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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Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté

Lately, I’ve had trouble finding recipes to get really pumped about. With that being said, I’m the proud owner of a pretty extensive collection of cookbooks (for a 23 year-old at least), with cookbooks ranging from the South Carolina Wildlife Cookbook, which includes great tips and recipes for cooking anything from deer to snapping turtle to beaver, to one on Lebanese classics and comfort food. My favorite cookbooks tend to be Australian; the Aussies have a penchant for great Asian fusion as well as English classics. Despite my plethora of options for finding ideas, I rarely actually use recipes. Instead, I pour through about 5 cookbooks at a time and get ideas for flavor combinations that will work. 

Last night, while trying to decide what to do with the pound of shrimp I had just purchased, I stumbled upon a great recipe in one of my go-to cookbooks. If you do not own The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh, you must find it ASAP. This gem includes 1100 recipes that are quick, easy to follow and cover a spread of ethnic and American flavor palettes. 

The recipe for Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté is so vibrant and full of spice – not the hot kind of spice but the delicious, fragrant kind. I served it atop roasted chick peas and brown rice but lentils and greens would be just lovely as well. Whatever you choose to serve with it, be sure it simply seasoned – this dish calls for subtle sides the balance it’s dynamism.

Fast Easy Fresh

Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (I subbed Gourmet Garden ginger in equal quantity and I honestly don’t think it made any difference)
2 teaspoons hot chili sauce (ex. Sriracha)
12 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
1 red onion, halved, peeled, each half cut into 4 wedges through root end
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (for serving)

Ingredients

Toast coriander seeds, cardamom seeds and cumin in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, shaking skillet, about 1 minute.

Toasting Spices

Coarsely grind spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (or just crush spices with the end of a wooden spoon). Transfer to large bowl; mix in oil, ginger, chili sauce, cinnamon and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and onion; toss to coat.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until blackened in spots, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes.

       Red Onion in PanRaw Shrimp Added to PanAll Cooked in Pan

Add shrimp and marinade; sauté until just cooked through; about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp and onion to plate. Top with cilantro. 

Served