Thursday, July 29, 2010

Seafood Ciopinno... Does it get any better!

Living here in Murrells Inlet SC, South Carolina's seafood capital is very exciting if you are a chef or anyone who loves fresh fish and shellfish. At the local fish markets here you can buy fresh shrimp, (which are running now...yea!) oysters from up north, and an array of fresh fish like grouper, triggerfish, king or Spanish mackerel, cobia, black sea bass, different varieties of snapper, flounder, you name its pretty much being caught right now. I'm like a kid in a candy store when I walk into these markets! When I lived on the west coast, one of my favorite things to eat was a good seafood Ciopinno, rich, delicious, loaded with the days catch and a slice of good crusty buttered bread, well I can taste it now as I write this story! Now that I'm living on the opposite coast I still love this dish but make it with all of the bounty from the Atlantic. Fresh shrimp, clams, mussels, grouper, scallops and blue crabs. This recipe is a good one and is easily made, just don't over cook your seafood and serve it with some good crusty buttered bread and a nice glass of wine.  Enjoy......


1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup butter
1 large onion -- chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley -- chopped
4 cloves garlic -- chopped
2 cups red wine -- dry
2 cups plum tomatoes -- chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 whole bay leaf
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper -- freshly ground
dash Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 cups clam juice


2 large blue crab -- fresh, cleaned and split
12 fresh mussels -- in shell
8 large shrimp -- shell on
12 whole clams -- in the shell
1/2 pound scallops -- fresh
1/2 pound grouper fillets -- cut into pieces


Heat oil and butter in a large pot. Add onion, parsley, and garlic and cook until onion is transparent. Add red wine and cook an additional five minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, tomato paste, bay leaves and seasonings. Stir frequently while cooking 15 to 20 minutes. Add clam juice, cover, and simmer for a half hour.

Add all seafood except grouper and scallops to the sauce. Add water if necessary. Cook for five minutes, add grouper and scallops and cook an additional ten minutes. When clams have opened, cioppino is ready. To serve, divide seafood evenly between four bowls and ladle broth over the seafood and sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley. Serve at once with a good loaf of crusty bread and a good bottle of wine.

Oyster Po' Boys

I actually dreamt of this sandwich for a week before we finally made it. Oyster po' boys were on my mind morning, noon, and night. Big fat oysters from Crisfield, Maryland tossed in a spicy buttermilk, then dredged in a seasoned corn meal and flour mixture. Deep fried in canola oil(I should pretend I am thinking about my health). Six inch hoagie bun toasted golden brown with real butter, horseradish tartar sauce, fresh tomatoes from the garden, crispy leaf lettuce, and shaved sweet red onion. On the side a tangy cole slaw and steak cut french fries. This vision so exacting, it made my wife nervous as she started this treat. She started by marinating the plump oysters in buttermilk, hot sauce, and Old Bay seasoning for half an hour or so. Heating the oil to between 350 and 375 degrees (using a candy thermometer), a nervous anticipation builds as she dredges the drained oysters and tosses them in a spicy corn meal making sure they are fully coated. Next she drops them one by one into the hot oil, sizzle sizzle they go as she is careful not to overload the pot. A mere three minutes later these crispy coated jewels are ready to load onto our po' boys. Buns toasted, vegies cut, sauce and sides made, we carefully assemble the vision into reality, but could the expectation be satisfied. I had been building this sandwich in my mind , over and over for a week. First bite was heaven, the second bite even better, my wife had done an incredible job of interpreting my dream. Now we are talking of catfish, shrimp or walleye po' boys....give it a try and until next time.....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Curras Nuevo Cuisine

