French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto

Thanks for the memories! This phrase says it all when I think back to the wonderful time we spent in France. Although this holiday is now 20 years past, the memories remain very vivid and special.

My sister, Loretta had joined Brion & I on this French vacation which had made it even more special. Our journey began in Paris where we had rented a car, then travelled south (about 613 km/380 miles) to the sleepy little village of St Thibery. For this segment of our trip we had rented an apartment to use as ‘home base’ during our time in this part of France. Many of these houses are from the 14th,15th & 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio.

St Thibery is situated between the larger towns of Agde & Pezenas and is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. On one of our day trips we visited the town of Agde. It is one of the oldest towns in France and is captivating by its maze of narrow streets. Agde was built of black basalt from a volcanic eruption thus the black color of its buildings.

It was here we discovered a nice restaurant where we enjoyed some classic French steamed mussels. It would be an understatement to say how much the three of us enjoyed this feast of fresh seafood.

During the time we spent in the area, we made the 20 minute drive from St Thibery to Agde just to have some more mussels on numerous evenings.

Brion & I decided to revisit the taste of those ‘French’ mussels today with our supper meal. Of course, nothing compares to the ‘taste of a memory’!

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French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto
Instructions
Risotto
  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat to low & keep at a simmer.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon & sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain & set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings from skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary to equal 2 Tbsp) then add leeks, mushrooms & shallot. Turn heat up to medium-high; season with salt & pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender & starting to turn golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add rice; stir to coat & cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Turn heat back to medium; add wine & stir until absorbed by rice. Add hot vegetable broth; stir near constantly until rice is tender & all the broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If broth gets to a hard boil, turn heat down. Remove skillet from heat; stir in thyme, parmesan cheese & cooked bacon. Keep warm until mussels are ready.
Mussels
  1. Heat olive oil & butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter & parsley. Season well with salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Mix well, cover pot with a lid & cook until mussels are cooked through & opened, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve mussels along with the juices in the pan with risotto & crusty or garlic bread.

Shrimp Dutch Baby Pancake

A Dutch baby pancake is a cross between a fluffy style pancake and a soufflé. Its less work than standard pancakes and less complicated than a soufflé.

If you follow our blog, you probably have seen other versions, both sweet & savory featured on it. Dutch baby’s are such an easy meal to make, they are a regular in our meal rotation, not to mention how delicious they are.

Dutch baby recipes work best in cast iron pans because they retain heat and cook evenly. If you don’t have cast iron cook-ware, I find pyrex bowls will work as a substitute.

Because of the delicate nature of the batter, you can only add your toppings once the batter has baked. For some toppings, this will require cooking these ingredients on the stove top while the eggy batter bakes.

Be careful with recipes that instruct you to mix chopped veggies and meat directly into the batter. The combination of weight and moisture will prevent the batter from cooking and puffing up as it should. One exception to this would be finely grated Parmesan cheese. To help create height, bring the eggs to room temperature before mixing into the batter.

Being seafood lovers, this meal really works for us.

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Shrimp Dutch Baby Pancake
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Instructions
Dutch Baby Pancakes
  1. In a bowl, whisk together eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated then whisk in parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper. Set aside in refrigerator until sauce & filling are made.
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter; sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Mix well; add milk & broth, stirring until sauce becomes thickened. Blend in cheese; set aside
Shrimp Filling / Baking
  1. Peel & devein shrimp (you can chop into pieces if you prefer). Prepare filling veggies for cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. Place 2 Tbsp butter in each of TWO 7-inch pyrex baking bowls (alternately you can use one 10-inch cast iron skillet). Place bowls in hot oven to melt butter (and heat the bowls for baking pancakes in). Once the butter is melted & the bowls are hot, divide the batter between them. Bake for 25 minutes.
  4. The Dutch Baby will puff up during cooking, but once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly. At this point its nice to do the final sautéing of your filling so that when the pancakes come out of the oven you are ready to fill & serve.
  5. In a large skillet, sauté zucchini, onion, mushrooms & garlic in oil until tender-crisp. Combine soy sauce with water in a cup; add to vegetable mixture along with shrimp. Gently stir fry ONLY until shrimp is cooked, then fold in Gouda sauce.
  6. When Dutch Baby pancakes are finished baking, remove from oven & transfer to 2 serving dishes. Divide filling between the 2 pancakes & serve hot.

Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast w/ Mushroom Leek Stuffing

SEASON’S GREETINGS TO EVERYONE!

If this year has taught us anything, its that you can’t plan ahead at this moment. The coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered much of the world economy has also stole festivals, celebrations, reunions and all the related joys of a normal course of life.

Like everything else this year, Christmas 2020 looks very different to what we are used to. But, all this doesn’t mean that Christmas is cancelled. It just means you have to be a bit more creative about making it another joyful and meaningful memory for you and your loved ones.

This brings me to the special event in our family on Christmas day. December 25th just happens to be my sister Rita’s birth date. She will forever be the ‘special gift’ our family was so priviledged to receive at Christmas.

Rita, you are loved and treasured very much. Brion & I are very grateful for the fact you are able to share some of your time with our sister Loretta, especially in light of the covid crises.

With regard to our Christmas dinner being featured in this blog, the herbs added heaps of savory flavor to the stuffing and turkey rub. Rosemary, thyme and sage are quintessential winter herbs that really give that special holiday flavor …. no pears, apples, nuts are necessary. Having been cultivated for thousands of years around the world, herbs have helped shape culinary traditions that have lasted into modern times.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RITA … WE CELEBRATE YOU WITH LOVE

ENJOY YOUR DAY!!

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Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast w/ Mushroom Leek Stuffing
Instructions
Stuffing
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add garlic & sauté, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Add leeks & cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms & cook until softened & liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat & stir in breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs & 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper; set aside.
Herb Butter
  1. In a small dish, combine all herb butter ingredients & set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Assembly
  1. Arrange turkey breast skin side down on a work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten & make an even thickness all over.
  2. Discard plastic wrap & season turkey all over with remaining salt & pepper.
  3. Spread stuffing over turkey, leaving a 3/4-inch border around the edge. Close up snugly, tucking in the stuffing as you go, then tie with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals around the entire turkey breast.
  4. Rub turkey all over with herb butter & arrange it on a rack in a roasting pan.
  5. Roast uncovered, basting occasionally, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 2 hours. (Cover with foil if top browns too quickly).
  6. Remove & discard twine, slice turkey & serve.

Marinated Chicken & Artichoke Pizza

Pizza is one of the easiest meals you can make at home. I most always prefer to make my own crust but nothing wrong with a purchased one or some focaccia bread pizza crust. Once that crust part has been taken care of, its really just a matter of topping the pie with all your favorite ingredients and waiting for it to come out of the oven.

But of course, there are a number of things that can go wrong even so. You might think that there’s no such thing as too much cheese …. but there is. Cheese normally means a lot of grease, your pizza could fall apart under the weight of all that dairy.

Too many toppings can cause overly cooked crust or under-cooked toppings. Another thing I find super important, is making sure the toppings are sauteed so they are not releasing too much moisture into the crust.

Since Brion & I are both lovers of marinated artichokes, putting them on a pizza sounds real good. Artichokes are technically the flower buds of a thistle plant that hasn’t blossomed yet. Its kind of amazing to think we can enjoy these odd little culinary treats in so many ways.

