Crawfish Corn Chowder

crawfish

 

The weather here in Alabama has been unusually cold lately, with temps in the low teens and snow and ice. You may have experienced it, or seen on the national news, how the people in the south can’t deal with the winter weather, because we usually have temps in the 60’s on Christmas day. I’ve also been working a lot lately, especially with catered events, so it was extremely welcoming to come home after a long weekend of catering, on a cold night and find a pot of this delicious chowder cooking on the stove. If you love crawfish you should give this a try. Crawfish tails can be purchased at most supermarkets in the South. Around here, Publix carries them in the freezer section of their seafood department for about $12 a pound. It’s also a little spicy with the poblano pepper, so if you prefer your food a little less “warm” you may want to substitute a jalapeno for the poblano. The recipe has a list of ingredients, but it’s extremely easy to put together.

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups diced onion, preferably a sweet onion like a Vidalia
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped poblano pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 1 quart seafood stock (can be bought at your grocery store)
  • 1-16oz bag of frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into small cubes
  • 1-15oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-8oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 pound crawfish tails, thawed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning (a blend sold on the spice aisle)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil and the butter, letting the butter melt. Add the onion, celery, pepper and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions and celery are tender. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and stock, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the corn, potatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, crawfish, bay leaves, thyme, salt, Cajun seasoning and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaves and add the fresh chopped parsley.

Serve with a good crusty bread and a nice glass of wine. Makes about 10 servings.

 

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Zero Points Cabbage Soup

cabbagesoup

 

Lately I’ve been watching my “middle age spread” get further and further out of control, so when a few customers at work asked that I prepare a light selection each day I decided to dust off some of the recipes I’ve cooked in the past. When I was the chef at The Birmingham News, I would offer a regular entree each day and a Weight Watchers entree because so many of the staff were following the plan. That’s where I first tried this delicious soup. I’ll admit the name doesn’t conjure up images in my head of a tasty dish, but this soup is pure delicious. Now my current customers are asking for the recipe so here’s my version of the famous Cabbage Soup (from the Cabbage Soup diet). This is also the same recipe for the ZERO POINTS soup promoted in Weight Watchers. Yes, you can eat all of this soup you want for any meal and have no points added to your daily total.

  • 3 cups non-fat beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked cabbage
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the easiest part. Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer on the stove 15 minutes.

Luck & Money Soup

luck_money soup

 

A new year is fast approaching and with every new year I’m reminded of my grandmother requiring us to eat peas (for luck in the new year) and greens (for money). She served her peas and greens as sides to a big country meal. Lately, I’ve been incorporating mine into a one-dish meal so I don’t start the new year off with a dinner loaded with butter, buttermilk, starchy creamed corn, fried pork chops, etc.

So as this day before New Year’s Eve draws to a close, I’m about to drag out my faithful Le Creuset covered dutch oven (mine’s not fancy, I bought it at the thrift store) and soak the peas overnight. If you don’t have time to soak the peas, use the trick I use at work. Bring water to a boil on the stove over high heat. Pour in the peas and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. Pour through a colander and rinse peas well. Then add back to the pot and proceed with the recipe. This works for any type of dried bean or pea but you may have to cook the dish a little longer than the recipe says to get your peas nice and tender.

  • 2 cups dry black eyed peas, picked and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large rib celery minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner, or 1 smoked ham hock (available in the meat department of any grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped fine
  • 1/2# ham, diced (I usually use leftover from Christmas if any is still left)
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar

If time allows, put rinsed peas in a stock pot and cover with water (allow about 2″ above the peas). Cover pot and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have time, look at my hint above, or you can use canned peas.

In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, heat canola oil to medium high temperature. Add the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery, garlic and carrot and saute for 2-3 minutes more, until garlic is fragrant but not browned.

