Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Scampering Around with Shrimp.

In many Italian homes and restaurants, Shrimp Scampi is often served as a main dish or an appetizer, dependent upon whether or not it is served with pasta.  Many think that the term "scampi" describes how the dish is prepared; the shrimp sauteed in a marriage of olive oil, butter, garlic, lemon juice and white wine.  However, this is not so; scampi actually refers to a type of small lobster known as the Norway Lobster, or the Dublin Prawn if in Ireland.  Langoustines also fall into this family of seafood, and in the many areas, crawfish serve as the main focus. Whether the seafood being used is a lobster, prawn, langoustine or the simple shrimp; the overall preparation gives you a dish both rich in scent and flavor.

The Italian city of Genoa boasts a claim to fame for the origin of the scampi recipe.  During the late 1800s to early 1900s, almost four million Italians, mainly from the southern end of the boot, and Sicily, immigrated to the United States.  Even though Genoa is located in the northwestern region, recipes migrated throughout the country, and across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia, so why not the USA as well?  While Italians suffered discrimination, as all immigrants eventually did, the cuisines of this European nation were embraced by American citizens.

Shrimp Scampi is an excellent dish to serve as a romantic dinner for two.  It cooks up quickly, leaving plenty of time for the couple to have "we" time with each other.  A perfect holiday for this meal, you would think, is Valentine's Day; but many couples are alone together for the winter holidays such as Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve.  I did not mention Hanukkah as I believe that this recipe may not fall within the dietary rules of the Hebrew tradition.  Then there are the anniversaries or birthdays that need celebrating; with this recipe, any time can be a good excuse to serve it.

So let me introduce you to Shrimp Scampi; the recipe, not the sea creature.


Shrimp Scampi


8 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

4 Tbsp. fresh, chopped parsley

1 Tbsp. grated red bell pepper

4 Tbsp. white wine

Pinch of salt and ground black pepper

2 lbs. medium to large shrimp; peeled and deveined

2 tsp. flour

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 lb. cooked linguine, keep warm


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil; sauté garlic, parsley and bell pepper for 2 minutes; stirring constantly to keep garlic from browning. Add wine, salt, black pepper and shrimp; cook for 3-5 minutes or until shrimp turns pink. Stir in flour to thicken; add in lemon juice and linguine; toss to coat pasta and let cook 2 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

With the winter holidays, many religions believe that only fish dishes should be served for Christmas Eve.  This is one recipe that should be added to the “Feast of the Seven Fishes”, and no one will complain.

Happy Holidays! from the Cokenour family.

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The Future is Bright for Thai and Sushi.

 Ja-Roen Thai Sushi

 380 South Main Street

Monticello, UT, 84535

 Phone: (435) 587-4000







Roy, I, and several members of the San Juan County Economic Development and Visitor Services, were invited to Ja-Roen Thai Sushi Restaurant for a special taste testing.  Their newest sushi chef, Tom, who has seventeen years of experience under his knife belt, introduced us to some of his specialties.  


New Sushi Chef, Tom.

As we patiently waited, appetizers of crab rangoon and crispy egg rolls wetted our appetites.  These items have always been on the menu, and are popular favorites for all us OGs of the restaurant, and travelers.   


Egg Rolls

Crab Rangoon

Second course was a new salad edition, Kani Salad, made up of romaine lettuce with sliced grape tomatoes, radishes, shredded crab and fish roe.  The dressing was savory with a rich peanut flavor, and smooth texture.  While this will appear on the new menu, it can be ordered now by request.


Hot Jasmine Tea - a palate cleanser and soothing drink.

As we continue to wait, patiently, for our sushi, let me fill you in on other changes that Ja-Roen will be undergoing.  Two additional chefs will be joining the growing staff, and while the main focus will be Thai and sushi, a few Japanese and Chinese dishes will be added as well. I have begged owner, Waen Roll, for roast pork buns, and she has assured me that my wish will be coming true.  Oh my, here comes another dish to try before the sushi, Katsudon!  Now anyone who has read San Juan Record’s edition of May 3, 2023, and my article on Deep Fried Japanese – Part Two – Katsu, will know exactly what I am excited about.  I was so ecstatic, well, Roy stated that the staff began backing away and hiding all the sharp implements.  Yes, he was exaggerating, but deep-fried pork cutlet over fried rice with a sprinkle of a savory and smoky seasoning mix…order up, and you’re welcome!


