Louisiana Crab Boil..in Vegas?

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I’ve got a brother.  He lives in Las Vegas.  My brother has a friend named Scott.  Scott lives in Vegas.  Scott is from Baton Rouge which is about 45 minutes north of New Orleans.  One night, Scott and my brother had a breakthrough so profound that it altered the course of our lives.  They reached that moment of enlightenment, only attained through the perseverance of consuming vast amounts of fermented barley based liquids.  A moment of clarity if you will; when everything becomes clear and there is no question about the road that lies ahead.  Yes, they drank enough to become…geniuses.

Finding what we need

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A plan was made and carried out to obtain fresh crab.  Enter me…the guy in sunny, saltwater San Diego; where the bounty of the ocean is at our fingertips, and the crabs run free for the taking!  Yeah, no.  Here’s the thing:  We wanted fresh crab that has body meat–for that, our choices are limited.  East coast Blue crab is well…on the east coast.  Out here we can get Dungeness crab, but it’s on the north coast and it’s not crab season.  

San Diego has rock crab, which are cool, but they only have claw and arm meat.  Some Asian markets have farmed crab but no reason to bring farmed crab from San Diego.  So, Scott and my brother tracked some down at an Asian market around Vegas for about $15lb.  Shrimp was from Costco; frozen but still big and tasty.

The cook

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We could’ve used another big pot for all the non-crab items, but other than that it went great.  Everything was cooked and seasoned perfectly, and this was my first time sitting down to a whole crab, crab dinner.  I love the bold Southern nature of this type of meal.  The flavor of the boiling spice is complex with clove, bay, onion, garlic and chile that is “slap yo mama” spicy; all backed by a heavy hand of salt and a confident measure of MSG.  

The American bounty that cascades over the table is a standard and a testament to our culture as Americans and our truly American Southern food history.  After the feast there were a few crabs left, so my wife and I got after it and picked out all the meat for crab cakes the next morning.  Which were by the way, the best crab cakes any of us had had…ever.   After we cleaned up the tables I felt like Pig Pen…except the little dust clouds surrounding me were funky clouds of crab.

I’ve been to crawfish boils, so this wasn’t my first “boil”, but for some reason this time makes me want to do a boil here at the house. Maybe because my brother is down with it; so it’ll be a fun project/party to do. Probably without the whole crab though; keep it simple with one pot…maybe for New Years…we shall see.

Here is a pictorial timeline and a rough recipe

The Recipe

I think we had a 60qt pot…maybe 40.
Placed crabs in strainer basket and placed it all in the pot of cool water to measure the proper displacement. Removed crabs and brought water to a boil. Used 3 bags of Boiling spice and a cup of table salt. Would’ve added a lemon or two but we forgot. Stir it up so the spice is completely dissolved, then cover and bring back to a hard boil. Quickly add the crabs and cover. Bring back to a hard boil and boil for three minutes. Turn off heat and let the crabs sit for an hour and a half.

For the vegetables we did a separate pot with the same amount (by ratio) of boiling spice. Boiled the potatoes, carrots, garlic and onion for 15 minutes then shut it off to sit for thirty. Seperately boiled the corn for 5 minutes, then added the shrimp and turned off the heat to sit for 15.

South Carolina Style BBQ…in San Diego

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I, (like most with taste buds) love BBQ.  If my wife wasn’t so rad, I might’ve married it. (I looked into it..totally okay in Mississippi.)  BBQ comes in all shapes, flavors and sizes. Everyone tweeks their recipe just a little different than the next, as they should.  

So much variety from just a few basic principles. Season meat–smoke or slow-cook meat–dress meat (with something sweet and sour).  How you get those three rules done is up to you.

SC Gold

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Another regional wrinkle in the BBQ tradition is the mustard based style made popular in South Carolina.  The areas from Columbus to Charleston were settled by German immigrants. Maybe the Germans familiarity and love for mustard led to the regional style loved there today?  I dunno…seems logical enough, Germans do some crazy rad shit.  Here is a recipe that is versatile for any pork product or fatty meat.  The addition of the liquid smoke in the recipe is for those who can’t, or don’t smoke their meat. Similarly, the butter is for those that like a little cheat to their meat. It’s not needed, but it’s nice.

