Monday, July 29, 2013

The Ceviche Rule - Crab II

In the midst of all this crab, I have long wanted to make crab ceviche.

The first time I tried I thought I'd go with all-the-way-raw crab.  There is one extremely major problem with that.  As far as I can tell, there is no way to get raw crab meat, in any significant amount, out of the shell.  How do I know this?  Bitter, bitter, frustrating experience.  The meat of the crab holds on to the interior of the shell with startling tenacity.

Blanch.  Blanching is my friend (and yours too).  Relax that angry crab, and get yourself what you need to make crab ceviche instead of killing yourself for about 5 chips worth.

I admit it looks good,
but you are looking at
about 1/5 of the whole thing!

Now ceviche is one of those things that can be done tons of ways.  But as long as you follow a few basic rules, you can mix and match ingredients based on what's on hand, and what you like best.

1st - the Crab Ceviche recipe and then 2nd a general rule for ceviche in general.

Dungeness Crab Ceviche

1 dungeness crab
1 shallot (or 1/4 of a small purple onion)
2 garlic cloves
1 red jalapeño pepper
4-5 limes and/or lemons
1/2 avocado
handful herbs - cilantro, basil parsley are my faves.
salt to taste

crab cracker, or kitchen shears
cutting board
medium glass or ceramic bowl
citrus reamer (or other juice extracting device)

Get an inch of water to boil in a covered pot big enough to easily hold your crab.  Pop in your crab for a steam.  2 min for a pre-cleaned crab 3.5 min for a whole crab.  This won't cook the crab through, but will cook the meat enough to remove it easily.  Remove the crab and set it aside to cool.

Cut the lemons/limes in half, and get the juice out - you are looking for about 3/4 cup.

Use the cracker and a couple of the pointy toes to liberate the crab from the shell.  Get the cartilage and shell out.

About 1.5C crab.
If you don't have dungeness, you'll need more than 1 crab 
Add the citrus juice to the crab, and let it sit for 30 - 90 minutes.

Cube the avocado half (Check this HINT! out for picking out a good one, and making it look nice.)

Cut up all your other ingredients small.

Remove the white ribs and the seeds from the chili if you don't want lots of spice.  (Leave some in for some kick.  Careful about overpowering the crab.)
Stir together all the plant ingredients.  Add the cooked crab.  Then add enough juice to balance the flavors.  Make sure there is enough salt to make the flavors taste great, but not so it tastes salty.

I love serving mine on corn chips (as you may have noticed...)

Bonus Note:  If all you can find is that "pasteurized" or fresh picked crab, just stir all the goodies together and serve - INSTANTLY.  (You won't need as much lime juice.)

The Ceviche Rule
Ceviche works for seafood generally since it tends to have little or no fat incorporated in the muscle (meat).  You'll notice there is never "xxx-belly" ceviche.  And if you do ever see it, run the other way.  The acid in ceviche (the citrus) denatures or cooks the proteins, but does snap-all for fat.  And there are few times we westerners dig cold animal fat, much less wet, sour animal fat.

So - whatever seafood you have, here are the rules you need to follow to wow your friends, or cook something awfully nice for yourself.

basics ingredients:
for 1lb fish and/or shellfish

1C citrus juice
2 cloves garlic - minced
about 3 Tbs finely chopped onion (purple or sweet is best)
finely diced chili to taste
salt to taste

accessories - extras many people like.

a splash of oil to smooth things out
torn or chiffonade herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley)
spicer chilies or a dash of a vinegary hot sauce
cilantro, basil, parsley or other herbs

"cooking" time:

raw fish - 1/4" cube about 1 - 2 hours
                1/2" cube about 2 - 4 hours

same with scallops, conch, whatever you decide to go with.
(psst - whole clams and oysters won't work - too many things that aren't muscle - don't do that to yourself)

not really worth doing larger bits, but if you want to - soak it until it is firm.
And if you want to soak it longer - it may get a little hard.  Careful.

If you want to stop the soaking, but it's not serving time yet, pour off the citrus juice, let the fish hang out with the other stuff, and then add back in a little juice at serving time.  Keep it cold!

blanched shellfish (crabs, lobster, shrimp)

soak about an hour, but check at 30 minutes.
Depending on the size of your pieces, it may not take the whole time.
Again - a little extra time in the juice isn't going to hurt anything, but leaving it in there forever will make it too firm, and you'll likely lose the seafood flavor.  So if it before serving time, just keep it cold out of the juice until serving time.

