Making The Old -- and The Good -- New Again

By James Parrish Coleman -- a/k/a Jimbo Coleman

A later edition. Early Editions had a white

spine, and ads for long extinct local business.


Gulf Coast Gourmet was compiled by my late mother, Jane S. Coleman, in the early 1960s. The book was a fund raiser for the Foley Woman's Club.

The illustrations are the original work of a very talented artist named Marion Dyer. The book has been in print for many, many years; but has the simple fault of assuming you know about Gulf seafood and really know how to cook. I'll cook through the book (and my childhood), explain how Jane Coleman cooked, and tell a lot of family stories in the process. I like to cook. I will share what I have, and hope you like it. That's the spirit of this blog. Bon Appetit.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Truly Taken From The Hand Of God

Her voice clanged like a loud and slightly off-key monotone. She was at her customary place, blasting my dinner guests with her usual non-stop monologue about her work, her house, her cat, her troubles, her way of doing things and her ideas about how the table should be set.


"If we're going to eat fish, as a first course, we should have fish plates. My silver pattern has fish knives. Do you have fish knives? I have fish knives!"

Yikes!

I, safely in the kitchen, was insulated from the noise and bother. In a few seconds, surely, she would notice that plates on which I was about to serve the fish were not fish plates at all -- but meant for salad.

Life is defined by contrasts.

Earlier in the day, a quieter gentler soul pointed at a red plastic pail. It was filled with ice, with only the tails of two speckled trout jutting out. "We caught those just a little while ago," he said quietly. His offering was gentle, matter of fact and appreciated. This fishing guide (the son of my co-worker) is the picture of good natured serenity.

He calls me when he has a gift of fish. I never know when the gift will come. I never know what it will be. I trust this fisherman and know that the gift will be good. I only have to be receptive and use it wisely.

 My daughter and I were shopping when the phone rang. "Jimbo, I've got a couple of fish." The unexpected bounty always elicits the same response. "I'll be right there." Moments later, daughter Sarah arrived at his waterfront home, got our fish and headed home.
Capt Sonny & his son Brian
trading fishing tips

Good, fresh and well handled fish are always a gift. Cooking them properly is more a matter of not screwing up what you've been given than skillfully making up for their deficiencies.



You must worry only about the fish placed on the plate, not the fish painted on the plate. Simple methods honor perfect ingredients.




Gulf Coast Gourmet has a simple fish dish. It is of the "fry till golden and delicious" variety.

Speckled Trout -- Not A Trout At All!
Cooking fish simply and well is stark. There is no place to hide. Its the fish, a hot pan, salt, pepper a little flour, butter and you.

That is why it can be so difficult.

The fish Sonny provided is the most popular "trout" along the central gulf coast. However, it is not a trout at all.

"The spotted seatrout also known as speckled trout (Cynoscion nebulosus) and spotted weakfish(Cynoscion regalis) are common estuarine fish found in the southern United States along coasts of Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Ocean. While most of these fish are caught on shallow, grassy flats, spotted seatrout reside in virtually any inshore waters, from the surf of outside islands to far up coastal rivers, where they often come for shelter during cold weather. Contrary to its name, the spotted seatrout is not a member of the trout family (Salmonidae), but of the drum family (Sciaenidae)" (source: Wikipedia)

Here is the closest thing Gulf Coast Gourmet comes to a simple fish recipe:


Oh, this is so typical! We don't know what kind of "trout" we're supposed to use. And we're not even told that that does not really matter! "Have backbone removed from fish." Does that mean we need to use fillets? Do we remove the backbone and leave the flesh on the back attached? Who knows!
"Melt butter in skillet and fry fish until it is a delicate brown. Place cooked fish on platter."
We're getting somewhere here! However. Here is a better way










Number one. Find yourself a Sonny Dean and learn what a fresh fish is really all about. Remember, the freshness of the fish will make you look like a hero! Take what Sonny gave you and:

Fillet the fish. Divide the fillets into portions so you never have one piece of fish that is thin in one spot and thick in another. Better to have several small pieces that will cook evenly. Season the fish with salt and pepper

 Clarify butter. Put a pound (yes, a pound, 4 sticks, 16 oz.) in a saucepan and put the pan on very low heat. It will melt, then a white foamy mass will rise to the top. Skim that off and save it (it is called gee, and it is great to eat on bread). Then let the butter simmer. The water will boil out of the product. Don't turn the heat up and take your time. In a while, the butter will have turned to a clear yellow liquid with little light brown flecks. Let it cool a little and strain it. Keep in the icebox.

Now, the easy part begins! Put a pan on medium heat and add clarified butter to about a 1/4 inch depth. Do not overheat the pan! The clarified butter has a much higher burning point that regular butter, but don't push it!

