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Sept 2009 COTM: SOUTHERN Seafood

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September 2009 Cookbooks of the Month:

SCREEN DOORS AND SWEET TEA: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook, by Martha Hall Foose (SDST)
&
BON APPETIT Y'ALL: Recipes and Tales from Three Generations of Southern Cooking, by Virginia Willis (BAYA)

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes for seafood, fish, shellfish, etc here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book or author and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. This thread includes:

BAYA
Chapter 6: Fish and Shellfish

SDST
seafood dishes from Chapter 4: Dishes from the Kitchen and Backyard, and other seafood dishes from throughout the book

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Happy Cooking!

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  1. Mama's Crawfish Etouffee (p. 130 BAY'A)

    This is one of my favorite cajun foods, and I was so looking forward to it. Turns out my husband, a Canadian, had never had the stuff before. For me it was good but not great, but he loved it. Guess it partly depends on what you're expecting. Mostly I think the problem was that the crawfish (frozen from WFs) just wasn't all that great. The sauce itself was very tasty and I didn't have a problem with the roux at all. We'll try this again, but with nice fresh local shrimp. Served over regular old long grain rice. After Lulu's first taste she said she didn't like it, but I noticed that during the course of dinner the whole pile disappeared from her plate.

    1. Mama's Shrimp Creole BAY'A pg. 131

      Made this for dinner last night. Quite an easy recipe to execute actually, although I had reservations about the amount of oil called for. A half cup of canola oil is heated in a heavy bottomed skillet. To that one chopped (Vidalia) onion and three stalks of chopped celery are added and cooked about 5 minutes. I quickly reduced the amount of oil called for by splashing out and onto my foot at least 2 tablespoons when I gave the veggies their first (evidently too) quick stir. (Note to self: next time buy the Crocs with no holes on top.) Then finely chopped garlic is added and after about 45 seconds, a can of tomato paste.

      That all gets stirred constantly for five minutes. Next 2 cups of water, tomato sauce (one 8 oz. can) and a teaspoon of sugar are added and stirred in. Oh, and a pinch of cayenne. All is brought to a boil then reduced to a simmer for about 40 minutes "until the oil rises to the surface." Well the oil never seemed to disappear so that it could rise to the surface again. But whatever, the 40 minutes was a good enough guide.

      Next 1.5 pounds of previously peeled, deveined and marinated (just in salt and pepper) shrimp are added. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until the shrimp are done.

      Willis suggests serving this with the $20,000 Rice Pilaf, but since I was already getting in trouble time-wise (I didn't leave enough time to shell the shrimp) I just cooked Carolina rice in good home-made chicken stock and called it a night.

      We enjoyed this dish, but were also a tad dissapointed. At least the Chowpup and I were. We thought it needed just a little something more, flavorwise - something to make you go "wow." Mr. Clam, who initially only wanted a little, returned for two more helpings though. So, I will be doing some research on other "Shrimp Creole" recipes to see how I could tweak this.

      Here's my picture. Just look at all that oil with it's brilliant red plummage!

       
      12 Replies
      1. re: clamscasino

        Well hot diggity dawg, Clams. That's picture perfect, y'all. I have that on my To Make list only I'm waiting till the Maine shrimp season so I can say I've made the North meets South version.

        My hint: when a recipe calls for a "pinch" of cayenne.... to me that means 2 teaspoons at the very least.

        1. re: Gio

          Gio, the jar of cayenne I recently purchased seems to be "extra strength." (Found that out the hard way.) But i would definately up the amount to 2 pinches! That being said, one of my problems is that I am lacking a reference point for what a good shrimp creole should taste like. i.e. would the addition of say, more cayenne or white wine change this to something it shouldn't be? One thing I would seriously consider doing is making some shrimp stock and using that instead of the water.

          When does the Maine shrimp season start? Might be time for a road trip....

          1. re: clamscasino

            A good strong, rich shrimp stock is big plus/key over water...I wouldn't make the dish without it....Use Cayenne to your taste....

            Have Fun & Enjoy!

            1. re: Uncle Bob

              The hint I learned from the Paul Prudhomme books is to make a quick shrimp stock with the shrimp shells (lots of shells, not so much water, don't cook it very long). It does, as Uncle Bob says, add a lot more depth than plain water.

              Regarding the cayenne, my recollection is that Creole recipes are supposed to be flavorful but not spicy, as opposed to Cajun food which is spicy. Obviously you can tweak the recipe to your preferences, but 'authentically' it probably shouldn't be very spicy. FWIW!