I am living right now in Murrells Inlet SC and every now and then I get a hankering for Mexican food. So I find a Mexican restaurant with good reviews and away I go. After I get my basket of most of the time stale chips and some kind of generic salsa (probably out of a can) and my dry tamales, beans and rice, I am convinced all Mexican restaurants are owned by the same person, order from the same company because the food all tastes the same from Myrtle Beach SC to Lincohnton NC to Columbus OH and they all have pretty much the same menus!  Disappointing!
Well folks I have found a little slice of authentic Mexico in Asheville NC! That's right you heard me, Asheville NC! Curras Nuevo Cuisine, and I will add a link so you can find it and check out there menu. The first time I went there I had a hard time finding it. I drove past it a couple of times and finally after asking someone for the third time I found it. It was a little building and kind of looked like a house not a restaurant. When I walked in the scene was just the opposite, bright, colorful walls with original Mexican art and a very comfortable feel to it. I was sat and my server Dawn gave me the rundown on the menu, specials and talked me into a few margaritas, (great selection of tequilas by the way) which were delicious, especially the Oaxacan margarita made with jalapeno peppers, Fantastic!
I started with a trio of small tamales, all different and were amazing, creamy and the sauces were right on the money. My entree, I had marinated braised pork with plantains, black beans, rice and homemade tortillas. one of the best meals I've had in a long time. But wait! I haven't talked about desert.
The Picture tells the story, the best flan the world has ever set eyes on, as someone commented about it on there website. They are absolutely right, it is the best flan I have ever eaten anywhere, period, end of story. Its indescribable, its heaven, its ridiculous! I judge every other flan that I eat by it and nothing comes close. Of course I won't get the recipe but some things are better left a secret. I would rather just go there and eat it. So if you are ever in Asheville NC go there, and enjoy this little gem of a place, you will thank me. Enjoy.........

Want to know more? Here is their link:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Insalata Caprese

They are here now in Ohio in abundance, glorious tomatoes. My Favorite way to eat them is slice them a little sea salt and some crushed red pepper flakes. My second most favorite is Insalata Caprese, that classic combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, salt and cracked black pepper, chiffonade of basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Some of us go a step further and add a drizzle of balsamic syrup, this is an abomination in the eyes of Caprese purists, but it makes me happy so whatever. This platter is great to enjoy alone or a large group and lends itself well to sharing and friends. A few tips make sure your tomatoes never see the inside of a refrigerator. This cold blast will destroy the true flavor and character of the tomato. Your basil should have been grown in the ground, not the tasteless hydroponic variety. Your olive oil should be extra virgin, try to stay away from the olive/vegetable oil blends. Your salt should be sea salt, but you can use kosher in a pinch. Your pepper should be fresh ground, your choice black, white, green, pink or a blend of different peppercorns. Your fresh mozzarella should be buffalo, but then again if you want to substitute boursin or baby goat, feel free it is your salad. Last but not least the balsamic syrup, some people like it on the salad and some people do not. I feel the additional acid from the vinegar helps cut the richness of the olive oil and the cheese. If you want to make your own syrup, it is quiet easy start with a quart of balsamic vinegar , add 1/2 cup of brown sugar, mix, place over medium heat and reduce by 75% or until you are left with a cup of syrup. Let cool and transfer to a storage vessal , a glass bottle or plastic squirt bottle until needed for your salad...or a bowl of ice cream or strawberries (that is another entry). So go out and enjoy the fruits of summer, yes tomato is botannically a fruit...until next time

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Moist, Delicious Heath Bar, Pecan, Chocolate Chunk Brownies!

There is nothing quite like a moist, gooey homemade brownie. One of these homemade brownies and an ice cold glass of milk, well does it get any better? I have been making these brownies for years and quite frankly they are amazing. This recipe is very simple to make. You can half the recipe if you like with the same results and you can double it as well if you are baking for a crowd.  I can tell you this, if you make them they won't be around long! Enjoy.....


4 cups Nestle semi sweet morsels
1 # unsalted butter
12 eggs
5 cups flour
4 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp vanilla
4 cups pecan pieces
2 12 oz bags of heath bar toffee bits
3 11.5 oz Nestle chocolate chunks


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter and 4 cups semi sweet morsels together.  When melted, add eggs and whisk until smooth.
In separate mixing bowl add flour, sugar and baking soda mixing thoroughly.
Add egg and chocolate mixture to flour mixture and add vanilla, pecan pieces, toffee bits and chocolate chunks.
Mix batter with wooden spoon until all is incorporated. Do not over mix batter.
Line two 13x18x1” sheet pans with parchment paper and spray parchment with cooking spray. Scrape out batter onto sheet pans and using a spatula smooth out batter to edges of pans.
Bake brownies in preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool brownies and cut into squares. Eat them as fast as you can! Lol

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Twist and suck!....It's that easy