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Marinated Chicken & Artichoke Pizza
Instructions
Pizza Dough
  1. Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. 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.
  2. 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 plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Pizza Topping Prep
  1. Slice chicken into strips, saute in some drained artichoke marinade until most of it evaporates. Set aside.
  2. Saute mushrooms & onions in a teaspoon of butter until moisture evaporates. Set aside.
  3. Shred cheese. In a small dish combine spices.
  4. Drain sun-dried tomatoes & black olives, blot on paper towel & slice tomatoes.
  5. Cut each piece of (drained) artichoke in half.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer on paper to a baking sheet.
  3. Carefully spread the 1/2 cup marinara sauce over the bottom of pizza. Season with spice mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of cheese then layer with mushrooms, onion, chicken, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives & remaining cheese.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & slice. If you prefer, brush the top of the outside (dough) ring with artichoke marinade either before or after baking.
Recipe Notes
  • If you like, press pizza dough into a 16 X 12-inch rectangle instead of a circular shape.

Creamy Mushroom & Sausage Orecchiette

Orecchiette pasta originates in the sunny, southern province of Puglia, Italy. This pasta’s round concave shape led to its name, which means ‘little ears’ in Italian. The rigid exterior and cup-like interior captures chunky sauces and scoops up small vegetables, making orecchiette perfect to serve with sautes. I should mention that I didn’t find orecchiette on the regular supermarket shelves. We are lucky to have some real good Italian grocery stores in our area which definitely have them available.

You will notice, another ingredient I used in this meal is Italian sausage. Sausage is so common that people rarely stop and think about how and why they are made the way they are. Every country has a unique sausage tradition and puts their own twist on the classic meat.

Italian sausage is one of the more popular sausage varieties available, but its origins in Italy are actually different from what we are accustomed to in North America. The true Italian sausage or ‘salsiccia’ (sahl-SEE-tchay) is made of meats that have been seasoned heavily with chili and other hot ingredients and allowed to marinate and change the flavor of the meat overnight.

The more common Italian sausage that North Americans know, is a pork sausage with a fennel and anise mixture as a base seasoning. It is packaged as either HOT or MILD, the difference being in the amount of red pepper flakes that are used.

If you choose to try this meal, I think you will find it real tasty. We just loved it and I have to say it was actually the first time we had ever tried Italian sausage. I have always thought it would be too spicy hot for our liking. Needless to say, I went with the mild version.

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Creamy Mushroom & Sausage Orecchiette
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, cook sausage with a splash of olive oil, until browned & cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Add butter to saucepan & saute onions until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in garlic, cook another 2 minutes. Add mushrooms & zucchini, sauteing until tender-crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Return sausage meat to pan & keep warm.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Cook orecchiette pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta & return to pot. Fold in cheese, sausage/vegetable mixture, fresh parsley & pepper to taste. Slowly add chicken broth until preferred consistency is reached. Serve garnished with red pepper flakes & Parmesan cheese.

Hamburger & Caramelized Onion Pizza

Pizza is one of those foods that works for just about everyone. From meat eaters to vegetarians, kids, adults and everyone in between. Year-round, its the perfect entree for family or party events.

Brion & I always enjoy pizza, preferably homemade. Usually my go-to toppings would be veggies, chicken or seafood, but nothing says it can’t be ground meat.

One of the things that seemed to improve on the flavor of this pizza was the caramelized onions. It takes only a few extra minutes but is worth it. For the sauce, I tried a blend of prepared lite Alfredo & marinara and then used a combo of cheeses instead of just one. Its always interesting to me what develops when you ‘step out of the box’.

Of course, if you have time to make a full fledged pizza crust it will take it all to the next level. But, I never hesitate, when I’m too busy, to use a purchased, refrigerated pizza crust. Pizza is just good, so do what works for you!

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Hamburger & Caramelized Onion Pizza
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SLICES
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Instructions
Pizza Crust
  1. For my PIZZA CRUST RECIPE, you can find it in either JULY or AUGUST 2019 blog entries on this site. It is a yeast dough so it will take a bit of time to prepare (but worth it).
Pizza Toppings
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp butter & add onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 20-25 minutes or until onion is browned & caramelized. Remove onion mixture from skillet; set aside.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp butter to skillet & saute mushrooms until tender & moisture has evaporated. Remove from skillet; add to onion mixture. Place ground beef & garlic in skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until browned. Drain off fat. Stir in caramelized onions, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper.
Assembly
  1. Spread Alfredo/marinara sauce blend over either homemade or purchased PIZZA CRUST. Sprinkle with a small portion of your cheese blend. Top with ground beef mixture, red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced green olives & remaining grated cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is nicely golden brown.
Recipe Notes
  • To grill pizza, heat one side of gas grill on medium or charcoal grill until coals are ash white. Place coals to one side in charcoal grill. Place pizza onto grill opposite coals. Close lid; grill, rotating once 12-15 minutes or until heated through & cheese is melted.

