Category Archives: Seafood Dishes

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Like a true daughter of the Eastern shore, I love me some blue crab.  I once read an article that broke me into a fury as strong as the east coast-west coast hip hop beef.  Apparently Tupac thinks dungeoness crab is far better than Biggie’s favorite blue crabs, and that those little hard-shelled beauties from the Chesapeake Bay (and increasingly from the Gulf and around Texas) are too hard to crack and overrated.  To which I say, Tupac, that’s bollocks.  Come over for these crab-stuffed mushrooms anytime and I will change your mind.  And yes, I just offered the deceased crab stuffed mushrooms.

This recipe is incredibly simple, but can be pricey if you are making it outside the Chesapeake Bay area.  I lessen the blow by substituting half of the lump crab with claw meat – this briny, dark colored meat is far cheaper and works well as a mushroom filling.  If that’s still too expensive, employ a blend of a half pound of diced raw shrimp and roasted red peppers sautéed with an extra cup of panko, a few tablespoons of butter and enough chicken stock to moisten the stuffing.  Regardless of the seafood, the mixture is lightened by lemon zest and parsley, and has a dose of cayenne for kick.  Make a batch of these for loved ones, and I am sure that your street cred will go through the roof.  Homie? Homie.

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

1 shallot, minced
4 tbs. of butter
8 oz. lump crab meat
8 oz. of crab claw meat
1 egg
1/2 tbs. of dijon mustard
2 tbs. of mayo
pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1 tbs. of fresh thyme
2 tbs. of fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp of old bay, plus more for sprinkling
1 lemon
1/2 c. of panko, plus more for sprinkling
1 lb. of cremini or white button mushrooms

Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stems.  If you’d like, chop the stems and sauté with the shallots in the next step or save for another use (like a marinara sauce or a mushroom risotto).  Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease with olive oil or butter.  Place the mushroom caps on the cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 375°.

Sauté the shallots in a small skillet with the butter until translucent.  Let cool to room temperature and then pour into a mixing bowl.  Blend carefully with the egg, mustard, mayo, cayenne, white pepper, thyme, parsley, old bay and the zest of 1 lemon.  Pick over the crab for any extra shells and gently fold into the stuffing mixture.  Fold in the panko.  Fill each mushroom with a few tablespoons of filling.  Sprinkle with panko and old bay on top.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden.  Cut the lemon into wedges and squeeze over the mushrooms before serving.  Eat and then bust a rhyme.

Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya

For as long as I’ve known, my family has been whipping up several varieties of comforting rice dishes – I can recall many a time coming into the kitchen to a pan of Arroz con Pollo finishing up in the oven, or a pot of Jambalaya simmering away on the stove.  This version of the simple dish, a combination of rice, chicken, sausage, seafood and veggies, reminds me of home each and every time I whip up a batch.

This version is far from super traditional, but I love it because it is way easy to prepare and incredibly piquant and flavorful.  Some of the harder ingredients to find are substituted with pantry and supermarket staples.  Though cajun purists would call this Creole Rice for its inclusion of tomatoes, culinary great Paul Prudhomme puts tomatoes in his, so I feel that I’m not in the wrong.  Plus, this dish’s roots are born of the freshness and availability of ingredients, so use whatever suits your fancy – tasso ham (or smoked ham), seafood of any kind, smoked andouille sausage, duck, and homemade stock all have a place in this dish.  Case in point, this recipe originates from the Spanish classic, paella, and if it weren’t for a few noble chefs swapping out a few ingredients, we wouldn’t have the jambalaya that we know today.

Recipe for

Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya

1/2 lb. of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 kielbasa, thinly sliced into rounds
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks

2 tbs. of olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 plum tomatoes

1 can of tomatoes with chilies
seafood stock (can substitute beef or chicken)
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/8 to 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper (to taste)
pinch of oregano
1 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce

2 c. of converted rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)

splash of white wine vinegar
scallions or parsley for garnish

Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven and add the chicken.  Brown very well on both sides and then add the onion, scallions, celery, bell pepper and garlic.  Once vegetables begin to soften, add the kielbasa, thyme and bay leaves.  Allow to cook for a minute and then add the chopped tomatoes, white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne and oregano.  Stir in the rice.

