Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fish Stock Fiasco

Photo: a block of frozen prawn stock, fish frames, garlic, herbs, onions and more...

There will be no accompanying recipe today… you would not thank me for the results if you tried this at home. The galley still smells faintly fishy - hell, the whole boat is scented with fish. I’ve thrown away my favorite Joyce Chen bamboo-handled spider (strainer) because it reeked of fish even after a soak in vinegar, and then in a bleach solution. We’ve thrown open the portholes, hatches and doors and powered up all of the fans and ventilators to rid us of the fragrance of the failed fish stock project.

Did the cookbook lie? Did I miss some vital direction? Was the notation, “Make your own choices about the [fish] eyeballs.” a hint of trouble ahead? Don’t know, don’t care, not gonna do that one again.

Life’s a Fish and Then You Fry; an Alaska seafood cookbook, is worth a read for Randy Bayliss’s oddball humor, intriguing piscatorial information, and the bizarre-yet-appealing illustrations by Ray Troll. After the failure of the fish stock and subsequent Soup d’ Poisson I’m not ready to try another Bayliss recipe quite yet. Maybe next week, if there’s no lingering odor involved.

Details? The soup was insipid, flat, boring, without taste… and I’m blaming it on the stock. I’ve produced more flavorful results using commercial broth bases. I did enjoy the initial steps of shrimping, fishing, picking fresh herbs, and even chopping the small mountain of vegetables. The stockpot looked pretty interesting initially. The soup? After a taste or two we threw it away and I vowed not to mess with fish stock again. Have I said that before? Well this time I mean it. The Capt will help me remember. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cajun BBQ Prawns

Photo: Bowl of Cajun BBQ Prawns with shells on

With two days of sunshine in a row, why spend time inside in the galley? Not me, I took the easy way out, with absolutely no guilt. I could get used to this combo of sunshine and easy living.

“So, what would you like to grill for dinner tonight…?” was the approach that worked last night. He manned the barbecue and we shared a steak with a side of salad. After dinner I threw together a batch of No-Knead Sourdough bread, adding 1/4 cup of mixed grains and 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts to the usual list of ingredients. That was easy, with minimal effort for some major enjoyment the next few days. The bread rose overnight (around 12 hours) and completed it’s second rise (about 6 hours) while we cruised to the new anchorage.

No-guilt delegating is one thing, but the Capt. did run the boat and navigate several intricate, shallow and narrow passages. Okay, I could handle the easy-style cooking the next night. Luckily the makings for a Cajun Barbecued Shrimp feast were on hand. Just peel the shrimp, pull some sauce out of the freezer, slice the bread already baked and ready for dipping, and grab some pickled okra from the pantry... how easy is that? Oh wait, we needed some token healthy side dishes. Asian pickled, sliced cucumbers and some chunked tomatoes and basil in balsamic vinegar were the choices, in keeping with the easy motif.

We first enjoyed Cajun-style food at Burk’s Restaurant in Ballard, in the late 70’s I think. Gumbos, hot sausages, muffeletta sandwiches, BBQ Prawns, decadent desserts - I really miss Burk’s since it closed last year. One taste of prawns, bathed in butter and hot sauce… I was hooked, and had to have a recipe. Bon Appetit magazine, October 1980, provided a good start. Eventually Burk shared his version, and since then I have found scores more recipes in cookbooks and online.

This dish is not heart-healthy, diet-friendly, cardiologist-approved or anything sensible like that, but it is awesomely good. Adjust the sauce recipe to reflect the seasonings on hand, substitute like flavors and spices, use the oven, stove top or grill: it doesn’t matter. Just don’t overcook the shrimp. We enjoy fresh-caught Cajun BBQ Prawns as an entrĂ©e, but the recipe is versatile as an impromptu Happy Hour appetizer as well. In town, keep a bag of shrimp in the freezer along with a portion of sauce (or whip up a fast batch of sauce) and serve from the stove or grill as a baguette topper or on skewers. These tasty morsels disappear quickly.   

Rhapsody Cajun-Style BBQ Prawns

1 stick butter
3 TBS olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced and quartered
small knob of gingerroot, minced
1 TBS Worcestershire
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 TBS fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
(liquid smoke, optional)

Chili Sauce (“Homemade Chili Sauce” from Ballard Market or your choice)

Prawns - recipes variously call for heads on/heads off, shelled/unshelled, jumbo size/large size. It’s fun but incredibly messy to suck the sauce off of unpeeled prawns. If you do peel the critters ahead of time, save their shells to flavor a seafood stock for soups or chowders. (But avoid my fish stock fiasco!)

Sauce Directions:
Place the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan on very low heat. Slice the lemon and add. Chop the ginger in small pieces and add. Place the remaining ingredients in the pan. Simmer for twenty minutes on low. Strain through fine sieve, pressing through with a wood spoon. Discard the pulp.

