It has been a quiet Winter in our Florida rental home. In the past we have enjoyed so many activities available in New Smyrna Beach. There are weekly weekend events along the main thoroughfares of Flagler Avenue and Canal Street. We have attended antique car shows, art exhibits, wine tastings and Fat Tuesday parades. But this year we have avoided the crowds. But, when Valentine’s Day came around, we traveled back to NC for our Grandson’s birthday and then stopped in Charleston on the way back to Florida. We had a glorious warm and sunny day to explore this quaint town. One of the perennial favorite restaurants is called 82 Queen. They are repudiated to have the best crab cakes in Charleston. We had lunch in the courtyard.
I ordered the appetizer of Crab Cake with Bacon Sautéed Corn and Red Pepper Aioli.
It was delicious and it was fun trying to duplicate this at home. I think I came up with a good recipe combination using recipes found on line and adapting them to our tastes. The below recipe makes a lot. For the two of us I cut it in less than half. It is easy to adjust it to your needs.
Crab Cakes with Bacon Sautéed Corn and Red Pepper Aioli
2 pounds fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1 1/2 cups panko
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lemon, plus more lemon wedges for serving
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For the crab cakes: Gently fold together the crabmeat, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, chives, Dijon mustard, seafood seasoning, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and the juice and zest of one lemon in a large bowl. Refrigerate the crab mixture for 15 minutes to firm up; this allows the breadcrumbs to absorb some of the liquid, helping the crab cakes bind together.
Meanwhile, make the tartar sauce: Combine the mayonnaise, dill pickles, capers, chives, zest and juice of 1 lemon in a medium bowl and mix until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Scoop heaping half cups of the crab mixture and pat into 2 1/2-inch wide patties. Lightly press them together so they do not fall apart while cooking. You should have 8 patties.
Heat 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crab cakes to the pan and cook until golden, about 2 minutes, then flip using a flat metal spatula. Continue to cook until lightly golden, about 1 1/2 minutes then transfer the pan to the oven. Cook until the crab cakes are completely heated through, about 10 minutes.
Bacon Sautéed Corn:
5 slices of bacon , diced
1 16 oz. bag of frozen white shoe peg corn, thawed
Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Sauté corn in bacon dripping until soft, about 10 minutes.
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
2 whole roasted red peppers ( I used Jarred roasted red peppers)
⅔ cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved, or more to taste
1 ½ cups light mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s® Light)
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
Place roasted red peppers and basil in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped and combined. Add lemon juice; pulse 3 times. Scatter garlic halves over mixture; pulse to chop, 4 to 5 times. Add mayonnaise and sugar; pulse until smooth, 5 to 7 times. Season with salt and pepper.
We have foregone visiting many restaurants during this pandemic. The exceptions have been restaurants that have outside seating. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy restaurant meals at home. There are many copycat recipes on the internet. PF Chang’s lettuce wraps are among them. I combined several different recipes to come up with one that suited my tastes.
This adaptation has a hit of heat to it from the chili-garlic paste. It has crunch from the water chestnuts and flavors of the orient from hoison sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger and garlic.
The summer has passed quickly. Many decisions were made with caution in mind. We decided to cancel the family 4th of July celebration. Having 14 people crowded together in our cottage did not seem wise. But when Labor Day rolled around we reconsidered. The family had been careful with contacts and we spent much of our time outside. Meals were simplified so we did not have to spend as much time shoulder to shoulder cooking. But we still managed to have our annual blind wine tasting. Thank you Dave Anderson for the fine selection of Grenache wines.
Welcome to Fall with a toast to good health and a future free of dread.
PF Chang’s Lettuce Wraps
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chili-garlic paste or sambal oelek (less if you don’t like heat)
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
3 green onions, thinly chopped
1 head of Bibb or butter lettuce
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the ground chicken and cook until chicken is browned crumbling as you go.
Add the onion and cook until onion begins to wilt. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir and cook for a few minutes more.
While chicken is browning combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and the chili-garlic paste. Add this mixture to chicken mixture in the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or so to combine flavors.
Add the water chestnuts and cook for a minute more.
Serve in lettuce leaves with the chopped green onions. ( I added a few diced red peppers for color).
It has been a long summer. I haven’t been blogging and I apologize for not letting all of you know that all is well with me. We have been staying at home as many others have also. I just needed a break from social media for a while. But I am back and following all of you again. Thanks Lynne for checking up on me.
I have been cooking, but nothing inspiring or new until I made this pork chop dish. It comes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. My Daughter-In-Law gave me a container of dried gourmet mixed mushrooms for Christmas and they led me to search out recipes including dried mushrooms.
This is not a quick recipe. Several steps are required. But I have the time. My days have fallen into a new rhythm. Mornings are spent on necessary chores or trips to the grocery store. Early afternoons are spent reading or binge watching Netflix shows. I have seen every episode of The Great British Baking Show and I’m working my way through each season of NCIS. But at 4:00 P.M. I am usually in the kitchen. I like the concept of “slow cooking”. Working my way through a recipe that requires slow deliberate steps is calming.
The braised pork chops are flavored with white wine, tomatoes, heavy cream, the dried mushrooms and fresh button mushrooms. It is a dish worth the time.
Braised Pork Chops with Tomatoes, Cream, and Porcini Mushrooms
1 ounce (1/2 cup) dried porcini or other dried mushrooms soaked in 2 cups of warm water for at least 30 minutes.
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds pork chops, preferably from the center loin, cut 3/4 inch thick
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained and cut up
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
The filtered water from the mushroom soak
1/2 pound fresh white button mushrooms
Choose a sauté pan that can subsequently accommodate all the chops without overlapping. Put in 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, turn on the heat to medium high, and when the oil is hot, slip in the chops. Brown the meat deeply on one side, the do the other.
