During the holiday season, there can be discussions between the partners in a marriage over what to serve at their next dinner party.
“Something chicken,” I began.
“NO.” Suzen was shouting again. Low frustration level. It’s her, not me.
“Cornish Game Hens with stuffing.” My mouth was watering. I like stuffing. I mean I really like stuffing.
“Brian, to serve fowl would be foul. Do you get it?”
“Yes, dear.” I didn’t but I did not want more arguing. And she had a point. After Thanksgiving, after Christmas, poultry is not a good choice. Nor is anything heavy, really. A big slab of steak with mashed potatoes is not appealing. Not even Yorkshire pudding.
The holiday meals have been big and rich. Now is the time for something delicate and light and just as far removed from a chicken as can be.
“Shrimp?” I suggested.
“Good,” she responded.
So off I went. No Googling this time. No, I went to the bookshelf and pulled out volumes twenty years old or more. And in Southwestern Tastes by Ellen Brown I found my solution.
As southwestern food fanatics, we are always up for avocados. Here’s a terrine made with avocado mouse housing sliced avocados and served with cooked shrimp over a red sauce — and you can make that sauce as southwestern and as hot as you like. The recipe for the sauce below is the original. We added some chili powder to put a zing in our mouths.
This dish presents beautifully. Suzen was nervous about the avocado mousse. She was right. Made the day before, the terrine had not set perfectly solid as dinner approached. So, an hour before the meal, we popped the terrine into the freezer then took it out and carefully sliced with a serrated knife. Avocados are tricky buggers and depending on size and ripeness, you may find the terrine a breeze or you may be resorting to some last minute tricks. It’s worth it. Our dinner guests were relieved. No one said “chicken” or “turkey” the whole night.
Given the terrine is made, that green color is going to very muted. It it looks to “Army-like” to you, then I suppose you could resort to green food coloring, but for God’s sake go a drop at a time. Too much color, against the contrast of the red sauce, and people will have visions of some B-grade science fiction movie.
Trust me. I have had green food coloring incidents with Suzen before and they were very vibrant but not pretty.
Avocado and Shrimp Terrine
Yield: serves 8 to 10
For the avocado mousse:
- 8 small ripe avocados [7 to 8 cups of pulp]
- Juice of 4 lemons
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- ½ cup heavy cream
For the sauce:
- 8 ripe Italian plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or ½ teaspoon dried basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the shrimp:
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pounds fresh medium-sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined
Line a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving enough paper on the sides to cover the top of the mousse. Set aside.
Peel the avocados, sprinkling all cut surfaces with lemon juice. Set aside 2 avocados and cube the remaining 6 n a large mixing bowl. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, remaining lemon juice, and salt and white pepper to taste. Mash well, using an electric mixer or your hands.
In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the shipped cream into the avocado mixture, adjust seasoning as needed, and pour half the mixture into the prepared mold. Take the two remaining avocados and halve them. Place them hollow side up in the loaf pan, tap the pan down on a counter to remove any air holes, and fill with the remaining mousse.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, making sure the parchment is directly on the surface of the mousse to prevent discoloration.
To make the sauce, combine the tomatoes, cream, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stew them over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
To cook the shrimp, bring the white wine and water to a boil, seasoning the liquid lightly with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp, and when the liquid returns to a boil, remove it from the heat. Let the shrimp soak in the water for 5 minutes. Removed with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
To serve, unmold the terrine by inverting it onto a platter. Place some of the tomato sauce on each serving plate and place of slice of terrine in the center. Garnish with three shrimp each.
The terrine can be made up to a day in advance and kept refrigerated. The sauce and shrimp can also be made a day ahead. Allow the shrimp to reach room temperature and reheat the sauce slightly before serving.
Source: Southwest Tastes by Ellen Brown
There are times when I just crave the tartness of a green salsa. And many of those times, I’m impatient. I want it NOW. I could seek counseling for my inability to deal with need and want. Or I can pick up a can of tomatillos.
I choose the can. Although you can make salsa from raw tomatillos, I prefer them cooked in some manner before going into the salsa. You can boil or roast them. Either way, with fresh tomatillos you have to peel them, then halve them if you are roasting, and there’s the mess and … There’s that can solution again: already with the leaves off, and already cooked.
All I have to do is not mess up with can opener and spill juice on the counter or floor. My lovely wife Suzen is fastidious about a kitchen free of mess, wet spots and sticky spots. She keeps finding them. I don’t know who puts them there.
This recipe produces a salsa that is tart but not overly so. The avocado adds to the green but of course contributes essential smoothness. This recipe calls for some heat, one serrano chile. Open up your vegetable bin and use what you have, just adjusting the amount depending on the actual type of chiles you have around.
What did I use? One poblano unroasted but washed, quartered and tossed into the blender. I was hotly happy with the results and very happy at my preparation time. I know the recipe says to refrigerate for up to two hours or until ready to use. I was ready then, and the next day the leftovers were even better. [Yes, the tomatillos had contributed some pectin so the next day required just a touch of stirring to loosen it up. That’s your chance to add some additional lemon or lime juice to brighten the flavor if you desire.]
This recipe comes from Fresh Mexico, a delightful book with 100 very authentic, very quick and very, very delicious recipes.
Easy Tomatillo Avocado Salsa
Yield: about two cups
- 8 ounces tomatillos from the can
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
- ½ cup [packed] fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 serrano chile
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the tomatillos, avocado, cilantro, serrano chile, and lemon juice in a blender and puree until smooth. Season the salsa to taste with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate for up to 2 hours or until ready to use.
Source: Fresh Mexico by Marcela Valladolid