Asiago Shrimp Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes that’s purely Italian in nature. Most traditionally made with Parmesan cheese, which is stirred in right at the very end of cooking to not only boost the rice’s creaminess but also lend its signature salty, nutty flavor to the dish. Don’t get caught up in tradition though, because risotto is one of the most flexible meals you can make.

While there is nothing wrong with Parmesan, the cheese possibilities for risotto are nearly endless and you quickly discover that the world of this comfort-food staple really has no boundaries.

Risotto is one of those gourmet meals that is really not difficult to make, and it doesn’t take long either. You can have it on the table in 30 minutes or less. It takes some work stirring — not the kind of stirring where you must stand at the stove and stir constantly. You can step away for brief moments, but you do want to do lots and lots of stirring. It’s the stirring that breaks up the starches in the rice and makes the risotto so incredibly wonderfully amazingly creamy.

This rich and creamy risotto with tender shrimp, uses Asiago over Parmesan cheese for a semisweet touch, plus tarragon and flat leaf parsley to give the dish some freshness.

Asiago is a whole milk cheese that originated in Northern Italy, around the Po River Valley where Italy borders Austria. Coming from the mountains, Asiago is similar to other mountain cheeses, such as Switzerland’s Gruyere or France’s Beaufort. Asiago is made in large wheels designed for long-term aging to get through tough winters. Dense and flavorful, Asiago’s flavor profile changes as time polishes the wheels over the course of several months or years. Taken from the milk of cows grazing on the grasses and wildflowers of the mountains, Asiago can have a fresh, fruity flavor or a savory, zesty taste on the palate.

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Asiago Shrimp Risotto
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
Risotto
  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a LARGE POT or DEEP SKILLET over high heat. Add bacon & cook until fairly crisp. Blot on paper towel & crumble. Transfer to a small microwave-proof bowl. Leave about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pot & discard the rest. Add mushrooms & cook until browned. Remove to a dish, set aside.
  2. Turn heat down to medium & return pot to the stove. Add butter & melt; then add garlic & onion. Sauté for 3 minutes or until softened. Turn up heat, add rice & stir until grains become partially translucent, about 1 minute (do NOT overcook).
  3. Add wine & cook, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits, about 2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium-low; add about 3 cups of chicken stock. Leave, uncovered, stirring just once or twice, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Check firmness of rice & add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring in between until absorbed & rice is cooked to YOUR taste.
Spicy Shrimp
  1. While the risotto is cooking, combine spice mix in a plastic bag. Add shrimp & shake to coat well. In a skillet, heat butter & olive oil; add shrimp & sauté for 2-3 minutes, just until cooked. Keep warm.
  2. Add the mushrooms back into the risotto towards the end, just to heat through. Right at the end when the risotto is ready, add a 'splash' more chicken broth to make the risotto slightly soupy, then take it off the stove.
  3. Add butter & Asiago cheese, then stir vigorously (this will activate the starch & make it super creamy). Add shrimp & gently stir to incorporate them into the risotto.
  4. Serve immediately. Garnish with reheated bacon & extra Asiago if you wish.

Flammekueche – Alsatian Pizza w/ Onions & Bacon

Nestled on the border of France and Germany is a little area known as the Alsatian (All-Say-Shun) region. There, cultures have collided, blended, and meshed to create some of the most unique culinary experiences. One such specialty is the Flammekueche, also known as the Alsatian Pizza, or Tarte Flambée. A combination of baked flat dough topped with fresh cheese known as fromage blanc, bacon, and onions. All of this is baked to a crisp perfection.

The most underrated and underused topping in every pizzeria is the onion. The flavor potential of this glorious root can be either bold or a sublime succulent whisper, but it is usually taken for granted.

Known as flammekueche in Alsatian and flammkuchen in German, tarte flambée is pure and uncomplicated. Typically made on a piece of thin, rolled-out bread dough, it has only three or four other main ingredients: the sour cream, cheese, onion and the bacon.

But don’t let the few ingredients fool you because they’re wonderfully paired. The creamy, slightly sharp sour cream is tamed by the sweet onions and salty bacon.

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Flammekueche - Alsatian Pizza w/ Onions & Bacon
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Potato Pizza Crust
Caramelized Onions
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Potato Pizza Crust
Caramelized Onions
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Instructions
Pizza Crust
  1. Cook potato, peel & mash. Combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat, sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Bacon / Cheese
  1. In skillet, sauté bacon until it is halfway to crisp, 2-4 minutes. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel. Break or cut bacon into small pieces. Grate cheese.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into 4 ovals. Transfer with paper to a baking sheet.
  3. Add minced garlic to sour cream & spread over crust, leaving a small border. Distribute onions & bacon evenly over sour cream. Top all with grated cheese & a sprinkling of black pepper.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & slice.

