Bread Category

New Year’s Eve Seafood Stew

Feasting on seafood stew has become tradition for us every New Year’s Eve. The basking and bubbling of clams, crab, meaty fish, and aromatic vegetables, in a silky, buttery tomato broth, have come to symbolize all that each year brings, from its boiling points to its steady simmers to finally, its moments of celebration.

This is a recipe I adapted from the Carla Hall and Clinton Kelly recipe for Pike Place Market Seafood Stew. The biggest difference is that I make a Quick Shrimp Stock to enrich the stew, and less white wine. I always prefer amplified seafood flavors.

It’s simple to make and customize this stew to whatever seafood you prefer or whatever looks fresh at the market. If you use Alaskan King Crab legs, make sure the crab isn’t too salty and its shell should be hard and crisp, not too pliable.

Making the stew (before adding any seafood) a day ahead and letting it sit overnight will help concentrate the flavor. These types of stews are always better the next day.

Ingredients
2 Leeks, chopped (white part only)
1 1/2 to 2 bulbs Fennel, chopped (save some of the green fronds from the top for garnish)
5 Shallots, chopped
5 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 28 ounce cans whole San Marzano Tomatoes
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1/2 bunch fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh Basil, chiffonade
1 cup dry White Wine
5 cups Quick Shrimp Stock, strained
1 32 oz box of low-sodium Chicken Broth
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 dozen Littleneck Clams
1 pound shell-on Wild Shrimp, deveined and peeled (shells saved for Quick Shrimp Stock)
1 pound Sea Bass or other meaty white fish, cut into 2″ pieces
4 or 5 Alaskan King Crab Legs, cut at segments, and scissor cut for shell removal when eaten
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Butter, with extra to enrich stock
Salt and Pepper
Crusty Bread

For the Quick Shrimp Stock:
Over high heat, add the shells from the peeled shrimp to an 8-quart stock pot and saute them with a tiny bit of olive oil until they crisp up and are golden brown. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the stock has reduced by about half, about 15 minutes. Strain stock and toss out shells. Set aside.

For the Stew:
In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and butter, then the leeks, fennel, shallots, garlic, and half of the parsley. Sauté the vegetables with a wooden spoon until they are softened and begin to caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and mix it in with the vegetables, then add the wine and shrimp stock. Stir for a few minutes, making sure to get any fond or the caramelized brown bits at the bottom of the pot, stirred into the mixture. Hand crush the tomatoes into the stew, then add the remaining puree from the can. Stir in the basil, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Return the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so the stew is at an even simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Check seasonings, adjusting if necessary. Add butter to further enrich the stew and make it have a silky finish.

Add the fish and the clams, removing clams to a plate as they open. Discard any unopened clams. Then add the shrimp, cover, and cook until the seafood finishes cooking, about 10 minutes. Finally, add the crab and the clams, just until they are heated through in the stew.

To serve, spoon stew into big bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley, fennel fronds, or a bit of fresh tarragon. Serve with chunks of crusty bread or toast up a halved baguette, rub with fresh garlic, and slather with herb butter.

Ring in the New Year, ready for anything! 🙂

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 5

When visiting Kauai, surprises can happen anywhere and at any time, and they usually take the form of something wild.

It was a glorious morning at the beach in Poipu and while Jordan was off body surfing, I opted for some quiet reading time on an adjacent beach. It was there whilst lazing in the shallows, that I felt a forceful bump behind my legs. Thinking it was some errant child pushed over to me by a wave, I turned my head around – eyes sleepy with sunshine – and found myself level with a young sea turtle.

Of course I was startled at first, but elation quickly took over. When things like this happen, it makes one feel as if reality isn’t all that it seems to be, and that there is much more right under our noses. And sometimes, like a sea turtle’s head breaking through the surface of a mossy ocean, that other reality breaches our own, if only for a few moments.

As a smallish crowd began to surround the two of us, I worried the sea turtle would abruptly leave. But it visited for about thirty minutes before heading back out to deeper waters. I felt so special.

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Still in a contemplative mood, I decided on a simple, casual lunch. Puka Dog would be the perfect place to go in our damp beach clothes. This Hawaiian original is a homemade toasted hot dog bun that is stuffed with a uniquely crafted polish sausage, and your choice of crazy sauces: Garlic Lemon, Sweet Maui Onion Relish, Spicy Hawaiian Pickle, Spicy Garlic Pepper Cheese, and seven other tropical condiments. Puka, by the way, means “hole” in Hawaiian.

We decided on one with hot garlic sauce, mango relish, and Hawaiian (lilikoi) mustard, and one with the same except with pineapple not mango relish. We also got some sweet Maui onion chips too, and washed it all down with their homemade lemonade. Althoudgh Puka Dog doesn’t hold a candle to the dogs in Chicago, in my opinion, it was definitely a great example of local tastes and was worth a try.

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Dinner was at another highly rated restaurant called Merriman’s. To be completely honest, it was a solid dining experience in a romantic setting, and it’s definitely a plus that they work with local fisherman for the day’s freshest catch. But I would have been just a fine getting some poke and homemade focaccia to-go and spending the rest of the night gazing up at the stars (which I ended up doing later).