The Recipe

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2c prepared yellow mustard  
1c sugar
½c brown sugar
1½c cider vinegar
½c water
½tsp cayenne
2 tsp ground cumin
4 garlic cloves minced
4T minced onion
1tsp fresh black pepper
2tsp Worcestershire sauce
2tsp liquid smoke (Hickory)
2T butter (optional)

Simmer everything together for about twenty minutes over low heat; then whisk in the smoke and butter.  Season to taste with salt…I can’t remember if I added any because the meat is already salted from the spice rub.  Speaking of spice rub…

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2T kosher salt
1T sugar
1tsp paprika, pepper, cumin, thyme

Mix and liberally dust over your pork shoulder before baking or crock potting.   Always good to do this the night before, but if you didn’t. Just try to do it as soon as possible before baking, mine was 5 minutes :-|

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Thermo What?

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Hot soup.  How do you cool it down and why?  For those that don’t know why this has anything to do with anything—Soup or broth is a protein rich environment for bacteria to quickly propagate when the liquid is between 40 and 140 degrees.  So, cooling broth down for refrigerator storage should be done as quickly as possible.   To do that; the best way is to place your pot or bowl into an ice bath and stir regularly.  Ice bath = ice water in a plugged sink or ice water in a much larger pot or bowl.

Things being as they are, sometimes your choices for action are limited.  Some people might decide to place the hot broth in the refrigerator because, “that’s surely better then leaving it out at room temperature.”  The problem is not, whether or not the broth cools better in the fridge; but that the difference in heat reduction is miniscule, and does nothing more then condensate and heat your fridge.  I still have people ask me about this and sometimes it’s nice to know the whys along with the actions.  So if an ice bath is not an option for you, leave it on a cool dense surface and stir regularly to distribute heat and incorporate cool air.

Eggcellent!!!

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To me eggs are magic.  I know I’m not alone in this, but not much on our planet can keep up with eggs.  The combination of nutrition, sustenance, and pleasure I get from a perfectly cooked egg is hard to beat.  I just had an over easy egg with buttered toast this morning and it once again caught me off guard.  It’s a combo I’ve had countless times and it still makes me moan in disbelief.  I decided to write about eggs because I came across some pics I had of my new favorite pizza. 

Good and Weird

Then, (As I was scrolling the web for ideas on cooking with Corn Flakes) I came across an idea so devious…it had to be awesome.  Soft boiled egg with Corn Flakes and, wait for it…vanilla ice cream.  With my curiosity piqued, I needed to try this; so try it I did. 

It was pretty damn good.  Crunchy custard is how I’d describe it.  If you like custard or French vanilla ice cream then you’d enjoy this fun little ditty.  For guests; you can pre-cook, cool and peel your eggs, then bring em back up to heat with a minute and a half in hot water.  If I were to plate this for wow factor instead of private hom-nom food tasting, I’d scoop the vanilla then make an indention and place it back in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Then to plate on top of a pile of flakes and place the warm egg in the indentation, garnish with fancy salt.

You know chef hats right?  Le Toque Blanche?  Well, the ridges on chef toques had 101 ridges signifying the 101 preparations of an egg a chef should be able to execute.  There are many more ways then a hundred but the tradition stuck; at least that’s what I learned in  cooking school.   

Also…the aforementioned farmer’s pie?  Make it as soon as possible; here’s how it goes.

Farmers pizza:  Make pizza dough as you would normally for a personal pizza and use a 450° oven.  For toppings, scatter the ingredients listed below using the arugula liberally and as a nest for the egg in the middle.  This pizza is meant to cook about 12 minutes, so prep your crust accordingly.

Olive oil, chile flake, salt, caramelized onion, chèvre, arugula, one egg and a little cooked bacon as an added option. 

More Egg Ideas

Two new ideas to re-introduce you to the egg.  If you still struggle with classic morning preparations, don’t be scurred, here’s the low-down.

Soft boiled: place older eggs (fresh eggs are harder to peel) in a pot of boiling water for 6 minutes.  Remove to an ice bath until cool enough to peel.

Hard boiled:  Place eggs in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil then cover and turn off heat and let it sit for 12 minutes.