Salmon & Zucchini Enchiladas

Salmon and zucchini have always been a great pairing, but have you tried this combo in some enchiladas?

Wild canned salmon doesn’t have to just mean sandwiches. This high quality protein makes for an incredible pantry staple that is ready when you need it. Add it to just about any plate … over top a green salad, in a wrap, served over rice, pasta, zucchini noodles, potatoes or squash etc., etc.

When I originally developed this recipe, it served as a filling for some jumbo pasta shells. After a few modifications, it became an enchilada meal.

As their original form as Mexican street food, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings. There are now so many varieties, which are distinguished primarily by their sauces, fillings or form. Here are a few examples:

Enchiladas suizas are topped with a milk or cream based white sauce such as bechamel.

Enfrijoladas are topped with refried beans.

Enchiladas verdes are sauced with salsa verde and typically made with white corn tortillas, poached chicken breast and cheese.

Entomatadas are made with tomato sauce.

Enchiladas montadas are a stacked variation.

Always on the quest for something different!!

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Salmon & Zucchini Enchiladas
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword enchiladas
Servings
ENCHILADAS
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword enchiladas
Servings
ENCHILADAS
Votes: 1
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion, zucchini & mushrooms until tender-crisp; place in a large bowl & set aside.
  2. In saucepan, melt butter & remove from heat. Stir in water & sauce mix. Return to heat & bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat & simmer 3 minutes.
  3. To bowl of sauteed vegetables add drained salmon chunks & a small amount of cooked 'dill sauce'. Lay out tortilla shells on a work surface & divide mixture between them. Blend together remaining dill sauce, reserved salmon juice & soup.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread some sauce over the bottom. Lay filled, rolled tortillas single file in baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with grated cheese combo. Bake about 30-40 minutes.

Shrimp Pot Pie

There are many kinds of comfort food. The humble pot pie seems to be one that fits into that category quite well. In 1951, the first frozen pot pie was created by the C. A. Swanson Company and was made of chicken.

If you do a search for a seafood pot pie on the internet, very often what you find is basically a copy of chicken pot pie with seafood subbed in. The sauce or gravy is a ‘cream of whatever’ can of soup. Nothing wrong with that, but I find if you use a combo of clam juice, half & half cream and some seafood spices, you can come up with a more defined flavor.

The nice thing about a pot pie is that it can be made to feed a crowd or as an individual meal. Whether it has a bottom crust or not is up to you. Toppings can vary from mashed potatoes to cornbread or biscuits etc., etc. Above all else, you can make some extras to freeze for another day. As the saying goes … its all good!

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Shrimp Pot Pie
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword shrimp pot pie,
Servings
SERVINGS
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Instructions
  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry in refrigerator. Keep chilled until you are ready for it. The pastry will be used for a top crust ONLY. Butter the bottom & sides of your casserole dish; set aside.
  2. In a large pot, pour the clam nectar; bring to a simmer over medium heat & add the shrimp. Poach shrimp JUST until they are opaque & cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Pour the broth & shrimp into a bowl & set aside.
  3. Return the pot back to the stove; over medium heat & melt the butter. Stir in onion, celery & mushrooms; saute until vegetables are translucent, 5-6 minutes then stir in the garlic, flour & seasoning. Cook, stirring for 1 minute then add the shrimp & broth. Cook for several minutes, stirring until sauce thickens. Add 1/3 cup half & half & simmer gently for a minute or two. Remove from heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. In a small saucepan, place potatoes & peas. Add enough lightly salted water to barely cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce the heat & cook at a low boil until the potatoes are just tender, 7-8 minutes. Drain. Taste the shrimp sauce; add salt & pepper to taste. Add potatoes, peas & tomatoes (if using). Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish.
  6. Place the chilled pastry over the filling, tucking it down between the filling & the dish or drape it over the sides. Poke a steam vent in the top with a paring knife. Place the casserole on a baking sheet. Beat the egg with remaining Tbsp of half & half. Lightly brush the pastry with egg wash.
  7. Bake casserole until filling is bubbly & top is golden brown about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack & allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Rice has always been a staple at our house. I think Brion could eat rice almost everyday without problem. Although the steamed long grain would be his favorite, I can’t resist making a risotto periodically.