Examples of California Roll, Tom-Tom Roll, Avocado Train and Salmon Fire Roll


Sushi time!  The rice used is a mixture of Japanese and jasmine creating a creamier texture than the typical sticky rice, that can sometimes be a bit on the dry side.  All sauces and condiments, including the wasabi, are house made and all have a creamy texture that coats the tongue, and enhances the taste.  Tom’s version of the California Roll contains crab and avocado with a coating of fish roe over the rice, and dollop of creamy house mayonnaise.  The Tom-Tom Roll, which we helped him name, has a center of avocado and cucumber, shredded crab encasing the rice, with the house mayonnaise and a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce drizzled over top.  The Avocado Train speaks for itself, with avocado inside and outside of the roll, cream cheese center stage, crab and tempura flakes.  The Salmon Fire Roll puts on a show as the individual pieces of this sushi roll are fire roasted, with crab and avocado.


California Roll creation begins.

California Roll

There is your tease of what is to come on the new sushi menu, but wait, there is much more.  With the new additions to staffing, Ja-Roen will be open seven days a week, and will now be serving breakfast!  The menu for this will be American based, and definitely a boon for the restaurant fares available to locals and travelers alike.  Due to the unavailability of liquor licenses within Monticello, a variety of non-alcoholic beers will be offered.  Ah, reservations are being taken, now, for Christmas and New Year’s, so get your table booked before you miss out!

Whether you are a wielder of restaurant quality aspen wood chopsticks, or luxury style, lacquered cherry wood, do your finger exercises to be ready for sushi consuming.  Best of luck wishes to the owners and staff of Ja-Roen Thai Sushi, and thank you for being a part of our community.

Current Main Menu Availability

Tempura Vegetables Appetizer

Pad Se Eew with Beef


Massaman Curry
Sweet and Sour Chicken


Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Thanksgiving Leftovers and a Gift Suggestion

In a kitchen, a long time ago; alright, it was only twelve years ago, but that is a little over a decade.  Roy had been working the oil fields with his cousin, and for the holiday season, they had received a very nice bonus.  While he went off to purchase new video games for his PC, I decided to finally buy new cookware that I have wanted for a long time...Calphalon.  This cookware is made in the USA (website:, has a variety of styles, and is long lasting and high quality.


The Calphalon company was founded in 1963 by Ronald Kasperzak in Perrysburg, Ohio.  He wanted to make a cookware product that was heavy duty, easy to handle and clean, up to the standards of any professional chef, but affordable by the public.  Calphalon is lightweight, nonstick and the handles stay cool to the touch.  How many of us have burned ourselves on pot handles or needed a forklift to take an overly heavy skillet off the stovetop?  Recipes can be cooked at lower temperature settings as the heavy gauge metals used in the cookware distributes heat evenly and more quickly.  Not only does this save gas or electric, depending on your stove type, but it saves on cooking time.


No more using nonstick cooking sprays as they have a chemical within them that makes the cookware remain sticky and discolors.  Basically, you do not need to use any oils or butter to keep food from sticking; they can be primarily used for flavor enhancement if needed.  Cleanup is hot, soapy water and a simple sponge; no scratchy pads, harsh cleansers, and most certainly do NOT put the cookware into the dish washer.

Is Calphalon expensive?  Yes and no.  Most definitely yes if you are on a very tight budget, but sales and clearance sales can be found just about anywhere nowadays, especially online.  No, if you want a product that will last for years and you are tired of throwing out pans that only last 6 months to a year because they were cheap to buy and made even more cheaply.  If you have a passion for cooking and want cookware that expresses that passion, choose Calphalon.

Now that I have given you a great suggestion for gift giving, how about an idea about what to do with those turkey leftovers, and using a panini press from Calphalon.


Back on January 30, 2019, my article, “Ode to the Odiferous Onion”, appeared in the San Juan Record, and included a recipe for Sweet Onion Relish.  Time to find that recipe (also can be found on my food blog, of course), slice up some turkey and Swiss cheese, and split open a nice Kaiser, or sub, roll.  Now, while I used mayonnaise to give the exterior of the roll a light crunch, butter can be used instead; or a plant-based product if that is what is preferred in your household.


Slicing a roll open, spread some mayonnaise on each exterior side; the mayonnaise would give the bread crunch after toasting without being greasy.  For each sandwich made, slice five pieces of turkey, about 1/4" thick; Swiss cheese and sweet onion relish ready for adding.   Stove top burner on medium heat, put the panini pan on the burner and let it heat up.  This pan does heat up quickly, so make sure you have everything ready to go or you risk burning the roll side closest to the burner.  Yes, I am talking from experience.