Note: This recipe makes more sauce than you might typically use for one dinner. The flavored butter may be used immediately, refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen. You will only use 2 to 3 oz max per serving, though it’s tempting if not healthy to eat it with a spoon when no one is looking.

Stovetop Directions a la Burk's:
Place a scant 3 oz of the flavored butter in a skillet for each serving of six jumbo prawns in the shell. Place on high heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, saute the prawns until they turn pink and curl, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add one tsp. of “Homemade Chili Sauce” for each serving and swirl briefly. Serve in a bowl with ample sauce.

Oven Method a la Bon Appetit:
Cook the sauce ingredients at simmer for 10 min. Strain and let cool to room temperature. Pour over shrimp and marinate for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300. Bake, 15 to 20 minutes, turning frequently, until shrimp just turn pink. Don’t overcook the shrimp.

Note: However you cook it, serve in wide, flat bowls with a scoop of rice and plenty of warm bread on the side to soak up the sauce.  Green salad and a bowl of pickled okra provide the greens. Caramel Pecan Bars and ice cream are a great dessert… if anyone has room.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Crabby Cruising Enchiladas

We had barely arrived in Petersburg when we received the gift of six Dungeness crab, delivered to the boat, cracked, cleaned and ready to cook. (thank you Norm!) Steaming the crab was a fast process, and then I spent a lot more time picking out the chunks of body and leg meat. That’s not a complaint… I’ll welcome fresh crab any time, but it is a lot more fun to share the picking task with someone else. Check out last year's love note to crab. (link)

There are two types of crab pickers, the grazers and the pilers. Grazers enjoy each chunk of crab as it emerges, while pilers wait until they have a substantial quantity before they savor the sweet flavor of fresh crab. Me? I'm a piler, and y'all better not try to fork anything out of my pile without permission.   

We enjoyed Crab Louis salads the first night, followed by crabby enchiladas the next, and countless snacks and stolen nibbles just because crab bits were available, fresh, and oh so tasty. Enchiladas show up frequently on the menu, with a variety of fillings, and I usually just "wing it" with the recipe. This week it was fun to adapt a recipe from my latest treasure, The Fishes and Dishes Cookbook (link), a captivating collection of seafood recipes and more by Alaskan women who fish. Sisters Kiyo and Tomi Marsh and friend Laura Cooper, the primary authors, include recipes and stories from female friends and colleagues who also work in the world of commercial fishing. Enjoy this book for the articles and sidebars as well as the recipes. 

Crabby Cruising Enchiladas
2 cups cooked crab
2 cups shredded jalapeno jack cheese, divided
1 small onion, diced and divided
1/4 cup sour cream
2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup chopped poblano chiles (canned mild chiles will work)
a couple of shakes each of cilantro and cumin

1 TB oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup mild green salsa or taco sauce
cilantro, cumin, garlic powder & onion powder to taste
1 TB cornstarch

6 small tortillas, flour or corn
sour cream & sliced avocado for optional toppings

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a small skillet and saute a handful of the diced onion until softened. Sprinkle on some cumin and saute until fragrant. Add chicken stock and green salsa; stir and heat. Taste and add cilantro, garlic & onion powder as needed. Dissolve the cornstarch in a bit of cold water and add to the skillet, stirring until it comes to a boil and thickens. Add water as needed to achieve a loose sauce. Reduce heat, but keep warm.

To prepare the filling blend the cream cheese and sour cream. Add the remaining chopped onion, chopped chiles, corn and 1 1/2 cup of the shredded jack cheese. Mix thoroughly; taste and add cilantro and cumin as desired; gently stir in crab just to combine. A squirt of lime juice tastes good too, or serve lime wedges alongside at the table.

To assemble the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 F. Spoon a very thin layer of sauce on the bottom of an 8-by-8 baking dish. Set up an assembly line of sauce skillet, a plate or pie tin for assembly, bowl of filling, and the baking dish. Dip a tortilla into the sauce to coat both sides and place dipped-side up on the assembly plate. Add 1/6 of the filling to the tortilla and roll it up into a cylinder; place it seam-side down in the baking dish. Continue with additional tortillas until the filling is gone. Pour any remaining sauce evenly over the top, scraping the skillet to get every last tasty drop. Scatter the remaining 1/2-cup of shredded jalapeno jack cheese over the top. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the top gets golden brown, bubbly and maybe a bit crispy.

Remove it from the oven and let it sit for at least 5 minutes to set up. Serve with assorted toppings available - sour cream, avocado, fresh cilantro, salsa, lime wedges, etc.

1. The enchiladas hold and reheat well, though I’ve never frozen a pan of them. Leftover enchiladas are not a problem onboard since we'll eat them for breakfast or lunch, but these have been known to be a popular target during a midnight fridge raid.
2. At home I’ll take the time to roast fresh peppers and tomatillos, use fresh garlic and herbs, and make my own salsa. When we’re cruising I find that cans and jars are welcome substitutes for hard-to-find or had-to-store fresh ingredients. the enchiladas don't care.

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