London Calling! – WWII, Churchill, and The Wolseley

Being a big WWII history buff, one of Jordan’s life goals was to visit the Imperial War Museum and Churchill War Rooms in London. Through the years I’ve also become a bit of a fangirl for this stuff, especially after watching documentaries like The World at War and reading books like Alan Clark’s Barbarossa: The Russian German Conflict, 1941-45.

We were both awed by what we saw today.

T-34 and M4 Sherman tanks, Spitfires, an Enigma de-coder that helped turn the tide of the war, personal letters between lovers, a moving look at the Holocaust, and much more painstakingly displayed. It was all there for us to experience and we soaked in as much as we could.

One could easily spend days here, and seeing both old and young faces around us, it’s clear how impactful WWII has been on generations.

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Churchill’s Bunker was both surreal and kind of spooky to walk through. It seemed a place frozen in time. One’s mind was filled with sounds iconic to WWII like old-timey phones ringing, crackly speeches from tube radios, and Churchill’s monotonous and gruff British voice that inspired so many.

We spent copious hours down there back in the 1940s, and emerged from the bunker into a dazzling London night.

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After a quick nap for me and a stroll across the bridge for Jordan, we met back up to decide on supper.

Oddly enough both of us were in the mood for meat and potatoes. Perhaps our souls were hankering for a good old fashioned meal.

Again our trusty concierge set us up with a great recommendation. Although The Wolseley was booked for reservations that night, we suggested we try our luck and stroll by.

And lucky for us, the host at The Wolseley was such a nice gentleman and he was able to accommodate us straight away despite how busy they were.

It seems every restaurant near St. James and Picadilly Circus has a grand story to tell. And The Wolseley was no exception.

According to their site, the space was owned by Wolseley Motors in 1921 and was designed to be a prestigious car showroom. Venetian and Florentine influences are clearly apparent with the restaurant’s grand pillars, arches and stairways.

The addition of a banking counter and offices with a Japanese lacquer theme came in 1927 when Barclays Bank acquired the building. The post box and stamp machine are still there today.

It was only in 2003 that it became the remarkably unstuffy restaurant with impeccable service and food that it is today.

Escargots Ă  la Bourguignonne

Endive salad with bleu cheese and candied walnuts

Chopped Liver

Filet de Boeuf au Poivre

Tenderloin, pommes frites, kale

Lyonnaise Potatoes

Apple Strudel with vanilla ice cream

After our sumptuous meal, we walked the graceful London streets around us and mooned over this great city with its long turbulent history and its leading-edge present.

I think I’m starting to feel quite at home here. 🙂

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London Calling! – Pagan rituals, Pasties, and an Irishman?

Never imagined waking up to a cold, rainy, grey sky would be so exciting!

Today we were off to the countryside on a small group tour arranged by International Friends (hugely recommended) to Windsor Castle, the medieval town of Bath, and Stonehenge. I hope the Queen is not cross with me for waiting so long to visit!

Tony was our guide. He was bright, knowledgeable, and just a gregarious silly dude which we loved. Are all Irishmen this cool?

Here is just a tiny smattering of all the unbelievable sights, scenes, smells, scenery, and of course, tastes of the trip.

The druidic pagan spirits must have been with us today as we were blessed with a clear towering blue sky and bright reflective clouds. This isn’t supposed to happen in the middle of November!

Breakfast of champions at Avanti – a cute Italian cafe in Windsor that served authentic pastries, panini, and coffees

Meticulous gardens of Windsor Castle

The stones speak to me…Ooommmmm…

Welcome hot snacks – meat and potato stuffed pasties from Presto Pasty!

Savory pie filled with juicy tender meat and peppery soft onions

Flaky crust, potato, stuffed with soft onions and lots of black pepper

Ancient Roman Bath of which the city gets its name

Charming streets of Bath

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It was quiet on the van ride back to London, part from exhaustion and part from meditation on all the amazing experiences we had today.

Once we arrived back in London, though, everyone wanted something warm in their bellies. Tony again had a perfect recommendation – a placed called Belgo which was all about mussels by the bucket.

Oh my gosh, that sounded killer.

So a bunch of us from the tour decided why not dine together and keep the party going?

Belgo was several floors but crowded as could be – vibrant, full of energy, clearly a happenin’ place, especially for young people. Craft beers, buckets of mussels, and lively conversation at every communal wood table made for some great feasting with some new friends.

It was too dark for pics, but here are the mussels they offer. Hard to remember but we may have ordered one of each, or at least wanted to.

Mussel Pots
Fresh rope grown mussels delivered daily, kilo pot served with frites

Marinière – Steamed with cream, white wine, garlic, celery & onion
Green Thai – Steamed in coconut, green chilli, lemongrass, lime & coriander sauce
Provençale – Steamed with plum tomato sauce, basil, thyme & garlic
Traditionnelle – Steamed with white wine, celery, garlic & onion
Florentine – Creamed spinach sauce with smoked bacon grilled with gruyère cheese
Mediterranean – Topped with a tomato and basil sauce, grilled with cheddar & mozzarella
Portuguais – Mussels & roast chorizo in a tomato, garlic olive oil & paprika sauce with new potatoes & basil
Moules Blanches – Mussels cooked in Belgo Wit beer with shallots, smoked bacon & parsley, served with frites

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After our glorious day and lively night, Jordan and I slept quite soundly indeed.

Cheers.