My food network-esq challenge

Cooking at home is usually is a relaxing affair, where I will carry on a conversation on the phone, leisurely read the recipe as I cook and realize that I have forgotten a key ingredient in the recipe and need to run to the store. Meanwhile professionally cooking is an exercise in focus and multi-tasking and requires a dramatically different skill set, as I am quickly coming to realize.
Luckily, before starting school my dear friends, who have been watching far too much of the food network, devised a little torture tactic, no pre-school assignment to help me prepare for the time pressured rigor of professional cooking, here was the challenge:

Challenge: to make 15 appetizers with mystery ingredients, selected by my close friends
Mystery Ingredients: Shrimp, Corn, Apricot
Shop Time – 20 minutes
Shop Budget - $40
Cook Time – 60 minutes

Now, since I love Top Chef, I decided to take this challenge up a notch and do a duo of appetizers to showcase the mystery ingredients in two very different appetizers and styles. This was a fantastic challenge as I had never had an apricot before and it was the first time that I was really forced to come up with my own recipe without any reference material. So here’s what I came up with.

Roasted Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Honey Apricot Cornbread

Jalapeno Lime Shrimp and Roasted Corn & Apricot Salsa

Roasted Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Honey Apricot Cornbread

Shrimp Broth
1 lb uncooked medium black tiger shrimp
3 stalks celery
1 small carrot
1 medium onion
2 bay leaves

2 ears of fresh corn, brushed with vegetable oil
4 thick strips of applewood smoked bacon, diced
1 Yukon potato, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1lb cleaned shrimp
1 jalapeno Pepper, trimmed and deseeded
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili Powder
1 lime
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
500 ml of half and half

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup of butter
¼ cup honey
½ cup of dried apricots
2 large eggs

Shrimp Broth
1. Clean, devein and remove the shell from shrimp. Place cleaned shrimp in a bowl and place in fridge.
2. Place shrimp shells on a roasting pan and place in a 400°F degree oven. Toast until skins are a deep orange colour, about 10 minutes
3. Fill a medium stock pot with cold water and set aside.
4. Wash and trim celery and carrot. Chop vegetables coarsely into 1 cm chunks. Cut onion into a medium dice. Put all celery, carrot, onion bay leaf into stockpot.
5. Remove toasted shrimp skins and let cool for 5 minutes before adding to the stock pot.
6. Once shrimp skins have been added, cook at medium – high heat until the stock simmers. Skim stock often and simmer for a minimum of 20 minutes or up to 1 hour.
7. Strain stock and keep warm.

1. Heat barbeque to high, once heated place prepared corn on grill. Turn corn while cooking to ensure nice even barbequing on all sides. Corn will take about 15 to cook.
2. Mix olive oil, jalapeno, 1/2 of the lime juice and shrimp in a bowl. Cover and let marinate in the fridge.
3. In a stockpot, on medium heat melt butter. Once butter is melted add diced bacon and brown. 4. Add onion, celery, garlic, potato and sauté.
5. To remove the roasted corn from the cob, take each ear of corn and slice of a bit of the top of the corn, to make a flat edge, this will give you a level surface to work with. Hold the corn by the stem, with the flattened top of the corn on a cutting board, slice the corn niblets off.
6. Add smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, roasted corn niblets, half and half and shrimp stock (prepared above) to stockpot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
7. When chowder has thickened and is almost ready to serve, remove shrimp from marinade and add to simmering chowder. Add chopped cilantro, remaining lime juice and salt to taste and serve immediately with cornbread.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F degrees
2. Combine, flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix until combined.
3. In another bowl, whisk eggs. Add buttermilk, melted butter and honey and whisk together.
4. Pour buttermilk mixture in stages into flour mixtures, stirring with a rubber spatula to ensure liquid is evenly incorporated.
5. Dice dried apricot and mix into cornbread batter.
6. Butter a 9 x 13” brownie pan. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.
7. Bake for 25 minutes or until cornbread is golden. Cool for 15 minutes and cut into desired size and shape.

Jalapeno Lime Chile with a Roasted Corn and Apricot Salsa
1 lb cleaned shrimp
2 ears of fresh corn, brushed with vegetable oil
10 apricots, cut in half and deseeded, brushed with vegetable oil
2 tsp diced red onion (about ½ red onion)
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced
1 lime
1 tsp chili pepper
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp cumin
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
Lime Tortilla Chips

1. Mix olive oil, jalapeno, 1/2 of the lime juice and shrimp in a bowl. Cover and let marinate in the fridge.
2. Preheat barbecue to high. Once heated place prepared corn and apricots on grill. Turn corn while cooking to ensure nice even barbecuing on all sides. Corn and apricots will take about 15 to cook.

Note – ideally you would put the corn and apricots in a barbecue vegetable basket, to prevent the apricot from sticking to the grill, if you don’t have a basket just place the apricot on a sheet of aluminum foil.

3. Remove niblets from cob, as described above. Chop apricots gently. Combine, niblets, apricots, red onion, red pepper and chopped cilantro in a glass mixing bowl or non-reactive bowl.
4. Combine lime juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, chili pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and cumin. Whisk together and add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Pour liquid into bowl of corn, apricots and onions. Mix well and let flavor marinate in fridge for 20 minutes.
6. Remove and drain shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Saute shrimp in butter on medium high heat.
7. Pour 1 tbsp of salsa into a martini glass, top with 1 shrimp and 2 tortilla chips. Serve immediately.

Bon Appétit