Sunday, August 31, 2008

Il Capriccio; I Still Have So Much To Learn

Somethings you suspect. Others you just know.

A couple of Fridays ago Crabby was on the road and found himself back in Boston. Whenever I get back home, there are a couple of "must dos" on my list. First, there's visiting WWBob. A quick visit to Harkey's Wines in Millis always yields great memories and a few great wines. Since I was traveling overland this visit, I was also able to bring back a few rarities to the Midwest homestead, but more on that another time.

Number 2 is a dinner out with WWBob. Over the years WWB has introduced me to a number of restaurants and chefs in the greater Boston area. One of the best is Il Capriccio in Waltham, Massachusetts. The restaurant is co-owned by Head Chef Richie Barron and Sommelier & Maitre d' Jeannie Rogers.

Richie, educated at the Culinary Institute of America and one-time sous chef at Boston's renowned Park Plaza Hotel, prepares seasonal ingredients with a Northern Italian twist. Complimenting his food are Jeannie's wine selections. Jeannie makes annual pilgrimages to tiny Italian wineries, unearthing hidden gems and convincing the wine makers to export a few cases to her restaurant. I know, I know, nice work if you can get it.

What follows is a quick review of Friday night's dinner.


Vitello Tonnato - A special request. Braised veal, served at room temperature with a delicate tuna sauce. That's right tuna sauce. I love this dish. Richie has shared this recipe with me before. No matter how many times I've tried it, I can't come close to the delicate and complex flavors he brings out in this dish. I'm a very good cook, this dish reminds me that I'll never be a great chef.

Souffle di Porcini - A long time staple on the antipasto menu. This is a souffle of wild mushrooms and heavy cream. Incredibly rich. Incredibly good.


Mortadella Ravioli with Pistachio Walnut Sauce and Arugula. I admit I was skeptical about this dish. I figured it would be greasy and possibly too salty-sweet. I couldn't have been more wrong. The arugula and walnut sauce provided a sharp counterpoint to the richness of the mortadella.

Braised Beef Short Rib on Soft Polenta. Another long time menu item. Rich, but well portioned so as not to overwhelm.

Vermont Braised Rabbit Pappardelle. If the Vitello weren't enough to point out my cooking incompetence, the rabbit left no doubts. I love rabbit. I can't prepare it to save my life. I almost cancelled my main course and ordered a larger dish for dinner. Richie is well known for his pastas, this dish was simply spectacular, in my opinion the best of the night.


Roast Chicken Schnitzel with Fried Egg, Spaetzle, Lemon and Sage. An amazingly light texture for a meal I always assume will be very heavy.

Pan Roasted Veal Chop with Lemon, Balsamic Reduction and White Beans. This was my main. First of all, the chop was massive, it looked like it came off a Mastodon not a veal. It was the best chop I've ever had, tender, flavorful and perfectly done.

A couple of people had dessert, but I passed. I was perfectly content and just wanted to loll in the flavors of the meal.

Here are the three wines we had. Hopefully WWBob will leave a comment describing in detail the intricacies of the wines:

Massa Vecchia Rosato 2006
Castell'in Villa 1990 Chianti Classico
Case Corini "La Barla" Barbera d'Asti 2003 (the wine of the night)

Well crablings, there you have it, a night out with Crabby, WWBob and a couple of friends. After eating this well I have to remind myself, I can do it, I can cook. Ciao.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grilled Swordfish with Grill-Roasted Lemon & Caper Dressing - Giving Up Summer's Ghost

Here in the States it's almost Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end to summer. Next Tuesday will bring the beginning of school for nearly every elementary and secondary student in America. Many young children will be asked to write about "what I did on my summer vacation". It seems like a good assignment for Crabby as well.

We started with a lot of talk about what salads to bring to your picnic, but quickly transitioned into grilling. Surprisingly to me, there really wasn't too much beef or chicken on the menu. We spent a great deal of time with pork and fish, as well as becoming enamored with Soba noodles.

Heat always means keeping this light. As we approach the fall and winter the paradigm shifts. The ebbing of light means we'll be generating more of our own heat. Fall and winter mean soups, stews, risottos and roasts. Crablings, you've had it kind of easy so far. Pretty soon we're going to have to start really cooking. In fact, before the the end of October we will have tackled the greatest beast in all cooking...gravy.