In a 4 cup pyrex or a measuring cup, drain the juices of the can of tomatoes into the cup.  Dump the tomatoes into the dutch oven.  Add the tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce into the measuring cup, and then add enough stock to make 3 3/4 cups of liquid.  Add the mixture to the pot and stir.  Bring the pot to a boil, cover and turn it down to a simmer.  A trick, if you are careful, is to stick your ear to the bottom of the pot – you should hear a gentle bubbling.  If it sounds like hell boiling over, turn the heat down.  If you hear nothing, turn the heat up.  Cook for 20 minutes, undisturbed.  After 20 minutes, take the top off and add the shrimp.  Recover and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and remove lid.  Stir a splash of white wine vinegar into the jambalaya and taste rice for doneness – it should be tender at this point.  If not, turn heat back to low and cook another few minutes.  If the rice is done but there is too much liquid, let rice sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes so that the liquid will be absorbed into the rice.

Serve with scallions or parsley and tabasco sauce.

Har Gow (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings with Bamboo Shoots)

I came across this recipe the other day in finding a cheaper way to nosh on the addictive Crystal Shrimp Dumplings from China Fun here in the city – the darn things are so delicious that when I eat them piping hot, the filling all falls out for lack of letting them sit and chill.  Waiting is overrated.

This recipe can be found on the lovely blog Rasa Malaysia – she has you make the dough in her recipe, but in the version pictured below I used the pre-made Yasoya Wonton Wrappers (available in most grocery stores where they keep the tofu).  Not 100% identical, but a heck of a lot easier, especially if you can’t get your hands on wheat and tapioca starch.  If you have an aversion to triangle-shaped har gow, use a round cookie cutter to make perfect wrappers of your own.  Fry the extra bits that you cut off and use as crispy noodles in some wonton or hot and sour soup.  Done and done.  Truthfully, though, the star of this recipe is the filling, particularly the luscious quality of the shrimp and bamboo shoots, so don’t go crazy with the wrappers.

Check out the recipe now >>

Rosemary Lemon Swordfish

Fish gets a bad rap – no matter what anyone tells you, it’s not hard to cook.  In fact, it takes such a short time to cook, all that you need to do to cook it well is to untrain your brain into its natural inclination to overcook meat.  Give it only a little time, only a little seasoning and it is perfection.  I love swordfish because it’s forgiving, takes seasoning well, and comes out deliciously restaurant-worthy without any fuss.  Not to mention that it’s meaty – a manly fish meant to be tucked into like a steak.

Rosemary Lemon Swordfish © Spice or Die

This barely qualifies as a recipe below in terms of ingredients – all the work is in the technique.  Basically, you are forming a paste out of the lemon zest and garlic that is then slathered onto the swordfish.  If you haven’t invested in a microplane yet (and you really should), you will need to use the finest setting on a box grater for the lemon zest.  As for the garlic, you will need to mash it with some kosher salt until it forms a paste – not hard, but so much easier if you pick up a microplane. Continue reading Rosemary Lemon Swordfish

Spicy Stuffed Flounder

I wish that eating fresh seafood didn’t seem like such a luxury – fish is easy to prepare and readily available where I live.  Plus, it’s so good for you, there’s really no excuse for not working it into the menu more.  I treat it like a grilled cheese sandwich at times – I’d rather have someone make it for me than do it myself so that it seems that much better.  It’s stupid, given that we can all prepare fish just as well as most restaurants (if not better), and all for a lot less money.

Spicy Stuffed Flounder © Spice or Die

This recipe was born of the high price tag for stuffed delicacies at upscale seafood restaurants.  On top of that, the dishes were often drowned in butter, making the fish taste gorgeous, but at the expense of my waistline.  Stupid personified.  The flavor in this dish comes from a good dose of savory veggies that are simmered in stock rather than sauteed in butter.  Flaky, moist flounder is topped with spices and lemon and nestled above a lovely stuffing of tender shrimp, herbs, vegetables and bread crumbs.  It tastes like a million bucks and a million calories, but it is just plain good for you eatin’!

