Shrimp “Ya-Ya” Pesto and Fettuccine + More

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Happy Friday!

Tonight, I was dying to relive my recent visit to New Orleans (also known as NOLA). It is the foodie capital of the United States. NOLA blends French finesse and Creole seasonings and spices like no other. Mmm.

And while that’s all fine and good, I needed to be realistic. I was mindful of the fact that I have been teaching all day, and tutoring for three hours past 3:00. It’s the typical plight of the working woman, except I cannot simply admit that I am too busy to cook even though I actually am (maybe children will change that!)

And so, I wanted to cook NOLA quickly…and it dawned on me.

Make Shrimp Ya-Ya. . I know it doesn’t even sound like a dish. But that’s because its deceptively simple title has a hidden complexity. The name is simply fooling the skeptics into thinking this is nothing short of extraordinary.

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This is the restaurant’s take of Shrimp “Ya-Ya”–and I want to take it all.

Now most readers have probably heard of “pesto” and of course “Alfredo,” but it’s highly unlikely you have heard of “Ya-Ya” unless you frequent the south. It doesn’t sound fancy or classy, but it tastes divine.

So here’s what Shrimp Ya-Ya is in this highly technical mathematical formula:

Pesto + Alfredo + Crushed Red Pepper Flakes = Shrimp “Ya-Ya.”

It’s a creamy pesto that is served with hot, steamy garlic French bread and a few Gulf shrimp. The shrimp are delicious–no doubt. But my favorite part of the meal is mopping the sauce with the garlic bread. I refuse to leave one bit of sauce, so I always ask for extra bread like a good Atkin’s dieter does.  And if you are ever in New Orleans, please go to the restaurant in which this dinner was inspired by; it is Zach and I’s favorite low key bar, Le Bayou. They make delicious hurricanes to wash these down, too. Please order two or three for me, okay?

Now the only difference with my dinner tonight is that I added a starch: I wanted pasta. Grits would go well with this (but not if you’re in a hurry–grits are for when you’re watching grass grow) for a southern flair–any starch! If I had French bread available, that would be my go to–dip all that sauce until it is inevitably gone.

Now feel free to modify this recipe and break it down. Use the pesto and Alfredo exclusively when you’re feeling like making something simple. Pesto is great as a spread for sandwiches–so if you have extra, put it aside! Alfredo can’t be stored like pesto, but it comes together so quickly that you’ll be able to make it any time.

Shrimp Ya-Ya Pesto and Fettuccine (Serves Four*)

*-Could easily be modified for two or one!

Now let’s go solve the equation that I’ll likely be too selfish to divide…(insert cheesy puns from this point forward)

The Right Angle (Alfredo Sauce)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic

1⁄2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

The Hypotenuse (Pesto Sauce)

2 cups fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli)** (If you don’t have any in your area, you can substitute with another nut like walnuts, but I believe it’s best to leave it out if you have a nut that is not in the same family)

2-3 cloves of garlic (just don’t kiss anyone)

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, but honestly, probably more

The Legs (Shrimp)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound extra jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

Pasta

Half Box of Fettuccine** (only if you want pasta–if you want traditional Shrimp Ya-Ya, just prepare sauce and shrimp.)

Make the sauces:

PESTO (make this first)

  1. Rinse basil leaves of any dirt (if freshly pulled from a garden.) In the a food processor or blender, add basil, pine nuts, and garlic, and pulse to combine.
  2. While the mixture is pulsating, add 2 tablespoons  of extra virgin olive oil in a steady stream, and process until a smooth paste forms.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons Parmesan and salt, and process 30 seconds more. Add cheese to taste.
  4. Use a spatula and put pesto on the side in a bowl.

ALFREDO

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cream, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add Parmesan and garlic, stirring until cheese melts. Stir around and do not burn the garlic!
  3. Remove from heat, and let thicken. Add parsley and red pepper, if desired. The red pepper flake is spicy, but it’s necessary for the NOLA distinction. Also, if you’re afraid of spice–no worries; the cream will offset it.

Boil the water** (only if you’re making pasta): Salt the water generously. Throw in a half a box of fettuccine and stir to keep pasta from sticking.

Check Your Work (Final Steps):

  1. Get shrimp out–if frozen, thaw in cold running water, if fresh, leave them out.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add shrimp and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes lightly–cook until pink and firm.
  4. Remove the shrimp for a minute and place aside.
  5. Following, stir in red pepper flake, pesto mixture, and Alfredo. Cook until sauce is slightly thickened. Top with remaining 1/4 cup or more of Parmesan. Lower the heat if necessary to thicken.

***Drain pasta when al dente (about 12 minutes), and lightly toss strands of fettuccine in sauce with tongs. Plate and serve shrimp on top,and put more straight pesto in the center for color and flavor. Just remember, if you are making this with pasta, it will have a less creamy appearance, but will still be equally delicious. Eat immediately.

Enjoy your weekend, and stay tuned for Monday! 🙂

 

Cajun Chicken Alfredo with Sliced Bell Peppers and Peas

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I know, I know. It’s right after the holidays, and everyone’s pants are feeling tight (am I alone in saying that?) I should be posting a recipe on some kind of Kale Smoothie or a 30 Calorie Brownie made out of ice cubes. This is the time of year that everyone hits the gym and makes healthful decisions: quit smoking, drinking, fried chicken (ugh), chocolate chip cookies (no!)

But I want to start the New Year being candid for my resolution. I honestly love to eat decadent desserts and butter laden dinners. In fact, to make my colleagues tremble, I made cinnamon buns last night:

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I know–I’m cruel.

