Friday, June 20, 2008

Shrimp, grits and lots of rhubarb...

We talked about our rhubarb windfall last week - while I froze a ton of it (literally it feels like!), I did make a couple recipes over the past week. Just because it sounded different and fun, the first thing I tried out was this Rhubarbecue Sauce.

A clever name for sure, this unusual sauce is actually quite simple to prepare. Chunky pieces of rhubarb, ketchup, a little water, onions, a couple cloves of garlic, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and a couple dashes of cayenne pepper sauce are simmered together until the rhubarb softens and becomes very tender. To get that slick texture, the batch is scooped into a food processor (or a blender) and puréed until it smooths out. Tangy, a bit tart and a little sweet with a nice kick, I've only gotten a chance to mop this sauce on some grilled chicken we used in sandwiches for lunch. We both thought it was tasty and nice change of pace - I've frozen the remaining in tablespoon and quarter cup portions to pull out when our taste buds crave a sauce that is a bit different than the norm.

Yesterday, I talked about those savory muffins and I mentioned that I also had a sweet batch of muffins waiting to be talked about. It just so happens that we snuck some of our abundant rhubarb into them too!

I baked these Cinnamon-Rhubarb Muffins earlier in the week and have stashed most of them in the freezer for a quick on-the-go snack. The batter for these muffins is quite thick and might look like it won't all fit into a regular 12 cup muffin tin. However, don't fear - you can fill the cups right up as that thick batter with help support the muffins into baking up and not out, spilling all over the top, as a thinner batter might. When preparing the rhubarb, try to get the pieces to about a 1/4" dice - you want them visible, but not too big or they won't have enough time to achieve that soft, buttery quality. These are fairly rich for muffins with sour cream and butter, but I have a feeling you could easily substitute half of the butter for drained applesauce and use a reduced-fat sour cream without affecting the lighter texture too much.

Using drained applesauce (place it on a few layers of paper towels for a couple minutes) will give the needed moisture, but not have the excess liquid that could make them soggy or gummy. To tie in that cinnamon flavor from the batter, the unbaked muffins are sprinked with a fragrant cinnamon-sugar right before they go into the oven. You can test for doneness a couple ways - if you press down gently on the tops of the muffins, they should be done when they spring back. You could also place a toothpick in the center and it should come out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs attached. When you take them out of the oven, be sure to remove them after about 5 minutes or so to finish cooling - if they sit in the muffin tin, they will start to steam and their golden crust will go from tender to tough.

Now... I really need to move on to what we actually had for dinner tonight. Although, it has been a while since we've done a three-in-one post, hasn't it? The weather is really starting to heat up over here in Minnesota, so I counted down the time until I could turn off the broiler after this Shrimp and Cheddar Grits dish was done. You know... we may just have to bite the bullet and pick up a "real" grill as it would have been nice to get out of the kitchen this evening and adapt this recipe to be done on that.

Since I was a little short on time tonight, we used quick cooking, not instant, grits for these - the texture is just a bit heartier this way and doesn't add that much time. To cook those grainy granules, we used a duo of broth and water to impart a little more flavor. After a short 5 to 7 minutes, they ballooned and thickened right up... and because the mixture is fairly bland as is, we stirred in a few ounces of sharp white cheddar to liven the grits up.

While the grits were doin' their thing, we tossed a pound of peeled shrimp with sliced scallions, olive oil, a little garlic powder and the obligatory salt and fresh ground black pepper. The size of the shrimp will determine how long they need to stay under the broiler - ours were the 16-20 per pound variety and only needed a couple minutes to go from translucent to that blush pink tinge. Just stay close to the oven once you put them in - if you've never cooked shrimp before, you'll want to take them out when they turn color and have a slight "C" shape to them. If they are curled tightly, they are over-done and may be a bit rubbery. Once I plated the succulent shrimp over the pool of creamy grits, Jeff could hardly contain himself (he was doing that antsy dancing in place thing...) as the picture process was happening. While I'm not the biggest seafood fan (yet!), I did enjoyed this and Jeff was in heaven as he inhaled his portion and even nibbled on some of the leftovers before I got a chance to put them away!



  1. I love that it's called rhubarbecue sauce! And I can really see it working out well on grilled chicken.

  2. Looking through my bookmarked recipes file, I noticed that well over half of them are from Culinary in the Desert. So it seems as if I really, really owe you some feedback. Joe, you run a great blog! The consistent high quality of the food is amazing. Fabulous recipe after fabulous recipe, and so much helpful advice in the commentary. Thank you so much for sharing your kitchen with us!

  3. Brilynn - I thought the name was quite fitting too!

    Sophie - Thank you! I'm very glad to hear that you have given some of our recipes a go... I hope we can continue to inspire you with more ideas!