Archive for December, 2011

Creamy Crab Poppers

Creamy Crab Poppers
These pretty appetizers flecked with green & red and full of sweet crabmeat are a holiday favorite. Very good crabmeat is now available all year round. The markets here in Vegas sell it in eight ounce cups. It’s cooked, pasteurized and ready to use right out of the container. We love it for our crab cakes and in these terrific bites loosely based on my current passion, Spanish chicken croquettes.

The creamy seafood filling is a simple thick béchamel sauce. When cooled, the filling hardens sufficiently to be rolled into balls and coated with those crunchy Japanese-style breadcrumbs, panko. When fried, the exterior is crisp, and the interior is luscious and creamy.

I almost always use panko bread crumbs in place of traditional bread crumbs. They remain crispy for hours after frying, perfect for appetizers cooked in advance. Panko can be found in just about every supermarket these days either in the Asian aisle or next to traditional bread crumbs in the baking aisle. We particularly like the Kikkoman brand.

These appetizers are great as is or served with a cocktail or tartar sauce for dipping.

Creamy Crab Poppers
4 tablespoons butter
4 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup light cream (half & half)
1 teaspoon sherry
½ teaspoon minced dehydrated onion
2 tablespoons minced pimiento
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely minced
8 ounces fresh crabmeat
Salt & pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten
Flour for dusting
Panko bread crumbs (Kikkoman)
Oil for shallow pan frying

Melt the butter over medium high heat and add the flour. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the cream, sherry, and onion. Continue to cook over medium heat until mixture is bubbly and form a thick paste. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

When cooled to room temperature, stir the pimiento, parsley and crabmeat into the paste and combine well, Taste for seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste.

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the mixture and refrigerate a few hours until cold and very stiff (this can be done a day ahead, if desired).

Form the paste in to small balls and dust lightly in flour. Roll in the beaten eggs, then coat well in the panko breadcrumbs. Place in the freezer while heating the oil for frying or until ready to cook. Quickly fry in pre-heated medium-high temperature oil until light golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 24 bite-sized appetizers.



Quick Seafood Sauté, Italian Style

Traditional Italian menus for Christmas Eve often feature seven types of seafood served as separate courses. Living a way from reliably fresh seafood and cooking on small scale can make this old-style seven-course affair a little impractical. This fragrant seafood dish is a practical solution. It’s a close first cousin to the San Francisco seafood stew, Cioppino and the French Bouillabaisse, but much easier and scaled down to serve two people.

While the freshest fish and seafood combination will yield the best result, frozen seafood is an acceptable alternative, just purchase the best you can find. However, even in landlocked areas, many large supermarkets these days sell a nice selection of fish and seafood. Don’t let the prospect of purchasing seven different kinds of seafood scare your budget. One and a half pounds of seafood is all that’s needed for this recipe that will feed two people well. A half dozen mussels, a few small clams, a handful of calamari rings, eight large shrimp…you get the idea.

Any combination of shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, small clams, crab, lobster, and firm white fish such as halibut, cod or even salmon will be perfect. Don’t worry if all of these items aren’t available. Just look for the freshest or highest quality. Serve with a crusty loaf of Italian bread for dipping into the delicious broth, a simple tossed salad and a sparkling white wine for a special seafood dish perfect for Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve or any night of the year.

Quick Seafood Sauté, Italian Style
1 ½ lbs assorted raw fish or seafood (all about the same size to cook evenly)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic,finely minced
½ tsp dried tarragon
½ cup white wine
½ cup clam juice or chicken broth
½ cup crushed Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon cold butter
Salt & pepper
Hot pepper flakes (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the shallots and garlic until transparent. Add the tarragon, white wine, broth and tomatoes. Simmer over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

Add the seafood to the pan and continue to simmer for about5-7 minutes, tossing gently a few times, until everything is just cooked through (don’t overcook). Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley & the butter. Swirl the pan to incorporate the butter. Taste for seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste as well as the red pepper flakes, if using.