Here in NYC, they charge way too much for lump crab, but if you are near the Chesapeake, definitely substitute the shrimp with crabmeat if you’d like.  It’s just such a lovely addition to the dish, and the price down there makes so much sense.  Same thing for you folks on the Pacific Coast that can get your hands on inexpensive king crab.  In addition, you can mix it up and do a seafood medley of shrimp, crab and scallops – all work well in the stuffing.

Spicy Stuffed Flounder

2 c. of vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 of a bell pepper (I use red, but green is ok), finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cl. of garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of sherry or white wine
1/2 tbs of good dijon mustard
1 tsp of fresh thyme
1 tsp. of fresh rosemary
1/2 c. of parsley leaves (loosely packed), chopped
2 c. of bread crumbs
2 tbs. of butter (I use Smart Balance for this to keep the bad fat down)
1 lb of raw shrimp, cut into small bite-sized pieces (can substitute 8 oz. of lump crab, bay scallops or even 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms)
3 portions of flounder (preferably 7-8 oz. each)
1 lemon
1 tsp of cajun seasoning (or a pinch each of salt, white pepper, black pepper and cayenne)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Spray a baking sheet with Pam and set aside.

In a sauce pan, bring your stock to a boil.  Add bell pepper, shallot, garlic, celery, white pepper, black pepper, salt, sherry or wine, mustard, thyme and rosemary.  Stir and then turn off the heat.  Stir until the butter has melted and then toss in the parsley and shrimp.  Stir in the bread crumbs until moistened and then set aside.

Take a flounder filet in your hand and mound it with a heaping cupful of the stuffing.  Flip over and place on the baking sheet, stuffing side down.  Repeat with the other filets.  Halve the lemon and squeeze over all of the fish.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of your favorite cajun or blackening seasoning on top of the fish (or use a combo of peppers and salt as listed above).

Place sheet in the oven and bake fish until flaky and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  Squeeze the other half of the lemon on top of the fish and serve.

Poor Man’s Linguine with Clams

Despite all of my champagne wishes and caviar dreams, I am no Warren Buffett when it comes to grocery shopping.  Or I should say that I have no Buffett budget, given that the man eats a DQ cheeseburger and a cherry coke every night.  Though I am such an ingredient purist time in and time out, occasionally, I make an exception or two.  One example would be in this recipe that uses *gasp* canned clams!

Linguine with White Clam Sauce © Spice or Die

Don’t give up on me just yet.  I love love love Linguine alle Vongole, or linguine with white clam sauce.  I crave it and when I do, I want it ASAP.  And yet, I don’t have the time or money to go clamming every time I have a hankering for some goodness.  And so I have created this version over the years that is an altered version of my Dad’s recipe.  The sentiment is still the same, however – you take a jar of white clam sauce, add an excessive amount of red pepper for heat and extra canned clams for awesomeness, and you serve atop boxed linguine.  You can scoff, but it beats the hell out of spending $20 on the clams alone, and all of the ingredients are readily available in your pantry and fridge.  No shame in my game. Continue reading Poor Man’s Linguine with Clams

Steamed Mussels with Tarragon and Shallots

A pot of mussels, for me, is a treat worth sharing with special folks around.  It’s rare these days that we get to partake in such a tactile experience – a large pot is slapped in the middle of a table, and folks collectively tuck in with their hands, scooping, dipping and munching on sweet mussels and typically a tangle of crispy fries or crusty bread.  Mussels come in a million preparations, but this little bivalve is ever so easy to prepare.  You’ve just got to know all the tricks.

Steamed Mussels with Tarragon and Shallots © Spice or Die

When you get your mussels, they need to be alive before you cook them.  A dead mussel in the pot will make your tummy unhappy later.  As you go through them, mussels should be closed and if open, should close after you agitate them a bit.  I usually just tap them on the counter and wait for them to close slowly.  If they refuse to close, chuck ’em before cooking.

After you cook the mussels, it’s the opposite deal.  If they stay closed after cooking, they are bad.  Don’t eat them for fear of even more tummy unhappiness.

