crispy

Butternut Squash Fries

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These are a delicious alternative to sweet potato fries, saving the carbs from the potato and the fat by skipping the deep fryer. The squash contains a lot of liquid so I changed up the usual way of baking them in an attempt to dry them and crisp them up.

Butternut Squash Fries

1 Butternut Squash, peeled

2 TBSP Olive Oil

1.5 TBSP Corn Starch (optional)

1 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

2-3 tsp salt, divided

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp parsley

Non-Stick cooking spray (I used Pam Olive Oil, calorie & fat free)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into fries, about 1/4 inch thick. I only used 1/2 of the squash, which was made more than enough fries for my friends and me. The rest I put in a ziploc baggy to save for later in the week.

Pour the Olive Oil into a bowl and toss the squash sticks, coating them evenly, but lightly. You can skip the next step with the corn starch and Parmesan if you want truly raw or paleo fries, but the coating is minimal calorically and it adds a lot of flavor and crunch. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and the cheese. Toss the squash fries into the Parm mixture. Layout the sticks on a cookie sheet in a even layer and sprinkle 1 tsp of the salt and the pepper onto the fries. Spray with non-stick spray. Place the sheet into the upper most rack of you oven and bake for 20 minutes. Half way through that time, flip and sprinkle with another tsp of salt. The salting helps draw out moisture.

After the 20 minutes are up, flip for fries again, and move the tray to the bottom most rack of the oven. Bake for an additional 15 – 20 minutes or until nicely browned and crisp on the outside. Remove from cookie tray and plate. Sprinkle a little more salt and the parsley on top and serve. They’re great on their own and dipped into ketchup they’re identical to sweet potato fries.

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Crispy Pork Tacos (Paleo)

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On Sundays I always look to something special for dinner, which comes from my upbringing. Huge family dinners filled with love and hours of cooking and food – food – So Much Food! Now, my numerous cousins are scattered amongst different states, different countries. I’m not sure what many of them do for their Sunday dinners now, but I know that we do still all love food, sharing, nurturing. Which brings me to what I call The Absentee Dinner. I make something simple, but a little more involved than the other days of the week, something with protein, something that’s going to be delicious and worth savoring. I make something special. I do it in honor of my family, my upbringing, and I invite dear friends over whenever possible, just so we can eat in each others’ company. And maybe watch a little Doctor Who.

With the reminiscence complete, let me say that while I like the depth and complexity of Asian flavors – sweet yet sour, spicy yet cool and crisp, you don’t have to follow this style. A great alternative to this, perfect for Game Day at your house is RECIPE RECOMMENDATION MISSING. Hmmm. I’ll tell you what: if you want that full recipe from me you’re going to have to wait until next week.

Crispy Pork Tacos, Asian Style

1-1.5 pounds Boneless Pork Loin Center Chops

2 TBSP minced garlic, divided

1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

1/2 TBSP Hoisin sauce

1/2 tsp chile oil

2 tsp Sriracha

1 tsp black pepper (or red pepper flakes if you like it spicy)

Juice of one lemon

1TBSP water

1 TBSP white vinegar

1 TBSP brown sugar

2 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder

1 Napa cabbage, leaves cleaned. Cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each leaf.

1/2 corn starch (if making “extra crispy”, see below)

2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil

Topping

Pre-shredded Broccoli slaw

1 cup bean sprouts

1/4 red wine vinegar

2 tsp salt

1. 5 tsp black pepper

3 tsp sugar

About an hour or two prior to cooking, marinate the pork. Slice the pork in large bite sized pieces, I like strips, and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together half of the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chile oil sriracha, pepper, lemon juice, water, vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger. Add the pork to the bowl and tossed making sure each piece is coated. Let marinate for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

While marinating, make the crispy slaw topping. You can swap the slaw for kimchi. Toss the pre-shredded slaw mix, bean sprouts, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl, and set aside. This can sit some time and the flavors will just continue to marry while staying bright. Toss periodically in the time prior to serving.