Divide the seafood and broth into two bowls and serve right away. Serves two.

Japanese Fried Chicken (Kara-Age)

Kentucky doesn’t have a monopoly on fried chicken. Meet Japan’s version, Kara-Age. Pieces of boneless chicken are seasoned in a ginger and soy flavored marinade before being breaded in a thin potato starch coating. The result is something that comes very close to fried chicken teriyaki.

The thin coating of seasoned potato starch becomes thin and crisp, almost tempura like. Cornstarch could be substituted, but lacks the crispness that comes from the potato starch. If potato starch isn’t available to you, look for Kikkoman Kara-Age coating mix in the Asian aisle of your supermarket. The Kikkoman mix makes this even easier. The one-step, no-fuss coating mix is already seasoned, eliminating the marinating, and is very good. The chicken in these photos was prepared using the Kikkoman mix.

Plan to make more than you need. The leftovers are excellent the next day served cold for lunch in a sandwich, or sliced and served on top of mixed salad greens dressed with an Asian sesame/rice wine dressing.

2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic minced
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sherry or Japanese mirin
1 tsp sugar
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 cup potato starch for dusting
oil for shallow pan frying

If using chicken breast, cut the chicken into strips or cubes. If using thighs, cut each into half or thirds if large.

Marinate for 30-45 minutes in the garlic, soy sauce sherry and sugar. Drain any excess marinade from the meat and coat with the potato starch.

Heat enough oil over medium heat to shallow fry the chicken pieces. Fry, turning once or twice until deep golden brown and cooked through.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Almonds

Brussels sprouts have been given a bad reputation by well-meaning cooks hell-bent on overcooking them. When overcooked, Brussels sprouts become mushy, bitter and not very pleasant. When quickly cooked and seasoned with bacon and almonds, they are transformed into a veggie side dish even kids will eat.

Choose firm, bright green sprouts with no blemishes. When squeezed between two fingers, they should feel quite hard.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Almonds
1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts
¼ lb bacon (thick cut is best)
1 shallot, minced
½ cup slivered almonds
Salt & pepper to taste

Trim the Brussels sprouts and remove any bruised outer leaves. Drop into boiling salted water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and drain. When cooled, slice in half (or quarters if your sprouts are very large) and set aside.

Cut the bacon into ½ inch pieces and fry until crisp. Drain off as much of the bacon grease as possible. Add the almonds and minced shallot and cook over medium heat until the shallots are transparent, about 2 minutes.

Add the halved sprouts and sauté for 2-3 minutes or just until the sprouts are barely tender (do not overcook). Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6

Buffalo Roast Chicken

If you love spicy Buffalo chicken wings but are looking for a more substantial version, you’ll love this zesty whole roast chicken infused with Buffalo wing zing. Any brand of one of the bottled Buffalo wing marinades work perfectly for this, but we particularly like the Lawry’s brand. The overnight marinating is quick brine that results in a juicy, flavorful chicken.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have some leftovers. I remove the meat from the bones and chop it finely. Then toss with a bit of minced celery and a dressing made with mayo mixed with blue cheese dressing. It’s a nice twist on the usual chicken salad and is outstanding on crackers or as a sandwich filling.

Buffalo Roast Chicken
1 whole fresh chicken
1-2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 bottle Buffalo wing marinade

The night before, rinse and dry the chicken well with paper towels, removing any excess fat around the cavity opening.

Sprinkle the chicken generously with the seasoned salt, inside and out. Place the chicken in a large ziploc bag large enough to hold the bird and pour ½ of the bottle of marinade over the chicken. Seal the bag and rotate the bag to make sure the marinade reaches all of the bird.

To roast the bird, remove it from the ziploc bag and place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine to help the chicken roast evenly. Roast in a 325 degree oven for approx. 90 minutes, or until the internal temperature taken in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees, generously basting occasionally with the remaining bottled marinade.

Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.