Sunday, April 13, 2008

Shrimp with Steel Cut Irish Oats and a Saffron Beurre Blanc

Were you one of those people this year that bought John McCann’s Irish Oatmeal around St Patty’s day to feel more Irish? You know the one in the steel can that looks like mother antiquity herself birthed it? I wasn’t. I was the person who bought it LAST year and still have not used it all because the three times I followed the ‘Irish Porridge’ instructions on the back I was duped by marketing and a nostalgia that wasn’t even mine. I was raised with ‘Cream of Wheat’ and Honey Nut Cheerios.
I am currently in the midst of Operation Clear-Out-the-Cupboard. An effort to use victuals in there that I rarely, if ever, use. The first assassination; John McCann. The great thing about 100% Whole grain oats, besides being good for you (lots of Fiber, protein, iron and high in B-Viatmins) is the amount of sticky starch they give off when cooked properly. For oats, this characteristic gives a velevety mouth feel without the butter and cream. There is cheese and yogurt in this recipe, but it is in very small amounts and you could leave these out if need be.
Porridge is pretty poor tasting without the addition of lots of maple syrup, sugar or some other flavoring agent. This recipe takes these oats away from breakfast altogether and uses it in a savory application (My Irish grandmother would refuse it on principle).


1 Bag of Uncooked, Frozen U/10 Shrimp
Vegetable Oil

Saffron Beurre Blanc

½ Shallot, diced
100 ml Rice Vinegar
300 ml White Wine
1 Bay Leaf
2 ¾ Sticks of butter, cubed
3 Pinches of Saffron


3 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Bay leaves
1 Cup McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oats
4 Tbls Cup Rice Vinegar
1 Generous Pinch of Saffron
1/2 Tbls Sriracha
Salt, to taste
2 Rstd Red Peppers, diced
1/2 Cup Greek Fage Yogurt
1/2 Cup Goat Cheese
Cheese Rinds (Optional)
Scallions, sliced thin


1. Oats: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add Olive Oil and bay leaves. Pour in 1 cup of Steel Cut Oats. Continue at a rolling boil until the water begins to thicken. Once the water is viscous, adjust the flame and continue at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes. If you have leftover cheese rinds you can add them now. After 8 minutes of simmering you’ll need to keep an eye on the oats because they will stick to the bottom if you don’t stir frequently. Think of it as a risotto, the more you stir the more starch is let off and the more velevety it will feel in your mouth.
2. While the oats are cooking add the pinch of saffron to warm water and let soak for 5 minutes. Dice up red peppers and slice the scallions.
3. Once the oats are thickened and most of the water has reduced, you have in front of you Porridge or Gruel. Take the oats off the heat and add vinegar, sriracha, yogurt, cheese, peppers, scallions and salt if needed. Taste and adjust. Set aside and keep warm.
4. Beurre Blanc: Add saffron to warm water and let soak. Place shallots, vinegar, bay leaf and wine into a skillet and reduce. Once the mixture has reduced to nearly a syrup, take skillet off the heat and whisk in the cold butter a little at a time. Add saffron and continue to whisk until everything is incorporated. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Keep warm. If you want, you can add the shallots to the oats.
5. Shrimp: I bought one frozen bag of uncooked shelled U/10 Shrimp which means 10 per pound at Trader Joes for this dish, use what your supermarket has. Sub scallops for shrimp if the scallops are fresher. Devein and shell your shrimp. Keep the shells. Heat a skillet with 1 Tbls of butter and 1 tbls of veg oil. Saute shrimp with the shells. Shrimp cook quickly so this should be no longer than 5 minutes or so depending on how thick your shrimp are. Remove shrimp and shells separately. As long as your butter/oil mixture is not burned incorporate this into the beurre blanc.
6. Reheat oats, plate shrimp and drizzle the beurre blanc around your masterpiece.

Homemade Hazelnut Extract

I am one of many believers that anything homemade is better than what you can buy in the store. Purchasing extracts has always annoyed me. Vanilla extract is to blame for this. Its one of the more expensive foodstuffs you can have in your cabinet. Obviously Vanilla is rare so I understand the price and I would rather use fresh vanilla pods for ice cream rather than make an extract out of them, however, a little vanilla goes a long way if you have it. Nut extracts too don’t come cheap either and are much harder to find in the average supermarket Perusing an out of print ice cream book I found a recipe to make your own extract. I thought it was interesting but didn’t take the book out because I said to myself “I’ll just find this again on the internet”. I couldn’t. I spent about 10 minutes digging on the web and gave up. I ended up going back to the culinary library at the French Culinary Institute and copied it down. This is adapted from J & C Dueker’s “The Old Fashioned Homemade Ice Cream Cookbook”. The only changes I made were to toast the nuts first before I soaked them in Brandy and to chop them. Most people have a stock of cheap brandy somewhere in the back of their liquor cabinet which they hide and use for holiday/party punches, break it out for this recipe.

½ Cup Hazelnuts*, skinless
1 Cup Brandy


1. Pour hazelnuts into a skillet and toast. This should take about 5-7 minutes. They should be lightly browned not burned. If there are burned nuts don’t add them to the brandy. Once cooled, chop them coarsely.
2. Place in a jar or bottle and cover tightly. Allow at least a month before using. Dueker recommends subbing 2 Tbls of homemade extract for 1 Teaspoon commercial when using for baking or ice cream. I think you can add less but I’ll let you know once the extract is finished.

*If you do this for vanilla use a half pod per cup of brandy and do not toast. Slice it in half and scrape the insides. Combine everything in a jar.