Spicy Shrimp and Grits

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I really do enjoy shrimp, but since I am picky about where it is sourced and how it is processed, it tends to be spendy so I don’t eat it that often. For a recent party, I was tasked with making the small bites, so I decided to go with my take on a classic, shrimp and grits. I wanted something that was really easy to make and would still be fun an interesting, so I came up with this. It works nicely on a rice cracker and can be served as a sit down app or main course.


The Software

1 lb. 21-25 count shrimp, preferably sustainably wild caught, peeled and patted dry.

½ head cauliflower (about 1 lb.) trimmed into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 oz. grated cheddar cheese

1 oz. grated parmiggano reggiano

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Garlic powder

Kosher Salt

Chili flakes

1 smoked jalapeño (can be replaced with adobe)

Smoked paprika




The Recipe

The Spice Rub – make a spice mix. In a coffee grinder add 1 part each chili flakes, smoked paprika, cumin and  oregano, the smoked jalapeño (or one part adobe) and 2 parts each garlic powder and kosher salt. Pulse until a fine powder. (You can skip the grinding part if you are not using a whole smoked pepper as everything will already be powdered).

The Grits – steam the cauliflower in a covered pot for 10-15 minutes until tender. Transfer to a blender and add ¼ cup of the steaming liquid and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Blend until smooth. If the puree is too thick, add a little bit more water to thin. Transfer the puree back to an empty pot and add butter and cheese, stirring until combined. Check seasonings and add salt and pepper as necessary.

The Shrimp – heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil until just smoking. You are going to work in 2 batches with the shrimp. In a bowl, toss half the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of corn starch and 1 tablespoon of the spice rub until coated. Before putting the shrimp in the pan, shake off any excess. Cook the shrimp in the pan 2 minutes each side (don’t move them around) until done. Move to a plate, wipe out the pan and repeat with the second batch of shrimp

Serve the shrimp over the cauliflower grits.



I didn’t give exact measurements for the spice rub since it is scalable – you can use either a teaspoon or a tablespoon as your base measure, so the 1 part would be 1 teaspoon or tablespoon and the 2 parts would be 2 of either. You can easily adjust or change the ratios to go with your likes. You can use any size shrimp you want (I don’t think that I would recommend anything smaller than 26-30 count), but you will need to adjust the cooking time according to the size. You will still need to work in batches regardless of the size of the shrimp – you don’t want to crowd the pan when you cook the shrimp. I would also recommend that you don’t by any shrimp treated with Trisodium Phosphate (if you buy them in a bag, it should say. If you buy them from a fish counter, ask and don’t buy them if they are not sure – they should know), it affects the texture and you will end up with mushy shrimp.

A Simple Spice Rub

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I like spice rubs, but I tend not to buy ones in the store since they are mostly salt and very expensive and you can actually make the same thing at home for a fraction of the price. I have a default spice rub that I use for chicken, fish or pork when I am not really sure what I am in the mood for. It is quick and easy to make a spice rub with the spices you have on hand and they will keep in an airtight container for 6 months (which is as long as you should be keeping spices around anyway), but I usually just make them on the fly since they take less than a minute to put together. For this recipe, I will give the ratios in parts and you can use whatever measuring device you want.

The Software
2 parts smoked paprika
2 parts powdered garlic
2 parts cumin
2 parts dried oregano
1 part ground adobe
1 part ground black pepper
1 part salt

The Recipe
Take all of the ingredients and add them to a container with a lid. Close the lid tight and shake until well combined. Spread on your protein or veggies of choice. Cook and you are done.

If the rub is not salty enough for you, add more salt. It is easier to add more than it is to remove it after you have put everything together. The ratios are really just suggestions, add and subtract whatever you would like and feel free to substitute sweet paprika for smoked and to take anything out. This recipe was developed with what I had on hand, you can pretty much make your own by combining spices and herbs and trying them out.

Gumbo File

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I love gumbo but it can be really hard to find one with a good balance of flavor and heat in a restaurant. Most of the ones that I have had around Seattle have been too soupy or bland, so I decided to make one recently that was basically a modification of Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats.

The biggest problem with making gumbo is getting the roux dark enough – the roux is the foundation for the flavor of the dish and traditionally it requires at least an hour of cooking on the stovetop with constant stirring. Alton Brown devised a short cut method, which does not reduce the cooking time, but it does reduce the need to stir it constantly by cooking the roux in the oven instead of on the stove top. The other thing I like about this recipe is that it uses file powder instead of okra. I am not a fan of okra, but you need it to thicken the dish. File powder does this.

The Software
* 4 ounces vegetable oil
* 4 ounces all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 pounds raw, unpeeled medium-sized (31-50 count) shrimp
* 2 quarts water
* 3 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in (Optional)
* 3/4 cup chicken stock (if not using the chicken in the dish)
* 1 cup diced onion
* 1/2 cup diced celery
* 1/2 cup diced green peppers
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomato
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and browned
* 1 tablespoon file powder

The Recipe

The Roux
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process. The roux will come out dark brown, almost brick red when it is done.

The Stock
While the roux is baking, de-head, peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set in the refrigerator. Place the heads and shells in a 4-quart saucepan along with the 2 quarts of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced to 1-quart. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a container, discarding the solids.

If including the chicken – In a separate pot add 2 cups of cold water, a pinch of salt and the chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low and cover. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until very tender. Remove the chicken to a plate to let cool and de-fat the cooking liquid in a fat separator, reserving 3/4 cup. Removed the chicken and shred when it is cool enough to handle.

