Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Crawfish Bisque

I love crawfish season. It announces the arrival of Spring, right along with the tulips and daffodils.  My favorite way to enjoy these little mudbugs is a big ol' crawfish boil complete with new potatoes and corn on the cob all thrown out on a newspaper covered table and served up with ice cold beer.

There are so many other ways to eat crawfish; crawfish étouffée, crawfish pie, gumbo, and this crawfish bisque that was printed in the April 2016 issue of Southern Living. A bisque is a soup with French origins and is traditionally made with the strained broth of crustaceans and pureéd crustaceans.

When making recipes that call for crawfish tails it's much more time efficient to buy the crawfish tails frozen.  If you did want to take the time to get the tails from fresh crawfish, you could also make your own seafood stock with the shells. Umm, no.

For me and this recipe I am using frozen tails and canned seafood stock.  You'll need a pound of tails but packages available were only 12 ounces each so I had to purchase two and had 24 ounces.  That allowed me to have twice the tail meat to add to the bisque after it was pureéd.

Here's what I'll be working with.  I failed to include the flour and the sherry in this photo.

The first thing I like to do is all of the prep work; measuring out the ingredients, chopping, etc., etc.  That way I have everything ready to go when it's time to use them in the cooking process.

To get started you need to make a roux.

 It takes a good 10 minutes but you want to bring it to a nice light brown color.

 Add all of your vegetables and the spices.

After cooking the vegetable for 5 minutes the stock, herbs, and half of the sherry are added and brought to a boil.  This will cook for 10 minutes then a half pound of the crawfish are dropped in and cooked for about 2 minutes.

Remove the pot from heat. Fish out the bay leaves and the thyme stems. Pureé in batches until very smooth.  A caution when blending ingredients that are hot....place a kitchen towel on top of the lid and hold down firmly.

Return the bisque to the pot and add the cream, lemon juice, hot sauce and the remaining crawfish; which in my case was a pound instead of a half pound...yum.

If you wish, you can garnish with a crouton and snipped chives.  This bisque was a B-I-G success at the dinner table.  It was rich and flavorful and I am really pleased that I had an extra half pound of tails to add to the bisque.

I believe Lovey will be requesting this for future meals.

Crawfish Bisque
Adapted from the April 2016 issue of Southern Living
Serves 6

6 Tbsp. (3 ounces) salted butter
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, small diced
1 red bell pepper, small diced
2 celery stalks, small diced
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 medium tomato, small diced
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups seafood stock
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry sherry, divided
1-1/2 pounds frozen peeled crawfish tails, divided
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. chopped chives (optional)
croutons or oyster crackers (optional)

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat.  Whisk in flour until combined. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, until roux is a pale brown, about 10 minutes.

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, tomato, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high.  Whisk in stock, thyme, bay leaves, and 1/2 cup of the sherry and cook 10 minutes. Add 1/2 pound of the crawfish tails, and cook 2 minutes.

In batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Return the pureé to the pot, and place over medium-low heat. Stir in cream, lemon juice, hot sauce the remaining crawfish and the remaining 1/4 cup sherry.  Bring to a low simmer, and cook until heated, about 5 minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls and if desired, garnish with croutons and snipped chives.         

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Strawberries and Cream Cake

Lovey selected this clipping from the April 2013 issue of Southern Living.

I'll just say up front that this cake is very easy but takes a lot of time to create.  A lot of that time is everything cooling off in the refrigerator.  They should call this Patience Cake

You have three components: the cake layers, a strawberry jam filling and a strawberry frosting.

It will make it easier on you if you start the jam and the cake layers a day or two ahead of serving.

For the Jam

Begin by slicing up or roughly chopping fresh strawberries then mashing them up.  I used my pastry blender to get the mashing job done.

Add sugar, blend and let stand for about half an hour.  (There's 1/2 hour waiting)

Bring this to a boil over medium heat; let boil for 5 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in strawberry gelatin until dissolved.  Let this sit and cool for about an hour (another hour of waiting).

Once cooled pour into a covered container and refrigerate for 8 hours. (we're up to 9-1/2 hours waiting now).

Once the jam is in hibernation you can make the cake layers.

You will be making six 8-inch layers.  I just happened to have 6 throw-away tins so I used those.  They've been taking up cabinet space for more time than they are worth.

Grease and flour each cake pan.

