The Penalty Box

Five minutes for attempted world domination

Adventures in Foodland - Shrimp and grits

March 20, 2014 at 09:40 PM | categories: Culinary Capers | View Comments

Here's a two-fer, since I haven't posted in a while. I had some leftover cornmeal from a cornbread experiment that went rather poorly (pro tip, burning cornbread is bad). Baking and me don't get along so well. What's one to do with cornmeal that doesn't involve cornbread? Grits! There were some shrimp that had to be used as well so I went southern for this meal. Admittedly I didn't go full out southern and deep fry the shrimp, but butter was used!

Shrimp and grits


  • 20 medium shrimp
  • Butter
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt, pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Salt, pepper


  1. Toss shrimp with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper.
  2. Dice tomatoes.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp butter over medium high heat.
  4. When it stops bubbling, sear shrimp on both sides, a couple minutes each side. Don't crowd the pan, do it in batches if you need to.
  5. Bring broth and milk to boil. Don't cover, milk tends to boil over and make a mess.
  6. Once boiling, add cornmeal. Stir constantly.
  7. Set shrimp aside when done.
  8. When the cornmeal has absorbed most of the liquid, add two tbsp butter and the parmesan cheese. Keep stirring.
  9. Add another tbsp of butter to the pan. Brown mushrooms.
  10. Add tomatoes. Cook them down, let the liquid reduce a bit. Salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add flour, mix to thicken the gravy. If it gets too thick, add some water or chicken broth.
  12. Add shrimp to bring to temperature.
  13. Put grits down first, arrange shrimp on top. Pour some tomato gravy on top of that. Garnish with some minced parsley.

Probably not something you want to eat all of the time, because of the butter (and cheese), but hey, fat is flavour. Happy eatings.

May the food be with you.

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Adventures in Foodland - Black sesame soba

March 20, 2014 at 09:19 PM | categories: Culinary Capers | View Comments

So that whole updating thing, uh, yeah. It's been five months, eh? I never really improved on that "remember to take pictures" thing when I cook. This time I did remember though, so that's some progress. Probably about the same amount of progress that the Edmonton Oilers are making in their "rebuild" but hey, it's a nonzero amount, right? (Yes I realize the irony as the Canucks spin into the abyss)

My parents came home from Hong Kong in February and brought a couple of presents. One was soba noodles, the other was ponzu sauce. I decided to finally get around to doing something with them. The result? Black sesame soba noodles with crispy kale.

Black sesame soba


  • 300g soba noodles (two and a half bunches)
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1/2 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp ponzu
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 leek, sliced into rings
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 egg per serving
  • Chives


  1. Toast sesame seeds over medium heat. Stir. Takes about 5 minutes.
  2. Rip apart kale into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper.
  3. Roast in oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Pour sesame seeds into your food processor. Pulse until gritty.
  5. Add sugar, ponzu, mirin, rice wine vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, pepper flakes. Pulse until incorporated.
  6. Boil water for soba
  7. Cook soba until al dente. Reserve 1/3 cup of the noodle water.
  8. Rinse soba with cold water to stop cooking process.
  9. Mix reserved noodle water with sesame mixture.
  10. Fry egg, sunny side up.
  11. Plate noodles in bowl. Arrange egg on top, kale on top of that, chives on top of that.
  12. Break egg yolk over noodles and eat.

Nom happy.

May the food be with you.

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Adventures in Foodland - Arroz con Pollo

November 06, 2013 at 08:35 PM | categories: Culinary Capers | View Comments

Laziness? Forgetfulness? Probably a little of both. Usually I get around to cooking something and then forget to take pictures. And what's food without pictures? As they say, half of your tastebuds are in your eyeballs. Who are "they"? I dunno, funnier people than me.

In any case, I found a Spanish dish called arroz con pollo (basically rice with chicken) that looked interesting so I gave a go at it.

Arroz Con Pollo


  • 6-8 chicken thighs
  • 1 large bell pepper or 1.5 medium ones
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 5oz/150mL can of tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, white or yellow
  • Handful of cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chives or green onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of ground mustard, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons olive/vegetable oil
  • Two cups of rice, washed
  • Chicken broth
  • 1 cup of olives, I used black, tradition is green
  • 1/4 cup of olive brine from the jar/can


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Rack should be in the middle.
  2. Pat dry the chicken with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In an oven safe skillet or pot (I used a dutch oven), heat up the oil over medium high heat. When it shimmers, place the chicken skin side down to brown. You should do this in batches if there isn't enough room. Don't crowd the pan.
  4. After 4-5 minutes, flip the chicken to brown on the other side. You should see a nice brown crust forming. Set chicken aside on a plate.
  5. Dice onion and bell pepper.
  6. Slice garlic. Roughly chop the cilantro. Dice the chives or green onion.
  7. After the chicken is browned, reduce heat to medium and toss in the white/yellow onion and bell pepper. Add a teaspoon of salt to help sweat the aromatics. Sweat for 8-10 minutes.
  8. Add the garlic and cilantro, stir for 30 seconds or so until garlic is fragrant.
  9. Add the spices, stir to incorporate.
  10. Add the entire can of tomato paste. Stir to cook out the tinny flavour. This should take a couple of minutes.
  11. Add the rice, olives and olive brine. Add enough chicken broth to barely cover the rice and stir.
  12. Add the chicken back in, along with any juices that may have come out on the plate. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer.
  13. Stir to prevent sticking and then place in your oven for 25-30 minutes.
  14. Scoop rice and chicken into a bowl or plate. Garnish with diced chives/green onion. De-boning the chicken is up to you. I'm Chinese, so I don't.