Add the white wine, letting it simmer briskly for 15 to 20 seconds, while using a wooden spoon to scrape loose any browning residues in the pan. Add the tomatoes, cream, salt and pepper the cup-up reconstituted drained porcini mushrooms. (Save the soaking water). Turn the heat down to cook at a very gentle simmer, and cover the pan, setting the lid on slightly ajar.
Cook for 45 minutes, or more, depending on the exact thickness and quality of the chops, until the meat feels tender when prodded with a fork. Turn the chops from time to time.
While the chops are cooking, put the filtered water from the porcini mushroom soak into a small saucepan, and boil it down to about 1/3 cup.
Wash the fresh white mushrooms rapidly under cold running water and wipe them thoroughly dry with a soft cloth towel. Cut them into very thin lengthwise slices without detaching the caps from the stems.
Choose a sauté pan that can contain the fresh mushrooms without crowding them. Put in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and turn on the heat to high. When the oil is hot, put in the mushrooms. Stir them frequently, adding salt and pepper. When the liquid they will shed has boiled away, add the reduced filtered water from the porcini soak, and continue to stir frequently until there is no more liquid in the pan. Take off heat.
When the pork chops are tender, add the cooked mushrooms to their pan. Turn the chops and mushrooms, cover the pan again, and continue cooking for 5 to 8 minutes always over moderate heat. Transfer the entire contents of the pan to a warm platter and serve at once.
Carne Guisada is a Tex-Mex dish whose translation is “Stewed Meat”. In Josef Centeno’s new cookbook, Amá; a Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen there is no doubt that this stew shines in its simplicity. It is nothing more than beef chunks cooked with chilis, spices, tomatoes and beef broth. The 3 hours in the oven meld the flavors and soften the meat into succulent pieces.
The chef/ author, grew up having these tacos for breakfast. This makes so much sense. Folding soft meat, flavored with Mexican spices into a sturdy flour tortilla works well as breakfast in the back seat of a car on the way to school.
But we enjoyed the Carne Guisada for dinner. I have to admit that I ended up adding some condiments like cheese, onions, peppers and lettuce. They made enough that we can have then again over rice, in a bowl with tortilla chips or over scrambled eggs. I love that we can make many meals from this recipe. By the way, if you don’t have the right chilis just use what you have. I used jalepeños and 1 serrano.
2 Ancho chilis
4 Tbls oil
2 1/2 to 3 lbs boneless short ribs or chunk roast, cubed in 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
1/2 tsp sea salt
5 garlic cloves
1 Serrano chili, stemmed, seeded and finally chopped
1 Tbls oregano- preferably Mexican oregano
1 1/2 tsp cunim seed
1 tsp chili powder
2 bay leaves
2 Tbls flour
3 cups beef broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes
If using ancho chiles: using tongs, toast over open flames of a gas burner until slightly softened and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stem and seed the chilis and tear into pieces. If using jalapeños: Stem seed and chop.
Heat 2 Tbls. oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add beef and brown in batches on all sides. Remove to a plate.
Add remaining 2 Tbls. oil to the pot. When oil is hot, add onions, chilis and salt and cook over medium heat, scraping up brown bits of meat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin seeds, chili powder, bay leaves and pepper and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Add the flour and stir to incorporate. Add the beef cubes and their juices back to the pan. Stir. Add the beef broth and tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil.
Transfer the pot to a preheated 300 degree F. oven and cook for about 3 hours.
A clafouti is a French egg dish. It is usually a sweet batter with cherries or other fruit. Melissa Clark, of the New York Times, recently came out with a new cookbook called Dinner in French; My Recipes by Way of France. In it, she shared this recipe for a savory clafouti with peppers, ham and cheese It is perfect for a Sunday brunch. We have made it twice so far; two Sundays in a row. Adjusting to quiet solitary living has mixed results. We miss meeting with friends, dining in restaurants, shopping and traveling to visit family. But the slow pace of being home has allowed us to relax, read, enjoy the lake and plan, cook and eat interesting meals.
The second time that we made this clafouti we used cooked sausage instead of the ham and roasted red peppers from a jar in addition to the sweet green peppers. But both times we used lots of fresh basil since I have a pot of basil sitting on my kitchen windowsill. You can use anything you have on hand for good results.
I almost skipped the suggestion to garnish the finished dish with crushed red pepper flakes and a squeeze of lemon. Do not ignore this suggestion. The heat of the pepper flakes and freshness of the lemon juice just made it all better. Whatever we can do to “make it all better” is important right now. From my isolated home to yours.
SWEET PEPPER AND CHEDDAR CLAFOUTI
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup Crème fraîche or Sour Cream
4 large eggs
2 1/2 Tbls. flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely grated sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
2 oz. sliced ham, chopped
2 Tbls. olive oil
3 sweet peppers, preferabley different colors, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch strips
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh lemon juice, for serving
Crushed red pepper flakes, for serving
Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, crème fraîche or sour cream, eggs, flour, basil, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheddar and ham.
In a 9″ ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the peppers and cook until they are softened and golden at the edges, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and remaining 1/4 tsp salt and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Scrape the egg mixture into the skillet, and top it with the 1/4 cup remaining cheddar and the Parmesan. (Or, for a more elegant presentation, scrape the vegetables into a gratin or casserole dish and add the egg mixture and cheese to that). Bake until the eggs are set 35 to 40 minutes. (Mine took 45 minutes). Cool slightly then top with the lemon juice and red pepper flakes.