Separate your eggs.  You'll use a lot of eggs in this cake.

Measure out the dry ingredients and the oil, lemon juice and water.

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl then make a well in the center.

Add the oil, lemon juice, water and egg yolks and beat 3 or 4 minutes until smooth.

I mixed up the batter with my hand mixer because I'm going to use the stand mixer for the egg whites.

Sugar and cream of tartar will be added to the egg whites.

Beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar at medium-high until soft peaks form.

Gradually add the sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.

Gently stir about a fourth of the egg white mixture into the cake batter.

Now gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture into the batter.

Spoon batter into the cake pans, dividing equally.

Smooth tops with an offset spatula.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  The instructions called for 12 - 15 minutes of baking time but I baked them for about 20 minutes before a cake tester came out clean.

After resting in the pans for about 10 minutes, remove from pans and allow to cool completely on wire racks, about an hour.  (we're up to 11 hours cooling time now)

I covered the cake layers and began the assembly the next day.  See what I mean about this being a cake "in the waiting"???

Cover a cake board with foil and place one layer on the cake board

Give the chilled jam a good stir and spread about 2/3 cup on top of the first layer, leaving  1/4" border around the edges.

Repeat with the remaining layers but do not spread any jam on the top layer.  You will have jam left over.

Now, wrap the complete assembly in plastic wrap and, you guessed it.....put it in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.  (we now have a tally of 19 to 35 hours of chill time)

Now it's time to ice the cake.  You know, I was so tired of working on this thing that I didn't even take photos of making the frosting.  Again, like every step in this recipe it was very simple and easy; nothing difficult.  The magazine photos of the finished cake showed the icing to be as smooth as a baby's butt.  Mine definitely didn't look as pristine.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that once you ice the cake (yes, you are correct..) it has to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours.

It was impressive and showy

It was also very tasty; but here's the thing...

After the first bite, Lovey and I looked at each other and said, "Tastes just like strawberry shortcake".  And it did.  Lawzy Mercy!  Next time I'm wanting something like this I'll just make shortcake from scratch, cut up some fresh berries and top with whipped cream!

But if you want to make an impressive looking cake that tastes just like strawberry shortcake here is how to do it.

Strawberries and Cream Cake
Adapted from the April 2013 issue of Southern Living
Serves 12

The Strawberry Jam Filling
2 pounds whole strawberries
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin

Wash and slice  or roughly chop strawberries. Using a pastry cutter mash the berries so you have  4 cups mash.

Stir together the strawberries and sugar in a large saucepan; allow to sit and macerate for 30 minutes.

Bring strawberry mixture to a boil over medium heat; boil 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in gelatin until dissolved; cool completely (about 1 hour).  Cover and chill for 8 hours.

The Cake
2 cups sifted cake flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup water
8 large egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease and flour 6 8-inch round cake pans.

Stir together the first 3 ingredients and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of mixture; add the oil, the lemon juice, egg yolks, and water. Beat at medium-high with an electric hand mixer 3-4 minutes or until smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into flour mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon batter into the 6 prepared cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Spread the chilled filling between the cake layers, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges (about 2/3 cup between each layer). Don't spread any filling on the top layer. Cover the cake with plastic wrap, and chill 8 to 24 hours.

The Strawberry Frosting
1 Tbsp. strawberry-flavored gelatin
2 Tbsp. boiling water
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 - 8 ounce container chilled sour cream

Stir together first 2 ingredients in a small bowl; cool completely (about 20 minutes).

Beat whipping cream and gelatin mixture at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Stir in sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring just until blended after each addition. 

Place the chilled, layered cake on a cake plate or stand.  Spread the frosting on top and sides of cake.  Chill 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Baked Meatballs

I took this recipe from Alton Brown. I love the flavor created by the three types of meat that are used. If you have an affinity to lamb, you can use more beef and pork as a substitute.  I personally love lamb. Lovey doesn't know there is lamb in these. Lovey doesn't care for lamb but he gobbles these up. Perhaps he only thinks he doesn't like lamb.

I doubled Alton Brown's recipe so I could freeze them and have them on hand for a last minute supperNow that I'm cooking for Papa (my father-in-law), convenience is a nicety. If you are not planning on freezing any I would recommend halving the recipe.

