Saturday, February 13, 2010

Southern Sunday Brunch

The earthy aroma of freshly cut grass, the sound of laughing as my cousins play tag in the backyard, my family and friends sitting on the back porch catching up on gossip and life, this is my idea of a relaxing Sunday. And one of my favorite parts about Sunday is Sunday Brunch.

Before I plan out any menu I like to take inventory of what I have in the kitchen and I try to use as many ingredients as possible without having to head out to the store.

Sometimes I go with my classic All Star's when cooking a Southern Sunday brunch fluffy, creamy grits, cheesy eggs, golden hash browns, and sizzling turkey bacon. But occasionally I like to switch it up with a re-mix. To me that’s the best part of making brunch you can change your lineup, keep it the same, or just switch out a few players.

On the roster are my Shrimply delicious – Spicy Southern Shrimp. You’ll enjoy a little spice in your life as the zesty cayenne pepper beautifully contrasts the sweetness of the shrimp. As soon as you take a bite you’ll be saying “Bam! That’s good."

To go along with our Shrimply Delicious shrimp we’re going to roast Cippollini onions in a heavenly honey sauce. The honey brings out the Cippollini onions’ inherent sweetness and the balsamic vinegar will give it the perfect amount of tang. These onions are a definite crowd pleaser.

Follow it up with side of creamy grits, a delightful Cinnamon Compote dessert and we have the perfect combination for a soothing Sunday brunch.

While these dishes may seem fancy they're super easy to make and most importantly delicious to eat. In my opinion, that’s the best of both worlds because you can impress your friends without slaving away in the kitchen all day.

When you’re buying shrimp here are some tips to help you select the best ones:
1. Smell them. They should NOT have a pungent or ammonia -like smell.
2. Feel them. If they feel slimy don't purchase them.
3. Look at them. If you see any pink or black spotted discoloration then steer clear of these as well (except if you're buying tiger shrimp).

In all these instances unusual smell, texture or discoloration means the shrimp are probably not fresh and the flesh has started to deteriorate and break down.

Note: The great thing about our Shrimply delicious meal is that in it's basic form we're marinating a protein and throwing it on the grill. I chose to use shrimp because I usually have them on hand, they're fast to cook and for their subtle sweetness. But if you can't get shrimp then you can sub it out for chicken, fish, beef, tofu or any other protein.

Our Shrimps’ naturally sweet taste is complimented perfectly by honey, vanilla and onions. Enter Cippollini onions. Pronounced (Chip-oh-lee-knee), these onions are sweeter than most varieties. And the honey and vanilla we’re going to cover them with before roasting is going to give us succulent caramelized bites of heaven.

One of my favorite parts about roasting the Cippollini onions in the oven is that you don't have to continually stir them. You can just pop them in the oven and about 20 minutes later they've softened up and absorbed all those amazing sweet and tart flavors from the honey and balsamic vinegar. Um, Um, Um just thinking about biting into their tender flesh is making me hungry.
Note: If they don’t have Cippollini onions at your local grocery store try the Dekalb Farmer’s Market or Whole Foods.

Can’t find Cippollini onions. Don’t sweat it. You can substitute them for Pearl or boiling onions.
When you select your Cippollini onions you want to make sure they’re all about the same size to ensure even cooking time.

Now we have spicy, sweet and tart flavors for our brunch but we can’t forget to invite salty and savory to the party. And let’s face it there’s nothing like creamy, cheesy grits. If you’ve never had grits before then you’re in for a treat.

Grits are ground up corn granules and can be eaten for any meal breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can serve them hot, cold or fried. As you can tell, grits are a very diverse dish and the combination of flavors you can create with them are endless.

My cousins in Nashville love to eat grits for breakfast with sugar and a little cinnamon. But my secret to incredibly decadent grits is heavy cream. Don’t worry its okay to splurge every once in awhile. You can burn off the extra calories by doing the dishes.

So let’s talk about dessert baby. Juicy pieces of apple, pears, and golden raisins kissed with cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and sautéed in butter make up our incredible Cinnamon Compote. Now the name compote may sound intimidating but all it is are pieces of fruit lightly cooked in butter and sugar. Yep it’s that simple.

Now there are many different varieties of pears and apples that you can choose from. I like to go with the Red Delicious apple, D’Anjou and Bosc pears for this compote. I use the Red Delicious apple because I like the taste. I prefer to use the D’Anjou pear because they retain their brilliant green skin color throughout the cooking process. I like using the Bosc pear because they hold their shape well when you sauté them and they have a fabulous sweet taste.

Pear Care: Pears are usually picked unripe. If it is allowed to ripen on the tree it develops a mushy texture. At home, to help the ripening process along, place your pears in a paper bag for a few days in order to promote ripening from the inside out. To tell if they’re ripe gently press your finger against the pear and if it yields to the pressure then it is ripe.
Keep in mind that the sugar and butter from cooking are going to soften the pears and apples so you don’t want your fruit to be too ripe.

So there you have it a fabulous Southern Sunday brunch that will make your family and friends happy and won’t leave you in the kitchen all day. Stay tuned next time for more tips, tricks and recipes. In the meantime, check out my blog at and my how- to videos

Shrimply Delicious – Spicy Southern Shrimp
Serves 4-6

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of coarse salt
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Black pepper (to taste)

1. Soak Bamboo skewers, 15 minutes submerged in water.
2. Preheat grill for medium heat.
3. In a bowl, crush the garlic and add in the salt. {I use a mortar and pestle but if you don’t have one the backend of a spoon works very well}.
4. Mix in cayenne pepper and paprika.
5. Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice to form the marinade.
6. In separate bowl, toss shrimp and add in the marinade. Make sure to spread the love and evenly coat each one.
6. Lightly oil the top of the grill. Cook shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until pink.
7. Remove from heat. Plate and Serve.

Heavenly Honey Cippollini Onions
Serves 4-6

18 cippollini onions
1/4 cup of Extra-virgin olive oil
1 capful of vanilla
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Place onions in a large bowl and cover them with hot water. Let the onions steep in the water for about 5 minutes. Since they are so small this will make peeling them so much easier. Remove onions from water bath and peel.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper until combined.
4. Put the onions on a sheet pan and pour the heavenly honey sauce over them. Place the sheet pan in the oven and roast for 18 to 20 minutes until the onions are soft and slightly caramelized.
5. Remove from oven. Plate and serve.

Creamy Cheesy Grits
Serves 4-6

1 cup heavy cream
1 can (1 2/3 cups) chicken broth
1 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup quick grits
A few sprigs of parsley for garnish

1. Turn stove top to medium heat. Add chicken broth, heavy cream, and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

2. Add the butter, salt, and pepper.

3. Slowly whisk in grits and reduce heat.

4. Cook 15 to 20 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently.

5. Remove from heat and plate. Add cheese and parsley for garnish and Serve.

Cinnamon Compote
Serves 4-6

2 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored and chopped
1 apple peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup seedless golden raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of sugar (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

1. Turn stove top to Medium heat. Add butter to small sauté or saucepan. Swirl the melted butter in the pan and coat evenly.
2. Add the chopped pears, apples and golden raisins to the pan.
3. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
4. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper and cook until the sauce has thickened and the fruit becomes soft and tender. This should take about 5 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and let your compote cool for 5 minutes.
6. Serve over ice cream, yogurt or spruce up your lunch the next day and add it to your salad or sandwich.

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