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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! 🙂

There’s no place like a [Korean] home…

Just when I’m getting cabin fever and feeling homesick, my photo archive reveals a treasure trove of pictures from a visit back home to Pennsylvania where my parents still live. I know it’s trite to say, but memories do indeed fuel the wonder only dishes from home can bring to the soul; especially when you come from a Korean family that loves to eat!

First let’s talk about what to me is the quintessential Korean dish (besides kimchee, of course), bibimbap. Bibimbap literally translates to “mixed rice.” It’s become so mainstream, you find it on the menu in the most unlikely of places. Even just today I discovered that Chicago’s famous gastropub The Publican’s Sunday brunch menu features a pork belly bibimbap!

Bibimbap works for so many reasons, not least of which is that when it’s made at home it takes no prep whatsoever. It originated from literally taking whatever leftover rice and banchan you had (traditional small dishes to eat with rice), throwing it all in a big bowl, adding lots of gochujang (bright red, sweet and spicy fermented chili and soybean paste) and a sunny side up egg (if you had it), and mixing and incorporating everything together until your arm hurt. Then the fam would each grab a spoon (somehow it seems to taste better with a long stem metal Korean spoon), and communally dig in! Even clean up is easy!

And just as layers of flavor permeate bibimbap, so does this dish speak to the rich agricultural history and resourcefulness intrinsic not only to making Korean food, but also eating it. At its core, it’s a no frills, hearty kind of eating spiced up with fire from plenty of hot chiles.

These photos were taken from Christmas 2011. We had a bunch of tasty banchan from my Mom and during a visit to my aunt’s house, a bibim party ensued with gusto! It’s always a special treat when my Dad decides to be the “Bimbim Master,” as we kids like to call him.

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This is the kind of spread waiting for me when I visit home. Gawd. Moms should be recognized as the ninth wonders of the world. All of this was made from scratch, yo.

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We also had some other memorable dishes from the visit including homemade Duk Mandoo Guk (beef soup with beef dumplings and rice cakes) and Guksu jongol (spicy casserole with noodles). Had to throw these in too because they are absolute pure comfort food for any Korean!

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Pure comfort indeed.

Meals from the Pantry: Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

One pot meals that get better over time are all the rage in our house lately. I’ve gotten in the habit of leisurely cooking a bit pot o’ something in my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven on Sundays, and it’s made dinners during the week (and lunches for the hubby) so convenient and stress-free.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from the iconic Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook for a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Their version takes two days, so I created my own version that still delivers the lusciousness and comfort of a traditional gumbo, while staying user- and pantry-friendly. If you want to kick it up for an occasion, use rabbit instead of chicken!

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Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from The Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook

Ingredients
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup flour
1 medium white onion
2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (white part mostly)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp of parsley, chopped
1 dry bay leaf
3/4 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry marjoram
1/2 tsp dry basil
2 tbsp file powder
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp Cajun spice powder (no salt version)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cartons (32 oz each) low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
1/2 lb (half pkg) Hilshire Farm beef smoked sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
2 lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
Worcestershire Sauce
Salt
Black pepper
Hot sauce

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The hardest part of this gumbo is the prep. And the hardest part about the prep is poaching the chicken. And the hardest part of poaching chicken is being patient and trusting it’s getting cooked in the pot even though the water is barely simmering!

Poached Chicken
Recipe adapted from About.com

Ingredients
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4-5 cups water
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Cut each chicken breast in half so they are all about the same size. Place chicken breasts snugly in ideally one layer in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot. If you have some pieces on a second layer, I wouldn’t sweat it but just try to layer evenly. Cover chicken with water (make sure all is covered). Add bay leaf, salt, and whole black peppercorns. Stir water just to stop the herbs from floating.

Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer. Partly covered, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat completely, and allow chicken to remain in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Remove chicken to a bowl until it is lukewarm. Shred the chicken and set aside.

This can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate over night.

