Comfort food 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 7 & Final Aloha

Nine, count them nine, zip lines were ridden with much hootin’ and hollerin’ by yours truly! One of the zip lines was 1200 feet long! Princeville Ranch Adventures did a nice job introducing us to zip lining, and we even got to jump off a lil’ cliff into the natural swimming hole where the tour ended.

For lunch, we got an interesting tip. Apparently, one of the best cheeseburgers this side of Kauai was at a Chevron gas station in Princeville. Sounded good to us! The North Shore General Store had tasty and fresh burgers made from locally raised, grass-fed Kauai cattle. Their fries were extra good too. For dessert, I indulged with a fat scoop of Kauai Pie – Kona coffee ice cream, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut, and chocolate fudge – from Lapperts. And Jordan had a lillikoi-watermelon-lychee shave ice from Kauai’s Best Shave Ice which proved true to its name, believe it or not.

The rest of the day we relaxed poolside and then had a beautiful and intimate dinner at Red Salt at Koa Kea. Unfortunately, I sacrificed decent pictures for romantic lighting, but Red Salt provided a more inspired culinary experience for me than some of the other dinners we’d had on the island.

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Naturally, as Jordan I sat quietly on our patio back at the hotel, we were a bit morose given our departure the next day. But as we reminisced on our 10 year anniversary visit, we realized how many first-time experiences we had in Kauai. And I knew, we could leave knowing there would be many more first-times in the years to come.

And wouldn’t you know it, but as we were driving toward the airport the next day, we decided to have one more first-time experience before we left. So we stopped at the Koloa Fish Market in Koloa. There was absolutely no way in Hawaii, I was going to leave without having an authentic “plate lunch”.

Koloa Fish Market is a small storefront that screams “local,” outside and in. I ordered two Hawaiian plates, and while I waited, I witnessed a raucous exchange between a local dude who walked in for a pick-up, and the guys running the place. The conversation was bursting with good, loud humor, and Hawaiian slang.

When I was handed our two styrofoam containers, each weighing what seemed 5 pounds each, I knew we had come to the right place. We parked at a local baseball field near the store, turned off the engine, and had our very own Hawaiian picnic in the car while watching a Little League game.

No fooling, this was a seriously delicious meal. Our plates included chicken long rice, lomi salmon, lau lau, and shredded Kalua pig. You will crave the succulent and sweet lau lau pork, its herbaceous flavor and scent imparted by the taro leaf wrapping.

How could we possibly be depressed leaving Kauai if our bellies are full of this all the way home?

Mahalo, Kauai. 🙂

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 6

We were on the road to Hanakapiai Trail from Ke’e Beach by 5:30am the next morning. The drive takes one to two hours depending on when you leave. It only took us an hour, but we knew that the hike to Hanakapiai Falls would require at least four hours, and an early start meant less people.

The hike begins at the northern entrance to the famous Kalalau trail which is known for its incredible views and the dangers involved in getting to those views. On my helicopter ride, I literally got a birds eye view of this trail. I kid you not, the “trail” is barely that. By the looks of two hikers braving the trail at the time – their stomachs and faces pressed tightly against the red dirt mountain side – it truly seemed the foothold couldn’t have been that much wider than a size 7 foot. Add in a perpetual mist off the teeming ocean directly below, and constant wind erosion, and it’s no wonder hikers die every year from attempting to trek the entire 11 mile trail.

Although it’s possible to hike the Kalalau in a day, it’s highly recommended that hikers take two days. But a nice alternative for those of us not quite ready to fall to our deaths (at least not yet) is to hike to Hanakapiai Falls which is about 8 miles and doesn’t require a meeting with your life insurance agent. The hike starts at Ke’e Beach and goes along the coast, veers inland into a lush canyon, then ends up at one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island. And this hike is no cake walk either, especially if rains have made the trail very slick and extremely muddy, like we experienced.

But it is one of the shorter hikes you can do with incredible scenery along the way, and a major payoff at the end. Take a look.

When we arrived, we spotted a natural rock alcove overlooking the falls, and climbed up to have a simple but perfectly satisfying lunch of cold rosemary roast chicken, apples, trail mix, and more homemade ahi jerky from Living Foods . I also had some excellent lilikoi-lychee Kauai Kombucha. This was one of the most memorable lunches I’ve had in my life.

We made it back to Ke’e Beach just when the trail was getting crowded.

We were filthy and glowing.

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On the drive back, we hit up Joe’s Banana Stand and each had an incredible pineapple “frosty” which transforms frozen pieces of the ripest, sweetest pineapple and banana into a creamy delight (no dairy included). Also for the first time, we got to sample some rare poha berries and Sugar Loaf white pineapple.

Poha berries are tropical fruits that originated in South America and were brought to the Islands by early settlers. The berries come from the tomato family, and like tomatillos, have a papery husk. The fruits are a beautiful orangish yellow, and are softly tart and sweetly floral. Sugar Loaf white pineapple is exactly as delectable as it sounds. I love pineapple as it is, but imagine it with a core as tender and sweet as the flesh around it. Sugar Loaf is indeed a beautiful cream-white color, as well.

I felt like I had stopped at the edible candy cottage in Hansel and Gretel, except in place of a witch, there was a charming older hippie couple running the place.

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Our next stop was Kilauea where we had a few comforting slices of pizza at the charming Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza.

And we made it just in time for the Kilauea Sunshine Farmer’s Market. It was small, but no trip is complete for me without perusing an open air market. This one happened to have a vendor offering young coconut to drink and eat (with coconut shell “spoon”) too. Bonus!

Funny enough, we also spotted our crazy hiking guide Steve on a bike on his way to the market with who must have been his girlfriend from Tasmania (he had mentioned her several times to us on our hike).

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Last stop was a joint that screamed out at us to stop and sample: Chicken in a Barrel. Crazy smoky chicken that’s slow cooked in oil drums on the side of the road, the chicken was rich, hearty and plenty smoky. And one serving could easily feed two.

We also sampled a side of the pulled Hawaiian pork with Hawaiian BBQ sauce, as well. The pork was tasty (I mean, it’s smoked pork!), but if you visit Chicken in a Barrel, you should go there for the chicken. Don’t forget to try the potato salad and condiments they’ve got lined up at the counter too. You’ll definitely get the local vibe eating this chicken while sitting at one of their picnic tables on the side of the road, smoking oil drums going nonstop right next to you.

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).