Keep these proportions - and mix in what else you like - you'll be in great shape.

Picking the perfect avocado

Dang it!

First, stay away from anything that feels soft as a baseball.
Second, say no to things that feel like they are already guacamole in an avocado skin.

Great - so that's staying away from the worst, but you haven't answered the question.
 How do you pick out the perfect avocado?

Find the ones that have a little give.  And then find the one that does this:

When the little button comes off, that's the timer that tells you READY!

So how to cut it up nicely?

Cut around the seed, twist it in half.  Pop the knife into the seed and twist it out.
(AaaaaahhHHHHhhhh!  How do I get the knife of the seed.  DON'T PULL!!!!

Over the dull side of the knife, push DOWN on the seed with your thumb and forefinger.  Sort of pinch it off.  So safe I let my boy do it!)

Gently cut slices or cubes.

And peel off the shell.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Better Potato Salad - Sauerkraut Style

Sauerkraut Potato Salad

The first potatoes of the season arrived in my CSA, and they looked so GOOD!  And it was hot.  And a cold potato dish sounded like a great idea.  But not so, what's the word I want, Nasty.  And while futzing around with my veggies, trying to tetris them all into the fridge, I started (suffered from?) an imaginary conversation with my potatoes.

Me:  Hey!  Potato salad. Yeah, you there. The one in the bright yellow mayonnaise. Come here. Talk to me. What's up?  Potatoes have the ability to be fluffy and creamy, addictive when fried and salted, yet this... This is a disgrace. 

Potato: Look. This is a mistake. We're suffering from a hangover from the 1940's. 

Me: Wow. That must have been one heck of a bash. 

P: Well, uh, see there were some big changes in the 40's.  There was a massive shift from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, and, well "salad" turned out to be a casualty. 
It went from a delightful cold dish, often handy because you could make it ahead, to any old mixture of stuff glued together with mayonnaise. 

Me: Huh?

P: Well, look at tuna salad, chicken salad, Waldorf salad, pasta salad, egg salad, (cough ukh), ham salad...

Me: I believe I'm starting to get the picture.  It's not the material, it's the easily available mayo.

P: Hellman's has much to answer for. 

Me: Kraft?

P: I don't want to talk about it. 

Me:  So potatoes like to be dressed...

P:  But not drowned. We like some decoration, but no potato wants to feel like it's doing the mud-spa thing, where we have to be unearthed. 

Me: So no more mayo?

P: Mayo isn't even the problem. It's more like people use mayo like they bought it on sale.  I wish they'd use it like they had to hand whip it from eggs they gathered themselves. OK, thats a little precious of me. Sparingly. That's what I really want. Potatoes dig the creamy-salty-savory, we just ask to be heard, not covered up, glorping for a little air. 

Me: How do you feel about sour?

P: Love the sour. Being a Chip in a duo with Fried fish is especially awesome, 'cuz sometimes we get to dip in a particularly skillful Tartar Sauce, maybe get splash with a little malt vinegar. 

Me: Well, I have this jar of sauerkraut. 

P: what kind?  Vinegar?

Me: Nothin' doing. Well drained, small batch, fermented crunchy stuff. A local kid made good!

P:  You do know sauerkraut and I had kind of a history.  

Me:  Let's see if I can do the tradition justice. 

Sauerkraut Potato Salad 
with pan fried chicken apple sausage slices. 

This made a hearty dinner for 2, multiply for more diners. 

4 fist sized potatoes (or equivalent.)
handful of dill
1/2 C plain yogurt (thicker is better)
1/4 of a purple onion
1/2 C sauerkraut
salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken apple sausages

butting board
large pot
salad bowl
slotted spoon (colander optional)
scrubby brush
measuring cups
sauté pan
spatula (or tongs)

Put the pot on to boil
Scrub the potatoes and cut them into large bite-size pieces. About 12ths or so.
When the pot comes to a boil, add a large pinch of salt and the potatoes.  Set the timer for 10 minutes (yes, that'll be too soon, but will give you a feel for how much longer.)

