Tuesday May 13, 2014
I remember the first time I saw a soft-shell crab; it was handing out from a large toasted bun, its legs and claws dangling from the sides. I was intrigued, especially when I was told you eat the whole thing.
Eat. The. Whole. Thing.
Growing up in Atlanta in 1970s and 80s, there wasn't a lot of seafood to be had, unless it was caught in a river or stream or came heavily battered and frozen in a box to be heated up in the oven.
So I was already 24 years old when presented with this delicacy. I started with pulling off a leg and nibbling it carefully. Not bad. Not bad. A claw was consumed yet - meatier, and better.
Then I just took a big bite, and the light tempura batter yielded to the large bank of succulent, sweet crab meat in the body, and it was nirvana. I consumed the whole thing, and made a mental note to not let another 24 years go by until I ate another soft-shell crab.
Fortunately the next year I moved to the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia and found a treasure trove of these beauties, especially when they came in season in late spring through the early fall.
I had soft-shell crab sandwiches. I had them on salad greens with a bright citrusy dressing. I had them simply served with a beurre blanc sauce.
Then I decided to make some my own. And it was good. Darn good.
I have many ways I prepare and present soft-shells, and a favorite is with a simple tomato-cream sauce lightly spiked with some Italian spices. It's my Pan-Sauteed Soft-Shell Crab in Tomato-Cream Sauce
, and I hope you enjoy it - legs, claws, and all.
Monday May 5, 2014
I have a confession to make: I love digging for clams.
In fact, it makes me, well, as happy as a clam to do it.
There is something very satisfactory about foraging for your own food. Of course we are very lucky in this country that the vast majority of us don't have to go out and forage; there are green markets and supermarkets often very close by.
But combining an excursion of being outdoors, especially on a beach, along with gathering what you'll enjoy eating later that day is pretty great.
I've spent a lot of time on the seashore, tiny rake in one hand and small pail in the other, digging up clams. But there are many very good clams in market too, and, like anything else, they should be purchased from a fishmonger you trust.
My Cinco de Clammo recipe
is a spicy shooter - one part Michelada (a Mexican beer-based cocktail), one part Bloody Mary, and one part oyster shooter, and it uses raw clams (but you could lightly steam them) that you can either forage on your own, or purchase from market.
It's a great quick cocktail to enjoy just coming off from a long day on the beach, or getting home after a long day at the office. It's awesome for gatherings on the porch, by the pool, for an occasion like Cinco de Mayo, or any occasion.
Thursday May 1, 2014
I love regional cuisine; it is amazing how different parts of the country (and of the world) take ingredients, whether they are borrowed from other places or are indigenous and incorporate area foodways to make something that gives the locale a sense of place in the culinary world.
We are familiar with many of the great dishes and where they come from, but what is really fascinating are the lesser known dishes. You can say fish tacos and immediately think of Southern California, or stone crab claws and have Miami Beach come to mind, but what about others?
What do you think of when you hear Comeback Sauce
? Besides it having a kinda funny name.
Well, it seems that in the Deep South, this sauce grew in popularity going on a hundred years ago, and remains a favorite condiment there now, especially in Mississippi, where tradition pinpoints as its place of origin.
But its great when these little regional specialties make their way out into the world.
Although I grew up in Georgia, just a few states over from Mississippi, I had not heard of Comeback Sauce. In fact, it was only a few years ago that it came to my attention as Southern regional cuisine became a hot ticket item.
We are all better for having Comeback Sauce be known outside that corner of the south. This rich, creamy, piquant, zesty sauce, kind of like a Louisiana-style remoulade, is delicious in many ways, but especially with seafood.
Try my recipe for Comeback Sauce
, and tell me what you think. I think you'll be coming back for more.
Monday April 28, 2014
Four hundred and seven years ago yesterday, on April 27, 1607, a group from the first Virginia Colony
expedition made their way from present day Cape Henry in Virginia Beach, where they had landed the day before after their voyage from England to around present day Lynnhaven Bay.
There they ate oysters roasted over an open flame, their shells popped open with the application of heat and their briny juices bubbling away around the grilled flesh.
Roasted oysters are still a dish we enjoy today (see my recipe in my book Dishing Up Virginia
and this occasion began the basis for American Regional Cuisine - the use of native ingredients (and sometimes other ingredients) prepared with native methods (and sometimes other methods) in crafting a style of food that is now uniquely ours.
I love Virginia
. I love our food and our foodways. But I also love lots of other food too.
In my Five-Spice Powder Fried Oyster Banh Mi with Roasted Garlic Butter
recipe I take delicious Virginia oysters (of course you can use any oyster) and kick them up a notch, adding a classic Asian ingredient, five-spice powder, in with a traditional dredge of flour and cornmeal.