But not now, it's too hot.

I still have a few easy grill recipes left in me. Today it's back to fish. Some of you complain about too many seafood recipes, but the funny thing is they're the ones that generate the most hits. So it's either do as you say or do as you visit, today we're doing as you visit.

This swordfish recipe epitomizes summer cooking: quick rub, quick grill and a quick dressing. The tang of the grilled lemon-caper dressing is a great counterpoint to the richness of the swordfish. Even those crablings out there who are sick of fish will enjoy this light meal.

Swordfish with Grill-Roasted Lemon and Caper Dressing
from Weber's Real Grilling

4 swordfish fillets, approx. 6 oz and 1" thick (halibut also works very well)


1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.


2 medium lemons, halved
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP capers, drained
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your grill over medium-high heat. Cut each lemon in half and lightly brush cut sides with olive oil. Grill the lemons, flesh side down over direct heat until nicely browned, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from grill and allow to cool.

Using a small bowl, juice the lemons through a fine sieve. Discard the seeds and rinds. Add the capers, then whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil to form the dressing. Whisk in the remaining dressing ingredients and adjust the seasoning.

About thirty minutes before cooking, lightly oil the swordfish fillets and season both sides with the rub. Set aside.

Make a tray out of folded aluminum foil. Place the fish on the tray and roast for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once. Remove from the grill and allow to rest (covered) for 5 minutes.

Whisk the dressing one last time. Serve the fish warm, with the dressing poured on top.

That's it! Give it a try, because before you know it, it'll be too cold to grill; until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tomato Tree - Day 84; Tragedy Strikes

Well the bad news had to come sooner or later. No the stand hasn't collapsed, but evil super-villainess Blossom Endrot has returned and she has returned with a vengeance.

I thought I had vanquished this problem months ago. The tomato tree stand had been yielding good fruit and there were no signs of additional problems, then BAM, SOCKO, this weekend the end rot came back. I don't know why, I've been treating both pots the same way, and the "old-fashioned" approach doesn't exhibit any problems.

I am left to assume that tomatoes grown in the Topsy-Turvy Tomato Stand are somehow more susceptible to BER. The experiment with the upside-down approach is beginning to circle the drain. There is a palpable smell of death in the air.

The good news is that the low-tech, old-fashioned approach is prodigiously producing laughably large fruit. Crabby won't go hungry for tomatoes, but he won't be eating as many as he'd planned.

We'll cook again next time, I'm planning on posting a fish recipe, so those of you who get all flustered by fish, consider yourselves forewarned.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato; Bacon the New "It" Food

Suddenly bacon is everywhere. There are websites entirely devoted to bacon recipes. There are bacon T-Shirts. There's even someone selling a bacon inspired, (and scent infused), tuxedo.

Bacon has made a culinary comeback. It's now hip. Bacon is being wrapped around everything from fruit to fish. It's even being dipped in chocolate.

Using an adequately repellent name of "Pig Licker" , chefs from the
Famous Dave's restaurant chain take thick cut bacon, cook it until crisp, jam a stick into it, dip it into dark chocolate and then sprinkle it with sea salt. This "delicacy" is served cold; perfect for eating while strolling the state fair.

By the way, that cheering you hear is your local heart surgeon and his Mercedes dealer urging you to buy two.

I'm pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to bacon. Serve it with eggs and I'm happy; occasionally slip it onto a burger, I'm OK with that. But the truth is that the apex of bacon technology rests in a humble sandwich. The BLT, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato with mayo. Simple, straightforward, the best use of processed, spongy, pre-sliced white bread known to man. With the tomatoes ripening, I'd be willing to eat this sandwich for weeks on end (of course, SSSal and my doctor have different ideas, killjoys).

So here's my "recipe" for a BLT with homemade mayonnaise. Don't dip it in chocolate and don't jam it with a stick (well maybe a toothpick if you're into "fancy" presentations). Enjoy.

Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich

by Crabby


2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 cup corn or safflower oil

In a glass bowl, whisk together the 2 egg yolks, (no matter what recipe you find that asks for only 1 yolk, ignore it. There is no way you'll be able to emulsify this mayonnaise with only one yolk). Add the mustard and salt and whisk well to incorporate.

In a separate bowl combine the vinegar and lemon juice.

Add half the lemon juice/vinegar mixture and whisk. Slowly, very slowly, add the oil while constantly whisking. Once half the oil has been added you can increase the flow rate. Whisk vigorously until all the oil is incorporated.

Let the mayonnaise sit at room temperature for 30 minutes then refrigerate.

Disclaimer: Raw eggs might be bad for you (though I've never gotten sick from them, so if you're really worried about it, use pasteurized eggs).


1 pound thick cut smoked bacon

Preheat our oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Lay the bacon out in strips making sure not to overlap the pieces (you may need to have two baking sheets or work in batches).

Roast the bacon for 12 - 18 minutes depending on thickness and desired crispness. Remove from oven, transfer to plate with paper towels to blot away excess fat.


1 large thickly sliced tomato (preferably a Beefsteak variety)
2 slices spongy white bread
Cold, clean lettuce leaves (iceberg is fine though I like red Romaine)

Place bread slices in toaster. Depress button, wait.

When bread pops, remove and spread, slather or (if you're from the Northeast) schmear the toast with your homemade mayonnaise.

Place one large slice of tomato atop the bread. Add an appropriate amount of bacon (depending on weight and cholesterol levels, you may wish to consult with your physician regarding this amount).

Add lettuces pieces. Cover with other slice of bread.

Cut on a diagonal and serve with coleslaw.

Eat and sigh at the wondrous simplicity of your creation.


The perfect summer lunch, or if you have a sandwich or three, the perfect summer dinner. Until next time crablings, remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008, a New Foodie Community

Just a quick note today. A new food website is launching today. is a food page that has been "in beta" for the last few months. While in development it's been a limited-access, invitation only page. It goes live today at 2PM Eastern time.

Currently the members are primarily in the Northern California area, but as it goes public I suspect it will expand greatly. You have opportunities to blog, exchange recipes, share restaurant reviews and just have a general chat.

Crabby is/was one of the tester invitees. So swing by and join in. Say hi to Dan for me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fresh Tomato Soup, When Simple Becomes Complex

I'm not handy.

I'm not one of these guys who, on a Saturday, buzzes over to Home Depot, spends a couple hundred dollars, comes home and whips up a 4-bed/3-bath gazebo with a peeing cherub fountain. Whenever I go over to Home Depot I spend most of my time vacantly roaming the aisles, slack-jawed and confused by all the tools, claps and vices.

If I do take on a project there are a few Crabby truisms that you can count on. One, it will take twice as long as the average person to complete. Two, I'll have to make three times the number of trips to the store just to finally come up with the right parts. Three, it will ultimately cost four times more than if I had just paid someone to do it in the first place. And four, I'll have at least five injuries to show for my efforts. For me, its not do-it-yourself, it's do-it-to-yourself.

All that changes when I walk into the kitchen. There, I'm very comfortable; in there I'm Master of my Domain; in there I control the events and the outcomes. Well, usually. Occasionally, the Crabby Gravy Train derails, from time to time the vegetables don't get pureed, I do. Every once in a while that simple little recipe turns ridiculously complex; not hard exactly, just "involved".

Today's recipe is that day.

Fresh Tomato Soup is about taking the extra time and effort to get it right. I've skipped the blanch, peel and seed step before only to be greeted by a vapid soup later. If you try to shortcut this recipe, you'll be sorry. You'll be making an extra trip to the market for more fruit and it'll take three times too long. Trust Crabby on this one, no shortcuts. Don't count on a food mill to save your soup. Do it right the first time.

Fresh Tomato Soup
by Crabby, based on the Italian classic Pappa al Pomodoro

1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 TBSP olive oil
5 pounds ripe fresh tomatoes ("seconds" work just fine)
Salt & White Pepper
5 oz. stale bread
Chicken Stock (up to 14 oz. - more on that later)
10 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Grated Parmesan (optional)
Creme Fraiche (optional)
Olive Oil for serving (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. With a serrated knife, cut a shallow "X" into the bottom of each tomato. Working in batches of 4 - 6 each, blanch the tomatoes until the skins start to peel, approximately 30 - 45 seconds per batch.

Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and allow them to cool slightly. The skins should now peel away very easily. Warning: This is a messy job, so do it over a large bowl so as to collect any juices. Discard the peeled skins.

Quarter the tomatoes, remove the stem core and seeds.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Turn down heat to medium-low. Add the tomatoes and any collected juices, to the onion/garlic mixture along with a big pinch of salt and some white pepper to taste. Cook for 15 minutes.

Tear the stale bread into small pieces and add to the soup in stages. The bread will absorb the excess juice and give the soup a "rustic" consistency. Using a stick(hand) blender, puree the soup. At this point a
dd chicken stock to adjust the consistency. Depending on your preference, you may add as little as a quarter cup of stock for thicker soup, to the entire 14 ounces for a thinner result.

Serve with any combination of the following ingredients (or none of them for that matter): shredded basil leaves, a dollop of creme fraiche, grated Parmesan cheese or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Note: If you want a seed free soup, run the blanched, peeled and mostly seeded tomatoes through a food mill prior to cooking.

Whew! I know, kind of fussy for a bowl of soup, but the result has all the tastes of summer. Just don't take any shortcuts and you'll be OK. Until next time crablings, remember, follow the recipe and you can do it, you can cook.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hoisin Glazed Pork with Mustard-Plum Sauce & Michael Phelps

The Summer Olympics are here and if ratings are to be believed, you, Crabby and most of the rest of the world have entered a persistent vegetative state perched in front of our television sets. Obviously, Michael Phelps has been the big story, what with his 48 gold medals and 697 new world records (don't quote me on those numbers they may be a bit off).

Now that's a great accomplishment, especially for you land-based life forms, but I got to tell you, to my fish and crustacean friends, it's just another day at the beach. I mean my next door neighbor - Sammy the Shark - sees all those flailing arms and legs and he acts like someone just rang the dinner bell. He's trying to figure out a way to get into the diving pool so he can set up under the 10 meter board with his mouth open and just wait for dinner to drop in.

No, under the sea, we're more into the land based games. Team handball, softball, women's beach volleyball (of course, we get to see those bikinis up close when they go for a swim). I especially like the archery and sword fighting events. It's like watching old Errol Flynn movies without having to worry about all the plot twists.

So today's recipe is a tribute to the Chinese hosts. Hoisin Glazed Pork with a Mustard-Plum Dipping Sauce is a classic melding of Asian flavors. You will have to make a trip to the Asian section of your supermarket to find many of these ingredients. But if you can find them, you'll suddenly have names for all those flavors you've enjoyed at Chinese restaurants. This recipe is probably the easiest I've ever posted. The work is in finding the ingredients, after that it's about opening jars. Enjoy.

Hoisin-Glazed Pork with Mustard-Plum Sauce
from Weber's Real Grilling

4 boneless pork loin chops


1/2 cup hoisin sauce (available in most Asian sections of supermarkets)
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
1 TBSP canola oil
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco or my favorite, Sriracha (Asian Section again))
1 tsp dark sesame oil (Asian section - got the drift yet?)

Mustard-Plum Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup plum sauce (yeah, yeah the Asian section)
2 TBSP Dijon Mustard
1 TBSP granulated sugar
2 TBSP water

In a medium bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients. Place the chops in a resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag tightly. Refrigerate for as long a possible, preferably overnight but at least 4 hours.

Prepare the Mustard-Plum sauce by mixing all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well to fully combine.

Bring chops to room temperature (20 - 30 minutes on a kitchen counter should do). Remove the chops from the bag and discard the remaining marinade.

While the chops are coming to room temperature, warm your grill over medium heat.

When ready, grill chops to medium-well, approximately 4-5 minutes per side for a 1" thick chop. Remove from the grill and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce drizzled on top and additional sauce on the side.

OK crablings, how easy was that? Open jars, grate ginger, mince garlic, mix, grill. Even Sammy the Shark could handle that and he's much more into sushi than you or I.