Poached:  bring three inches of water to a boil in a medium sauce pot with a tsp of salt and 2tsp vinegar.  Lower heat to a simmer and gently crack the egg into

Scrambled:  Heat a skillet over medium heat until very hot.  Whisk the egg(s) with 1T (per egg) water, milk or cream .  Lightly coat the skillet with fat, pour in the egg, sprinkle with salt and gentle scrape from the bottom till desired doneness.

Shirred/baked:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a ramekin, crack in an egg or two and bake for 15ish minutes.  Feel free to add a tablespoon of cream before baking and anything else you want to taste.  i.e. cheese, bacon, garlic onion…whatev’s.

Over easy:  My personal favorite; heat a skillet over medium heat until hot.  Coat the pan with fat, either lightly or liberally, then gently crack in the egg.  Season with salt and cook about one minute, then confidently flip and cook another minute or 30 seconds.

One last thing.  Some people are sensitive to cholesterol.  I get it, I feel for ya.  Eggs do contain a good amount of it.  If you don’t have any issues already then don’t worry about how much you are getting from a couple eggs.  Cook ’em in oilve oil and you’ll be good to go.  As another little side note:  Hopefully anyone with raised LDL levels re on some sort of HDL rich oil to bring your body into balance.  Remember that all fats are not equal and neither is all cholesterol.  Virgin coconut oil raises HDL levels quickly and easily; now go get yer egg on.

Guajes

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One of my posts from earlier in the month inspired this post.  I was doing a fresh tortilla class and thought these little guys would be great in a Mexican version of pesto.

What is it?

Guaje, (pronounced gwa-heh) are seeds (legumes really), from the Leucaena tree and they’re interesting enough to be tasty.  They are protein dense and taste like garlic, onion and pepita with a bit of raw starchiness.  I figured, omitting the nuts and garlic from the pesto for these might make for something new and wonderful.  

Laborious

I didn’t realize how to shuck em until I scoured teh interwebz and came across this lady at the 4:20 mark.  Look at her go on that thing…it’s a better video if you have in-fact tried shucking these lil’ bastards.  I was trying to do it like other bean pods; where-bye you pull away the fibrous string from the seam.  I was cutting that away, then prying open the pod with mixed results.  

Watching the lady in the video do it made me realize the method of splitting the pod equally from the tip.  (Use your fingers not your mouth like her.)  She was just doing it to show they are happily eaten as a snack…plus she knew her efficiency would blow that guys mind.  Still…it’s like picking herbs or peeling garlic…takes a little time that you often don’t feel like spending.  Don’t forget about delegation; utilize any opportunity for child slave labor or a drinking spouse or friend to help shuck.

Proper Method

To shuck properly, the pod should be ripped open at the end(tip), then peeled open with equal force on both sides.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to get 1/2c of seeds.  They can be used in anything and in any way.  Toasted, fried, roasted, raw, braised, boiled or steamed…do what you want.  All I’ve done is the pesto and thrown them raw into salsa, both with tasty results.  Look around your neighborhood and you’ll probably see a Leuceana tree, the pods are usually on trees in the month of May.  I’ve seen em my whole life…I just didn’t know I could eat em :-|

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Pesto

We all know it and we all love it, pesto is healthy and delicious. I recently made fresh spaghetti and fresh pesto with grilled chicken for 25 people.  I just wanted to serve something unctuous and simple with no stress…turned out perfect.  (Probably cause I grilled the chicken before I started drinking) :-|  

Birthday Pesto

During the party, I came to find out that pesto has a bit of mystery to it.  Since I’ve been cooking for 15 years it’s easy to forget what is common knowledge and what isn’t.  I thought pesto was so old school, that not only did everyone know how to make it…but they were probably bored with it as well.  As it turns out, most people don’t know how to make it, and absolutely no one is bored with it. Most everyone knew the basics of pesto but they usually forget one or two ingredients.  Which is normal with food and thats why we have recipes to fall back on.  So here is a basic pesto that you can use to wow your friends and impress your clients.  Fresh pasta will make it better…just sayin’.

2c packed basil leaves

1T toasted pine nuts

1-2 cloves garlic

4T grated parmesano reggiano

1c extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

*pinch of fresh nutmeg and cayenne are very optional but quite nice

A couple ways to do this.  One way is to throw everything into a blender or food processor and purée…done.  However, if dark green/brown is not the color of your ideal pesto, another step is needed; blanching the greens.

