Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shrimp Stuffed with Deviled Crab

This always-popular shellfish dinner is like making crab cakes on shrimp kabobs. You can even make them ahead and bake them when you are ready for dinner. I've made them up to 3 days in advance for a large crowd.

Julian's Shrimp Stuffed Deviled Crab. 
If you’re like us, whenever you are in the Caribbean (or any island or other seaside location) you have a taste for seafood and often that comes in the form of shrimp and crab.  So when I found both at one of our local shops, I decided it was time to make this dish at CalypsoBlu, our Caribbean home.

Sunset at CalypsoBlu
You might think that finding fresh shellfish in the Virgin Islands would be easy.  To the contrary, getting good quality provisions of most any kind can be challenging, especially if you are accustomed to the shopping bonanza that Chicago offers.  St. Thomas has only about 50,000 inhabitants and is a mere 31 square miles.  The island is a tourist mecca because of the lovely weather, and this means little land or labor can be set aside for food production.  Further the warm tropical waters do not a favor large-scale fishing, but rather produce the small colorful tropical fish.  I guess even the fish are outfitted to serve the tourists!  This means that most food stuffs are shipped to the island by boat and knowing when the shipment arrives and who gets the best provisions is key in planning your weekly menu.

Fresh From the Oven
One of the things that is local is the rum.  In fact, Saint Thomas was known for its fine natural harbor, known as "Taphus" for the drinking establishments located nearby. "Tap Hus" translates from the Danish as "rum shop" or "tap house" referring to the drinking establishments.   You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the local rum is less expensive than the Coca Cola you mix it with, making for some very strong sunset cocktails.  While here I make only rum-based drinks such as the piña colada which is a sweet, rum-based cocktail made with rum, cream of coconut, and pineapple juice.  But I digress.

Here in the Virgin Islands, traditional food tends to be spicy and hearty, many of which are imported as noted above so I was looking forward to the local deviled crab.   I’ve enjoyed deviled crab stuffed into shrimp and lobster in local restaurants several times, so I decided to try my hand at creating a variation.  Most of the versions I have had locally have been light on crab and heavy on bread crumbs.  Few seemed to have any vegetables in the stuffing beside garlic. And as I mentioned a couple weeks ago regarding ‘deviled’ eggs, the reason foods are called ‘deviled’ is because they are to be a bit spicy.  Too often the restaurant version of this dish lacked any sort of ‘kick’ and I was sure a bit of Tobasco hot pepper sauce could improve the flavor and ‘kick it up a notch,’ as Emeril would say.

As I often say, use the methods and ingredients below as a guide.  Adjust your recipe to fit your taste.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and use what you have on hand.  The technique here is simple and many combinations will make for a delicious and impressive shellfish dinner.  I did not top the shrimp with cheese or a cream sauce, although this is often done.  I felt they were rich enough on their own and the sauce would hide some of the delicious fresh flavors.  But add these if you are so inclined.

1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 stocks of celery, finely chopped
1 small onion/shallot, finally chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
One egg
2 tablespoons of spicy-brown mustard,(or Dijon)
Tobasco hot pepper sauce, 3-6 dashes
1-2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/3 cup of crushed Ritz crackers (or bread crumbs)
8 ounces of lump crab meat, drained
20-24 medium shrimp (20 - 25 count/lb)
   peeled, tails on, deveined and thawed
4 tablespoons melted butter
salt, pepper, paprika

Chop the vegetables and sauté in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes over medium-high heat.   Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. While they cool, place the egg in a large bowl and beat. Add the mustard, hot sauce, and seasoning. Stir in the cooled cooked vegetables.  Gently fold in the lump crab meat.  Place two tablespoons of the melted butter into your baking dish and coat the bottom evenly.

Ensure that the shrimp are clean (deveined) and that the tails are intact.  Using your paring knife, cut down the back where you removed the sand vein until you are almost all the way through.  Spread the shrimp open and press down into your baking dish so you have a butterflied shrimp with tail curled up and over.  Place all of the shrimp in this manner into your baking dish. 

Using a teaspoon, place one large rounded teaspoon full of deviled crab onto each shrimp.  Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of melted butter over the shrimp and add any final salt/pepper/paprika you desire.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp are no longer translucent and an instant read thermometer indicates the shrimp and crab are 160F degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before plating.

Serve 4 stuffed shrimp per person with a vegetable and starch (rice?) side dish.  If using only a vegetable side, increase the portion to 6 shrimp per person.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Linguine and the Parmesan Wheel

If you find yourself near O'Hare airport in Chicago, consider dining at Carlucci's, a local Italian restaurant.  Their most impressive pasta dish is the linguine tossed table-side in a half wheel of Parmesan cheese.