To the vegetables, add the peas, chicken broth, ham bone or hock, thyme, bay leaves, collards and the diced ham. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Once the peas are tender, remove the ham bone or hock and the bay leaves. Get any meat left on the bone or hock and return it to the pot of soup. With a large spoon, mash some of the peas against the side of the pot (I usually mash about 1/3 of them) and this will develop a creamy texture to your soup and thicken it slightly.

Just prior to serving, stir in the cider vinegar. Serve in bowls with a piece of cornbread. If desired, you can serve over cooked white rice for a more filling meal.

Serves about 8, or plenty for dinner with leftovers for lunch!

White Bean Chili with Swiss Chard

There’s a chill in the air tonight and I wanted a pot of chili. Only problem is, I didn’t have the correct ingredients to make a pot, but I did have an assortment of “other” ingredients on hand so I decided to make a white bean chili. The white beans, known as Cannellini beans, are just white (or rather a creamy beige color) kidney beans, sold in the can by many brands (the ones I bought are Bush’s). Some people make a chili like this with chicken or ground turkey but the chicken I had was frozen and no ground turkey in the house. I did however have some chicken Italian sausage I picked up at Target, so that’s how I’m making it tonight. Here’s the recipe in case you want to give this one a try!

 

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves removed from stems. Stems chopped like celery and leaves chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cans Cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chicken stock base
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 package chicken Italian sausage sliced thin

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and chard stems and saute until tender, add the chopped chard leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the white wine and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the minced garlic, beans and tomatoes. Add the water and the chicken stock base (or vegetable stock base, both sold in supermarkets on the bouillon cube aisle), then season with the cumin powder. Add the Italian sausage and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. I usually cover the pot but vent the lid so some of the moisture will evaporate and the chili will thicken.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Cajun Seafood Gumbo

Here in Bama we’re gearing up for the game of the year.. the undefeated Crimson Tide plays the undefeated LSU Tigers this Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. This is the game that should decide who plays for the National Championship, so I’m going all out and making a championship recipe for tailgating on the quad.

Seafood gumbo takes a little time to prepare (and a lot of money to buy the ingredients). Gumbo can be made with seafood, chicken and sausage, sausage and seafood, etc.. it’s up to you and your taste. All you need to do is vary the recipe. If you love shrimp but hate oysters, leave them out. Try substituting the oysters with some diced up fish fillets, add some crawfish tails, etc. The trick to a flavorful gumbo is the roux. Roux is simply equal parts fat (oil, butter, etc) and flour cooked to varying stages based on color. For a simple biscuit gravy, you make a light roux. For a rich gumbo, you want a DARK roux, which is achieved by cooking down, stirring constantly, until the roux achieves the color you desire.

All Cajun cooking starts with a “trinity”. A trinity is a mixture of onions, bell peppers and celery and it is the basis for every recipe from the swamps.

To make a large pot of seafood gumbo:

  •  2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 3 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, finely diced
  • 1 bunch of celery, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 32oz bottle of clam juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch of green onions (scallions) chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 pint oysters, shucked (do not drain)
  • 1 pint crab meat (picked for shells)
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, over medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Add the flour, whisking constantly. Continue to cook and the roux will turn from a blonde roux, to sand, to light brown, to caramel color. Once it reaches caramel color, turn down the heat and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the roux is a dark brown color. The darker the color, the more flavorful the gumbo.
Increase the heat back to medium and add the garlic, onions, celery and bell peppers to the roux. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.
Add the oregano, Old Bay, bay leaves, thyme and cayenne. Mix well, then add the clam juice, water, green onions and parsley. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp, crab meat, oysters and their liquor (the juice in the pint with the oysters), then add the salt, pepper and some Tabasco sauce. Reduce the heat to as low as your cooktop will go and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring frequently to prevent the flour from burning.
Remove from the heat and serve over cooked white rice.
Let Les Miles dine on Bentgrass while you enjoy this delicious dish!