Some recipes call for red wine, but that requires a bit more reducing to cook out some alcohol. This should put dinner on the table in a little over an hour, start to finish.

May the food be with you.

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Adventures in Foodland - Ribs, polenta and fried kale

September 07, 2013 at 09:45 PM | categories: Culinary Capers | View Comments

It's been a rather busy summer, hence the lack of posts. It went by really quickly as a result, and probably one of the more fun summers I've had in a while. Things like hitting the Night Market, multiple times. I joined a dragon boat team and raced in Harrison. I went to Penticton and got a bunch of wine.

Because of this busyness, I didn't really get to cook something substantial for a while. It's not like I didn't cook at all, but for the most part it was all fairly simple. I don't really consider tossing cheese and cream into a tomato sauce to make a rose sauce all that substantial. I've tried my hand at a few different types of Chinese steamed, baked and fried buns, the results of which were promising. I'll document those efforts at a later date. This weekend was the first free one in a while, so I decided to put together a plate of food that was a meal.

Today's efforts resulted in a rack of ribs on top of parmesan polenta with a fried kale and beet hot salad. A mediocre effort at plating ended with this photo:

Ribs, polenta and fried kale with roasted beets

The ribs were done with a dry rub. The mix of the dry rub I should really write down one of these days because it seems to differ each time I do it. This time I had a bit left over from last time, so I just used the rest of it. Ribs got dry rub on both sides before sitting in the fridge for 6 hours to meld. They got oven baked for 3 hours at 250F. Before tossing in the oven, I drizzled a bit of olive oil on top. After they were done, I let them rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

The polenta was Alton Brown's recipe. It's served me well before and turns into very good polenta cakes with leftovers. I did that a few posts back.

The hot salad consisted of the following ingredients:

  • One bunch of kale
  • 3 medium sized beets, or 2 large ones
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon (I got all fancy and used guanciale)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil

Directions: Note - This recipe works with beets, and the juice stains. Try not to wear white, eh?

  1. Heat oven to 425F
  2. Wash beets and cut off the stems. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap with aluminum foil individually.
  3. Toss the beets in the oven for about an hour. The beets are done when you can easily push a fork into them. Your oven may be faster/slower.
  4. Once the beets are done, unwrap from foil and allow to cool until you can handle them. Rub the skip with paper towel so that the skin comes off. Chop the beets into smaller pieces and set aside.
  5. Cut bacon into small pieces, render out the bacon fat in a pan.
  6. While bacon is rendering, chop the stems off the kale and cut the leafy bits into one inch pieces.
  7. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate to soak up extra grease, leave the bacon fat in the pan.
  8. Stir fry the kale until it starts to wilt. Toss in the garlic, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  9. Once the kale has wilted, toss in the beets and bacon to heat them back up. Add stock and vinegar and let the liquid reduce.

Because the beets are sweet, the vinegar provides a bit of acidity for a sweet and sour element that's pretty cool. I actually thought it was the most interesting thing on the plate. Hope you have fun with it if you try it out.

May the food be with you.

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Adventures in Foodland - Bacon wrapped meatloaf with polenta cakes

June 26, 2013 at 09:22 PM | categories: Culinary Capers | View Comments

I decided to spruce up some leftovers by adding bacon. Yup, because I'm creative like that. Yesterday I made some meatloaf and polenta, which was different from the usual meatloaf and mashed pototatoes. I don't usually like to cook single or two person servings, so I ended up with half a meatloaf and a bunch of leftover polenta. I spread the polenta into half inch thick sheets on some glassware to cool. This resulted in a nice polenta cake that I could slice into smaller portions.

I wrapped some slices of meatloaf in bacon and pan fried those first to render out some bacon fat. I finished the heat up process of the meatloaf in my toaster oven. I then coated the polenta cakes in some flour and pan fried them. Half an inch is a nice thickness because you can get a crust on them quickly and have them heated through after the crust is done.

I don't normally just blanch asparagus, but that was done mostly for pictorial purposes. Blanching vegetables brings out their colour better, even though the flavour isn't. My roasted asparagus from the previous night had garnered a rather dingy, pale green colour and wasn't all that pleasant to look at.

To top it off, I added some butter to the remaining bacon fat (waste not, want not!) and sweatted down some julienned onions. I tossed in some flour to make a roux and chicken stock to make a gravy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Results with some 10 second plating (because I was hungry dammit): IMG_0921

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