Once the pork is marinated you have the option of sauteing or pan frying. On this night Chip and I made our Crispy Pork Tacos extra crispy, but you certainly simply dump the entire marinade mixture into a sauce pan heated with with the oil over medium high heat, cooking about 7-9 minutes. For extra crispy, however, remove the pork from the marinade and toss in the corn starch until evenly, but lightly coated. Discard the marinade, and heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Pan fry the pork about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a paper toweled plate to drain for a minute or two.

Taking one of the napa cabbage leaves, we set to work assembling our “Tacos”. We topped our pork with a sprinkling of slaw, a bit of the remaining minced garlic, a little chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and even some fresh diced mango. Serving with a wedge of lime, this would be perfect with a side of tropical quinoa or rice. Of course, we ate ours with squash, though, because I’m trying to will it to be Autumn here in Austin.

Crispy Coconut Shrimp & Spicy Citrus Mint Marmalade

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I recently made a crispy baked Escolar filet with coconut. I really liked this bright, sweet, and oh-so-summery punch of flavor. As I had a bit of coconut leftover, I began to think of other foods that incorporate similar flavors that I love.

Years ago something I became addicted to (shamefully) was Outback’s Coconut shrimp. I’ve noticed a number of restaurants have picked up a similar recipe, but the last few times I’ve tried this dish, it’s been disappointing. The coating was too much or soggy, and the shrimp were small and sometimes not even cleaned.

The great thing about perfecting a recipe at home is that you control what does and does not go into it; the bad thing is once you have it down pat you find it’s harder and harder to eat out. …Maybe that’s a good thing.

The interesting part of the coconut shrimp was creating the spicy citrus marmalade that compliments the sweet coconut perfectly, and it was super easy. I fried my shrimp, thinking of this offering as an appetizer and not an entree. Frying the shrimp of course insures crispiness, but it also keeps the shrimp from shrinking as they so often do during cooking. You can bake the shrimp instead – it honestly comes out JUST as good – and directions for doing so are below.

Take the time to clean your shrimp. It’s really not that bad and you can pretend you’re a rugged chef who hunted the wilds for the bottom feeders you’re about to devour. I tend to butterfly the shrimp about 1/2 to 2/3’s of the way up the back of the shrimp because it helps it cook evenly, makes them seem larger for a more effective appetizer, and they have more surface area for the awesome dip. You don’t have to do that, but be sure to “devein” the shrimp in the very least. Surprise: It’s not a vein. It’s the poop shoot. So devein away.

Shrimp:

1 pound “Collosal” shrimp, deveined

1/4 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup panko

1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

vegetable oil for frying (or an oven for baking!)

Spicy Citrus Mint Marmalade:

3 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade

1/2 TSBP chiffoned mint leaves

2+ tsp red pepper flakes or wasabi powder based on your heat preference

1 tsp chili oil

1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp curry powder (IF you’re not allergic to it!…I mean, it’s optional.)

Frying directions: Fill a heavy, deep pan or stock pot with about 3 inches of oil and heat to roughly 375 degrees. The shrimp are going to cook quick and you want them to brown, but not burn. Combine the panko and coconut shreds in a bowl. While the oil is heating up, dredge your cleaned shrimp – lightly coat in flour, shaking off excess, followed by a dip in the beaten eggs, ending with a coat in the panko & coconut mixture. Fry in the oil for about 3-4 minutes per shrimp. They should start to get golden pretty quickly, and they will continue cooking a bit after you take them out of the oil, so if it’s been 3 minutes and they’re brown, pull them out and move to a paper towel coated plate to drain.

While the fried shrimp are resting, make your dipping sauce: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adjusting the heat with more or less red pepper flakes or wasabi to fit your own preference. Remember that as it sits it will get a little spicier if you’re using red pepper flakes.

