Seasonal 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 2

If only every morning would wake me with seaside breezes tickling my skin! Made all the difference in the world.

Today we freely explore and acclimatize ourselves to Kauai; that is, after a monster breakfast with a slew of skittering Mina birds and leaping koi keeping us company.

Our exploration started with a mini-hike along the sandstone cliffs overlooking Shipwreck Beach. Although we liked to imagine grand pirate ships crashed on the shore, littering their loot across the sand, it’s actually named for a small abandoned boat that made it’s home there for years until Hurricane Iwa took its badly decomposing shell back to the sea. Also just below the water’s surface are jagged volcanic rocks endemic to Kauai which makes for some killer body surfing. Notice that I decidedly use the word “killer” to describe surfing there.

Seeing those big waves whet our appetite to visit one of the best beaches for body surfing, Poipu Beach. We’re talking plump waves converging at odd angles to create ideal conditions for some heady surf!

After a sufficient beating, we indulged in a couples 80-minute sports massage and looked forward to what is considered the most romantic place for dinner in Kauai – The Beachhouse.

Starting off with soft floury ciabatta and plenty of butter, we dove into fresh local fish ceviche served in a coconut shell, tempura-fried Ahi maki stuffed with crab. Our main courses included locally caught Oni, black forbidden rice, a grilled coconut sauce, and fresh green papaya. Jordan had wasabi-crusted Mongchong or local butterfish with lillikoi beurre blanc. Lillikoi or passion fruit – all types of which flourish all over the island – is a beloved and ubiquitous staple on local and restaurant menus alike.

Although the Beachhouse isn’t going to win any Michelin stars, the ingredients were treated simply, allowing them to be delicious just on their own.

Stuffed and intoxicated on a luxury cocktail of sunset and seaside, we caught the finale of a luau, complete with impassioned fire twirling display, from our window and quickly drifted off to sleep.

Spring in NOLA: Crawfish Boil to John Besh’s August

Another glorious morning in what was becoming like a second home to us. We couldn’t believe our luck as temps ranged in the 80s yet again and it was sunny as sunny could be!

Today, we were off to explore NOLA’s Magazine Street – famous for its eclectic shops. Maybe we’d find some gifties for our friendsies.

But of course, like a moth to flame, we ended up eating big time yet again. I hadn’t even planned on this or even heard about it. Promise!

Big Fisherman Seafood called to us like mystical Sirens out in the fog of sea…calling to us…hypnotizing us…come eat…crabs…oysters…shrimp…crawfish…

How could I possibly turn away from a place that has this sign outside of it?!

And has this kind of heavenly spread inside?

I mean…c’mon!

We had naught to do but get a pound of freshly cajun boiled crawfish and 2 cajun corn on the cobs; nevermind that we had no where to sit down and eat our snack with all its messes.

But you’re never too far from laid back hospitality in New Orleans. A casual (and kind of trendy) alfresco eatery across the street was kind enough to let us chow down at one of their tables as long as we cleaned up after and ordered a couple cokes.

How cool is that?

So that’s just what we did! And it was soooo worth it.

+++
But seriously folks, that’s not all.

Tonight we would dine at the place that was on my short list for must-visit fine dining restaurants in the States.

And John Besh’s August did not disappoint.

Our meal was superb, expertly prepared, and yet comforting like a good Nawlin’s meal should be. To top it all off, Chef Besh was super friendly and as his periodic visits to various tables throughout the place showed, an amazing host as well. You could really feel how much he cared and was passionate about the experience. Makes all the difference in the world, I’ll tell ya.

Oh yeah, and did I mention the food?

Redfish “courtbouillon”
Persillade crust, jumbo shrimp, blue crab, and sauce bourride

Hand-made potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and winter truffle


Salad of heirloom beets, crab meat, cherry wood bacon, mizuna, and quail eggs with black-eyed pea croutons



P&J Oysters: crispy fried with Louisiana caviar “ranch dressing,” pepper seared with truffle spoon bread, horseradish crusted

“Breaded” speckled trout Louisiana crab, white shrimp, toasted almonds and sauce mousseline

Special: Goat three-ways

Napoleon of nougatine with Valrhona chocolate bavarois and salted toffee ice cream

Trio of gelee, chocolate, and pralines

The trip home in the dewy Spring night made for another amazing day in this magical place.

Spring in NOLA: Roadfood Fest 2011

The day finally arrived for one of the key reasons we decided on March for our visit to NOLA.

New Orleans Roadfood Festival!

I felt like Adam Richman from Man Vs. Food by the end of it, but it was worth it!

Here are some of this year’s highlights!

The Court of Two Sisters
Buttery, homey, and packed with crawfish flavor, Crawfish Louise is a truly unique dish!

Turtle Soup – slightly tart, deep and intense

Creole Delicacies Catering

Andouille Jambalaya

Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant

Flaky, savory, delicious Crawfish Pie

Johnson’s Boucaniere

Traditional Boudin Sandwich

Royal House Oyster Bar

Outstanding, smoky, meaty oysters!

Central BBQ

Although not a New Orleans spot, still a must-eat treat! The bark in and of itself was enough to travel to Memphis to scarf down!

Louis Mueller Barbeque

All the way from Texas, the brisket was smoked overnight in this bad boy.

And last but not least…

Dessert!

Plum St. Snoballs
The one and only Southern ice treat with flavors that this girl had never even heard of! Nectar cream, anyone?

My very first Snoball! Spearmint, Nectar Cream, and Condensed Milk (as per the nice man behind the counter’s reco)!

Sweet cherry and grape icy sugary bomb. I felt like Bart and Milhouse after the infamous Squishy “episode” they had together.

In my book, Roadfood Fest was a tasty success and some of these first-time flavors still linger with me to this day. Now, where to find nectar cream in Chicago…