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Now that you’ve got your chicken done, it’s time to gumbo! I highly recommend that you prep and assemble all the ingredients in a mise en place fashion so that you don’t get bogged down in chopping here and measuring there. Especially for something like a gumbo where a lot goes into a pot, not having to worry about prep while you’re cooking allows you to really focus on the flavor and seasoning which is where it’s all at anyway!

In a large pot or dutch oven, add the oil and set on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the flour. Try to sprinkle it evenly over the oil. You’re about to make a roux which is as traditional as traditional gets in Creole Cajun cooking! By using a whisk or a wooden spoon (I like to use both based on how things are progressing), stir the flour into the oil for about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll see a lovely transformation take place where the flour and oil mixture transforms into a creamy base the color of peanut butter.

Add the onions, celery, green pepper, scallions, garlic and parsley. Saute until veggies soften and are mixed well with the roux.

Add the thyme, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, and about a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Stir into veggie and roux mixture, then pour in can of crushed tomatoes.

Again continue to incorporate all ingredients well, then add the chicken broth.

Give everything a good stir and then add the shredded chicken, andouille, smoked sausage, file powder, Cajun spice powder, and some healthy dashes of both the Worcestershire sauce, and your favorite Louisiana pepper sauce or Cajun hot sauce.

Jordan being a hot sauce fanatic ensures we always have a good variety, but use what you like and how spicy you make it is up to you!

Bring the gumbo up to a boil, then turn down the heat until you have a gentle simmer.

Simmer on low partially covered for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper and cayenne and/or hot sauce (as desired).

Serve over cooked rice.

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This is definitely one of those dishes that gets better and better the longer it sits, but you’re going to want to treat yourself to a least a little bowl! Don’t forget you can garnish with a little chopped scallion on top too, and maybe a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce.

Woo-eee!

An EDD-ter’s Tour of Italy – Cooking Class in Tuscany

One of the absolute must-do things I had on my list was to take a cooking class in Tuscany. My agent was able to secure a private day at the Castello di Tornano. From the chef Manuel, we’d learn how to make traditional Tuscan dishes including fresh pasta, biscotti, and pork, and best of all, eat it all for lunch!

It was everything I imagined! Rejuvenating views of lush rolling hills and olive groves, citrus trees along a pebbly trail up to the castle, little kittens purring on the kitchen floor, and a charming chef who’s worked in his simple kitchen for over 20 years.

Getting there was an adventure!

Over 1000 years old, the castle has survived war, bloodshed, and political intrigue. It’s most famous and notorious owner was Warnellottus, lord of Tornano and Campi, who (long story short) shrewdly exploited the strategic position his castle and lands had between the warring city-states of Siena and Florence.

After a warm welcome by the chef, and a customary tsuts (as my mother-in-law would call it) of Prosecco which Chef Manuel insisted was a truly Tuscan tradition, abbiamo cucina (we began cooking)!

Cantuccini – Sweet almond biscuits with Vin Santo
While baking, the kitchen smelled of almonds, sugar and Vin Santo.



Pomodori al forno – Roasted tomatoes with garlic, capers, hipollito, breadcrumbs, parmesan

This simple appetizer was the perfect way to whet our appetites. We used a local wild Italian herb called hipollito (?) for the mixture on top. It looked like oregano but tasted like a cross between thyme and mint.

Ravioli ricotta e spinaci, salvia e burro salsa – Ricotta and spinach ravioli, sage and butter sauce
Making fresh pasta was the highlight of my lesson! Practice makes perfect. We must have made 3 or 4 dozen!

Costolette di maiale salsa Chianti – Pork cutlets with wild rosemary, juniper berries, Chianti Classico
This dish perfectly captured the essence of our Tuscan afternoon at Tornano.

I must say I was feeling mighty fine after our amazing lesson and lunch. We strolled around the castle grounds a bit and enjoyed the sun as the mist slowly drifted away.

Now all that was missing was a long nap.

Those sleepy kitties had the right idea…

Next up: Florence! P.S. recipes for all the above coming soon!