I present the fried oysters in a toasted baguette with an assortment of fresh garnishes in my interpretation of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich.
It's New Virginia cuisine, where an old chef still learns new tricks.
Monday April 21, 2014
It seems like Spring has been very elusive all across the country. Many parts of the nation have seen record lows and record snow falls. Here in my neck of the woods, at the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, its been chilly, too, and although the first day of Spring has come and gone, there remains that chill in the air.
But all things come to an end, and so will Winter's final grasp.
We are celebrating warm days ahead with the bright, sunny flavors found in my Salmon Crudo with Fennel-Mint Slaw
The rich, sweet taste of salmon in its most unadulterated form is celebrated with complimentary flavors in the slaw, among them a fruity extra virgin olive oil, sunny lemon juice (and zest,) licorice-y fennel, and refreshing mint.
Check out the recipe, as well as some serving ideas and tips on purchasing the perfect piece of salmon.
Fish & Seafood Cooking Expert
Sunday February 12, 2012
Twin Hearts Apricot Glazed Shrimp and Peppadew Salad Recipe
Image: D. DuCap
Ah, the things we do for love. Setting the stage for a romantic evening is a bit of work but that's part of the fun. Sure, we remember the flowers and the chocolates and the romantic flickering candles and the scented massage oils (oh wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves with that last one) when preparing for that special Valentine's Day meal, but how much thought do we give to the salad?
Well now, if you really want to knock the socks off your special someone (yes, just the socks...for now!), take the time to prepare this Twin Hearts Apricot Glazed Shrimp and Peppadew Salad. It's a love letter on a plate!
Thursday January 19, 2012
The classic Chinese dish known as Dragon vs. Phoenix
might just be the earliest example of a food fight, except this one takes place between the ingredients on your plate.
Who knows what caused the fierce animosity between the main ingredients -- shrimp and chicken -- in this dish? Perhaps it started off with simple name calling: "You're a shrimp!" would certainly have been countered by, "Oh yeah? Well you're chicken!" It's a short step from there to centuries-long enmity.
Still, there are signs of detente: some recipes are now referring to the dish as Dragon and Phoenix, as in this soup version.
But whatever the outcome, this delicious combination of crisp vegetables and fierce foes will always be a safe bet.
Thursday December 29, 2011
Buttery Garlic Crab Bruschetta
Image: D. DuCap
There's an unmistakable moment when you know you've made something really, really good. It's when your guests take that first bite, close their eyes, and nearly swoon with pleasure -- murmuring 'oh my god' or 'wow' as they slowly and reluctantly return to their senses.
As cooks, we live for those moments, don't we?
Well, this recipe is one of those. It's unashamedly chock full of sinful amounts of butter, crab, and Parmigiano Reggiano. But so what? It'll make you forget the past and look forward to a buttery, garlicky, sunshiny future.
And that, my friends, is the best way to start a new year.
(FYI: If the world does end in 2012, it's highly unlikely anyone will be saying to themselves, 'Darn, I wish I hadn't eaten so much real butter.' Just a thought...)
Wednesday December 28, 2011
Growing up in an Italian household, holidays were connected with very specific foods -- and a holiday without them was unthinkable. A Christmas without lasagna, for example, would have been the gustatory equivalent of The Year Without a Santa Claus. No Easter Pie on Easter? Someone check the calendar; Easter must be next
On New Year's Eve in our house, the traditional 'good luck' dish for the new year was thin spaghetti dressed simply with olive oil, sauteed garlic and... yes, the fearsome, dreaded tinned anchovies. It certainly was a 'good luck' dish -- as in good luck getting us kids to eat it.
Older and wiser now, I've come to appreciate anchovies for their salty, briny intensity of flavor. I even throw together that New Year's Eve 'good luck' dish at other times of the year because it's so easy and so good. Just saute some finely chopped garlic in good olive oil, toss in some cooked angel hair or thin spaghetti, add a few tinned anchovy fillets and toss again. That's all there is to it.
Give it a try this year and it may become a New Year's Eve tradition in your house, too.
Monday December 12, 2011
Clam and Feta Cheese Puffs
Image: D. DuCap
This year, I've decided that I'm going to leave those gaudy, breakable Christmas balls in the box and adorn my tree with these beautifully golden Clam and Feta Cheese Puffs instead.
This recipe makes nearly a hundred of these savory little delicacies, so I'll have plenty to decorate with and I'll be able to grab a snack or two every time I pass the tree (which will, no doubt, be quite often.)
Or maybe I'll just leave a plate of these out for Santa and then shake him down for some extra toys when he begs for the recipe. Ho ho ha!
Or I might just make these for a party. They're good for that, too...