              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                The shrimp shells work well, and with the addition of the shrimp heads even more fat is rendered into the stock making it really rich, and deep with flavor....Buy head on shrimp whenever and wherever possible if you have stock and recipes that call for it on your mind.

                Your recollections are good. Through the commercial bastardizations and erroneous restaurant menus/recipes have the cuisines been misconstrued to be one dimensional cayenne based foods. While the spice quite often plays a role in various recipes, it is never the dominant flavor/factor.

                When a recipe calls for a "pinch" of an ingredient, historically it refers to an amount that can be taken between the thumb and forefinger..or 1/16 of a teaspoon...More or less can be added to taste, but I would think not to the detriment of the dish...There so many more levels of flavors to enjoy!

                Have Fun!!

                1. re: Uncle Bob

                  Thanks Uncle Bob and Karen. I will definately try this again (and soon)with shrimp stock. Never made shrimp stock before, but I have been collecting shells in the freezer in order to do so. No heads, alas.....

                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    Mama's Shrimp Creole BAY'A pg 131: Take Two

                    So I tried this again last night using shrimp stock instead of the water and I used 2 pinches of cayenne instead of one. Also, I reduced the teaspoon of sugar by about a quarter and the oil to a third of a cup. Definately an improvement using the shrimp stock!

                    I'd never made shrimp stock before. But boy it's easy and the aroma from the stock pot just made me keep thinking "gee, what else can I do with this." Never thought one could get such flavor from a bunch of shells. (My shrimp weren't head-on.)

                    For the stock I placed the shells from the 1.25 pounds of shrimp I was using into a pan along with stalk of celery, a quartered and peeled sweet onion and a bay leaf. Then I used about 5 cups of water to cover. (Note: I only peeled the onion because the outer layer was getting grody.) Brought the whole to a boil and then simmered it for about 45 minutes.

                    I noted lots of disparity among shrimp stock recipes when it came to the cooking time, ranging from a mere 15 minutes to four hours. Some say over cooking will make it bitter. The 45 minutes seemed just right.

            2. re: Gio

              GIo, I love that recipe hint! Do you mean for BAY'A specifically, or for all recipes in general?

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                All recipes in general, really. Pinches are so arbitrary. Plus, people's hands/fingers vary from very small to very large.

                In general I think most folks are afraid of too much spicy heat. I hate knock my head off heat in foods, but I Do like a nice little bite. I usually taste as I go and if I think the recipe needs something else I just add what I think I want to taste considering all the other ingredients and the focus of the recipe. The heat can be balanced by adding a little sweet anyway.

                1. re: Gio

                  I"m totally with you - I like heat, and think too many people are afraid of it.

                  I'll be surely trying that shrimp creole - looks wonderful.

            3. re: clamscasino

              My turn on the Mama's Shrimp Creole, and I basically agree with everything clams said the first time around. I followed the recipe exactly, except (like Gio) I always always add a lot of hot pepper when it asks for a pinch. Even so my husband used hot sauce on his. We liked this, but I can't say we loved it. Maybe if I'd learned the lesson clams learned, and used shrimp stock instead of water, we'd feel more strongly about it. Nothing at all bad about this, just probably not something I'd make again.

               
              1. re: clamscasino

                Mama's Shrimp Creole BAY'A , Pg. 131

                I scaled down the ingredients in this recipe because we had only one pound of shell-on shrimp to use. Also, I must have had a brain burp because instead of making a stock with the shells into the freezer they went with the other 45 pounds of shells in there. (exaggeration). Instead of water I used chicken stock, 1/2 t cayenne this time, and reduced the olive oil I used to 1/4 cup.

                I served the shrimp and sauce on sliced grilled baguette rounds to mop up all the goodness. Arugula, Celery, and Date Salad on page 66 of "Raising the Salad Bar" was served as well. We both liked the shrimp with this Creole sauce and will make it again. I think it would be tasty with scallops or a white fin fish too.

              2. Shrimp with Parmigiano-Reggiano Grits and Tomatoes page 139 BAYA

                Oh my, these are so good!
                I don't think I've ever had a shrimp & grits dish that involved tomatoes. The combination is just outstanding.

                I made the recipe exactly as written, except the grits I have are not the long-cooking kind. They aren't "quick grits", but the kind that require about 10 minutes to cook. They're stone ground and the bag just says "grits" (can't remember the brand, they're made here in GA). I just followed the directions on the bag, subbing in milk for half the water, then adding the butter, cream (actually half-and-half) and cheese. They were perfect.