Blanching

Bring a quart of water to a boil and add a couple teaspoons of salt, then prepare an ice bath (bowl of ice water).  Throw in the basil and optional spinach to cook for 20-30 seconds.  Strain off the water and quickly submerge the wilted greens into the ice bath.  Stir to dissipate the heat and let chill for a moment.  Strain away the ice water and wring out the greens of excess water.  This can be done with your bare hands or, by wrapping the greens in a towel.  This blanching step releases, then locks in the chlorophyll ensuring that your pesto keeps a vibrant green color.  Now make your your pesto as stated above.  It helps to minced the garlic first, or have it be the first thing you grind in the processor.

Other tips are to keep things cool; letting the nuts cool after toasting before use.  Purée everything except the greens first, then when any heat from the friction of grinding has cooled…purée in the greens.  Easy peasy.

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I can’t believe I ate the whole thing :-|

Mandatory Sunday Salad

Salad should be eaten on any day ending in day; but Sunday salad just sounded right.

I’m not not going to extol the nutritional benefits of eating salad.  If you don’t think eating vegetables as often as possible is a healthy way to live, then I got nothin’ for ya.  But I do know it’s hard sometimes. We all crave the easy stuff when we’re tired and hungry.  Like all good cooking, there’s a little effort needed to make something wonderful, and as always, pre-planning will smooth out the process.  Here are three salad dressing recipes.  The vinaigrette will be your workhorse, and making a cup or two at time will make future salads lickety split.

Vinaigrette:

1/4c red wine vinegar

1/2c extra virgin olive oil

1/2tsp dijon mustard *optional

1tsp honey (optional)

1/2tsp kosher salt

1/4tsp fresh ground black pepper

Place everything in a jar and shake. Use as needed.

*Notes–You can use any acid, any oil, any mustard, any sweetener, any salt and any pepper you want. A couple shots of Worcestershire are great too. Feel free to add minced garlic, or shallot, fresh or dried herbs or a small pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon or allspice. Don’t have a jar? Use a blender, food processor or a bowl and whisk. Or…toss everything into the salad except the oil. Once everything is in, toss in the oil.

Caesar:

1 clove garlic

2tsp Thai fish sauce or 1 anchovy filet

2T fresh lemon juice

1/16tsp fresh black pepper

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 egg yolk

2T finely grated parmigiano reggiano

2-3tsp mayonnaise

2T extra virgin olive oil

1/2c neutral oil, (avocado or grapeseed)

Peel and cut garlic in half. Puree in a blender with 2T of the olive oil and everything else. With the machine running, pour in the remaining olive oil. Season to taste and add more oil if too thin.

*Notes–No blender? Use a food processor or bowl and whisk. If bowl and whisk is your method; whisk everything together sans the oil. Start whisking in the oil in a very thin stream or just a small splash at a time (1tsp). Canola or grapeseed oil is easily replaceable for the olive. You must use fresh garlic, fresh lemon juice and the best parmesan you can afford or procure. The mayo helps emulsify and adds creaminess.

Ranch:

2T fresh lime juice

1c sour cream

1/2c mayonnaise

1/3c milk

1tsp minced fresh parsley or 1/2tsp dried

1tsp grated onion or minced chives

1/2tsp minced garlic

1/2tsp salt

1/4tsp fresh black pepper

Whisk everything and let sit 15 minutes

*Notes–Add milk for desired texture and feel free to use cream, half ‘n half, or buttermilk. The higher fat the richer the flavor. Go easy on the raw onion and garlic, their intensity will build over time.

Salad making tutorial up next :-)

Spanish Coffee

My 30th

I had a wonderful and memorable 30th birthday. My wife and I were on our way up to Washington but we detoured into Portland to visit family. With high hopes of a debaucherous evening, we started our night off at a Portland classic, Hubers. We were taken there because I wanted to “experience” what Portland has to offer, (outside of their delicious tap water…which by the way, happens to be well water touched by the hand of our god almighty).

Enlightening Libation

We did not go to Hubers for the turkey dinner, we went for Spanish Coffees. Spanish Coffee is a coffee libation made with elegant showmanship and and a rum punch to the face. The only reason for it to be deemed “Spanish” is the south American roots of Kaluha. It should be called “Get a Cab Coffee”, cause after it, you ain’t drivin’ nowhere.