Bottom of roll on the pan, two slices of Swiss cheese, turkey slices fanned out along the roll, a generous helping of sweet onion relish before being topped with another two slices of Swiss cheese, and the top side of the roll.


Place the press on top of the sandwich and begin pressing down slightly; do not slam down hard immediately, or the insides will just come gushing out. Let it cook for one minute before flipping the sandwich over and begin pressing down again. Since the cheese is now melted, the sandwich will press together more easily and you can apply more pressure; one minute on the pan and then to the plate it can go.


There you have it, the Turkey Sweet Onion Panini; tender slices of turkey, smooth Swiss cheese and a sweet, yet tangy onion relish. 




Did I make a cold version of the sandwich, you bet I did! On a croissant and it was just as delicious as the hot version. One type of sandwich, done up two ways and all you have to do is make the decision of which one to try out first.  What a tasty way to enjoy those Thanksgiving turkey leftovers!

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Sorry Knight Rider, This Potato is Not Named After You.

In Germany, David Hasselhoff of "Knight Rider" fame is treated more like a god than just another actor.  However, in Stockholm, Sweden, it is not every restaurant that gets a dish named after it.  The Hasselbacken Hotel (opened in 1748) introduced a new potato dish on its menu in the 1940's, The Hasselback Potato.  While you could say it is just a baked potato, the way it is prepared, and looks, distinguishes it from just any old baked potato.  Slits are cut crosswise along the top, and length, of the potato; careful to leave 1/4 of an inch uncut along the bottom.  A bread crumb topping is loaded on top and pushed slightly into the slits; olive oil and butter gives a slightly naughty decadence to the fanned-out potato.  This type of potato dish is also called in Ireland "Accordion Potatoes" for its resemblance to the musical instrument.  In France, with the addition of Parmesan cheese, it is known as a "Potato Fan".

The recipe I made, and will give instruction for, is the original recipe from the Hasselbacken Hotel.  A medium sized, oval shaped, baking potato is best for this unique side dish. The larger sized is best if serving this potato dish as a meal in itself.  Small potatoes, such as Fingerlings, do not fare well during the cutting and baking processes.  Originally, the topping was simply dried bread crumbs, salt, ground black pepper and butter; olive oil was a cooking medium.  Of course, nowadays, the addition of cheeses, herbs, vegetables and/or bacon can give this potato dish a whole new swing.  If using cheese, it is best to use a grated texture from a hard rind type of cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan mixed into the dried bread crumbs. A quickly melting cheese such as Cheddar or Swiss could be used, but in the final 15 minutes of the baking process; however, the chance of covering up the "fan" effect is very possible.

For the addition of bacon, slice bacon strips into one-inch pieces, freeze them solid and then insert into the cuts randomly; about 5-6 pieces per potato.  As the potatoes bake, the bacon fat will melt to give the potato extra fluffiness and deep bacon flavoring.  Chopped fresh herbs and/or petite diced vegetables such as green onion or mushrooms need to be mixed in melted butter, spooned over the potatoes and baked during the final 15 minutes.  You want these items to warm up, but not be thoroughly roasted into obscurity.  The olive oil that sits in the bottom of the baking dish will give the potato a golden browned, crusty bottom to sit upon...sort of like getting a baked and fried potato at the same time.

Imagine, for the coming holiday meals, instead of plain potatoes, serving up these fancy baked potatoes.  Your family and guests will be impressed!


The Hasselback Potato


4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 long baking potatoes (about 6 oz. each)

1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

4 Tbsp. melted butter



Peel each potato; cut a 1/4-inch slice from one long side of the potato.  This will allow it to lay flat and not roll during the cutting or baking processes.  Place a clean rubber band around the potato, ¼-inch up from the flat bottom, to use as a guide.  With a sharp knife, make 1/8-inch slices crosswise along the entire length of the potato being careful not to go past the rubber band.  Remove the rubber band and immerse the potatoes in cold water for 5 minutes; slightly move the slices apart, but be careful not to break them.  Immersing in water will also help to remove extra starch from the potatoes and keep them from turning brown.


Preheat oven to 450F; coat bottom of small baking dish (large enough to accommodate both potatoes, but leave room between each) with olive oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, salt, black pepper and one tablespoon of butter.  Remove potatoes from water, pat dry and brush with a half tablespoon of butter; press the bread crumb mixture onto each potato; use the dull side of a knife to slightly press a little mixture into some of the potato slits.  Place potatoes into the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes.  Remove the foil, drizzle a tablespoon of the remaining butter over each potato; bake for an additional 15 minutes.


Makes two servings.

So instead of a plain baked potato, try something a little fancier...a Hasselhoff; oops, sorry; a Hasselback Potato.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Fungus Fun

A mushroom is the spore baring body of a fungus which grows in damp, dank soil in shaded areas.  Cultivating your own mushroom crop can be achieved by setting up an area, in the basement, which is kept dark and soil is moist.  However, if you are like myself, and the home has no basement, two choices are left, buy or hunt.  Depending on how populated an area you live in, the local markets will carry the typical white button mushroom, but they will also carry other varieties (cremini, portobello, enoki, chanterelle, oyster, etc.).  Not all mushrooms are the same as they each have their own flavor, texture, even scent, and experimenting with the varieties is basically how you will find out what works with the recipe you are trying to create.  For example, portobello mushrooms have a firm texture and beefy taste; a large grilled portobello can take the place of a beef hamburger for vegetarians.

But, but mushrooms are a fungus!  These edible fungi, believe it or not, do have health benefits for the human body. They contain macronutrients that support a healthy immune system, one of which is Selenium, which helps the body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage.  

Hunting for mushrooms is something that should not be done willy-nilly.  Like with many bushes that bear berries, just because they look delicious does not mean they are safe to eat.  During the summer months, we often find puff ball mushrooms growing in the backyard.  While these are deemed one of the safest mushrooms to eat, you still have to be careful when picking them. 


Puff balls (Calvatia gigantea) are, typically, white, volley-ball shape and texture, with no stem or frilly exterior parts.  They are firm and solid inside, and if kicked, do not explode into dust filled with spores.  However, when picking them, especially in forested areas, watch for two other mushrooms that look like puff balls, but are poisonous to ingest.  Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum) while firm, has a springy or elastic feel to the body, and the interior becomes dark purplish-black with white lines.  Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) can look like a puff ball mushroom when looking downwards at it.  However, it has the shape of, similar to, a Chinese wide brimmed hat, sits on a longest stem which has a frilly “skirt”, and the underside of the mushroom is lined, not smooth.  Death Caps cause liver poisoning, failure and, as the name implies, death.









So far, I have not been able to find any classes, except online, that teach about foraging for wild mushrooms.  That led me to purchasing a book, Mushrooms: How to Identify and Gather Wild Mushrooms and Other Fungi, by DK, that has a five-star rating, is described as, “…beautifully illustrated guide contains everything you need to help you on your next foraging adventure.”  The photographs and descriptions of each mushroom (edible and poisonous) are very detailed, and clearly give the “mushroom hunter” much needed knowledge to pick, and eat safely.  However, if still unsure if the fungi you have picked is safe, it would be a very good idea to find an expert to verify you are not about to poison yourself, or others.  Better safe than dead.

Now, whether store bought, or picked in the wild, mushrooms should be cleaned.

It is best to clean mushrooms right before using them, and the easiest way to clean mushrooms is brush each one carefully with a mushroom brush or a damp paper towel. If the mushrooms are very dirty, give them a quick rinse, and dry them off immediately.  Mushrooms get slimy if allowed to sit wet, and do not store well in refrigeration for very long as they pick up the moisture.


When it comes to cooking, mushrooms are versatile.  Battered and deep fried, served with a horseradish sauce for dipping, they become a fantastic appetizer.  











Cooked down into a rich ragu with olive oil, port wine, beef broth and heavy cream becomes an amazing topping over beef, chicken, pork, and the delight of hunters, version or elk. 


Mushroom Ragu


¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 lb. mushroom mix (cremini, oyster, enoki), roughly chopped

1/8 tsp. salt and pepper

½ cup port

2 cups beef broth**

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp. dry Italian herbal mix


In a large skillet, medium heat, sauté’ onion till soft; add garlic and sauté’ for 2 additional minutes. Add mushroom mix, salt, pepper; mix thoroughly. Increase heat to high, remove pan from stove, add port and return to heat; let alcohol burn off. Add broth and let simmer until liquid is reduced by half; stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Add heavy cream, herbal mix; mix thoroughly and spoon mixture over sliced meat.

**Note: if serving over chicken or other poultry, use chicken broth instead.

Makes 4-6 servings.


Mushrooms can be added to Asian cuisines, and are often seen in stir-fry dishes.  Want a burger to be the ultimate in taste and texture?  Saute’ sliced onions and mushrooms together, in equal parts olive oil and butter, season with salt and pepper, until edges begin to brown.  Layer on top of the burger and cover with a slice, or two, of baby Swiss cheese…oh, do not forget to toast that bun.  Take that first bite, and hello food heaven!

Mary Cokenour