Linguini Bobonato Con Parmigiano
The hot pasta melts some of the cheese as it's tossed and then the waiter scrapes the sides and bottom of the wheel to add even more cheese.  The dish is complemented by peas and prosciutto di parma and is quite delicious.  If you and your dinner guests prefer a meat main course, order that with the Linguini Bobonato Con Parmigiano as a side dish for everyone at the table.

The restaurant is frequented by the many business travelers in the area, so do make a reservation in advance even on weeknights.  The restaurant is always very busy and due to its hard surfaces, rather noisy.  But all of the food is good and the atmosphere is very nice and alive with people.  In all of my travels I've never seen this done anywhere else so presume it to be the specialty of the house and one you don't want to miss when near Chicago.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Deviled Egg Variations

With warm weather coming to end here in Chicago, I'm hoping to squeeze in a couple more al fresco dinners before the Autumn truly sets in.  And with cookouts, I often prepare deviled eggs are they are so very popular.

Julian's End-of-Summer Buffet
with Classic American Deviled Eggs
Most Americans think of deviled eggs as hard boiled eggs, cut in half and yolks mixed with mayonaise, mustard and perhaps some sweet pickle.  While this may be the classic American dish, eggs prepared in this or a similar style are popular the world over.  Further, many different ingredients are now used for deviled eggs at home and abroad and today I thought I would provide you with some varieties I've picked up during my travels.

In France they are called œuf mimosa.  In Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden, they refer to them as stuffed eggs or casino eggs. In many places you find deviled eggs garnished with caviar.  In Sweden, the deviled egg is a traditional dish on the Easter buffet, where the yolk is mixed with caviar,  sour cream and chopped red onion, then garnished with chopped chives or dill.  Of course back here in the Midwest of the USA, we sometimes say "salad eggs" or "dressed eggs", particularly when we take the dish to a church function.  It really doesn't seem right to be the devil to church!  (Smile)

Q De Cheval Restaurant, Dallas, Texas
Below I give you a few variations on the standard theme.  I haven't provided directions for each assuming you understand how to make a basic deviled egg.  Just use the ingredients lists following the standard technique of boiling the eggs, halving and removing the yolks, then mixing them with the ingredients listed before stuffing the hard egg whites.  As shown in the photo above, do also consider using pickled beet eggs which adds color and extra flavor and will surely be appreciated by all who try them.  Always take some liberty and consider topping them with olive slices, pimento, smoked salmon or even cavier.

Crabby Deviled Eggs
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
1 small can (6 oz) salad crab meat, rinsed and drained well
3 ½ tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 ½ tablespoons very finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
½ teaspoon oregano (add to filling)
½ teaspoon oregano (use for a touch of garnish)
½ teaspoon onion powder (add a little more to taste if desired)
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Another take on the crab theme can be seen here where Executive Chef Zach Walters makes his favorite lump crab benedict deviled eggs.  

Sweet Pickle and Horseradish Deviled Eggs
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
3 tablespoons Light Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing
1½ tablespoons finely chopped onion (Vidalia is nice)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (Bick's is nice)
1 - 2 teaspoons horseradish (more or less to your taste), well drained
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Paprika for garnish

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Szechuan Cold Noodles and Travel To China

As I'm headed to China this week on business, I thought I would share my spouses recipe for this Asian noodle favorite. 

I first travelled to China in 2004 and since then have been back many times.  On this trip I'm in Beijing and Taipei.  Thankfully you can fly directy to Beijing from Chicago nonstop which takes 13 hours.  As part of my travels I've had the chance to see most of the famous sites, from the Great Wall to the Temple of Heaven near Beijing and the 101 Tower and the National Palace Museum in Taipei. 

Kevin during our 2004 visit.
Of course there were many other sites to see as well and I should make particular note of the famous "night market" in Taipei, where only those with an adverturous appetite should plan on dining.

Julian at the Great Wall in 2005
The south of China where my spouse was raised is warm, much like the weather in Atlanta.  As such this was a favorite family dish as it can be a main course but is served cold.  It's also excellent for taking as a covered dish, and can be prepared as vegetarian friendly.  We prefer to use standard angel hair Italian pasta for this dish.  Normally the Chinese use a more delicate Chinese wheat-based noodle for this dish.  However we find it breaks more easily and doesn't hold up as well when tossing it with the vegetables.