Well time to get back on the couch, I see West Youdoofustan is about to take on Overunderbezerkia in light sabers at ten paces. Until next time, remember you can do it, you can cook.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lemon Curd with Fresh Berries, a Taste of Bittersweet

SSSal and I have made our share of moves. Over the years we've lived five different states, all in the north and except for Minnesota, all east of the Mississippi. No, we're not part of the Federal Witness Protection Program; all the moves have been work related.

Before Crab Cakes 1 & 2 showed up the moves seemed easy enough. Sure, it's tough to leave friends, but you always assume that you'll stay in touch. Besides, there's something adventurous about pulling up stakes and heading someplace unknown. Your windshield is your future, the rear view mirror your memories.

We've made good friends everywhere we've been. While the internet has made it easier, there's still only 1 or 2 couples that we stay in touch with from any given locale. The excitement of moving is still there but it gets harder as the list of friends your leaving gets longer. Bittersweet is the silence inside a car as you back out of a driveway for the last time.

Bittersweet. Today's recipe fits the bill. Like seemingly all desserts, it's a bit involved. It requires the maceration of fresh berries. Maceration, besides being a word that teenagers and immature CrabbyCooks snicker over, is the process of marinating fruit in sugar and sometimes alcohol. The goal is to get the sugars to gently break down the fruit so that it starts to gives up its juice while retaining some of its shape. Neat trick, huh?

Lemon Curd with Macerated Berries served in hand made goblets. CaryHillCutie, a friend from Minnesota, made the pictured goblets in her pottery class. They don't change the way dessert tastes, but they do bring back memories of spectacular dinners past. Enjoy.

Lemon Curd with Fresh Berries
inspired by Baking with Julia, Dorie Greenspan (with help from SSSal)

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar (super fine if available)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 stick (2 oz) room temperature, unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup whipped cream

Put the eggs and sugar into a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip at high speed until light and fluffy. While the machine is still whisking, add the lemon juice and grated zest.

The curd is prepared using a double-boiler. If you don't own a double-boiler take a medium sized saucepan and add 2" - 3 " of water and bring to a simmer. Then use a stainless steel mixing bowl placed on top of the saucepan making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water below.

Transfer the mixture to the top half of the double-boiler.

You must continuously whisk the mixture while it's cooking!!! This step requires time and effort. The mixture will become smooth, thick and custardlike. Estimated cooking time: 3 - 7 minutes.

Once the custard has set up, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter pieces one at a time until fully incorporated.

Scrape the mixture into another bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Important Hint: Push the plastic wrap down onto the surface of the custard and press out any air bubbles. This will prevent the top from getting "rubbery".

Refrigerate until completely chilled and set.

When curd has set. Incorporate the cup of whipped cream into the curd. Scoop into individual servings and spoon on a dollop or two of macerated berries.

Macerated Berries

2 cups of your favorite berries (rasp-, straw-, blue- and blackberries all work well)
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP Grand Marnier Orange Flavored Liqueur (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring gently. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Gently mix just prior to serving.

OK crablings, I know what your thinking, "double-boilers, mixers, constant whisking", this is just way too much work. Well I concede that the work is intense, especially when you're whisking over the double boiler, but the results are worth it. Besides, those of you who've been coming here for the last six months are ready to step up your game.

Life and cooking can be bittersweet, but remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tomato Tree - Day 72


Over the last two weeks I've actually harvested tomatoes. One of the greatest meals and certainly the greatest meal involving toasted white bread, is a bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwich using garden fresh tomato. The cold lettuce, the creamy mayonnaise and the explosive taste of real tomatoes proves beyond any doubt that great cooking is often the simplest cooking.

Now I admit I was very nervous picking the tomato stand fruit. I had horrific images of the stand spontaneously combusting, engulfing everything within 10 feet. There I was, 6' 3" tall CrabbyCook,
flailing about the deck, tomatoes flying off is all directions, doing my best Human Olympic Torch impression. The horror.

But I survived. It should also be noted that my low-tech-tomatoes-in-a-planter also yielded fruit, without any of the resident fears of self-immolation.