Appalachian Burgoo

It’s that time of year again, for the annual traditional Alabama vs. Tennessee game, so in honor of the game, our tailgating recipe this week is for Appalachian Burgoo. It will be especially nice since the forecast calls for a cool day, perfect to watch Bama whip some Tennessee butt.

Traditional burgoo is a beggar’s stew made from whatever meat could be scavenged. Typically in the Tennessee mountains, that would be squirrel or opossum, but since I don’t have time to trap an opossum or shoot some squirrels, mine is made with a combination of beef and pork. This is a big recipe and feeds plenty of Bama fans, or a small army!

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3# pork country ribs cut into 3″ cubes
  • 2-3# beef chuck roast, cubed
  • 3 chicken thighs or legs, your choice
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 russet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 bag frozen lima beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce as needed to taste

Heat vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a large soup pot (at least 8 quart size). Salt the meats well on all sides. When the oil is shimmering hot, working in batches brown all the meats. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not brown well. Do not move the meat while browning a side. Let the meat pieces get well seared. Remove the browned meats to a bowl.

Add the onions, carrots, celery and green pepper to the pot and brown them. If necessary, add a little more oil to the pot. After a few minutes of cooking, sprinkle salt over the vegetables. When the vegetables are well browned, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant. Add back the meats, and the chicken and beef broths and the tomatoes, stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours.

Uncover and remove the meat pieces. Strip the chicken off the bone and discard skin if you want. Break the larger pieces of meat into smaller, more manageable pieces. The reason you did not do this at first is because the meats stay juicier when they cook in larger pieces. Return all the meat pieces to the pot and bring it up to a strong simmer.

Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks about the same size as the meat pieces (if using new potatoes, you can skip the peeling, but russets you’ll want to peel). Add them to the stew and cook them until they are done, about 45 minutes. When the potatoes are done, add the Worcestershire sauce, mix well and taste for salt. Add more Worcestershire sauce to taste if needed. Add the corn and lima beans. Mix well and cook for at least 10 minutes, or longer if you’d like. Here is the point where you decide whether you want a burgoo that’s been hammered into a thick mass or a stew with bright colors in it. It’s your call.

To serve, taste one more time for salt, and add either Worcestershire or salt if you want. Serve with crusty bread or cornbread and a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

She-Crab Soup

For years I did a lot of catering. Private chef style, “in your home” gourmet dinner parties were my specialty and once my clientele found out I made She-Crab Soup, that became one of my most requested first courses for dinner. She-Crab soup gets its name from the “female” crabs used in the authentic soup because the authentic version calls for the crab roe (or eggs, hence only found in female crabs). These days most people have stopped using the roe because, unless you catch your own crabs, it’s nearly impossible to locate. Instead, the soup contains big plump juicy pieces of crab meat, usually lump but I will also use claw meat. Just be sure to pick the crab meat for shells.

An easy way to make sure there are no shells in your crab meat is to spread the meat on a sheet pan and put in a warm oven for 5 minutes. Because the meat is “cooked” as part of the canning process, you aren’t hurting the crab meat. Any shells in the meat will turn orange-pink so you can easily spot them and remove them.

Some chefs make She-Crab soup by starting with homemade cream of mushroom soup. I take a shortcut and use canned cream of mushroom, which cuts an extra hour and a lot of cream out of the recipe. Still, this is by no means a light recipe!

Stock:

  • 2 tbsp each of the following dried herbs – thyme, oregano, chives and basil
  • 2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 cup Crimini mushrooms (a.k.a. Baby Bell) sliced
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 bay leaves (fresh if possible but not required)
  • 2 quarts rich chicken stock (if you don’t have some stock already on hand, use something in a carton or can, not bouillon which is too salty for this soup)
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. To the simmered stock, add the following:
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 quarts heavy whipping cream
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon pepper
  • 3 pints of fresh crab meat
Pour into a double boiler (or a pot set inside a larger pot of simmering water) and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Serve in bowls with 1 tbsp dry sherry swirled on top and a nice piece of crusty baguette.