Monday, July 10, 2017

Barbecue Shrimp Pascal's Manale Style

When I was a pharmaceutical specialty sales rep in Arkansas, we had a meeting in New Orleans with the rest of our district. My closest friend Kay, a Louisiana native, planned all our meals. This was one of the most unforgettable dishes I've ever had in a restaurant.



New Orleans is a beautiful city with such tremendous culture and cuisine. The first time I visited was during Mardi Gras when I was nineteen with my best friends Angelica and John. There were a lot of firsts that visit, including my first taste of an oyster, my first time to start drinking before noon, and a tattoo that ended up being not only the first but the last!

My last visit to New Orleans was just as unforgettable. My plane had arrived late to the airport, so I walked into a crowded conference room filled with about a thousand people where my work meeting had begun without me. I grabbed a seat at a table full of strangers. The Vice President of Sales was announcing the usual listing of the top reps in the country. Everyone stood when their name was announced, received some applause, then remained standing. Then he announced the last person. "The number one rep in the country is Thanh Rasico from Little Rock, Arkansas." I stood, smiled at my friends standing near the door, and looked down to notice my table staring at me in awe.

"You're number one in the COUNTRY?!" a girl asked. I nodded joyfully. I had been for ten months. It had taken over a year to climb from a much lower ranking to get there.

"You're cardiovascular specialty now aren't you?" I nodded again. It was as if the division had been created just to fulfill my dream of being promoted. That night, my manager took our district to Pascal's Manale for dinner. There was an hour wait, but the bar was spacious. And the wait was so very worth it!

I've been making Pascal's Manale's signature New Orleans barbecue shrimp at home a lot lately. Although the original recipe was made with olive oil, I found another recipe that made it with butter. I tried both, and I've decided I'm sticking with butter.

One of the things I miss most about Arkansas is the close proximity to Louisiana crawfish, Texas barbecue, and Memphis fried chicken. Not that I'd ever move back. I can find plenty of that stuff right here up in the Pacific Northwest. But here's how I make myself feel like I'm back home again when I miss a little part of it!

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound (21-25 count) shrimp, heads removed
  • 5 tsp Manale Spice (see below)
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp Louisiana hot sauce
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
Manale Spice:
  • 4 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
(Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.)

Directions:
  1. In a large skillet, add shrimp, Manale Spice, garlic, Worcestershire, and hot sauce, stirring constantly. Pour olive oil in, then white wine. Stir to blend thoroughly.
  2. Cook over high heat for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add butter, cook an additional 2 minutes until butter is thoroughly melted. 
Note: I also have combined all the ingredients in the oven and cooked for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Stir well before serving.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Enchilada Casserole with Homemade Sauce

For the longest time, we bought spaghetti sauce from jars. Then I started obsessive label reading after reading Skinny Bitch. Sugar. In so many brands. And my husband hates sweet spaghetti sauce. So I started making my own. I had also never had enchilada sauce before, so I looked up how to make the homemade variety. It was love at first taste!


Enchiladas never appealed to me before. My interest was piqued when a blogger friend here in Portland made a meatball recipe with enchilada sauce. I wondered if I was missing out on something. Indeed, I had been.

My husband loved it. I could tell he wondered what the catch was. Why had I never made this before? I've cooked tortillas from scratch, he loves my guacamole, we've even made the most laborious tamales on occasion. He asked if enchiladas were fattening. Nope, I told him. The sauce is just a little oil or butter with some stock and seasonings. And flour for thickening. Then the rest is meat, cheese, and tortillas.

I make this casserole all the time now, and it has become a Rasico family favorite. Except for Sasha of course. I found the recipe for the sauce from Gimme Some Oven. Sometimes I cook gluten free or paleo, so you'll see the options in my recipes. 

These are the spices that make up all the flavor:


Sauce Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp oil, butter, or ghee
  • 2 tbsp flour or tapioca starch
  • 4 tbsp chili powder (not cayenne)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ( I probably use more actually)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
Casserole Ingredients:
  • 6 medium tortillas, we use corn
  • 2 cups of Mexican blend cheese 
  • 2 cups of sauce
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Coconut or olive oil spray
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Make the sauce: heat oil, add flour, whisk, then add spices. Gradually add stock, whisking to remove lumps. Reduce heat and simmer 10 - 15 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Brown the ground beef, drain, then add to the sauce.
  4. Spray a small, rectangular pan with oil.
  5. Heat the tortillas until crisp.
  6. Layer the sauce, 2 tortillas, then meat, then cheese. Repeat.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese has melted.
  8. Garnish with avocado and more cheese if desired.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mini Tuna Melts with Bacon, Aioli, and Gouda in Phyllo Shellls

I came up with this recipe by mentioning to my daughter Gianna that I wanted to create a recipe using tuna. I looked in the fridge to see what I needed to use up before we move to our new house, and I randomly threw these items out there. "That actually sounds good," she said.



The crisp, flaky phyllo shells housed the tender tuna and grated gouda quite well. 

I thought it would be fun to play around with different toppings to make the presentation pretty, so I chose lemon and garlic dipped avocado pieces, chives, and tomatoes. What a fun, tasty new invention!

Ingredients:
  • 15 mini phyllo shells
  • 1 (5 oz.) can of tuna, thoroughly drained
  • 3 tbsp. aioli or Best Foods Organic Garlic Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup of grated gouda or other cheese
  • 2 strips of bacon, crisped and chopped (Farmer John is my favorite)
  • Toppings: avocado, tomatoes, chopped chives
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the tuna, aioli, 1/4 cup of the cheese, and the bacon together. Salt & Pepper to taste.
  3. Place about a teaspoonful into each shell. Top with remaining cheese.
  4. Cook 8 minutes, then add toppings and serve.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake

My family loves pasta dishes, so I make them often! This has become a favorite of mine to make because it's so easy, it has all of the Rasico's favorite flavors, and leftovers are always requested for later.

