The Kitchen is Open for Valentine’s Day

The shrimp stock is starting to simmer.

The shrimp stock is simmering away.

With the snow Sunday, Valentine’s Day turned into a sugar-fueled house party. Coffee, energy drinks, pop and candy ensured the whole house was jacked up to a furious winter fever.

Between news shows and a “Better Call Saul” binge-watch on Netflix, we managed to screen “Hotel Transylvania 2” and “Goosebumps.”

Both are good. We’re big fans of “Hotel Transylvania,” and the new edition stands on its own with the original. “Goosebumps” had some creepy characters, but not scary even to my 3-year-old.

I ended up mostly staying in the kitchen, doing fly-bys on the entertainment options. After getting everyone fueled up on a brunch of French toast and sausage, I started prepping dinner.

My mom is recovering nicely next door to us from her partial knee replacement surgery, but can’t navigate steps with any regularity just yet. We decided to cook a big dinner that would feed us all, and could be delivered to the recovering patient in the comfort of her EZ-chair next door.

I thought with the chill in the air why not cook something rich with elements of seafood to remind one of warmer climates.

The idea of soup sounded very appealing. A steaming bowl of thick and creamy Crawfish and Corn Chowder was just the ticket.

Crawfish and Corn Chowder

1 stick salted butter; 2 tbls flour; 1 large onion diced; 1/4 cup chopped green onions; 1/4 cup grated provolone cheese; 1 qt milk; (2) 11-oz. cans whole-kernel corn; (2) 16-oz. cans cream-style corn; (1) 10 3/4-oz. can cream of mushroom soup; 12 oz. crawfish tails; 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce; 4 bay leaves; salt/pepper/spice to taste.

This is amazingly easy. Melt the butter in a large pot; whisk in the flour; add onions; add remaining ingredients; and let simmer for 40 minutes.

The spice level could easily be picked up on this with a splash of cayenne and white pepper; sauté 1/4 pound diced Andouille sausage with the onions and simmer with other ingredients.

A solid inch or two of damp snow covered the outdoor landscape as I trotted over to my folk’s with two hearty bowls of chowder. This heavy appetizer filled everyone up while I continued working on the main course:

I had to substitute sea scallops instead of bay scallops, but they worked lovely.

I had to substitute sea scallops instead of bay scallops, but they worked lovely.

Shrimp and Scallop Risotto

3/4 pound large shrimp; 5 cups chicken stock; 2 tbls olive oil; 8 tbls butter; 3/4 pound bay scallops; 1/2 cup diced onions; 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice; 1/2 cup dry white wine; salt and pepper to taste; Parmesan/Reggiano cheese.

I doubled this recipe and it turned out wonderfully.

Select some plump shrimp with the shells split. Peel and devein the shrimp; combine the shrimp shells with the stock in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, drop temp to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the stock heats, use portion of butter and olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat; cook shrimp, then the scallops, adding butter and oil as necessary; set aside when done; lightly chop 3/4 of each.

With the shrimp just off the grill, I offered a sampler to my hungry clients, with a side of cocktail sauce. The main course was near.

Pour residual juices from the shrimp/scallop pan into the shrimp stock mixture.

Strain the contents of the stockpot, discarding the shrimp shells.

In a 3 to 4 quart pot over medium heat melt remaining butter and oil; sauté the onion; stir in the rice; and spice to taste.

Stir in 1 cup of stock to the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly until the broth is almost completely absorbed. Continue adding in 1/2-cup increments until all is absorbed. It will take some time.

Add additional broth if necessary.

GiGi scored some Valentine's Day hugs from Isabella, as the flower girl made another delivery.

GiGi scored some Valentine’s Day hugs from Isabella, as the flower girl made another delivery.

Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed. Remove the pot from heat; stir in the chopped shrimp and scallops; sprinkle in the Parmesan; and garnish each bowl with a scallop and several shrimp.

Serve with warm buttered French bread.

Both recipes turned out fabulously. The chowder had a satisfying decadence to it. If you dip bread into it this is a meal by itself.

The risotto was dense with flavor and creamy. This is not a hard dish to cook and very adaptable to different ingredients. But it takes time and attention. Don’t rush it, this item will finish when it’s ready.

I will say Risotto is an excellent selection for Valentine’s Day – as preparing it requires one to invest time and love into making it just right.

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all!

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