Sunday, August 30, 2009
My mom was scared I’d drown while seining. And that I’d accidentally gig my foot instead of a flounder. I wasn’t coordinated enough for cast net throwing.
Crabbing, on the other hand, requires infinite time, patience and luck. But absolutely no skill or talent. There’s an activity I could get on board with.
Our favorite family crabbing spots were the old Biloxi-Ocean Springs fishing bridge, the marina area over by where the Marine Education Center used to be and the Broadwater Marina across from the Broadwater Hotel. We once caught 200 crabs in one morning at the Broadwater. We’re still talking about it.
I have spent whole mornings without catching a single crab. But then I’ve had mornings where I caught dozens of them – and spent the entire afternoon picking the meat out of the shells and claws. Crab is definitely a meal you earn, but so worth the sore finger tips.
Most of my hard-earned crabmeat eventually wound up as stuffed or deviled crabs which is crabmeat with breading, onion, garlic, bell pepper and spices stuffed back into the scrubbed crab shell and baked in the oven until puffed and golden.
You can serve your deviled crab in the little ceramic dishes shaped like crab shells, but if you’ve actually gone to the trouble of catching the crab yourself, you’ll find it tastes much better baked in the natural shell.
You don’t see stuffed crab on menus too much anymore except at traditional seafood restaurants. The upscale places all seem to have gone to crab cakes.
While I love crab cakes, for the record, let me say I ate many a stuffed crab in my childhood in Biloxi But I never ate a crab cake.
The following recipe is based on some from the Slavonian Ladies' Auxiliary cookbook. There are also some excellent crab recipes -- and lots of good recipes in general -- on the Old Biloxi Recipe fan page on Facebook.
1 lb of crabmeat (picked over for shell and cartilage)
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery chopped (including tops)
1/2-1 whole bell pepper
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 bunch of green onions
1/4 cup minced parsley
10 slices of white bread ,toasted
Tabasco (to taste)
Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Creole seasoning (to taste)
Saute onion, celery, parsley, garlic, pepper, green onions until tender. Reserve 1 piece of toast to make bread crumbs. Soak the rest of the bread in water and drain well in a colander. Remove from heat and add crabmeat, bread, seasonings (to taste). Mix well. Stuff into clean, sterilized baked crab shells or greased individual gratin dishes. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake 20-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until golden brown. This mixture is also good for stuffing shrimp or to make crabmeat po-boys
Monday, August 24, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
I've had this punch, and its many variations, at too many Point weddings, showers, christenings, bunco games, and Sarah Conventry/Tupperware parties to count. It doesn't matter what kind of sherbet you use. To give this a Creamsicle flavor, use a mixture of orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream.
1 lg. can pineapple juice
1 sm. can frozen lemonade
1 sm. can frozen orange juice
1 liter Sprite
1/2 carton of pineapple sherbet (may substitute lime or orange sherbet)
Mix all ingredients in punch bowl. Spoon in sherbet just before serving. Serves 25
Saturday, August 15, 2009
You cannot call yourself a candy maker without knowing how to master this.
I do not call myself a candy maker.
The precision, the patience, the MATH and SCIENCE expertise, you need to make these wonderful candies come out properly just doesn’t fit in with my “dash of this, dash of that, hey-whaddya-say-we-try this” approach to cooking.
Divinity fudge, in my opinion, like peanut butter fudge, is not really “fudge” at all -- – there is no chocolate in it. It is boiled corn syrup and egg whites with pecans and a little vanilla. It is in fact divine when it comes out – and a hot mess – literally - when it does not.
To achieve a high rate of success, you should make it on a bright clear dry day with low humidity.
Therein lies the problem.
On average, there are only three bright, clear, humidity-free days per year in South Mississippi --and I am exaggerating only slightly. I don’t know about you, but when those three days come along, I have better things to do than stand over a double-boiler, candy thermometer in hand.
Come to think of it, perhaps it is this very challenge that makes this candy so beloved in our climes.
I bet home cooks in Arizona, where they could probably make divinity every day if they felt like it, don’t.
Ergo, the thrill, the wonder of that rare perfect batch of divinity can only be savored completely because of the odds beaten to achieve it. It’s candy as Russian roulette.
If you are a gambler -- and we got more than a few of those on the Point -- go for it. You might want to consult a Farmer’s Almanac first. Or better yet just do as the ladies on the Point always did, and call on a Higher Power. Sometimes to make perfect divinity, you just need Divine intervention.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup white Karo syrup
1 cup pecans
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg white
1/2 cup water
Beat egg white with a dash of salt until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Cook sugar, Karo syrup and water over medium heat until the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped in a cup of cold water. Slowly add half of syrup mixture to the egg whites and beat again. at high speed until stiff. Return rest of syrup mixture to the stove and continue cooking until the mixture spins a thread in cold water. Add to syrup/egg white mixture. Add vanilla and nuts and beat until mixture holds shape when dropped by spoonful onto wax paper.
NOTE: Perfect divinity fudge is white and frothy, like a meringue or the white stucco on a Hollywood Spanish bungalow (there was such a house on the Point we used to call the Divinity Fudge House). You often see divinity tinted bright red or green for Christmas or any number of godawful colors like fuchsia and chartreuse at weddings. Please resist the urge to match a color scheme.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I know red beans and rice are a Monday staple in these parts, but like soup and spaghetti sauce, this dish needs an overnight rest to "get good." I am so looking forward to tomorrow.
The Southern way of making red beans is with a meaty ham bone (and any left over bits of ham) and cornbead on the side. The New Orleans Cajun way is with spicy sausage (preferably andouille) and buttered French bread. I'm flexible.
Today I cooked the beans with ham and toward the end threw in some sliced rendered smoked sausage. You don't want to put the sausage in too early or you run the risk of all the flavor cooking out into the beans and leaving you with tasteless sausage bits.
There is no great trick to making good red beans. You just need to remember to:
- Soak the beans in water overnight to soften them or spend an extra 2 hours cooking them.
- Mash up a cup of the beans and broth when they are cooked and add back to the pot to make the beans good and creamy.
- Add enough salt. Seriously, no matter what other flavorings you put in there, the salt is really key to making the beans taste good.
- Wait 24 hours before eating them. No matter how perfect they look the day you cook them, they will taste so much better the next day.
We've all been there, --the sticky, gummy rice you get when you follow the instructions on the package. Who developed those anyway? And why are they still on all those packages when they so clearly do not work?
I've also tried cooking rice in the microwave (which usually results in a starch bath in the microwave) and the tedious three-rinses-before-boiling-on-the-stovetop method. Today I tried baking the rice in a conventional oven.
I first came across Francis Lam's method for baked rice in his blog for cooking koshary (something else you definitely want to try) in Gourmet magazine. I was intrigued, but didn't have an immediate need so I forgot about it.
Then, I came across Francis' recipe in another cooking blog, The Wednesday Chef. When Luisa described this style of cooking rice as "life-changing," well, clearly I had to try it for myself.
Life changing indeed! I wanted to fall to my knees and weep with gratitude. This is perfect, fluffy rice you could eat all on its own with a pat of butter and and some grated Parmesan. Rice as it should be. And so I am passing it on. Because life is too short to eat gummy rice.
Francis, if you're reading this (and I know you visit Mike and Mary's Kitchen occasionally), you are a kitchen god. And my hero.