I remember my first time. I had never done anything like this before. Oh sure I had eaten clams, mussels, oysters on the halfshell, lobster, stone crab claws, king crab legs, crab boils and all sorts of soft shell preparations, but never crayfish. I had hunted them in creeks and streams as a boy, but never eaten them. So out with a group of chef friends we order them, not the frozen, then thawed inferior Chinese crap, but the high quality fresh crawdaddies from Louisiana. I remember the anticipation as the waitress places the large platter in front of us. "How do you eat these things I ask?"...I had eaten prawns with shell and head on, but this was different. With a smile she said "well honey you just twist and suck", I blushed and was stunned. I regained my composure and said "show me". She picked up a crayfish and deftly twisted the head off and sucked out the rich goodness from inside the head section and then twisted off the tail, gave it a twist and extracted the sweet crawfish meat in one move, ate it, licked her lips and said "that's all there is to it, twist and suck." I was awestruck as she walked away while my friends howled in laughter at my expense. I learned a valuable lesson that day and enjoy these little crustaceans more than shrimp, prized for their sweetness. Go to the fish market and get a mess of crawdads, some cajun seasoning, corn on the cob, redskin potatoes a big pot, some ice cold beer and gather your friends for a crayfish boil. When the greenhorns in the group ask how to eat these things just tell them twist and suck!....Until next time..

Farm Market

They are all around you now from the established city farmer's markets to the guy selling watermelons and fresh corn out of the back of his truck. I am talking farm fresh produce sold by the farmers themselves. Peaches, tomatoes, sweet corn, squashes and peppers of all shapes and sizes. This is as fresh as it gets, picked in the morning and sold in the afternoon. Inspiration instantly sets in with the sights and smells. What will you make? Insalata caprese or grilled watermelon with feta salad. Grilled sweet corn with jalapeno butter or skillet corn. Go to your local farm stand and support your local agriculture some fresh peaches and local honey, let the kiddies chew fresh honeycomb and see if they ever want candy again. Blueberry pie or strawberry shortcake what will it be? Dust off those cookbooks, call grandma or Aunt Ruth, go online or check out the food network..riff on the recipes make them your own. It all starts with a trip to the farmer's market. Until next time......

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eggs Benedict.....Yum!

I love breakfast. It is my favorite meal of the day and gives me what I need to make it until suppertime. One of my weaknesses for breakfast is Eggs Benedict! The reason is, there are so many variations of the dish it never gets boring. The classic eggs Benedict is made by splitting and toasting an english muffin, topping it with a piece of cooked ham or bacon, a couple of poached eggs and napping it with some hollandaise sauce. It is simply delicious!
 Most people out there only eat this dish at a restaurant because they believe it to be a daunting task to make the dish at home, well its not. Poaching an egg is really very is how.
In a small to medium, shallow sauce pan add enough water to fill the pan two thirds full. Add to the water about 2 tbsp of vinegar (this will help prevent the disbursement of the egg white in the water). Bring the water to a simmer. In a small bowl crack an egg making sure not to break the yolk. Gently slide the egg into the simmering water and cook two and a half to three minutes. With a slotted spoon remove the egg from the water and place on top of you english muffin and ham and top it with your hollandaise sauce and enjoy.
The perfect poached egg with have a fully cooked white and a soft runny yolk. Here are some of the variations that I do to this dish.....Add different meats like prosciutto ham, a good black forest ham, sausage patties, corn beef hash, smoked salmon, fried oysters, andouille sausage. Here are some thing I use instead of meat. Diced up artichoke hearts, creamed or fresh wilted spinach, fresh sliced tomatoes, fried green tomatoes, fried potatoes and I have even used leftover roasted fresh beets!
If you are not a fan of english muffins use toast or a biscuit. I like to take a nice baguette and slice it in half and spread a little garlic butter on it and pan fry it until it is golden and then add your meat, eggs and sauce. All nicely on one piece of bread!
 Whether you make your sauce from scratch or by it in a package, here are a few tips for your hollandaise sauce.  How about folding in some crumbled, cooked chorizo sausage, have any leftover marinara, or fresh salsa? Warm it up and fold it into your sauce....The possibilities are left up to you and your tastes. So some Sunday morning when you have a little extra time on your hands, go ahead and make this classic dish and make it your own, you will be glad you did!  Enjoy

Want to know about the history of this dish follow the link: