"living off the land"

"living off the land"

A couple of weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to take a couple of days off prior to my weekend and drive up to Holland Massachusetts. Candace and I had planned to go to the Brimfield antique fair which we attend every year.  Now I thoroughly enjoy antiquing, but I would be lying if I said I was not equally excited to spend three days in a cabin on the Hamilton Reservoir casting for lake perch and the elusive sac-a-lait. In Louisiana, the name sac-a-lait is used, but in most other regions around the United States the name crappie is given. Because I caught these fish outside of Louisiana I will refer to them as crappie throughout this recipe post.  I was successful enough fishing in the mornings to cook Mrs. Candace dinner one night.  The menu consisted of cornmeal fried perch and crappie, cooked greens and onions and buttermilk drop biscuits. 

But first... You have to catch the fish

Once you have caught your fish it is important to clean them properly. Here are a couple of pictures and videos to show you how to clean and scale your perch and crappie. I prefer this method which is to not filet but fry your catch "on the bone"


Now that you have your catch clean, it is time to batter them or dredge them. I like to smear yellow mustard and hot sauce on prior to dredging in cornmeal.  It is better to do this 15 minutes before to allow your catch to marinate for a bit. Here is the process. 

Notice I went mustard, egg wash and then into seasoned cornmeal. Once your fish is fully dredged and coated; it is time to get your grease hot and start cooking!

Time to eat! But first, how do you eat a small fish no bigger than the size of your palm off the bone? Glad you asked! Here is how you do it.

The most important part of this recipe post is to share your food and cooking with not only folks that you love but folks that you may have differences with. The power of food to "build bridges" and "mend fences" is undeniable! So when you plan on cooking for that special someone; just remember, EAT LIKE A SOUTHERNER. #EatLikeASoutherner

Spring Means Soft shell Crabs

Spring Means Soft shell Crabs

My favorite po'boy to make and eat will forever be the soft shell crab po'boy.  Few other ingredients ring in spring like this elusive crustacean. The "dressed" po'boy will come with lettuce, mayonnaise, pickle and tomato.  I made my soft shell crab po'boy with spicy pickled onions and peppers and subbed out mayonnaise for tartar sauce. 

The first thing to do is clean the crab.  It is pretty simple process that only requires a pair of scissors. You should remove the "face", lungs, and the underside of the abdomen. See how I did it below.

The next step is to batter the crab. My favorite trick to lightly coat the crab with yellow mustard and hot sauce. Then I use a "double batter" method to ensure that I have a crispy coating. Soft shell crabs have a high percentage of water and moisture in them so do not underestimate the importance of a good batter for your fried soft shell crab. The method I used below is to coat the crab with the mustard and hot sauce mix. Dredge crab in seasoned white flour.  Dunk the crab in a milk and egg mixture. Lastly, dredge the crab in seasoned corn flour. Here is how to do it. *My apologies for the poor video. It is harder than it looks to video and batter a crab*

NOW FOR THE GREASE! I fry seafood between 375 and 400 degrees.  Depending on the size of your soft shell crab, it should take 2-4 minutes.  The crab I used is sized as "jumbo" and took about 3:30 minutes to fry.

The next step is to build your po'boy. I have not found a suitable substitute for Leidenheimer  po'boy bread from New Orleans, Louisiana. At Blue Smoke, we purchase 7 inch po'boy loaves of Leidenheimer bread. The bread is shipped to us fully baked, frozen, and still better than any "po'boy" bread I can get in New York City.  I dressed my po'boy with tartar sauce on each side of the bread, shredded lettuce, tomato, and spicy pickled peppers and onions. A nice touch once your crab is fried, is to squeeze a healthy amount of fresh lemon all over the body. 

Now comes my favorite part. EATING IT!

If you have any questions please reach out to me via the "drop me a line" tab.  Remember... When in doubt, EAT LIKE A SOUTHERNER #EatLikeASoutherner

Oyster and Country Ham Spaghetti

Oyster and Country Ham Spaghetti

While working at Maialino I not only began to understand how to cook great pasta dishes, but I also began to understand how different pastas made their way into the new and old southern food culture. This pasta dish, like many great pasta dishes focus on a minimal amount of ingredients. Pasta, fresh oysters, and Benton's country ham are the stars of this dish. Some of the other ingredients used in this recipe are bacon drippings, whole butter, thinly sliced garlic, pickled chilies, parsley, green onion, fresh lemon juice and breadcrumbs. Lets take a look at all the ingredients and their preparations.

The following video is an important one. Blooming your garlic and chilies in the bacon drippings is the back bone of your pasta sauce. Slowly heat your garlic in the fat on low to medium low heat until the garlic gets lightly golden brown. Add your chilies and continue to cook on a low to medium low fire.  "Pop" (the sound fresh herbs make when introduced to hot fat) in the oil. To stop the cooking, add your salted pasta water that to the pan. This water is great for sauce building because of the excess starch released from cooking the pasta. Take a look... 

Add some whole butter to the sauce mixture. You are now ready to boil your pasta in your salted water. I used spaghetti but feel free to use fettuccini, linguini or other like noodles. Stir your noodles frequently so they do not stick. Cooking time on noodles like spaghetti or linguini is about 6 minutes. This leaves the pasta "al dente" so that it can finish cooking and releasing its starch in your pan with the sauce. Notice how I take the noodles from the pot of boiling water and straight to the pan. Do not rinse your noodles as this will rinse the starch from them.

Now for the oysters. Even large oysters only need a couple of minutes to cook. Smaller oysters only need a minute in the pan cooking. That said, be careful not to add oysters to the spaghetti to early. Also, when shucking fresh oysters; save the oyster liquor since the natural juice will add tons of flavor to your pasta.

Now you are ready to plate. I finish my pasta with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a generous amount of thinly sliced green onions. Once I plate the pasta, I garnish the dish with toasted bread crumbs and thinly sliced Benton's country ham. I dehydrated the sliced ham until it was crisp, but feel free to use ham fresh off of slicer.

Serve with crusty grilled bread and enjoy! if you have any questions, go to the "drop me a line" tab and message me.