1/2 Carrot, about 1 cup
1 small cucumber, about 1 cup
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 daikon (also called white carrot or radish) optional, about 1 cup
1 1/2 cups chicken or soybean cake
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Cilantro, for garnish


1 1/2 tablespoons Soy sauce (dark soy for stronger flavor)
1 teaspoon Vinegar
2 teaspoons Chili oil, or less to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon Szechuan pepper corns, crushed or ground
3 cloves Garlic, minced

Prepare ahead note:  Poach a chicken breast or use left over chicken. Shred about 1 1/2 cups for this recipe, more or less to your taste.  For a vegetarian version, use firm soybean/tofu cakes (shown here) that can be julienned into matchstick sized pieces, which can be prepared when you julienne the vegetables.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add olive oil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse in cold water until cool. Using tongs, toss with sesame oil to prevent sticking and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  

Rinse and snip both ends off of the bean sprouts.  Wash and peel the other vegetables.  Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and, using a spoon remove seeds.  Julienne the cucumber into thin matchsticks.  Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt to draw out excess moisture. Set aside.  Julienne the carrot into even smaller pieces. Julienne the daikon similarly.

Prepare the dressing by stirring together the above ingredients.  Measures can be adjusted depending on your taste.  add the dressing to the chilled noodles and toss to coat evenly.  Add the chicken/Tofu and the vegetables and toss gently to combine.   Top with chopped cilantro and serve.  If storing for future use, briefly toss pasta before serving and garnish just before serving.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fruit Tart

With summer winding down but with many fresh fruits still available, today I'm making a summer fruit tart.  The fruit tart is not difficult but it does have a number of steps and is not quick to prepare.  So consider this recipe when you have some extra time and want a dessert that looks impressive and tastes fresh and cool on a hot summer night.

The dessert has three basic parts and you will prepare each separately and assemble at the end.  They are 1) the crust, 2) the pastry cream and 3) the glazed fruits and berries.

The Crust Options
For a fruit tart you want a sweet pastry crust and you can consider both a traditional sweet pastry crust as well as a Graham cracker crust.  The latter, perhaps more simple to make, doesn't travel as well as the tradtional pastry crust.  So only use the Graham cracker crust if you are not transporting the pie outside of your home. The Graham cracker crust is pictured throughout this entry.   For the Graham cracker crust use the recipe on the box of crumbs (typically 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs,  1/3 cup white sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, melted and combined.)

Traditional Pasty Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cul unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt.  Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until softened.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Gradually add the bgeaten egg, until incorporated.  Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball.  Remove from bowl and flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refigerate for 30 minutes or just until firm (or about 10-15 minutes in your freezer.)

Lightly spray your tart pan with removable bottom with a non-stick vegetable/flour baking spray or lightly butter and flour by hand.  Unwrap and place into the prepared tart pan and evenly pat down the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.  Work to ensure that the bottom corner, where the side meets the bottom of the pan, is not too thick.  Again cover and then place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400F. 

Lightly prick the bottom of the pastry crust with a fork and place it on a cookie sheet.  Place the sheet/tart crust into the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until golden brown and dry.  Remove from oven to wire rack and let cool.  (This crust can be made a day ahead of use.)

Pastry Cream
 1/4 cup  sugar
  pinch  salt
  2 tablespoons  flour
  2 tablespoons  cornstarch
  1 1/3 cups  milk
  3 large  egg yolks
  1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
  1 tablespoon  butter
  1 teaspoon  Grand Marnier -- optional

Mix sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan.  Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Lower heat, cover and cook 3 minutes longer, stirring occasionally ensuring the mixture does not stick or scorch.

While mixture is cooking, place egg yolks in a mixer bowl and attach wire whisk.  Turn to moderately high (speed 8 in KitchenAid mixers) and beat yolks for one minute.  Slowly add small amount of the hot milk mixture to yolks with mixer running.  Turn off mixer and add warmed yolks to pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is thick and beginning to bubble.  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla and optional liqueur and stir. 

Remove mixture to a cool bowl and place plastic wrap on the surface of the mixture, which will prevent a crust from forming.  Cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready for use.

Fruit Topping
In all you will need about 3 cups of fruit (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, plums, pineapple, etc.)  Use what looks fresh and try to provide a mix of colors.  Cut larger pieces into bit-sized slices or chunks just prior to assembly.

Pour the pastry cream into the tart shell and spread evenly.  Arrange the fruit and berries on top of the cream.  I like to use the blueberries to fill in the gaps, and I prefer to pile the raspberries in the center which gives the tart some height.

To add shine to the fruit and to keep it moist and fresh, the fruit will be covered in an apricot glaze.  To prepare, purchase 1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves.  Heat in a small saucepan over medium heat with one tablespoon of water until melted, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve to remove any chunks of fruit.  While still slightly warm and thin, using a brush paint the fruit on the tart.  Refrigerate until ready for serving.

To serve, place your hand under the tart and push up on the removable tart bottom, while the sides of the tart ring fall down your arm.  Leave the metal bottom in place for serving if you used a Graham cracker crust, which is more delicate.  If you used the Pastry Crust then you may slide the tart off of the metal plate and onto your serve dish.