Deconstructing Grandpa’s Okra Side Dish: At the Table | entertainment/life

Steve Engelbrecht taught himself engine mechanics by studying tool catalogues, and he learned to experiment with food by reading through his grandfather’s Penzeys Spice catalogues.

“The spices are like an alphabet – you find what you like and start putting words together,” Engelbrecht said.

Engelbrecht likes to experiment with these “words” and flavor combinations when cooking for his family and friends, often merging dishes from opposite directions of world cuisine or reinventing local standards.

Annoyed by recipe limitations, his approach usually begins with a sharp kitchen knife and a big “what-if”.

Kimchi guacamole? Devil’s Egg Burger with pickled okra? gumbo pizza? These are three of Engelbrecht’s most recent creations. While I’m not convinced by the kimchi and guacamole mashup, photos of his deviled egg burger made my mouth water.



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Steve Engelbrecht roasts prawns in his kitchen.




As Engelbrecht and I cooked together, he recalled a more traditional mix of okra, corn, and tomato—a dish his grandfather had taught him, along with how to cook squirrels, how to make pumpkin cream soup, and an unconscious appreciation for the deliciousness of cow’s tongue – just to name a few things he learned living with his grandfather in Natchitoches. Intended as a side dish, Engelbrecht deconstructed his grandfather’s recipe and created a meal by changing the flavors, adding shrimp and serving it over brown rice.

As Engelbrecht cooked, I watched as he paid attention to each key ingredient — not following the typical method of combining all the vegetables for a long simmer, but preparing each one individually. He just briefly heated all the veggies together and added the shrimp to each bowl at the table so the flavors would pop as they worked together.

“It’s a way of showing my love by taking my time with my ingredients,” he said with a smile as he, his wife and their children chatted back and forth about meals they’d enjoyed together.

Since fresh fall tomatoes weren’t yet available, he taught me to roast store-bought tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, rice vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to intensify the flavor and add shine to the somewhat bland tomatoes. Their roasted sweetness along with the shrimp rounded out the dish’s savoryness and gave it meal-heavy weight.



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Okra, corn and tomato with shrimp




Engelbrecht keeps a copy of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking handy to understand the science behind the flavors he loves to bring to the plate. Do you have a question about okra? The anatomy of a tomato? McGee’s book explains how to manipulate both to get the flavors and textures you want.

We enjoyed our bowls of okra delights on the back patio and discussed past and upcoming meals—as foodies love to do. Engelbrecht told how he once made a pizza with red sauce and smoked Gouda from the quartet of okra, corn, tomatoes and shrimp. As I savored the flavors in my mouth, I was able to follow his imagination and write down the recipe.

Okra, corn and tomato with shrimp

Makes 6 servings. Recipe is from Steven Engelbrecht.

3 large tomatoes

4 ears of corn

1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1-2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for searing shrimp

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 pounds okra, sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

3 bay leaves

Salt

cayenne pepper

White pepper

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails can be left on for display)

Cajun or Creole spice mix

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Score the tomatoes lightly, then blanch in boiling water until the skin begins to loosen. Remove to cool.

3. Blanch the corn in the same boiling water for two minutes. Remove to cool, then cut cores from cob.

4. Peel the tomatoes, deseed and cut into large bite-sized pieces.

5. Spread tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with rice vinegar, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. Bake 35 minutes. This step can be skipped if using flavor-packed tomatoes like aged or locally grown tomatoes.

6. Preheat a deep skillet over high heat. Add olive oil to coat the skillet, okra, onions, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook until the okra stops producing its characteristic stringy mucilage.

7. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then add the corn and tomatoes to the okra. Stir and cover, keep bowl warm over low heat.

8. In a skillet lightly brushed with olive oil, sear the shrimp over high heat until done.

9. Serve okra, corn and tomatoes on white or brown rice topped with sautéed shrimp. Flavor with your favorite spice mix. Goes well with a Louisiana brewed Pilsner.

Pizza with okra, corn, tomatoes and shrimp

Makes 6 servings. Recipe is from Steven Engelbrecht.

3 medium tomatoes

2-3 ears of corn

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for searing shrimp

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 pound sliced ​​okra

Salt

cayenne pepper

White pepper

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

15 ounces of prepared room temperature pizza dough

¾ cup tomato-based pizza sauce

1½ cups loose-packed cheese (aged provolone or smoked gouda)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Score the tomatoes lightly, then blanch in boiling water until the skin begins to loosen. Remove to cool.

3. Blanch corn in the same boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove to cool, then cut cores from cob.

4. Peel the tomatoes, deseed and cut into large bite-sized pieces.

5. Spread tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with rice vinegar, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. Bake 35 minutes. This step can be skipped if using flavor-packed tomatoes like aged or locally grown tomatoes. (Remove seeds and watery pulp from fresh tomatoes.)

6. Turn the oven on to 500 F.

7. Preheat a deep skillet over high heat. Add olive oil to coat pan, sauté okra until browned. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. In a skillet lightly brushed with olive oil, sauté shrimp over high heat until cooked through.

9. Divide the prepared dough into three balls. Work one ball of dough at a time while leaving the others covered with a clean tea towel.

10. Roll out the dough to about ⅛ inch thick.

11. Layer the following ingredients onto the dough, leaving the edges uncovered: ¼ cup pizza sauce, ⅓ sautéed okra, ⅓ corn, ⅓ tomatoes, ⅓ shrimp, and a pinch of ½ cup cheese.

12. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients to make three thin-crust pizzas.

13. Bake on a pizza stone for about 8 minutes.



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