This has been a favorite cocktail of mine since first taste and I highly recommend you make it at home. It takes some care and practice but always feel free to do it in a big metal bowl to take the stress out of it. Stress because of a flaming glass, that if not properly managed will crack and go terribly wrong. Oh…did I mention this drink gets lit on fire?

 Spanish Coffee

lime wedge
sugar
1tsp triple sec
3/4-1oz Bacardi 151
1½-2oz Kahlua
4oz fresh coffee
1-2oz lightly whipped cream
dash nutmeg

Lime the rim of the glass and dip into sugar to coat. Add the triple sec and rum and light on fire. Swirl constantly for 20 seconds or so and add the Kahlua while still swirling. Swirl another 20 seconds and hit it with coffee to douse the flames. Lightly spoon over the cream to float and garnish with nutmeg. Over ice = awesome milkshake.

Fish Is Good

Well…it should be at.

Albacore sashimi with crab, marcona almond chimichurri, yukon mashed potatoes and reggiano tuile

I have two rules for fish; if you follow them you will win.

How to

Step One:  Procure fresh fish.  Fish should smell like the ocean…not dead fish.  Find a good fish market and be a good customer like I am for Blue Water in San Diego.

Step two:  Don’t over cook it!  You paid sweet moolah for that fresh fish, now don’t kill it.

Broiling fish is a wonderful and easy way to cook fish if you don’t need a crust. It’s not only quick, but it’s quick clean up as well, and the fish wont stick to the pan.                                                                                  Here’s a recipe:

6 fresh fish fillets
1/4c Sambal Olek
1/4c honey
1tsp cornstarch
1tsp water
1tsp salt

Preheat broiler on high and position oven rack to the top. Whisk together the water and cornstarch, then whisk in remaining ingredients. Place the fish on an oiled sheet pan and top with the glaze. Broil until the fish is cooked and the glaze is browned, 5-7 minutes. If glaze begins to burn, turn off broiler and let sit in the hot oven for a couple minutes.

This recipe has a glaze, but you can do anything.  Season with salt and pepper, a little butter or olive oil and your good.  Want to throw on some spice or herb?  DO IT…do it.

Also; don’t feel the pressure to cook your fish.  If you’re paying $20-$30lb for fresh Ahi, Albacore or Salmon, just slice it up and make a dipping sauce.

Here’s a recipe:

1/2c soy sauce
1/4c rice vinegar
2T sugar
1T of anything (ginger, chile, green onion, sesame seeds, garlic, lemon grass, herbs, toasted coriander…whatever)

Whisk and let sit a few minutes to marry flavors and dissolve the sugar.

Fresh Pasta, DO IT!…do it.

Making fresh pasta is alot like making fresh bread.  It feels good man…feels good.  Eating it feels good and making it feels great.  Two ingredients, a little kneading and roll it out.  The machine is a fun option if you want something more refined then grandma’s noodles.  You know what I mean; those short, thick, chicken soup noodles that took up the entire kitchen table every other Sunday.

4 eggs and about 3 1/2 cups of flour is all ya need.  Don’t over think it, just do it; if you fail, you’ll only fail once because you’ll learn from your mistakes and you’ll learn “feel”.  I like using the table-top “well method” as opposed to a standing mixer or food processor.  Yes it’s more physical labor and takes longer, but as I said before; “feels good man.” Make a well/volcano with the flour and crack the eggs into the center.  Scramble ’em with a fork and start scraping the inside base of the flour into the eggs.  Bring it all together and don’t break your levee while the eggs are still runny.

–You can’t really over knead the dough.  If you can knead for 10 minutes then great, but you really only knead long enough that the dough is a homogeneous ball that is not sticky, tough or crumbly.  Knead by pulling the dough toward you and over itself; then push it away and into itself with the heel of your hand.  Use your body weight not your arms.  After you are done or bored, wrap it tight in plastic and let is rest for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.

–Resting is important so don’t skip it.  Pour a glass of wine and get the sauce components ready.

–If the 4 eggs and 3 1/2 cups flour was too dry, add an egg yolk or a tablespoon of olive oil next time.  Too wet…add a little more flour.  If at any time the dough is sticky when your working with it, add a little flour.  If you have a scale, a more appropriate recipe is about 100g flour per large or extra large egg.

–I don’t salt my dough just the pasta water.  Enough to taste like sea water.