The Gumbo
Brown the sausage on both sides over medium-high heat and remove to a bowl. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 on each side (don’t worry about cooking them completely, they will finish cooking in the gumbo). Deglaze the pan with the reserved cooking liquid from the chicken or the chicken stock, scraping up the brown bits. Once the brown bits are scrape up, add the liquid to the shrimp stock.

Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Gradually add the shrimp broth and chicken stock while whisking continually. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, chicken and sausage and stir to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice to a happy public.

If the gumbo is not thick enough for your liking, you can add additional file powder after serving.

The recipe is really hands off compared to most other ones I have seen. You can eliminate the chicken and chicken stock and replace it with vegetable stock if you are so inclined, but I am not sure if there is a way to make this vegetarian. The heat is pretty tame in this recipe, if you like more heat, increase the cayanne, or just add some hot sauce when serving. Traditionally this is served with rice, but would also work with pasta. You can also add more or less of the meats in it, depending on what your preferences are.

File powder can be found at any good spice shop and most mega marts.

Seared Salmon with Tomato Compote

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have about 15 pounds of frozen salmon sitting in the freezer from an Alaska fishing trip back in August and I really wanted to take advantage of it and use up some of the remaining tomatoes and peppers that were sitting on the counter, so I came up with this nice little recipe that was essentially a seared salmon fillet with tomato salsa. It is easy to make and can really be done with a minimal amount of effort.

The finished product - she isn't pretty, but she is tasty.

The Software
1 small leek, white part only, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 a small Anaheim chili
6 San Marzano (roma or plum) tomatoes, diced
2 skin on Salmon fillets, about 4 oz each, skin on
3 tablespoons dry white wine
3 tablespoons of olive oil

The Compote
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-reactive skillet until shimmering. Add leeks and sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the leeks begin to brown. Add the chili and cook for an additional 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and white wine, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 8 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The Fish
Sprinkle the fish with salt on the non-skin side. Heat an empty 10” skillet (Don’t use a non-stick skillet for this) over medium-high heat for 6 minutes. Add 1 table of olive oil and heat until it just begins to smoke. Add the salmon, skin side up, to the skillet. Cook without moving the fish for 3-6 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish (you are targeting medium rare). The fish will develop a nice crust and will release from the pan without sticking. If it does not release easily, cook for one additional minute and it should release. Flip the fish and turn the heat off. Allow the residual heat in the pan to cook the skin side for 3 minutes. Plate the fish, top with compote and serve.

I served this over brown rice, but it could be served over any grain or even a salad. If you prefer a crispy skin to a crust on the flesh side, reverse the cooking order of the fish (start with skin side down). Add any herbs you would like to the compote. The chili can be replaced with any pepper you want. You can substitute any onion for leeks and reduce the cooking time by about 5-10 minutes. If the compote is too sweet, add a bit of red wine vinegar or verjus to it before finishing the cooking to increase the acidity.

Quick and Easy Spicy Shrimp

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Being a good catholic boy and being pretty hungry tonight, I decided I needed something quick and filling to take care of my situation. I also wanted something with a kick. I had some nice gulf shrimp, so I decided to use them. I came up with a simple, recipe that won’t take more than 15 minutes or so for a nice sautéed shrimp dish.

Toss in a few capers, and you get something that looks like this.

The Software
3/4 lb raw shrimp or prawns, peeled
1/3 stick of butter
1/3 lb pasta, cooked (I prefer penne for this dish, but any pasta will do)
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Mama Lil’s Goathorn Peppers
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Ground Black Pepper

The Dish
Peel the shells off the shrimp (and save them for stock – you could put them in a zip top bag and freeze them). In a bowl sprinkle flour, a small amount of salt, a few grinds of pepper and garlic on the shrimp and toss to coat. Let sit until pasta is in the water, about 10 minutes.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook to al dente, about 6-7 minutes. Drain but do not rinse the pasta. Reserve a little pasta water.

When the water is at a boil, add butter to a sauté pan over medium-high heat and melt until foam subsides and butter begins to turn a bit brown (it shouldn’t take more that 2 or 3 minutes, so you need to keep an eye on it). Take shrimp, shake off excess flour and add to pan with red pepper flakes. Cook on first side for about 2 minutes until lightly browned. DON’T MOVE THEM IN THE PAN – your pan will be hot enough that they won’t stick. Flip and add the goathorn peppers and cook for another 2 minutes 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add pasta, parsley, cream and, if you want a little more sauce, a bit of pasta water and toss to combine. Check seasonings and add any additional salt and pepper if desired.

The amounts in this recipe are a best guess on the seasoning, feel free to adjust them as you like, especially the pepper flakes. I use the Mama Lil’s Sweet Hot Peppers, but any pickled pepper will do, or, if you like, you can leave them out altogether. I highly recommend using either a stainless steel or non-reactive aluminum sauté pan for this, rather than a non-stick pan – you won’t be able to see when the butter begins to brown in the non-stick pan and you risk burning it. I used 16-20 count shrimp, which I think are the ideal size for this recipe, but you can use whatever size is convenient. The smaller the shrimp, the less cooking time you will need. I would highly recommend not using anything smaller than 26-30 count (also known as Extra Large) as they become difficult to peel. Make sure your shrimp are raw and they should be untreated. Shrimp treated with Sodium Tripolyphosphate tend to be really soggy and don’t properly sear. If you are buying them frozen in a bag, check the ingredients – it shouldn’t contain more than shrimp and salt. If you are buying them from a fish counter, ask the fishmonger if the shrimp have been treated with anything.