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Eastern Shore Edition: Seafood Stock *and* Crab Bisque

20 Aug

Joe and I somehow got it into our heads last night that we could eat 2 lbs. of steamed snow crab legs. Several clusters in, we realized that our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. But there was no way I was going to let the remaining meat or the MOUNTAIN of shells go to waste. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at making a creamy, delicious crab bisque and build it from the seafood stock on up. Let’s get to work, shall we?

Seafood Stock

Ingredients

  • Shells from 2 lbs snow crab legs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5-6 carrots, diced
  • 5-6 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns

Method

Roast the crab shells in a 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Place a stock pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and saute until the vegetables start to soften. Take a selfie maybe?

Add the shells, white wine, thyme, peppercorns, and tomato paste. Then add water until the shells are covered by about 1 inch.

Bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 and a half hours. Skim the grease and foam from the surface every so often during the cooking process.

There will be a decent amount of evaporation. The first picture is the beginning of the cooking process, and the second is the end.

Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve, pressing the solids to extract as much as possible. Yields about 2 ½ quarts

The stock is now ready to use for our delicious…

Crab Bisque

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ qts. seafood stock
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup cooking sherry
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz. crab meat (I used snow crab legs)
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh chives, chopped (for garnish)

Method

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and then add the celery, carrot, and onion. Saute until the vegetables soften and give up their juices. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes more.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry, and then add the tomato paste.

Add the seafood stock, paprika, thyme, and bay leaves.

Bring the soup to a gentle boil, and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cream.

Puree the bisque in batches, and then return to the stove, season with salt, pepper, and the lemon juice.

I prefer to add the crabmeat to the individual bowls when serving, but you can add it to the pot of bisque if you like. Garnish the soup wish fresh chives and enjoy!

So next time you “accidentally” order too much shellfish, toss your shrimp, crab, or lobster shells in a pot and get that stock going. In addition to being a wonderful base for soups and sauces, it is also delicious cooking liquid for rice and other grains.

I might just have to let my eyes get too big more often. 😉

Ciao for now,

Neen

 

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Mystery Food Week 6: Post-vacation edition

8 Jul

I have discovered that the school semester becomes marathon-like when reduced from 15 weeks to only 10 for the summer. You would think that after last summer’s adventures with the Great Perl Dragon (and its subsequent defeat) that I would have learned to select only one course.

Not so. Not stubborn, “determined-to-do-the-weird-difficult-or-strange” Neen. I’ve never really understood this obsession. It’s like my brain goes, “Hey, I wonder if I can do____” and I have to try it. Can and preserve jam/relish in a one-bedroom Boston apartment kitchen with absolutely no counter space? (Yes) Take three classes during my first semester of graduate school? (You betcha) Ferment yogurt using only a large pot, cooler, and a heating pad? (Done) Bake 65 dozen cookies as Christmas presents for co-workers and family in the midst of working and school-ing full time? (Just call me Santa) Dry beef jerky using a box fan and several layers of furnace filters? (Okay, I stole that idea from Alton Brown)

So when Joe asked last week if I’d like to go down to Chincoteague Island over the 4th of July weekend, I spent the next two days on schoolwork overload so I could turn off and read science fiction on the beach and back porch all weekend. It. was. blissful. And for once, instead of the return from vacation being a difficult let-down, I felt more motivated than ever to push through these last 6 months of brain-stuffing. I mean, it’s pretty impossible to NOT feel good after spending a weekend like this:

 
Top L: View from the back porch of the house
Top R: Annual VFD carnival which culminates with the famous Pony Swim at the end of July.
Bottom L: Fresh caught shrimp and homemade garlic bread, grilled up and ready to devour.
Bottom R: Cigar and Kindle on the screened-in porch. The sweet life.

And then, THEN I came home to this:

The first of the cayenne peppers from my garden decided to grace me with their ripeness. So pretty and bright…yet, painful in large doses. I think I will put them in the dehydrator and then run them through the food processor to make homemade cayenne powder. A pinch of it in a batch of marinara sauce is so good. It adds just enough heat to balance those nice, sweet summer tomatoes that are coming our way.

A mere day later, the produce gods smiled on me once again, with a very fruity CSA box!

Beets, spring onions, red chard, apricots, peaches, and plums. I’m never too sure about beets. They are good roasted, pickled, or fresh on top of a salad, but I always long to do something a little more interesting with them. Of course, the farmers market is always inspirational (for the devoted/obsessive cook) and I tasted some really amazing beet relish that I’m going to try to replicate. I just kept thinking how good it would taste on a smoked turkey or rare roast beef sandwich.