A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate. It shouldn’t run across the plate, nor should it be stiff and gluey.

Risotto’s signature tenderness is traditionally achieved by slowly adding spoonfuls of liquid while the rice cooks. This shortcut version eliminates most of the stove top stirring, but produces equally silky results.

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Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
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Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a LARGE POT or DEEP SKILLET over high heat. Add bacon & cook until golden. Transfer to a small microwave-proof bowl.
  2. Leave about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pot & discard the rest. Add chicken & cook until browned through. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add mushrooms & cook until light golden. Add to bowl with chicken.
  3. Turn heat down to medium & return pot to the stove. Add butter & melt; then add garlic & onion. Saute for 3 minutes or until softened. Turn up heat, add rice & stir until grains become partially translucent, about 1 minute (do NOT overcook).
  4. 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.
  5. Check firmness of rice & add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring in between until absorbed & rice is cooked to YOUR taste. Add the chicken & 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.
  6. Add butter & Parmesan cheese, then stir vigorously (this will activate the starch & make it super creamy). Serve immediately. Garnish with reheated bacon & extra Parmesan if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • Risotto is best made with Arborio rice which is starchier than other types of rice, making it essential to achieve a creamy risotto.
  • In order to use this 'no stir' method of cooking risotto, you MUST use a large pot or deep skillet so the rice & liquid is spread out & not too deep.

Shrimp Quiche Casserole

Quiche has always been an incomparable, one dish meal in my opinion. It’s kind of a whole food with protein, vegetables, dairy and carbohydrates. Quiche’s convenience wins hands down. After mixing the basics … eggs, milk or cream … any ingredients will work from leftovers to freshly cooked. You can use just about anything that you have in the refrigerator.

While some recipes are crust-free, most quiches have some kind of foundation. Potatoes, rice, cauliflower all make nice ‘crust’ options. Quiche makes a great choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. To keep it interesting, I’m always trying to find ways to tweak the ingredients to make it taste just a bit different each time.

Two of Brion’s favorite foods are broccoli and rice. I decided to make a rice/cheese crust, which I pre-baked so it would get a little crispy. Then, when it bakes with the filling, it holds together quite nicely. The seasoning plays a crucial part in the quiche.

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Shrimp Quiche Casserole
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Rice Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend crust ingredients. Using the back of a large spoon, press into a greased 8-inch round baking dish & bake for 15-20 minutes.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter; saute garlic & mushrooms, stirring for about 5 minutes. Stir in onions, cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Pour 2 cups water into skillet & bring to a simmer. Cook shrimp for about 1 minute or JUST until pink. Reserving 1 cup of the liquid, rinse shrimp under cold running water. Shell & devein shrimp; arrange over rice in baking dish.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F. (If you have turned it off after pre-baking crust). In a heavy saucepan, melt remaining butter & stir in flour. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, without browning; gradually whisk in reserved liquid & milk. Cook, stirring, for about 20 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, lemon zest & spices until cheese is melted. Stir into vegetable mixture & pour over shrimp in rice crust.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 cup cheese & bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over 'quiche'. Bake for about 40 minutes or until quiche is 'set'. Cut into wedges & serve.