                The tomatoes are so simple! I just used my hands to smoosh up the tomatoes into largish pieces, sauteed the onion and garlic, added two bay leaves, and the wine. After the wine evaporated, I tossed in the canned tomatoes and their juice. It did take longer than 10 minutes to thicken, but I had them on a very low flame. (I was waiting for DH to return with the grits. See the main COTM thread for that story.) I used fresh Italian parsley and a little fresh thyme for the herbs. Having fresh herbs is important to the flavor, because they are added at the very end and not cooked into the sauce. I don't think subbing dried herbs would work at all.

                This one is going on the menu the next time we have guests!

                11 Replies
                1. re: onrushpam

                  I made the Shrimp with Parmigiano-Reggiano Grits and Tomatos this eve. They were good, not as great as anticipated. I loved the grits (Bob Red Mill, cooks in less time) but the combo, particularly the tomatoes didn't wow me. I used fresh plum tomatoes that I peeled and scooped the seeds, etc out of. Then I realized I had no reserved juice, per recipe. So I added in tomato juice (actually Knudson Very Veggie, which is kinda like a better V-8). It was okay. Not great. Maybe my tomatoes were less than stellar.

                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    This is one where I think canned tomatoes probably do work better than fresh. We ate the leftovers of ours the next night and it was almost as good 2nd time around.

                    1. re: onrushpam

                      Except in the summer, and right from the garden or farmers market, I almost always go with canned toms.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Yes, me too -- I'm a tomato fanatic but it's only cans for me after tomato season ends. However, I *had* fairly good tomatoes from my CSA farm and used them in this dish. . .
                        I think if I used less tomato sauce in proportion, I would be happier.

                        1. re: NYchowcook

                          I totally understand. There have been 2 instances where I added tomatoes (as the recipes called for) in asian dishes and it was just a very weird turn off for me. No idea why, as I normally like tomatoes a lot. Sometimes a little tomato just goes to far, I guess.

                    2. re: NYchowcook

                      I am pleased to report that leftovers were better than first time around. I had my doubts -- microwaving grits and shrimp?? Just a touch of tomato sauce I think is preferable to tons. I'll try to post a photo.

                      I did halve the recipe. I followed the directions on the grits package as to proportion of liquid to grits, but used 1/2 milk and 1/2 water and a touch of butter per recipe. Grits were very, very good! And preparation is so much less fussy than that Italian polenta -- which is really the same thing!

                       
                    3. re: onrushpam

                      I had shrimp and grits in a fancy restaurant in Charleston last night (McRady's) and they included tomatoes. Maybe it's a regional thing, or perhaps it's "New Southern' or something. The dish didn't wow me, btw, but I'm definitely going to try Ms Willis's version when I get home with the grits I purchased from Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        While you're in the South, GG, don't neglect to purchase some White Lily flour for biscuits! And Virginia boiled peanuts are terrific! And then there's "country ham" in case you don't get your sufficient sodium allowance each day . . . .

                        1. re: NYchowcook

                          I had some country ham for breakfast the other day. It was pretty good, but the scrambled eggs it came with weren't! I haven't actually come across boiled peanuts yet.... Thanks for the tip on the flour.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            White Lily is low-protein flour, perfect for (Southern) biscuits. I was dismayed when I visited my friend in Virginia that the supermarket was out (!) of White Lily flour.

                            Are you going to treat us to a report on your (culinary) escapades? That would be great!

                            1. re: NYchowcook

                              I'm not sure I have space in my suitcase for flour, tbh. Presumably you could get away with Italian 00 flour?

                    4. Cornmeal-crusted Grouper BAYA pg 135

                      I'd made this before and think I posted about it on the previous BAYA threads. I don't often fry fish, but when I want fried fish, I really like this recipe.

                      We had an all BAYA dinner tonight. The fish, hushpuppies, country remoulade and heart-healthy slaw. I'll post about the other dishes on those threads.

                      This fish was just excellent! I did it in a cast iron skillet and don't think I used as much oil as called for (I didn't measure it). And, I used peanut oil. I just realized the ingredient list calls for 6 T of oil, but the recipe instructions call for a total of 10 T! I think I used closer to 6 than 10.

                      Other than that, I made it as written. (Dredge fish in a mix of cornmeal and panko, then in egg, then in the meal again, brown on both sides and finish in a 500 degree oven.)

                      Based on my experience last time, I cut the heat back a bit on the stove. High on my gas stove is really hot and I nearly burned the fish last time. So, I started it out on high, then turned it down a bit once the oil was hot.