Well here it is friends, my inagural post! I’m excited to get started, and there are so many recipes I’d like to share without having to make them again and do the whole picture thing (cookie-dough stuffed cupcakes, I’m looking at you), but I’m restraining myself because I feel like food blogs *need* pictures! So here is how to make french bread and Cajun shrimp Po’ Boys with smokey caramelized onion mayo & avocado salsa. Apologies in advance for the horrible quality iPhone photos…Original recipes will be linked at the bottom of the post:
I only recently discovered the joy of making my own bread and buns. There’s just something so satisfying and zen about starting with a few ingredients and pulling bread out of the oven! And it’s way easier than you’d think, promise!
2.5c warm water (it should feel like a warm bath, not too hot! – 100-110F)
2T active yeast
3T olive oil
3c wheat flour & 3c white flour; blended – you can do all white or all wheat (all wheat will make a denser bread)
If you have a stand mixer, I highly recommend using it when making dough (mostly because I’m too lazy for all that kneading). In the absence of a stand mixer, use a large bowl and a wooden spoon, kneading by hand as the dough begins to come together.
Pour the water into your stand mixer/bowl and then evenly sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the water and stir until the yeast is dissolved-ish (mine went all clumpy at first but a little mixing dissolved it all nicely). It will look like this:
Now you let it sit for ten minutes to activate the yeast (at this point, your kitchen will start to smell like beer…that’s a good sign). Properly activated yeast will make your mixture all foamy and weird (it was at this point that I googled a photo of what it should look like because I had no clue). If it’s not foamy then something went wrong (either your water was too hot or your yeast is old and dead). It should look gross like this:
Now you dump in your oil & salt, put your dough hook on your mixer and start adding in your flour about a half cup at a time. Mix on the lowest speed unless you’d like to wear your flour (not cool).
When the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, you’re almost done (yay!). You may need more or less flour, when the dough pulls away and is sticky but handle-able, that’s enough.
Your dough should still be sticky at this point. Dump it out onto a well floured surface (aka your countertop…this is where shit gets messy), flour your hands and knead for a few minutes before shaping into a ball. Put your ball into a big bowl (seriously guys, a really big one…dough can get huge when it proofs).
Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a couple little gaps in the edges; then cover with a damp kitchen towel. Turn the light on in your oven and put your covered bowl in the oven for 30-45 minutes (turning on the light warms your oven up just a tiny bit, helping proof the dough). If you’re impatient like me, you can preheat the oven for a few minutes so that it’s nice and toasty before putting your dough in (this will cut your proofing time in about half). Your dough should almost double in size by the time you’re done proofing:
Personal preference here (or trial and error) – the original recipe called for you to divide and bake now, but traditional baking says you should punch down the dough and re-cover, repeating the proofing process. I did two rises this time, it’s up to you (if you have the time, I’d go for it, otherwise move on). Divide the dough into two equal-ish chunks (these loaves are *HUGE*…probably could do three loaves). Shape into loaves (the original recipe says to “tuck the ends under like a jellyroll”…WTF does that mean? I made them loaf shaped…good enough). Score the tops on the diagonal with a knife and turn your oven on to 375F, let the bread rest while you wait for the oven to warm:
Once your oven is at temperature, pop your bread in on the middle rack and on the bottom rack, put a pie plate (or other oven-safe bowl shaped object) with 2 cups of ice. The steam from the melting ice and water will help you get the nice crusty outside French bread always has. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until they are brown and crusty.
Optional: At the 30 minute mark, take your loaves out and lightly brush the tops with melted butter – this helps get the tops extra crunchy and brown!
Adapted from: http://keephomesimple.blogspot.ca/2010/05/quick-french-bread.html
Smokey Caramelized Onion Mayo:
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced
1.25t liquid smoke (you can find it near the Tabasco in a lot of grocery stores)
1.25c mayo (I used light olive oil based…but use what you have)
½T canola oil
1t Worcestershire sauce
1/4t ground coriander
½t Louisiana-style hot sauce (e.g. Tabasco)
Warm the oil in a sauce pan on low as you slice up your onions. When the oil is warm, drop your onions into the pan:
Stir them around and add in the sugar and liquid smoke (the original recipe called for you to actually smoke the onion on the bbq…far too much effort for me). Cook on low until the onions are nice and browned, 20-25 minutes (I know, it’s a crazy long time, but *please* resist the temptation to turn up the heat, otherwise you’ll just end up with burnt onions).
Let the onions cool for a little bit (warm but not scalding), then add them to a food processor. Add in the mayo, Worcestershire, coriander and hot sauce. Original recipe called for Crystal hot sauce…I don’t know what that is so I planned to sub in Tabasco…I didn’t have Tabasco either (::facepalm::) so I went with Buffalo wing sauce that was in the fridge (close enough, right?).
Blend the crap out of it until it’s relatively smooth and you’re done! Mine’s still got a few onion bits in it but good enough (let’s call it “rustic”):
Tomato and Cajun Avocado Salsa:
Cajun seasoning (enough to coat your avocado…1/4c-ish)
1 ripe tomato, diced
2 ripe avocados, sliced
1/4c finely chopped red onion
2.5T apple cider vinegar
canola oil (enough to coat your pan a tablespoon or two)
Coat your sliced avocados with Cajun seasoning on both sides:
Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan over medium-low heat (olive oil has a lower smoke point so isn’t as good for frying stuff…if that’s all you’ve got then use it, just watch your temperature and keep the fan on!). When the oil starts to shimmer (seriously, it should look like it’s rippling gently), it’s ready. Fry the avocado slices for 2-3 minutes each side, working in batches if your pan isn’t big enough (like mine) for all the slices at once:
The original recipe said they should be blackened…mine refused to blacken. Maybe because it called for Creole seasoning and I used Cajun? I don’t know…I ended up with toasty crisp-ish avocado slices. Another one of those “close enough” moments (I have a lot of those):
Dice the cooked avocado and combine it with the apple cider vinegar, diced tomato and chopped onion and you have salsa! The original recipe says it’s relish…looks like salsa to me so salsa it is:
Shrimp (the absolute easiest part of this whole damn thing):
1-2lb peeled, deveined shrimp
1-2T Cajun seasoning
1T olive oil
Drop your shrimp into a Ziploc bag and add in the oil and Cajun seasoning (feel free to just eyeball the amounts or toss in whatever looks good to you…I didn’t measure, this is just approximate).
Seal the bag and shake the hell out of it. Add more seasoning if you need it, then put it in the fridge ’til you’re ready to cook the shrimp (about 10 minutes before serving).
Heat your BBQ to medium-ish and skewer the shrimp. Or for the lazy man option (my preferred way): dump the shrimp onto a grill pan on the BBQ. You can also cook them in a skillet on the stove, totally your call. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, until pink and cooked through (when they’re totally pink, they’re cooked through – feel free to find a meat thermometer and figure out at what temperature shrimp is considered done…I like to live on the wild side though haha)
To assemble a sandwich, split the French bread into sandwich-sized portions and then split lengthwise. Hollow out the bread a little, so you can pack more of the good stuff into your sandwich:
Top with some of the smokey onion mayo, some lettuce (I used a spinach/arugula mix), 4-6 shrimp and some of the salsa. And you have a Shrimp ‘Po Boy on Homemade French Bread!
Adapted from: http://www.menshealth.com/guy-gourmet/serve-shrimp-po-boys-super-bowl
Feedback would be lovely my friends! Too many pictures? Not enough? Need more explanation? Do I ramble too much? Comment and let me know!