4 tsp baking soda
Heat oil and a few popcorn kernels in a large stockpot, covered, over high heat. When they pop, add remaining popcorn kernels. Cook, shaking pot, until thoroughly popped. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl. (My note: Spend some time picking out the unpopped kernels if you have it–it makes for a better eating experience.)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Heat butter, sugar, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring, until butter and sugar melt and a candy thermometer reaches 255 degrees. Remove from heat, and stir in rosemary, salt, and baking soda. Pour mixture over popcorn, toss. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Bake, stirring occasionally, until dried, about 45 minutes. (So she says; mine took about 25 minutes before the caramel started singeing, but maybe that’s because I had a parchment-lined baking sheet?) Let cool before serving.