German Krautstrudel w/ Bacon

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Sauerkraut strudel is a popular savory strudel version in beer gardens and during Oktoberfest which is the German fall folk fest celebrated during and after the harvest season.

A tradition dates back to 1810 in Munich, Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since. In 2022 it runs from September 17-October 3.

Oktoberfest is not only about the beer, singing, dancing and fair attractions. Many of the best known and most loved Bavarian specialties are enjoyed during the festival.

German strudels are not limited to the classic fruit fillings for the pastry. Savory examples are very common and this simplified sauerkraut strudel with soft sautéed strands of cabbage, the smoky flavor of bacon, and a savory crunch of caraway seeds; all wrapped in a delicate, flaky crust is a good representative. 

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German Krautstrudel w/ Bacon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Dice the bacon & cook in a pan over medium heat until it renders the fat but is not yet crispy. Drain on paper towel & sauté the diced onion in the rendered bacon fat. Cool down. In a bowl combine the drained sauerkraut, bacon, onion, egg, bread crumbs & seasonings. Mix well together.
  3. Roll out the puff pastry sheets, brush with half the melted butter. Reserve the rest. Spread half of the sauerkraut mixture over each sheet, roll & pinch to tuck in the ends. Place each strudel seam side down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet & brush with melted butter.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing with a serrated knife.
  5. Serve with sour cream, sliced green onions or mustard as a dip.
Recipe Notes
  • To make a STRUDEL DOUGH from scratch:
  • Sift 2 cups of all-purpose flour into a bowl. Mix with 1 tsp of salt. Add a beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2/3 cup lukewarm water. 
  • Mix well together and knead into a dough. Cover with plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
  • Flour work surface and knead dough for a few minutes. Roll it out very thin.
  • Flour one side of a large, kitchen towel, spread it out. Place the rolled out dough on top and using your hands stretch it out, aim for a rectangle shape, roughly 16 by 24 inches.
  • Proceed as above and use the towel to help you roll the dough over the sauerkraut filling. 

Cheesy Zucchini w/ Bacon

Zucchini can be used as a canvas for so many combinations. Stuffed zucchini recipes usually contain ground meat, cheese, tomatoes, rice, spices, etc. I decided to take ours in a different direction today using bacon.

We enjoy zucchini in any form, not just when its in season but anytime. Its amazing how zucchini can be the perfect ingredient in so many recipes. Not all vegetables can take on so much. I’ve used it in just about everything I can think of from crispy fries, zoodles, desserts, breads, main dishes, etc. etc.

This stuffed zucchini meal was real good with steamed rice and roasted tomatoes.

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Cheesy Zucchini w/ Bacon
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Slice ends from zucchini & cut each one into 4 equal pieces. Carve out the inside, being careful not to go all the way through the bottom.
  3. Chop pieces of the zucchini removed from the insides. Place in a bowl with the grated mozzarella, panko crumbs, egg & spices. Cut slices of bacon in half.
  4. Place a half slice bacon in the shape of a 'U' inside each piece of zucchini. Divide filling between the 8 pieces of zucchini, placing it on top of bacon.
  5. Bake filled zucchini in a buttered, foil lined baking dish for about 30 minutes. After removing from oven, sprinkle parmesan cheese over top & garnish with fresh basil if you wish.

Tourtiere Galette

Tourtiere is a traditional French Canadian meal enjoyed by many people throughout Canada. There is no one correct filling; the meat depends on what is regionally available. In coastal areas, fish such as salmon is commonly used, whereas pork, beef and game are often included inland. The name derives from the vessel in which it was originally cooked, a tourtiere.

While the smell and flavor are unique, they aren’t difficult to like. The flavors are ultimately simple and comforting and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand often. This galette version works perfect in my favorite basic cornmeal pastry crust. Tourtiere can be made ahead and frozen, then baked off as needed.

Apart from making tourtiere in the traditional form, try using the filling in tourtiere meatballs, phyllo rolls, burgers, turnovers or chicken tourtiere tartlets. The filling recipe I’m posting today comes from a tiny little pamphlet I probably have had for 30 years from a meat packing company. It has been one that I have worked with the spices to suit our taste.

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Tourtiere Galette
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Cornmeal Pastry
Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal Pastry
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas.
  2. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. DO NOT overwork dough.
  3. Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Filling
  1. Cut bacon into small pieces & fry over moderate heat until cooked but not crisp. Add pork, veal, onion & garlic; cook until meat is lightly browned. Add water & spices; reduce heat to simmer; cover pan & cook 45 minutes more. Combine meat with mashed potatoes; cool slightly.
Assembly/Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Remove pastry from refrigerator. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out pastry dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer pastry (leaving it on the parchment paper) to a large deep pie dish. You should have about a 1 1/2-inch pastry overhang. Place tourtiere filling in the pastry shell then carefully fold pastry over it, making a pleated look. Brush pastry with egg wash.
  3. Bake for about 30 minutes or until pastry is cooked & golden brown. Basically you are only baking the pastry since the filling is already cooked.
Recipe Notes
  • Very often tourtiere recipes call for cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves. Neither Brion or I care for those spices in this recipe so its a personal choice you can add or leave out.

Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy

Tender, juicy roasted chicken leg quarters are easy to prepare and delicious. The leg quarter is made up of the thigh, drumstick and part of the back of the chicken. It’s named a quarter because it consists of about a quarter of the whole bird. The dark meat takes well to roasting and yields moist and flavorful chicken.

Asiago has long been a favorite cheese of Brion & I. It is a brilliant cheese to bake into bread for a cheesy treat or grate over soft pretzels before baking. It also works particularly well with chicken dishes.

Asiago is a whole milk cheese that originated in Northern Italy, around the Po River Valley where Italy borders Austria. Coming from the mountains, Asiago is similar to other mountain cheeses, such as Switzerland’s Gruyere or France’s Beaufort. Asiago is made in large wheels designed for long-term aging to get through tough winters. Dense and flavorful, Asiago’s flavor profile changes as time polishes the wheels over the course of several months or years. Taken from the milk of cows grazing on the grasses and wildflowers of the mountains, Asiago can have a fresh, fruity flavor or a savory, zesty taste on the palate.

This is a very simple recipe but has an amazing flavor and is well worth trying, especially if your an Asiago lover.

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Roasted Garlic Chicken w/ Asiago Gravy
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon, blot on paper towel & set aside. Add the seasoned chicken & brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside.
  2. Add onion, mushrooms & garlic to saucepan; sauté until tender crisp & lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the thyme & flour; cook for a minute.
  4. Add the broth & deglaze the pan by scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a spoon while the broth is sizzling.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix asiago cheese into the sauce & season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Add the chicken, cover with a lid or foil & roast for 15 minutes. Alternately, you can turn heat down to a medium-low & simmer on top the stove for 15 minutes.
  7. Add crumbled bacon to sauce after roasting. Serve.

Gorgonzola Stuffed Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon

Bacon wrapped shrimp is one of the most popular appetizers in culinary history dating back to the early 1940’s. Let’s face it …. bacon has a way of getting into our meals one way or another. Although shrimp prepared in this way are usually appetizers, there is no reason they can’t become the main course.

When done right, bacon wrapped shrimp make such such a great entrée. I find its important to partially cook the bacon before wrapping it around the shrimp. It takes 8-10 minutes to make juicy, flavorful shrimp in the oven. Baking bacon until crispy takes 15-20 minutes, so you need to give the bacon a head start.

Many recipes call for heavy seasoning with spices or sauces. Shrimp stuffed with Gorgonzola and wrapped in bacon need absolutely nothing else to be utterly delicious.

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Gorgonzola Stuffed Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. With a sharp knife, slice the bacon lengthwise & place the half strips on a baking sheet to precook them in the oven. This should only take about 5 minutes as you want to slightly render the bacon but not cook it to a point where it isn't still pliable.
  3. Take most of the shell off of the shrimp, leaving the tails on & devein them. With a sharp knife, butterfly-cut the shrimp in half, being careful to split them but not cut right through.
  4. Lay the butterflied shrimp on a work surface. Cut Gorgonzola cheese into sticks & place one inside each shrimp. Wrap the shrimp/gorgonzola in a bacon strip. I should mention, there is no simple way to do this. It just takes a bit of time & patience but they are worth it.
  5. Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on a piece of foil paper & place on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes. If you wish, you can finish them under the broiler if you want crispier bacon.
  6. Remove from the oven. On a serving platter, slide stuffed shrimp & any cheese & shrimp broth over a bed of Jasmine rice. Nice to serve with steamed broccoli.

Herbs de Provence Shrimp

If you are not familiar with ‘Herbs de Provence‘, it is a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region in Southeastern France. This region is known for endless vineyards, olive groves and its vibrant, purple lavender fields. Lavender is the herb that adds a distinctive scent as well as working beautifully with the rest of the herbs (thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano & rosemary) that make up this blend.

Prior to the commercialization of the product in the 1970’s, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the vocabulary of cooks around the world was non other than Julia Child (American-turned-French chef), who included it in a recipe in her classic cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘.

This iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals. Like most spice blends, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbs de Provence. While it uses ingredients that are found in the North American creation known as ‘Italian Spice‘ (with the exception of basil), it also includes lavender flowers and has a strong floral taste.

Although I am using the individual herbs in this recipe, you can easily substitute with bottled, dried Herbs de Provence with no problem. They are readily available in the larger grocery stores. This makes such a great tasting meal …. well worth your time.

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Herbs de Provence Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on a paper towel. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic in bacon drippings until softened.
  2. Add peas, basil, lemon zest & 1 Tbsp oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine shrimp, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender & remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shrimp mixture to saucepan; cook, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a dish & set aside to keep warm.
  4. In the saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil & add couscous. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp mixture along with cooked bacon, lemon juice & tarragon. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.

Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines

Quiche is one of those meals that appeals to me at any time of the year. The choice of ingredients is truly only limited to one’s imagination and what’s in your fridge or pantry. In this particular quiche, I opted to use bacon as my ‘crust’ since it was filled with vegetables.

I have been wanting to make some savory ‘madeleines’ for a while and think they will compliment this quiche well.

The madeleine or petite madeleine was first created in northeastern France in the Lorraine area. Technically — they are tea cakes, not cookies and are nothing like scones, very light, puffy and soft — not heavy at all.

Madeleines have a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions.

The appeal of them is how easy they are to make, how cute they are and how light and airy they are. And while they’re delicate and generally a sweet cake, madeleines hold up to having cheese and onion added to them as well. Many savory versions exist so I decided to go with a cheese madeleine today.

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Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines
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Instructions
Parmesan Cheddar Madeleines
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease depressions in madeleine pan. (If you are using a regular size it will have 12 or the mini size you will have enough batter for 36). It is a good idea to dust the pans with flour as well, tapping out any excess. Sprinkle dried thyme leaves in depressions of pans.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & honey; remove from heat & cool for 10 minutes. In a bowl using a hand held mixer, beat eggs until pale, thick & doubled in volume.
  3. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold butter mixture into eggs. Next fold in flour, cheeses, yogurt & 1/4 tsp salt until combined. Divide between madeleine cups but don't smooth out.
  4. Bake until risen & golden. The time will depend on whether you are using a regular or petite size madeleine pan. Cool in tin for 5 minutes. Firmly tap tin on surface to loosen the madeleines, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to allow them to fall out onto the rack.
Bacon Crusted Vegetable Quiche
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-inch round baking pan with foil paper.
  2. In a skillet, fry bacon until lightly cooked but still pliable, 3-4 minutes. Remove the bacon from skillet & blot on paper towel. Drain all but one Tbsp of bacon drippings from pan.
  3. Add the leeks, mushrooms & thyme; cook over moderate heat until veg are tender crisp but not browned, about 5 minutes. Microwave potatoes & slice; drain corn (or cook corn on cob & remove kernels). Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk & remaining spices.
  4. Line the sides if baking pan with slices of bacon. Layer bottom with sliced, cooked potato & half of the cheese. Top with corn kernels & leek/mushroom mixture. Pour egg/milk mixture carefully over vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, until the quiche has puffed up slightly & browned. Test middle to make sure eggs have set. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan & serve with savory madeleines.

Creamy Bacon Fish Pie w/ Potato Topping

This English classic originated in small fishing villages as a way of using up the surplus catch. After poaching, baking then adding cream sauce and potatoes, the quality and the cut of fish used really doesn’t matter.

Like its cousin, the shepherd’s pie, fish pie is a comforting, homey affair of savory stew, topped with cheese laden mashed potatoes.

Traditional fish pie makes use of white fish such as cod, haddock and halibut. However, salmon and prawns can also be used. Vegetables such as mushrooms and leeks will help to make the pie even tastier.

I found, adding bacon to the filling made it a really flavorful meal. You know that expression ….. ‘bacon makes things better’!

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Creamy Bacon Fish Pie w/ Potato Topping
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a casserole dish or individual ramekins; set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, sauté bacon until partially cooked then add leeks & mushrooms. Sauté, while stirring until leeks & mushrooms are cooked. Remove from saucepan & set aside. Wipe out saucepan with paper towel. Melt butter; add flour & cook until mixture bubbles & thickens. Gradually stir in chicken broth, milk & grated Parmesan cheese. Stir over heat until mixture boils & thickens. Season to taste; add fish & steamed broccoli along with bacon mixture. Gently stir until combined & heated thru.
  3. Spoon into casserole dish or divide between ramekins. Top with cooked, mashed potato & sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered, about 25 minutes or until browned lightly.