I believe that making cinnamon rolls yesterday and making Alfredo sauce today is quite metaphorical: I am representing the right eat well, and to not deprive one’s self.

And don’t get me wrong, healthful food can be very delicious. But let’s face it–there are only so many substitutes; at the end of the day, the chickpea crusted pizza just isn’t the melty, cheesy pizza delight you once knew.

Will I post recipes that are healthy? Of course, but this week, everything will be borderline gluttonous.

So let’s get back to business. I was inspired to make Cajun Chicken Alfredo for two reasons…

1.) I was just in New Orleans for New Years.

2.) I needed to make a guilty pleasure.

New Orleans will inspire me all week. Cajun food is so comforting, and I love how it blends so many cultures in one. I had a Blackened Red Grouper in a Pernod Cream Sauce that reminded me how much I love spicy fish that is cooled off with succulent cream. Oh, did I mention it came on a bed of homemade fettuccine? Oh my god. Someone please take me back!

Alfredo sauce has many variations, and I will not say that the way I make it is the only way. To make a good Alfredo sauce, you should have…

1.) Butter

2.) Olive Oil

3.) Grated Parmigiana Cheese

4.) Garlic

To make a greater Alfredo sauce, you should add to the previous list…

1.) Egg Yolk(s)

2.) Heavy Cream

Most people put cream in their Alfredo sauce, but technically, the cheese and the butter alone could suffice as they coagulate. Some people thicken their sauce with a flour/butter roux. In my experience, incorporating all of the above makes the Alfredo that you’ll crave.

For this Alfredo, you can modify as much as your heart desires. You don’t have any bell peppers? Just throw in some broccoli (in fact, I think broccoli is my favorite vegetable compliment to Alfredo.) You don’t have chicken? You are a vegetarian? Leave it out. You have chicken but don’t like spiciness? Just salt and pepper that bad boy. You make the rules!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo with Sliced Bell Peppers and Peas

Serves: 2 (easily could be turned into 4!)

Stage Crew:

Pasta Pot and Strainer

Cast Iron Pan

Cast Iron Grill Pan

Tongs

Santoku Knife (or any knife you like to cut veggies!)

Garlic Press* (not needed, but simply lovely)

Lovin’ Oven @ 350 Degrees

Tonight’s Cast:

Two Chicken Breasts (no need to pound thinly)

Half Box of Fettuccine

Five Mini Sweet Bell Peppers (Orange, Yellow, and Red)

Half Cup of Peas

Four Garlic Cloves

Blackened Seasoning (or you can use Chili Powder, Paprika, Granulated Garlic, Salt, Pepper, and Italian Seasoning)

Half Cup of Heavy Cream (or more if you’re feeling indulgent. Just look at the consistency, but I personally like more cheese than cream.)

Half Stick of Butter

1 cup of Parmigiana Cheese (freshly grated, if possible)

Stage Directions: 

1.) Preheat your oven at 350 degrees. While the oven is heating up, season your chicken liberally with blackening seasoning or a blend of the spices mentioned above. Make sure you coat both sides of the chicken.

2.) Put your burner on medium high heat and place the cast iron grill pan on the burner. Make sure your pan is coated in oil (either sprayed with Pam or a light layer of Canola oil.)

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3.) Once the grill pan is hot, place seasoned chicken breasts on top. Let them cook until grill marks appear, approximately 7-8 minutes. (P.S: Do not lift up the chicken; let it cook! If you pick it up pre maturely, you won’t get grill marks or the blackened crispy coloring!)

4.) While the chicken is grilling, fill your pasta pot with salty, salty water. Put your stove to high heat to get the water rolling.

5.) Don’t forget! Make sure you turned your chicken over at the appropriate time!

6.) While you’re waiting for the beautiful char to come onto the other side of the chicken, julienne (slice thinly) sweet baby bell peppers into 1/4 inch strips. The thinner, the better!12509818_10205532236118474_4554408398754110434_n

7.) On another burner with olive oil (about a tablespoon), put four cloves of garlic into a garlic press (or mince finely if you do not have a press.) While that is working, take out your chicken and put it in the oven to finish. Take out the chicken three minutes before serving.

Tip: If you have a garlic press, you don’t have to peel the garlic. Just throw the whole clove in there and the garlic will push out. Voila!

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8.) Stir around garlic (make sure you do not burn it–if you burn it, throw it out and start over) with sliced peppers.

9.) Once the peppers are softened (1-2 minutes), remove them and put on the side. Try to leave most of the garlic in the pan.

10.) In the pan, melt half a stick of butter on medium heat and stir garlic around. Then add a cup of grated parmigiana. Allow the cheese to form a bond with the butter. Once the mixture thickens, slowly add half a cup of heavy cream. If it looks thin and watery, raise the heat and then drop once it comes to a boil. The cooler temperature will make the sauce thicken. Also, you can add more cheese because you’re worth it (I mean, it’s for the sauce.)1931345_10205532237278503_5678273551620735294_n

11.) Once the mixture is thickened and the pot is not too hot (very important! it should be on a lower setting), add an egg yolk and stir around well. You will see that the egg yolk will make the sauce more rich and yellow (exactly what you want.)

12.) At this point, your pasta should be done (al dente–about 12 minute). Drain your pasta and throw the pasta in the pan and toss around with tongs. Take your chicken out of the oven and let it rest (otherwise it won’t be juicy–don’t be tempted!). Once the chicken has rested, slice into strips.

13.) Once your pasta is incorporated, you may throw your peppers back in, and the peas frozen (they will cook in the sauce.) Throw in the chicken. Just don’t throw a fit when your friend tells you that you should have eaten a salad. You know better.

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Bon appetit! Cheers to increased waistlines! 🙂