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th and that you too got ‘back to the grind’ without too much trouble.

Ciao for now!
-Neen

An Island Birthday

14 Jul

I hope that picture alone is enough to show you why I didn’t want to leave yesterday!

(Click on any of the pictures for a full size version)

On Friday, Joe and I (and Dioji too!) headed to beautiful Chincoteague Island, VA. I was treated with clear blue skies for my birthday and all weekend, which is quite a change from the weather we’re having here in D.C. It’s really nice during the day and then rains at night. I suppose that’s good though, my plants certainly need it. Anyway, the trip took about 4 hours with a stop to have lunch and walk the dog. We arrived and almost immediately set out to walk into town. After being in the car, I think we all just wanted to stretch our legs.

The island is just picturesque. As we walked, we passed lots of little houses, shops, churches, and even the fairgrounds. Town was more lively, but the laidback atmosphere remained intact. Along the main drag are lots of restaurants (mostly seafood–yum!), some mini golf courses, places to rent scooters/bikes, and bait shops. After a couple hours wandering around, we decided to have my birthday dinner at a little place called Etta’s Channel Side Restaurant. It looks out over the Assateague Channel, so we got to have dinner by the water. The food was quite tasty as well. I had broiled sea scallops and Joe had crab cakes. If you’re going to eat seafood, you might as well have it in a place where it’s bound to be fresh. It was so good! Then it was off to the beach to see the sunset…and be silly of course!

We ran around on the beach for awhile and then decided to head back to the house for some champagne and a late movie. It was amazing how quiet it was at night. The only real sounds were the occasional honking geese in the pond behind the house.

The next day it was off to play in town. First we drove over to the beach to see if we could get a permit to do a campfire. They were all taken unfortunately, but the ranger told us if it we had an enclosed fire (a grill, hibachi..etc.) we could use that anywhere on the beach. But the highlight of that particular trip was this:

Wild ponies! They were just grazing away in the sun, so we pulled over and stopped to take pictures. There were a couple of foals too, that looked all wobbly in the midst of the rest of the bunch. We also saw a couple of herons, but they were too far away to get any good pictures. Luckily, the visitors center had binoculars mounted on the rails so you could get a closer look. After hanging around to watch the animals for awhile, we headed back to town for some silly fun.

Here’s me showing off my amazing mini-golf skills:

We both played horribly and concluded that the course was rigged (lol). The hot sun had baked us thoroughly and we decided it was time for a dip in the pool. I got to try out my new bathing suit and had a moment of giddiness because it was the first time in my adult life that I could actually pull off a two-piece suit.

We cooled off and then decided to rent one of these!

It was a little three-wheeled vehicle called a ScooterCoupe and boy was it fun to drive! We toured around and saw the whole island in it. It gave us a chance to check out what we might want to scope out later in the trip. Mostly, it was just really fun to ride around in though.

We planned to have a cookout on the beach that night and did find a small charcoal grill to use, but unfortunately we got bad charcoal that all the lighter fluid in the world couldn’t get going. At first we thought it was the wind on the beach, so we tried to do it on the back deck of the house but to no avail. We did have flames long enough to toast some marshmallows, so it wasn’t a total bust. Instead, we ended up broiling some quesadillas for dinner and decided to have a picnic the next day. Dioji said he was tired anyway:

Sunday, it was off to a little trailer down near the beach for some barbecue. Joe’s parents told us this place was really good and they weren’t kidding! The line was a little long, but we didn’t mind because the smell of all the smoky meat was tantalizing.

We got pulled pork and baked beans and headed down to Main St. where we came across this:

How fortunate! Some tables in the shade right by the water. A perfect destination for our picnic lunch. We ate while we watched boats and enjoyed the breeze that lazed by. After some browsing on Main St. and another dip in the pool, it was time to go. While I really didn’t want to leave, it had been a wonderful birthday weekend. The trip was relaxing and exciting all at once. The best part was that Joe said we could go back to the house any time, so it’s nice to know that a little piece of paradise full of fresh sea air is only 3 1/2 hours away.

Thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes on OH and Facebook. It was an extra special end to my weekend when I came home and read them last night.

Coming up this week there will be some more new recipes, musings about fantasy football starting up soon, and I’ll cap it off with a trip to Pittsburgh for my grandma’s 80th birthday bash! Stay tuned. 🙂