As I mentioned before, there are tons of way to sauce these guys – this recipe is based on one of my favorite preparations as featured by The Smith here in NYC.  They bathe their bivalves in a lovely combo of shallots, thyme, wine and cream.  It’s a luscious sauce that is meant to be sopped up with bread, fries, or whatever carb you can grab the fastest.  I enhance my own with a heaping spoon of dijon mustard and a bit of garlic – deliciousness for an incredibly low price.  If you can believe it, restaurants charge $17 or more per pound of mussels, whereas you can purchase them for as little as $2 a pound to cook at home!  Outrageous!  Not to mention the fact that you can be assured that your mussels are clean and fresh before cooking – not the case when you eat them out.  If ever there was a case for cooking at home, this is it.  Include this recipe on the menu for your next date night and savor the simple pleasure of a shared dish and company close at hand.  It’s a dying art, I tell you.

Steamed Mussels with Tarragon and Shallots

2 lbs. of mussels, scrubbed of barnacles
3 tbs. of butter
2 shallots
2 cl. of garlic, smashed
1 c. of dry white wine
bunch of tarragon
2 tbs. of dijon mustard
1/2 c. of cream
salt and pepper

Check mussels to make sure that they are still alive – mussels should close after you tap them on the counter or rap them a bit with your finger.  Clean mussels of any grit or barnacles on the shells and put into a large bowl.  Fill bowl with cold water and let the mussels sit for a half an hour.  This allows them time to expel any sand or grit – you’ll actually hear the mussels bubbling around in the water.

In a large pot or huge skillet, chuck in 2 tbs. of butter and melt on low.  Turn up the heat to medium and add shallots and garlic.  Cook until translucent and then crank the heat to high.  Dump in wine, tarragon, and mussels and cover the pot.  Cook 5-6 minutes or until mussels open up.  Remove mussels from the pot and set aside, discarding any mussels that didn’t open in the cooking process.  Boil sauce down, whisking in mustard and cream.  Allow to reduce by 1/4 and then taste for salt and pepper.  Pour sauce over mussels and serve, making sure to sop up the sauce with bread or crisp fries.

Rock Shrimp Risotto

Rock Me Gently, Rock Me Slowly

Risotto is such a walking contradiction – though it is a total dazzler and a showpiece at restaurants, it’s also such homey comfort food meant to be tucked into on a couch in pjs.  It can be as dressy or as casual as you’d like it to be, just as long as it’s yours.  I think that risotto has gotten a reputation for being fussy because of the many rules for it’s construction.  The grains of rice should be tender while still distinct and firm.  The dish should be creamy but not a mushy porridge.  The ingredients all have different cooking times, but the components to be cooked to perfection all at the same time.  It’s a little daunting.

Rock Shrimp Risotto © Spice or Die

I’m here to put you at ease – risotto is not hard.  I repeat, risotto is not hard.  You can make it if you follow the one major rule of risotto – be patient and give it time.  If you rush your risotto, it will suck.  If you don’t prep all your ingredients before you start, it will suck.  If you walk away from it, it will suck.  Don’t let your risotto suck, I beg of you.

There are a million variations on this recipe, and the good news is that you can use the same ingredients below and just swap out the shrimp for whatever your heart desires – blanched asparagus spears, porcini mushrooms, lobster, roasted butternut squash, you name it.  The only thing that you absolutely cannot substitute is arborio rice.  The grains, short and round, release starch slowly as broth is added during the cooking process – if you use a different type of rice, you won’t get that creamy loveliness that is the trademark of risotto.  You top off the deliciousness by rapidly whipping in butter at the end, a process called “mantecare” in Italian.  Do this, and you’ll be a risotto master.

This risotto uses rock shrimp, a variety that is much closer in taste to lobster despite the shrimp price.  They have hard shells and are difficult to peel, which is why they are sold pre-cleaned and shelled – hooray for you 🙂  If you cannot find rock shrimp, feel free to use plain raw shrimp, or if your budget allows, some lovely lobster meat.

This recipe makes a ton of risotto (about 8 large servings) – I roll the leftovers into balls around cubes of mozzarella, roll in breadcrumbs, and fry as a lovely appetizer called arancini (or supplí in Emilia-Romagna).  Also, because cheese and seafood is an italian no-no, I pick out the shrimp first.  That being said, if you leave the shrimp in, I won’t be mad at you.  Actually, I’ll be happy that you’re cooking not one, but two impressive dishes – and all with a whole lot of love!