If you’d rather bake the shrimp, preheat your oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray (Pam works), prepare the shrimp the same as if you were going to fry them,  and layout the shrimp on a single layer on the pan. Spray the tops of the shrimp with a bit of the olive oil spray. Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping half way through. Seriously, I was surprised that these came out just as tasty as their fried counter parts, there was less mess and less calories. The only difference was there was slightly less browning as well.

Serve with slices of lime and make sure you put a few shrimp to the side for yourself because these will disappear entirely too fast. Ridiculously too fast. I recommend a pound of shrimp as an appetizer for four people who like shrimp. People seem to have a tendency to eat far more than they expect of these, like really good pizza. You may have to double the marmalade as well depending on heavy handed dippers. So freakin’ good.

Panko & Coconut Crusted Escolar with Grilled Baby Bok Choy

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I’m not a fish eater. I like Salmon every once in a while and filet of sole (or flounder) in Franchaise sauce, but that’s pretty much it. And the second I eat something “fishy”, I’m off fish for a month or so before having the stomach to try, try again. I’ll happily eat sushi and I’d love to indulge in grilled rare tuna steaks more often…provided someone else wants to foot the bill.

One affordable fish I do love, however, is escolar, also know as Butter Fish. Boy oh boy, is it delicious, BUT there is a reason sushi restaurants serve it in limited quantities when they serve it at all. I’ll get into that later. Escolar is rich, super delicate in flavor, fresh, and almost sweet. It’s much less expensive than Tuna, but, like it’s red relation, it’s excellent for those who swear they “…don’t like fish.”

Inspired by Ming Tsai, I wanted to make a version of crispy fish without having the added calories and heaviness that comes with frying. Using his cooking method combined with my own flavors ended in crispy, summery, deliciously bright fish that was perfectly complimented by smokey grilled baby bok choy and a spicy lime cream sauce.

The recipe:

Two 4oz. center filet cuts of escolar, no blood line and as uniform in shape and thickness as possible.

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup panko

1/3 cup coconut flakes

3 TBSP olive oil

Cream Sauce, served under fish and on the side:

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

3 TBSP sour cream

The juice and zest of 1 lime

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes or wasabi paste/powder

1/2 avocado, optional

1 tsp salt

Grilled Baby Bok Choy:

6 heads baby bok choy, split in half the long way

2 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 TBSP ginger, ground into paste

1/2 tsp chili oil, optional

1 TBSP ponzu

For the sauce, combine everything in a bowl to a smooth consistency and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

For the fish, rinse and pat dry your filets. Set up the flour and beaten eggs in two separate shallow bowls. In a third bowl or dish combine the panko and coconut flakes. Lightly coat all sides of the escolar in the flour, gently shaking of the excess. Dip into the beaten eggs and then into the coconut/panko mixture, making sure each side is coated. Place to the side.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a medium oven safe pan (I used cast iron) heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot turn the heat down to medium and put the fish top side (serving side/pretty side) down in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Once nice and tan, flip the fish and place the entire pan into the oven to cook the fish through, about 7-8 minutes.

To complete this dish with grilled bok choy, pre heat your grill on high. Take the liquid ingredients and ginger, and whisk together in a bowl. Paint the mixture liberally over the cut sides of the baby bok choy. Place on the grill cut side down, and grill for 2 minutes. Flip bok choy and continue cooking one minute on other side.

To plate this dish, I did a zig zag drizzle of the creamy sauce on one side of the plate, piled the bok choy high on the other side, and placed the Escolar right onto the sauce. It was light, bright, crunchy, summery, smokey, and well balanced. I can’t wait to make this again in the near future.

Now, 4oz doesn’t seem like a large serving, but if you’re still hungry have some sticky rice or a salad, NOT more fish! It’s nicknamed Butter Fish for good reasons: It’s rich, indulgent, and so fatty that too much of it will make your body be unable to digest it, expelling it opposite your mouth rather quickly. Yes, over 5 oz of the stuff can turn it into the Olestra of the fish world, so definitely partake, but do so within reason. Besides, 4 oz is a healthy serving of any protein; we’re just used to HUGE sizes that are unnecessary.