Udon Noodle Soup & Shrimp Etouffee


Head’s up, it’s become a little overwhelming to write about all the things we make in one night (overwhelming to cook that much too). I might have to start splitting it up. But for now, buckle up …

A couple of weeks ago we made an Udon Noodle Soup from Bon Appetit (me) and Parmesan Roasted Potatoes from allrecipes.com and Shrimp Etouffee from Simply Recipes (both Erika). E has been curious to try etouffee for months now, and I was excited for her to do it. The leftovers were abundant and lasted a few weeks … which was a bonus.

SONY DSCNotes on the Udon noodle soup. All the vegetables (asparagus, crimini mushrooms, celery and a sweet potato) had to be steamed in small batches and then cooled on a cookie sheet. So, after I chopped everything up, I mostly just watched Erika cook the rest of the time.

I love Japanese soups. They are delicate and flavorful, but this one was … too delicate. Here’s where I think I went wrong. I didn’t use Udon soup base. I don’t know what that is, but next time I’ll find out. I used vegetable broth (because that’s what I had). I also didn’t use the shichimi togarashi spice. I think these choices took all the flavor away from the meal. I really enjoyed the soup. It was very light and fresh tasting, but it didn’t have a lot of spice. It needed something (probably the udon soup base or shichimi togarashi), at the very least it needed salt. I enjoyed it and would probably make it again for myself, but I wouldn’t serve it to guests.

Oh! And because, who wouldn’t be curious, shichimi togarashi is a combination of several spices. One option would include: coarsely ground red chili pepper, ground sansho, roasted orange peel, black sesame seed, white sesame seed, hemp seed, ground ginger, and nori or aonori. Sansho is a kind of peppercorn from a citrus tree and nori is edible seaweed. Thanks Wikipedia!


Sooo crowded


There were miles of potatoes

Notes on the potatoes. Only the top layer was crispy. E said next time she made them, she would make them on a baking sheet so there would be more direct contact with the heat. Also, even with everything else that was cooking (like shrimp!), the thyme completely overwhelmed the kitchen. It was lovely.

Notes on the etouffee. So much to say! First, it was Erika’s first roux,SONY DSC and she was very excited. I was far more impressed with the shrimp stock she made. The recipe says that it’s optional, but I don’t agree at all. It didn’t take nearly as long as I imagined it would take. (My mom used to simmer a ham bone for stock for hours. True memory? No idea.) This stock required the shrimp shell (cause that’s where all the flavor is!).  It was totally worth the time it took and I got to use the leftover stock to make poached eggs later that week. Mmm…

Shrimp Etouffee
Serves 4-6

SONY DSCNot-Optional Shrimp Stock:

  • Shells from 2 pounds of shrimp
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • top and bottom from 1 green pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 5 bay leaves


  • 2 pounds shrimp, shell on (remove shells for use in the shrimp stock, if not making your own stock, you can get shrimp already shelled)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or lard
  • Heaping 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, choppedSONY DSC
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pint shrimp stock (see above), or clam juice or pre-made fish or shellfish stock
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • Salt
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Hot sauce (Crystal or Tabasco) to taste


1 Pour 2 quarts of water into a pot and add all the remaining stock ingredients. Bring to a boil, drop the heat down and simmer the stock gently for 45 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into another pot set over low heat. You will have extra stock, which you can use for soup, risotto, etc. It will last in the fridge for a week.

2 To make the etouffee, start by making a roux. Heat the vegetable oil or lard in a heavy pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the flour well, making sure there no clumps. Let this cook, stirring often, until it turns a pretty brown; this should take about 10 minutes or so.

3 Add the celery, green pepper, jalapeno and onion, mix well and cook this over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

SONY DSC4 Slowly add the hot shrimp stock, stirring constantly so it incorporates. The roux will absorb the stock and seize up at first, then it will loosen. Add enough stock to make a sauce about the thickness of syrup, about 1 pint. Add the Creole seasoning, celery seed and paprika and mix well. Add salt to taste, then mix in the shrimp. Cover the pot, turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 10 minutes.

5 Add the green onions and hot sauce to taste and serve over white rice.

It was delicious. Especially a few days later after the flavors had more time to mix. Also, it didn’t seem like enough shrimp, so we added some small salad shrimp we had in the freezer. Once done, it was all simply too much to eat. But the leftovers lasted forever.




I have a recent obsession with tostadas.

It started when I last moved and a friend of mine got so excited because I now live right next to her favorite Mexican place, Garcias. Now, the Garcias by the metra – she insists – is a million times better than the Garcias in Lincoln Square. Better? I don’t know. They’re both pretty good, but the one she likes is definitely closer. Sold!

In the last year (did I say “recent” obsession? Lies) I’ve been to Garcias a lot, and I always get their tostadas. It is a fried tortilla piled with a layer of refried beans, steak, lettuce, tomato mmmm.  I’m mostly intrigued by the challenge of trying to eat it neatly without the shell breaking. Nearly impossible.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Garciathisones in Lincoln Square and I had an avocado tostada. Delicious. Crispy, creamy. The best refried beans ever (made with lard?). So good.

Last week, I finally recognized my obsession while at Dolce Casa Cafe. I ordered a tostada dessert for lunch. (I think they called it a torta … which is a sandwich and not accurate.) Their tostada is a slightly thick, but crispy dessert tostada made with, I think, anise seeds and covered in coarse while sugar. It was accompanied with lemon curd and very sweet, homemade whipped cream.

I’ve recognized my obsession … isn’t that the first step? The second step? Trying to order something different from Garcias next time I’m there … probably not.



Pretty plates are an auspicious start

E and I have definitely made up for our last dinner fail. E was a little bit of a show off. She made a zucchini and yellow squash spaghetti from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe AND rosemary garlic pork chops from Redbook Magazine. While I’m sure she thought she could do it all on her own, I did my part by making asiago shrimp bisque from How Sweet It Is. Because it looks better than it sounds, I’m going to tell most of the rest of this story in a series of pictures.

Asiago Shrimp Bisque!


Before the immersion blender attacks.


Cut up bits of shrimp and leeks


Big bowl of asiago cheese

Here I’d like to note that The New Best Recipe book recommends you puree the shrimp with it’s shell because that’s where the flavor is. But, because the shell, once pureed, is more dangerous than delicious to swallow, you’re supposed to strain the pureed shrimp and shell out of the soup before serving. My favorite part of bisque is little bits of yummy surprise shrimp in each bite, so I didn’t cook the soup with the shrimp shells. I thought there was plenty of flavor.

Zucchini and Yellow Spaghetti Squash


Erika arrives!


Erika hard at work. She’s on a mission.


She’s racing the sunset


There is not enough squash

Rosemary Garlic Pork Chops


Fancy pork chops

Et Voila! Dinner Assembled!


SONY DSCSo far, none of our dinners have been complete without some kind of new cocktail. This time I had to make use of a ginger simple syrup that I made because of the pound of ginger E brought over to my apartment the week before. Simple syrup is truly simple. 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, boil until sugar has dissolved. To flavor it … you put in whatever you’re flavoring it with (in my case, a pound of ginger).

By the time E got to my house, the ginger simple syrup was cooled off and I had to find a cocktail that needed simple syrup. I settled on something called New Orleans Buck that I found on yummly.com. As you can see, I used mango orange juice in place of orange juice because that’s what we had. It was good.

Ginger Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 lb ginger, peeled and sliced

Put the sugar, water and ginger in a pot. Heat the water until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let sit for a half hour. Then strain the ginger out of the syrup and chill. Enjoy!