Holy Macaroni Salad!

With summer in view and the smell of burgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill in the air, it’s time to visit one of my favorite dishes to accompany those delectable savory summer treats: macaroni salad!

 

Yes–macaroni salad. You can load your protein with all the flavor in the world and the best part about a nice, cold & creamy macaroni salad is the way it instantly cools whatever you eat. Spicy food? Macaroni salad. Too much acid with ketchup or mustard? Macaroni salad. You haven’t let the meat cool down enough before you bit into it? Again, macaroni salad.

 

Now I have spent literal YEARS on trying to perfect the combo. Whether it be trying more of an Italian dressing style (regular and creamy, I have tried them both) or even cutting the mayo with other tasty ingredients, no two salads have been the same. I have varied up the ingredients with carrots, black olives, celery, various types of peppers and onions, even deli meat. What’s best about a decent macaroni salad is you get to experiment with whatever you have on hand to throw in–it’s hard to go wrong if you stick to the basics!

 

And last month as I was starting to experiment again with my tried and true summer side dish I finally had an epiphany….and got to work on what I would consider my ultimate macaroni salad. I have found that mayonnaise works best as a base in this, but it always needs a little kick. So while I have cut my mayonnaise with sour cream to provide an even creamier texture, I found that also adding some Dijon mustard is an easy way to punch up the flavor. And to make sure that the Dijon doesn’t overpower the mixture too much, also make sure to add in a pinch or two of sugar. A little bit of sweetness goes a long way and will bring out the savory and cut the bite.

 

Also super important–make sure to make more of your dressing mixture right before you serve! Pasta loves to soak up all the dressing when you first make it and set it to cool in the fridge, so you will always need to make sure you have more dressing to add right before you serve it. If you add enough that second time, you won’t need to add more later for leftovers. Also, if you’re like me, you’ll be snacking on a bowl of leftovers at some point during the week. And as always, enjoy!

 

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Jenn’s Awesome Macaroni Salad

One box macaroni, cooked “al dente” (I prefer elbows, pipette, or medium shells–something that your dressing can really cling to!)

1 bell pepper (preferably red, orange, or yellow), diced

1/2 red onion, diced

2-3 stalks of celery, cleaned and diced

For the dressing (for initial application):

1 – 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1/4 – 1/2 cup Dijon mustard (depending on how much you like it)

1/2 cup sour cream

1-2 liberal pinches of sugar 

1 tsp smoked paprika, plus extra for garnish

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

  1. While pasta is cooking and all fresh ingredients are chopped, mix together all ingredients for the dressing and stir thoroughly. Dressing should be nice and smooth with a looseness to it so it can coat the pasta.
  2. When pasta is done, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water to stop cook.
  3. As pasta continues to drain, pour a little bit of dressing mixture into container, then add drained pasta and fresh ingredients to bowl, covering with remainder of mixture. Toss well and cover. Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours.
  4. When ready to serve, if more dressing is needed, create dressing with only mayonnaise, Dijon, sour cream, and sugar. Can make less than original application but try to keep ratio.
  5. Once ready to serve, garnish with some more paprika over top. Enjoy.

Makes 8-10 servings

Breaking out of the shell: Panko Edition

If there’s one item Matt and I have become almost addicted to when we’re food shopping….it’s frozen shrimp. Our supermarket charges this criminally inexpensive price every now and then, and we snatch it up and cram the delectable treat of the ocean into our overly-packed freezer! (Well, now it’s super packed…thank our wedding cake for that…if only we had more room!)

The best thing about frozen shrimp is you can do practically anything with it, especially if it’s raw and frozen. Of course, you’ll need to defrost and (in our usual prep work) peel the shrimp, but it’s super easy to work with (and so damn tasty.) And you can cook it so many different ways….if you need to know how, I recommend you watch Forrest Gump. (Little joke, sorry.)

Tonight’s recipe was actually one we attempted about a week ago, with “so-so” results: fried shrimp. (aka: it’s delicious, but how can we make it even better?) After our first attempt, it was determined that while regular bread crumbs are nice, panko would give us the desired crunchy texture that fried shrimp needs. (And as a bonus, I even made homemade cocktail sauce, courtesy of Food Network….which I will gladly share with you! Or if you want, their recipe is here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/quick-cocktail-sauce-recipe.html) I’m a little sad there are no leftovers for work tomorrow, but it was a delicious idea. (One I hope to repeat again soon.)

Now, if you don’t have a deep fryer like Matt and I do, you can always fry shrimp in a regular frying or saute pan. Just be sure to put a healthy amount of oil in the pan and allow it to warm up on medium-high heat. Give that oil time to warm, otherwise, you won’t get a good crunch. (And make sure your room is well ventilated….last thing you need is the smoke alarm going off, something Matt and I are very used to hearing when we cook with high temperatures. Towel at the ready to fan away! Haha.)

Another great idea is breaking the shrimp up into small pieces, applying the same breading and making a variation of “popcorn shrimp”. Or maybe you want different seasonings? Again, don’t be afraid to add your own flair to this dish! The world is your oyster….or should I say, shrimp?

Haha, enjoy!

~ Jenny V


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Panko-Fried Shrimp with Homemade Cocktail Sauce

For the shrimp:

1 1/2 pounds of raw peeled shrimp

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 egg

1 cup panko bread crumbs

For the cocktail sauce: (Again, thank you Food Network!)

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons horseradish

Worcestershire sauce

1/2 to 1 lemon

Tabasco sauce

1) Pre-heat deep fryer to 350 degrees. In a plastic container with lid, put in shrimp and season with Old Bay, thoroughly coating the shrimp. Add flour, close lid, and give a good shake until shrimp are all lightly coated in flour.

2) Dredge shrimp in egg mixture, then place in another plastic container (with lid) in panko. Once all shrimp are in, close lid and give a good shake, coating each shrimp thoroughly. Place in deep fryer basket. (Now my trick is once I have the shrimp in the basket, holding the basket over a garbage can or a sink, dump residual bread crumbs on shrimp and give basket a good shake. This way, any shrimp needing extra breading gets some and you’re not making too much of a mess.)

3) Place basket in deep fryer and close lid. Cook for about 2-4 minutes. When shrimp looking dark golden brown, they’re done. (Shrimp take practically no time to cook, so watch them carefully.) Remove and place on a plate with a paper towel to cool.

4) In a small bowl, combine ketchup, horseradish, a dash of Worcestershire, lemon, a dash of Tabasco (and if you’re feeling adventurous, a few shakes of Old Bay Seasoning). Mix thoroughly and serve with shrimp.