The meatballs will be flavored by these: Parmesan, dried basil, dried parsley, garlic salt, and red paper flakes


These ingredients will add texture and binding: thawed and squeezed frozen spinach, lightly beaten eggs, and bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are divided in half; one half mixed in with the meat mixture and the other half for coating.

In a large mixing bowl combine your three meats: pork, lamb, and ground chuck.

Once the meats are lightly combined, add the flavorings and binders and mix until incorporated.

Just a note on mixing and shaping.  When you are mixing all of your ingredients, use your hands (I use gloves) and mix with your fingers gently until everything is incorporated.  Don't squeeze like your squishing the heck out of a piece of play dough; you don't want the mixture to be compacted.

Cover the bowl and set the meat mixture in the refrigerator for at least an hour
 After the meat mixture has rested, form into 1-1/2 ounce balls (1 fluid ounce volume scoop) and set aside on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Gently roll each portion into a ball .  Remember, you don't want a rock hard, compacted piece of meat!

In a small bowl place the remaining amount of bread crumbs. One meatball at a time, gently toss in the crumbs to lightly coat.

Place each breaded meatball in the cup of a mini cupcake tin. 

Bake at 400° for about 20 minutes; drain on a paper towel.

At this point you can add to spaghetti sauce or make a meatball sub.

If freezing, place the drained meatballs on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and place in freezer.  Once frozen solid, place meatballs in a plastic freezer bag.

Very easy procedure:  measure & mix, weigh & shape, roll & coat, bake & drain.


Adapted from Alton Brown
Yields approximately 40 meatballs

2 - 5 ounce packages chopped frozen spinach
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. Lawry's Garlic Salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup dried bread crumbs, divided
2 eggs
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground round or chuck
1 pound ground lamb

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Thaw spinach and squeeze out all the liquid that you can.
Grate the Parmesan and measure out the parsley, basil, garlic salt and red pepper flakes.
Divide the bread crumbs in half. 
Lightly beat the eggs.

In a large mixing bowl, lightly combine the three meats.

Add the spinach, Parmesan, parsley, basil, garlic salt, pepper flakes, 1/2 cup bread crumbs and eggs to the meat mixture. With your fingers, mix all the ingredients. Avoid 'squishing' the meat together. You don't want your meat compacted. Use your fingers and combine until everything is evenly mixed.

Allow mixture to rest in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Using a food scale measure out 1-1/2 ounces of meat portions, or use a 1 fluid ounce scoop.  Place portions on a parchment lined sheet pan.  With your hands, gently roll the weighed out portions into balls.

Place each ball into the cup of a miniature muffin tin.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Black Eyed Peas

I posted a black-eyed pea recipe a few New Years ago that was prepared in a slow cooker. This year I cooked them on the stove top

I spent New Years at Papa's this year so I made a small pot for us and his girlfriend.  I found a package of fresh black-eyed peas so soaking them overnight was unnecessary and it made the cooking time a lot shorter.

 My flavorings were onion, jalapeno, garlic and fresh thyme.

I let the vegetables sweat in a little olive oil

then I added this bad boy.  Papa had a honey baked ham for Christmas and I cut the bone out of it.  The honey baked ham bone made a milder broth than a smoked ham hock that I would normally use.

I added some broth, the thyme and the peas.

I threw in a handful of chopped up honey baked ham

After bringing everything to a boil the heat was turned down and the peas simmered about an hour until they were tender but not mushy.

I don't add any salt until the peas are done.  The reason is that I never know how salty the ham or the broth may be.  With this batch, I didn't have to add any at all.

Waiting on the corn muffins to come out of the oven so we can eat a little bit of good luck for 2016!

Stove-Top Cooked 
Serves 6 to 8

1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 large jalapeno pepper
1 large ham bone
5 cups chicken broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound fresh black-eyed peas
 3/4 pound honey baked ham
salt to taste

Mise en Place
  • chop onion
  • mince garlic
  • remove seeds and veins from jalapeno and finely dice the pepper
  • measure broth
  • cube the honey baked ham
Heat Dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil.  Toss in the onion, garlic and the jalapeno.  Allow to sweat for a few minutes; do not let them brown.  Add the ham bone, broth, thyme, black-eyed peas and the cubed ham.  Bring to a boil then turn heat to medium low and allow peas to simmer.

Check the peas for doneness after 1 hour.  Allow to simmer longer if necessary.  You want them to be tender but not mushy and falling apart. Serve with hot corn muffins.