While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop the dill, and the onion into small pieces.  Place them into the salad bowl and stir these into the sauerkraut.  Add the yogurt a spoonful at a time until you like the way it all blends together. Add salt until all the flavors pop out. (But not enough to make it taste salty.)
Slice the sausages into 4 or 5 diagonal pieces.

That potato timer goes off. Pull out a piece and check it. If it is close, check again in 2 min.  Still rock hard, try again in 5. 
When your potatoes are cooked but still firm (not crunchy, but not mushy), get them out of the water.
Add the hot potatoes to the dressing.
Let them soak while you pan fry the sausages until they have crispy edges.

Serve the sausages with the sauerkraut potato salad.

Make this salad ahead (up to overnight) to be served with anything barbecue, especially if it has a sweet tang to it.

Any sausage works.  I'd just urge you to choose something sweetish to play up against the sour in the salad. There's a lamb & plum sausage once that totally fit the bill.

If you can get your hands on a curry sauerkraut, try this with a grilled tofu and a teriyaki type sauce.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Super Simple Waffles

Some things are best when you don't over-think.

Waffles are definitely that.  There are fancier recipes, but none faster - and likely to make you happy every time.

Basic Waffles
Use this amount for two adults and 1 or 2 small kids.  For bigger kids, or more people, double it.


1 C flour
1.5 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 Tbs butter
1 C milk


waffle iron
medium bowl
cereal sized bowl
measuring cups and spoons
1/4 cup measure
small bowl for melting butter
vegetable oil and brush - or spray to oil the waffle iron


Melt the butter in the microwave in a very small microwave safe bowl.  Set aside to cool to the touch, but not harden.
Measure out all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) into the medium bowl.  Use the fork to quickly stir them together.


Turn on the waffle iron to medium.  Oil the plates.
While the waffle iron is heating, break the egg into the cereal bowl, and beat with the fork.  Add about half the milk and stir them together.  Add the butter, stir that in too.  Dump these liquids into the dry ingredients, stir about 5 times with the fork.  Add some or all of the rest of the milk to make a pourable and slightly lumpy batter (about 10 more stirs - no more!).

Use the 1/4 cup measure to pour batter into the center of the heated, oiled waffle iron.
Check the result of the first one when your indicator says "Done!"
Use a little more or less batter, and possibly adjust the temperature setting to get what you want.


Blueberry Waffles - Add the batter as usual, but just before closing the lid, scatter a handful or two of berries over the batter.  Fresh or frozen are fine.  Raspberries and Blackberries work too.  Very large berries benefit from being cut in half.

Ham Waffles - Super "breakfast for dinner" fodder.  Cut about 1 C of cubes from thickly sliced ham.  (Ask for 2-3 1/4" thick pieces at the deli counter).  Sprinkle them in the same way blueberries are sprinkled in.  Bacon is also acceptable.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sauerkraut Salad Dressing

Summer Time is Salad Time!

I've been getting some of the most delicious sauerkraut in my CSA boxes, and enjoying it with sausage and the spicy "kim chi"type with Korean short ribs.  But the sour, crunchy, tingly stuff deserves more exposure, and we got these delicious sweet Nantes carrots in the CSA box.

fat, stubby and super sweet!

They are so sweet and fresh that I didn't want to waste any tender crunchiness by using my carrot peeler.

So I gave then a good scrub with the trusty brush I go just for the purpose:

 And then using my knife to just scrape off the few hairy roots that were clinging on, and maybe a bit of the tougher surface skin:
You can see little bits of the scraped skin on the knife and cutting board.
So I needed to figure out a way to bring together the carrot and the tasty, tasty, crunchy, lip-smacky sauerkraut.  Now pickled carrots are a good thing, so I figured the two should go together, but the sweet of the carrots needed a little more salty to go with the sauerkraut, and maybe a little creamy to smooth out the flavor.  Which is how I came up with this fermentation three-fer:

Sauerkraut Salad Dressing

Oly-Kraut Sauerkraut (start with one of the "plain" flavors, rather than a "spicy" one.)
soy sauce

cutting board
small bowl 

Take a couple of spoonfuls of sauerkraut, and chop it so there are no big pieces, and scrape it into the bowl.  