But who cares, tomatoes are here! Time to sit back and enjoy! The sunflower photo is just a throw in.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sweet Corn Pudding & The Human Condition

Tedium. Lassitude. Ennui.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

True with people, true with food.

I try and cook with ingredients that are fresh. I buy fresh produce from my grocer, the local farmer's market or simply use the fresh kill from my meager garden. It's exciting at the beginning when things first start to ripen. It's becomes challenging and boring toward the end of the harvest.

I'm bored with corn.

It's been a tough year for sweet corn. It just never seemed to show up in volume. I don't know, maybe it's all been plowed under for the ethanol variety, but all summer it's been gummy, over-sized kernels everywhere you looked.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear you out there...

"Oh, Crabby, give me a break. By November you'll be whining for fresh corn like an 8-year old without Hannah Montana tickets."

I know, I know; by November it'll be "absence makes the heart grow fonder". But right now it's more like "how can I miss you if you won't go away"!

Well here's a recipe that SSSal has adjusted/concocted over the years that brings back some interest, especially to late season corn. Sweet Corn Pudding is a baked, slightly gelatinous side dish that works well with fresh or frozen corn. And since this is a corner-crust house, this year she's adapted the recipe to use the Baker's Edge baking pan. A very good recipe made great by this invention. Enjoy.

Sweet Corn Pudding
by SSSal, inspired, adapted and adjusted from Bon Appetit, December 1999

4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
4 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk (use 2% if you're trying to lower the fat content)
2 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), at room temperature
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP fresh, chopped basil

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Blanch the husked ears of corn for two minutes. Allow to cool, then cut the kernels from the cob (warning/hint: Cutting corn kernels from a cob is a messy and time-consuming job, hold the ear vertically over a baking sheet and allow the kernels to fall/fly where they may).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly butter your Baker's Edge Baking Pan ( or if you don't have one yet, an 8"x8"x2" glass baking dish). In a food processor combine all the ingredients except the basil. Pulse until the mixture forms into a coarse batter. Stir in the chopped basil.

Pour the batter into your Baker's Edge pan and bake until golden brown and the center of the pudding just begins to set, approximately 45 minutes. Cool for 10 - 15 minute. Serve.

There you have it. A new corn application; not firm enough to be bread, not soft enough to be soup. Perfect with any grilled meat or that toothless senior in the household. It also reheats easily in a 350 degree oven. Give it a try and until next time, remember you can do it, you can cook!

What? More tomatoes!? Isn't that stand ever going to collapse?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mojo Marinated Chicken & The Teenager

Six months old! CrabbyCook is six months old!

I've come to believe that six months of blog time is equivalent to about 12 years human time. So look for Crabby to become an intriguing, infuriating, inspiring, insolent teenager in the very near future.

The biggest surprise of these first 6 months has been the number of fish recipes I've posted. We normally eat more seafood in the summer but I never expected to have it outpace chicken by 4:1.

Then again, some fish eat crustaceans, so these recipes are my way of getting back at those sons-of-fishes. Remember what I said, I hate fish, that's why I eat them.

Some of you have pointed out two problems with my fish recipes. First, not everyone has access to fresh fish. Well, while I don't like using frozen fish, it truly beats not eating any at all. So suck it up, find a Costco or Sam's Club and make do. Chances are, after trying their stuff, you'll want to move to one of the coasts so you can get the real thing.

The second issue is cost. With demand increasing, fish stocks falling and the cost of sending diesel guzzling boats out to sea, the price of anything from the briny deep has skyrocketed. Remember, fish has little waste and 1/3 pound per person is a big serving. Find a good fishmonger and work with him to try different types of seafood; of course those of you who insist on shopping at Whole Paycheck, sorry Whole Foods, can always find some sort of on-sale, flavorless, farmed something to inflict on your taste buds.

So in an effort to restore the recipe balance and save Crab Nation a few doubloons, today's recipe is grilled chicken breasts. Chicken is a bit of a conundrum. It's convenient, unoffensive and can stand a lot of manipulating to zip up the flavor. In other words, chicken is great if you can start the night before.

Well, here's a recipe you can start as late as noon on the day you cook it (assuming a 7PM seating). Or if you're ambitious, you can work on it the night before and have quiet time until the grilling starts. Time to give chicken the spotlight, time for chicken to get its mojo back.

Mojo Marinated Chicken

inspired by Weber's Real Grilling


1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Sriracha)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

4 chicken breast halves (I prefer skin-on boneless, though bone-in, skin-on works fine)

Combine all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together.

Place chicken pieces in a large resealable bag and pour in marinade. Press out as much air as possible and tightly seal the bag. Massage the chicken to evenly distribute the marinade. Place bag in a bowl, refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to overnight, turning occasionally.

Preheat grill over medium heat. Take a large piece of aluminum foil and fold in half making a tray large enough to hold the chicken pieces.

Remove the chicken from the bag and transfer the marinade to a small sauce pan. Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat, and boil continuously for at least 1 minute (this will kill any bacteria present in the marinade).

With the grill at medium heat, place the chicken, skin side up onto the aluminum tray and grill for 30 - 40 minutes, until juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink. Baste with boiled marinade every 10 minutes.

For crispy skin, turn the chicken, skin side down onto the tray for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve. Pass the remaining boiled marinade in a small bowl.

There you go. A little advance prep goes a long way with chicken. I haven't given up on the seafood recipes, but for now, we'll take a little break. OK crablings, repeat after me, you can do it, you can cook.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Grilled Halibut Fajitas; Ay, There's the Rub*

August. Hazy, humid. As the temperature rises, the thinking slows. Days turn sweltering and bright, while people become cloyingly dull.

Lawns and their owners, grizzled and scorched, turn a lifeless brown. After each rain, people test the air like bloodhounds hoping for the scent of relief. Relief that's still a month away.

Early August is the toughest cooking time. Late enough in the summer that light meals have lost their interest, yet too hot to move to heavier feasts. Nothing seems right. Nobody ever seems truly hungry.
In August, cooking inspiration comes from desperation. It's time to try a new approach, it's time to spice things up.

Here's a recipe that's done on the grill employing a fajita style rub. I suggest making a larger batch of the rub and then using smaller amounts that you can adjust to suit a particular meal. For example, add some chili powder to create a southwestern rub for steak, or maybe add some star anise to give an Asian feel to pork; you get the idea, inspiration from desperation.

Grilled Halibut Fajitas
by Crabby
serves 4

(4) 1/3 lbs halibut fillets (swordfish, snapper and mahi-mahi also work well)
1 TBSP cooking oil
1 lime, quartered
1 lime, halved

1 large yellow onion, sliced in rings
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 TBSP cooking oil
Salt & Pepper

Fajita Rub

1 TBSP Onion Powder
1 TBSP Garlic Powder
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all rub ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

Preheat grill over high heat. Remove halibut from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. Rinse and pat dry the fish. Lightly rub both sides of the fillets with oil. Season both sides with the fajita rub; cover and set aside.

Prepare two foil trays, (see Grilled Swordfish with Tomato Relish for details), oil or use cooking spray on each.

Transfer the halibut to one of the trays.

Place the sliced onions and peppers into a medium bowl and drizzle with oil. Use your hands to toss the vegetables. Transfer to the other foil tray; salt and pepper to taste.

When the grill is ready, place both trays on the grates, cover and turn heat down to medium. Depending upon thickness, the halibut will take 4 - 5 minutes per side. The vegetables need to be turned every 3 - 5 minutes to combat burning.

When done, remove the fish from the grill and cover lightly with foil. Allow the vegetables to grill for an additional five minutes, or until they reach your desired doneness.

Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter. Place the fish on top of the vegetables,then squeeze the two half limes over all. Garnish with remaining lime wedges (and cilantro sprigs if you have some) and serve.

WWBob suggests Screaming Jack Viognier from California ($10-$15), a low acid, fruity white wine to accompany this meal.

There you go crablings. I'm off to the back deck with a gin & tonic and a few cooking magazines to find some inspiration. Until next time, use your sunscreen and remember, you can do it, you can cook.


* Crabby Quiz: The title uses the phrase, "Ay, there's the rub", name the Shakespearean play and the famous moment when it's used.