Rock Shrimp Risotto

12-14 c. of stock, chicken, vegetable, shrimp or a combo (see recipe for shrimp stock below)

4 tbs. of olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 c. of arborio rice
1 pinch of saffron threads (optional)
2 tsp. of white pepper
salt and black pepper, to taste

1 and 1/2 lb. of rock shrimp, peeled and cleaned well
1 bunch of chives, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
4 tbs. of butter

Prep all of your ingredients before you start to make your life easier.  When you begin, you should have dishes of all of your ingredients, measured out and within an arm’s reach.  In a large pot, bring your stock to a simmer and keep warm throughout the entire process.

In a second large pot, add your oil and heat until shimmering.  Add your shallots and cook on medium until translucent.  Add your rice (and saffron if you are using it) and stir to coat the grains with olive oil.  Continue to cook until the rice becomes translucent.  Pour in the wine and stir until the alcohol cooks off.

Grab a ladle and spoon 2-3 ladlefuls of broth into the rice.  Stir constantly to incorporate the broth and keep the rice from sticking.  When all the broth is absorbed, add another 2 or 3 ladles of stock.  Keep adding broth and stirring until the rice is tender (taste it to make sure) and a lovely, creamy sauce has formed.  Once your risotto is cooked to perfection, add your raw shrimp and stir.  The shrimp will need about 2 minutes to turn pink and cook all the way through in the hot risotto.  Turn the heat from medium to low and add the butter in small chunks, stirring rapidly after each addition to melt the butter into the creamy goodness.  Turn off the heat and toss in your lemon zest and 3/4 of the chives.

Spoon risotto into bowls and top with the rest of the chives.  Serve immediately – risotto needs to be eaten right away, or you are missing out in a big way.

Shrimp Stock

shells from 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
4 sprigs of parsley (with stems)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of white pepper
2 bay leaves
8 c. of water

Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil.  Turn to medium low and simmer until stock has reduced by one half.  Strain stock and toss solids.  Save broth for some lovely like a gumbo or a risotto.

Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)

Greatest Wrapper of All Time

Cha gio, the Vietnamese answer to the Chinese spring roll, are a heck of a lot more than a crispy wrapper around a bit of filling.  The complex mix of tender pork, delicate shrimp and crab, and savory vegetables and spices form an addictive amalgamation that trumps the few shreds of cabbage and roast pork in a traditional spring roll.  Combine this roll with the delicious crunch of herbs and lettuce, and finish the whole thing off with a dunk into some sweet and salty nuoc mam, and you are in for a treat.

I always order cha gio with all the fixings at Vietnamese restaurants, and feel that the presentation lends an air of luxury to the dish.  And yet, when I was young, our Vietnamese friends would make the rolls in large quantities and share with anyone deserving of a little treat – cha gio were unpretentious and meant to be shared.  I feel the same way about feijoada completa (the Brazilian national dish of black beans, rice, and assorted condiments) – in a restaurant, the many dishes of food that make up the meal add an element of grandeur to the meal, when in actuality, feijoada is the people’s food at its best.  Just good, honest cooking meant to be shared with friends and family. Continue reading Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)

Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)

Pleat Me and Treat Me

Ah, kanom jeeb – you have officially earned platinum status in the dumpling ranks.  You are a mere morsel of goodness, a two-bite treasure, and I thank you for gracing me with your presence.  Jam from the wonderful food blog “Thai Cooking with Jam” explains that your name is derived from the thai words for “pleated snack”, but I posit that you legally change your name to the thai words for “pleated awesomeness”.  Awesomeness indeed.

I know that you are a textural delight with your essential combination of crunchy carrots and water chestnuts carefully blended with tender shrimp and pork.  You are also a luxurious treat with your delicate topper of lump crab.  And yet, you don’t mind dressing yourself down on certain days with a crispy shallot or two.  You are similiar to your Chinese brother, shu mai, and yet your combo of sweet and savory taste worlds away at times. Continue reading Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)