 
When I met my husband, I had a job waiting tables in an Italian restaurant. I was also a trainer, so I taught new servers about Italian culture and gave them tests on the menu items and made sure they knew how every dish was prepared, because the menu was pretty unusual, and customers would have questions. The kitchen was open, so part of training was watching the items get prepared. Needless to say, I learned how to cook a lot of Italian food this way.

You can use any pasta in this dish. I chose mini penne because it's bite sized, and my husband is not a big fan of angel hair. I came up with this dish because he recently ordered the traditional chicken parmesan dish at an Italian restaurant, so I wanted to prepare something similar at home that he could pack up for later and take to work with him. This Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake would also be a great dish to prepare for gatherings where everyone is pitching in. 

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 cups of uncooked pasta
  • 2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups of Italian blend cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Italian herbs
  • 1 can (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes
  • Torn basil, for garnish
Directions:
  1. Bake the chicken for 25 - 35 minutes at 425 degrees, or until done. Let cool, then shred. 
  2. Prepare the pasta per package instructions, until al dente. Drain. 
  3. Combine chicken, pasta, and crushed tomatoes. Add Italian herbs and mix.
  4. Spray a square baking dish with oil, then preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Spread half of the pasta mixture into the dish. 
  6. Top with half of the cheese, then the other half of the pasta mixture.
  7. Top with the remaining cheese, then bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  8. Let rest 10 minutes, then garnish with torn basil and serve.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicken Stir Fry with Roti

The first time we had roti, we were at Hat Yai, a Southern Thai restaurant in Portland. Roti is crisp, thin, flaky flatbread that melts in your mouth. One taste, and I was obsessed. Story of my life! Roti goes really well with this stir fry of lean protein and healthy veggies with a light, thin sauce.


When I found the roti at our Asian grocery store, I bought 5 packages. I was strolling through Fubonn in Portland, looking over all of the offerings in the frozen section, when I saw it. Obsessive label reader that I am, I approved of the ingredients. 

I have a rough life of serving as the cook to two daughters and a tall 6'2" and 200 pound hungry husband. You think I'm joking, but all I do all day is think of what I will make for breakfast, after school snack, dinner, and work or school lunches. Jereme and Gianna have pretty high standards, and Sasha is just plain picky. If I even fall into a rut, they will encourage me to get more creative. I think I took on my last well paying job just so that I could have an excuse to order food from Mediterranean Grill instead of cooking! Just kidding, anyone who knows me knows that I love going to three grocery stores a day so that I can do my meal planning. 

And since we close on a new house in May, my budget is super tight. One day we're in the front row of a Blazers playoff game against Golden State, the next, I'm browsing Managers Specials at Fred Meyer. I get so excited when I see I've got one day to use organic chicken breast tenderloins at a discounted price. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Broiled Scallops

Most recipes for scallops usually have them pan seared just a few minutes on high heat on each side. I love to use my broiler, so I decided to throw some scallops in there to see how they'd turn out.


Easy peasy, guys!

I love the flavor of sea scallops, so I don't do much to them. These were seasoned with salt and pepper, dipped in melted butter, then finished with a squeeze of lime afterwards. I use the broiler a lot because you can cook food quickly, the oven door remains open so that you can keep an eye on the food, and you can usually broil in the same amount of time as you would if you were grilling. 

I loved preparing scallops this way! Simple is my favorite way to cook.

Ingredients:
  • Scallops
  • Melted butter
  • Squeeze of lime
Directions:
  1. Roll the scallops in melted butter. Place the scallops onto a foil lined pan. Pour the remaining butter on the top. 
  2. Broil 5 - 6 minutes per side, until browned, watching closely.
  3. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Flat Iron Steak Salad

I'm a sucker for samples. Usually, all you have to do is give me a taste of food, and I'll buy it. That's probably why I frequent the same stores on a daily basis! The following recipe comes from one of my favorite grocery stores in my community. 

Ever since I discovered flat iron steak, it has been my go to. It's lean, it's easy to cook, and it delivers great flavor. I usually choose one that weighs about a pound, which is enough to feed my family of four. You can find flat iron steaks at Fred Meyer, and on occasion at New Seasons, if you live in the Northwest. If you're in the midwest or down south, you can find them at Kroger. They run about $8.99 per pound up here, but I noticed they're cheaper down south in cattle country.

The best way to serve flat iron is sliced thinly across the grain, like flank steak. I've gone back and forth between both kinds of steaks. Flat iron is still my favorite.

I marinate my steaks the way my parents did as I was growing up. We grew up using Three Crabs brand fish sauce, but now I buy Red Boat from Hung Phat. It's maybe seven bucks there, as opposed to the ten dollar price tag at New Seasons. We also used soy sauce in the marinade, but now I use Braggs Liquid Aminos. I noticed my daughter had a lot of stomach aches after she ate rice with soy sauce, so I switched to the gluten free source. A little turbinado sugar, tons of garlic powder, and that's just about how I marinate all my steak, pork, and chicken. Oh yeah, and duck and lamb too. (Think Pok Pok Vietnamese chicken wings.)

Ingredients:
Directions:
  1. Marinate the steak either using my method listed above, or with half a bottle of the dressing.
  2. Broil the steak on a foil lined pan for 8 minutes on one side, then 6 minutes on the other side for medium rare.
  3. Let the steak rest 15 minutes, then slice against the grain.
  4. Mix the remaining ingredients, then add the steak.