Add just enough yogurt to coat the sauerkraut.
Then gently drip the soy sauce in until the salty, sour and creamy balance each other.
Add to a salad of crispy, crunchy, sweet vegetables and some fresh sweet lettuce leaves.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Five Spice Garlic Crab - on a Boat

Ever have that wok-fried, still in the shell, spicy garlic crab at a Chinese restaurant?

I have, twice.  This is not the sort of thing your average, neighborhood, week-night, take-out joint is going to have.  First of all, this doesn't take out. Second, it has to be done with fresh, live crab.  It doesn't work anywhere near as well if you just douse already cooked crab with the flavors.  And it should be eaten as soon at you can handle the crab.

What I'm trying to say is, getting this at a restaurant is kind of an event.  Just finding a restaurant that makes this specialty is an important start.  And then getting there may be an ordeal.  (The second time I got my hands on such a specialty was in Boston's China Town.  So yes, getting to the restaurant was something of an ordeal.)  And both these restaurants were well known for their food - and thus required a reservation, or an ocean of patience for a walk-in table, if that had even been available.

But if you find yourself with a decently large burner on a boat (or kitchen that is crab adjacent), a wok-ish pan, 
There's the pan on my awesome Force-10 stove
(mine's a sauce pan/sauté pan cross that kinda works like a wok), enough oil, a head of garlic, salt and some Five-Spice powder, when you pull up some crabs - well then nothing could be easier.  

Well, throwing them back is easier, and steaming them whole is easier, and so is building a small IKEA bookshelf.  But it is totally doable.

I suppose you can also round up the same ingredients at home, and pick up 2 live Dungeness crabs at the fish market/counter, but where's the sense of adventure?  OK, I will concede live crabs in the kitchen is pretty adventurous.

So how does this go down?

You need some decent crab-handling skills, though rubber-banded claws help.  For a quick video on how to clean live crabs, check out this earlier post. (crab dispatching - boat optional, a dock or deck edge or  railing actually works better.)

Once the crab is split and cleaned, Use scissors or a cleaver (or your bare hands... grrrrrrrrr!) to cut the crab legs into segments at the joints.

Discard the pointy tip toes - they have no meat - or not enough to pursue.
Though the toes make great tools for picking out meat if you don't have picks.
Try to cut the joints cleanly to minimize this:
Try to keep the meat IN the shell so it doesn't get overcooked

Chop/cut the cleaned, de-legged body into 4-6 chunks. 

The shell is pretty thin, you can snip around if
cutting it like this seems to crush the body.

Then follow this recipe:

Five Spice Garlic Wok Fried Crab

1 - 2 Dungeness Crabs* cleaned and cut up as described above.
1 head garlic
1-2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp salt
several grinds black pepper
1/4 C oil

Wok or other large bowl shaped pan
Large stirring spatula
Slotted spoon
Paper towels
Serving platter
Crab cracking device (nut crackers and pliers work in an emergency)

Set the cleaned, split crab to the side.  Break up the head of garlic, and get all the big cloves (don't worry about the annoying, tiny ones in the center).  Smack each of the cloves hard enough to crack the skin (heel of your hand, bottom of a pot, etc.).
Peel them and slice them thinnish.  The garlic pieces need to be small enough to fry into garlic chips, but big enough to not burn instantly, nor drive you insane when you need to retrieve them.  6-8 slices per clove is a good guess.
Set out the paper towels, ready for draining the fried garlic.
Measure out the salt and spice and mix together.

Heat the oil in the wok over high heat.  Use a garlic slice as a temperature gauge. When it starts to get crispy, turn the heat back to med-high, pluck it out, and add the sliced garlic.  Stir to get it crispy, but still blond. 
Remove the garlic chips onto the paper towels to drain.
Turn the heat back to high, and place 1/3 - 1/2 of the crab in the oil.  There needs to be plenty or room to stir fry the crab.  After the shell turns red (this happens quickly), sprinkle on 1/3 - 1/2 of the spice-salt.  Keep stirring for about 2 minutes. 
Remove the cooked crab to the serving platter, and repeat until all the crab has been cooked.
Sprinkle the garlic chips back over and serve.

Eat with your hands.  Have a shell bowl and plenty of non-special napkins (paper towels) on hand.

Garlic noodles and a mess of sautéed spinach would go great with this. 
A crisp white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling, dry Chardonnay)  or a dry Chinese Beer all go great with such a thing as well.