Blackened Chicken with Grapefruit Chermoula & Sweet Potato with Ginger-Orange Butter

The past few weeks have been full of health issues for myself and my family. I spent a week out of work after a surgical procedure and Caleb’s mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Things just seem to be hitting us non-stop right now. Needless to say, I haven’t exactly been on my A-game in the kitchen. This meal was one I was particularly excited about though. It struck the most perfect balance of flavors and Caleb just LOVED it. It just goes to show you that a good meal can make even the gloomiest times a little brighter.

My most recent food fascination has been with North African cuisine. When flipping through my most recent copy of  Bon Appétit, I came across a wonderful recipe for Grapefruit Chermoula from Chef Cassie Piuma of Sarma in Somerville, MA. The recipe calls for preserved lemon but like many sauces, you can simply use what suits your taste and what ingredients you have readily available. I declined to use the preserved lemon because I just couldn’t find it anywhere. Instead, I combined lemon juice with a little ginger syrup and added that in the same amount as the recipe called for preserved lemon. For anyone wondering what chermoula is, I found it to be very much like a salsa but with a different combination of flavors than the typical Latin American salsa. I served it atop blackened chicken and with a side of lightly baked and sliced sweet potato drizzled with ginger-orange butter. The result felt tropical and well-balanced while being hearty enough to satisfy a very hungry man.

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Grapefruit Chermoula (courtesty of Bon Appétit)

1 grapefruit
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 t kosher salt
1/2 small preserved lemon, flesh discard, peel finely chopped
1/2 c finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 T olive oil
2 t finely grated peeled ginger
2 t harissa paste (I subbed red chili paste)
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 t honey
1/2 t tomato paste
Freshly ground black pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from grapefruit; discard. Working over medium bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze in juice from membranes as needed to amke 2 T juice; discard membranes and reserve any extra juice for another use. Coarsely chop segments, return to bowl.

Combine shallot, garlic, lemon juice and 1 t salt in a medium bowl; let shand 10 minutes (this will mellow shallot and garlic). Mix in grapefruit, preserved lemon peel, cilantro, oil, ginger, harissa, cumin, honey and tomato paste; season with salt and pepper.

(Do ahead: Chermoula can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

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Blackened Chicken

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c Chef Paul Blackened Redfish seasoning
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t black pepper

Combine dry ingredients in a small shallow dish.

Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and coat with olive oil. Dip olive-oil coated chicken breasts in seasoning mixture.

Heat cast iron pan to high heat; add remaining olive oil to pan and cook chicken breasts on just below-high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

Sweet Potato with Ginger-Orange Butter

1 large sweet potato
4 T butter
1 1/2 t fresh, minced ginger
2 t minced orange peel

I cheated a bit here by baking the sweet potato in the microwave. The sweet potato I used was quite large and I cooked it for 10 minutes. It came out just tender enough but not at all mushy. The sweet potato should be able to be sliced into medallions and hold its shape.

In a small sauce pan, heat 2 T butter over med-low heat until almost completely melted. Add orange peel and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining 2 T butter and melt. Stir in ginger and allow to cook a little longer. Butter should bubble a bit but not start to brown.

Slice sweet potato into 1/2″ thick medallions and arrange on plate. Drizzle with ginger-orange butter.

PS – the sweet potato with ginger-orange butter is excellent with the chermoula as well. This a plate on which all components of the meal can definitely be cut up and mixed up. I’m a person who loves to mix up the food on my plate so this was just marvelous to me.

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Poached Shrimp with Warm Fennel & Beet Salad

Served - Adjusted

After a few days of slackened attention to healthful eating, last night’s dinner was refreshingly light and flavorful. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m a huge fan of beets. I’m such a huge fan, I’ve been purchasing two bunches each week, slicing, roasting and using to snack on at work. With fresh shrimp sitting in my refrigerator for two days, I had no choice but to make something shrimp-y and I had just so happened to have a hankering beets, fennel and shrimp – all together.

Shrimp is one of those things a person has to like for me to be friends with them and even for non-shrimp lovers, it’s hard to resist fresh Lowcountry shrimp. We’re kind of known for it, i.e. shrimp and grits. All too many people prefer their shrimp fried which often ruins the delicate, sweet simplicity of this fruits de mer. I, on the other hand, adore poached shrimp. As opposed to boiling, which is an all too violent approach to shrimp, poaching gently simmers your desired food item in just about any liquid found to be palatable. Typically, I poach shrimp in butter and sauvignon blanc, but wanted something a little different this time. I chose to poach in a coconut milk combination which yielded such subtly vibrant flavor. 

I have to admit that I’m terrible at measuring ingredients. Mostly, I eyeball anything I can and operate in the kitchen with a monitor-and-adjust attitude. Take this ‘recipe’ with that in mind. Taste it as you make it so you’re finished product is to your liking. 

PS – the leftover poaching liquid made a great base for a Tom Kha-ish soup! 

Poached Shrimp

1 lb. fresh shrimp, deveined 
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup sodium-free stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 T lemongrass paste

  • Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a pot. Stir and thoroughly combine. Slowly bring to a simmer.
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  • Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Bring poaching liquid back to a simmer and add shrimp, leaving peel (you can remove after poaching). Keep a watchful eye over the shrimp and remove from liquid as soon as it is just barely cooked. 
  • I warmed a large kale leaf in a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil, served the shrimp atop the leaf and poured a little poaching liquid on top.

Warm Fennel and Beet Salad

1 large beet, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
splash lemon juice

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  • In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. 
  • Add sliced beet and cook for a about 3-5 minutes or until just softened. 
  • Add minced garlic and sliced fennel and cook until the fennel gains translucence. The beet will make the fennel a lovely shade of magenta. 
  • Add a splash of lemon juice, stir to combine and serve alongside the coconut milk poached shrimp. 

    Wanna know a secret? When I made this last night, I accidentally added a much too large splash of lemon juice and it ended a little too tart for my liking. Don’t do what I did. Be conservative with your splash and only add more if you think it needs it.

Served - Adjusted

The little bit of a tan in the top corner, that’s a PBR. Yep, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s still my everyday beer of choice, Caleb’s too.