Dip the fish in milk, and dredge it in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Gently place it in the pan. No shaking, banging or shouting. This is a gentle process.

After a minute or two. Take a fish spatula ( a must have gadget) and turn the fish once. The easiest mistake to make is to have the heat too high and burn the fish. The most common mistake is overcooking. When you are sure it is not done, give it a poke with your Termapen. (If you don't know what that is, read an earlier post). At 125 F it is plenty done!

Place it on a platter and spoon a little of the butter over the top. I find the almonds entirely unnecessary.


"What did you do to this fish! Are you sure it's done already? What did you season it with? Then, the first bite, and silence. Another bite, more quiet!! Well, even though she can't eat forever, Sonny and his gift of a really fresh fish  quieted the clanging bell, and dampened the noisy cymbal. All it took was a really fresh fish, a light touch -- and a little clarified butter. Straight from the hand of God -- really fine ingredients need nothing else -- not even a fish plate.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Crunchy on the outside. Creamy on the Inside, God's Gift to you and me... 

Fall and winter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, mean the end of hurricane season, football -- and oysters.

Santa as an Oyster Shell from
http://www.etsy.com/shop/beachseacrafts


 Sure, sure. The old "only eat oysters in a month containing the letter 'R'" is a hoary old rule -- and about as useful on the Gulf Coast as fall time grammar school displays of falling leaves and shocks of corn. You can't watch the leaves change on the Gulf Coast, they don't. September is just as hot as August, (with the insult of having to watch Yankees on television wear their sweaters and jackets.)

No one who has lived in a hot and humid climate fails to enjoy the first cool front -- or the first good oyster.

Kenny Stabler, a native of 
my hometown, at about the time
I was watching the Saints get
the hell beaten out of them
every Sunday afternoon.
Winter, football and oysters mean New Orleans.

This was a place, long, long ago, where I stood in the climate controlled confines of a building on fall afternoons. There, as a young intern for United Press International, I would watch football. I stood on the sidelines of the newly constructed Louisiana Superdome. There were big bolsters to keep the football players from crashing into those of us on the sidelines.

When you are that close, you can hear the players crash into each other. Man! They really crashed too!

In those days, the Minnesota Vikings came down regularly and humiliated the New Orleans Saints.

It was bad. Real bad. Even a non-football fan like me knew how bad it was. 

Twenty-nine years later I flew over the dome in the days following Hurricane Katrina. I only thought watching the "'Aints" getting the hell beaten out of them was bad. The city looked like a movie set. A column of smoke rose from a wharf, which burned brightly against the water and dirty goo that covered much of the city. My flight path, ferrying United States Coast Guard pilots and other personnel from Alexandria to Belle Chasse Louisiana took me over the eastern half of the city. I spied the house where I had visited the family of my son's then girlfriend -- a charming and sweet doctor's daughter who lived near the Lakefront. Her house was  flooded up to the eaves.

Like I said, it was bad.

Worse were the comments and ensuing arguments about how stupid everyone in New Orleans must be to have stayed in the city in the face of a hurricane. Also bad were the gross and often repeated misunderstandings of how the city flooded. It was not the hurricane that flooded New Orleans, it was the failure of  a levee system.

Fast forward a few years. The traffic lights are replaced. The temporary four-way stops in the city are removed. The streetcars roll again. The "'Aints" are a memory. Drew Brees and company win the Superbowl. It was a magical time.

I watched as much of the game as I can stand. I don't like suspense. I can't watch Hurricane Katrina documentaries without "tuning up" and I have an emotional attachment to New Orleans in general and The Saints in particular that is completely irrational.

Did Drew, the Saints and their families bet on New Orleans just to help the coast overcome Katrina? Probably not. But watching them win that football game -- and to see the New Orleans Saints proclaimed National Champions -- was an event that choked up even a non-fan like me.

Then came Deepwater Horizon. Again, we were chided by the rest of the nation for not holding up well enough to the latest disaster to hit the Gulf Coast. Oysters were -- and are -- awfully scarce. Even those who know better fret about the "safety" of seafood. (Interesting from a nation that gobbles down chemically altered food with ingredient names that sound like the index to a chemistry textbook.)

But......what about the oysters?
Sarah Coleman, with her Christmas
Oyster knife after proving she can
shuck as fast as her brother 

Last week the Gods Of British Petroleum proclaimed the oil spill over. Watch their commercials with all the happy Cajun Folk. Life is good again. 'Cause they said so!

I don't know about life. I do know about Oysters. I opened and ate some of the best oysters I have every put in my mouth over the Christmas holiday.

Katrina is a distant memory! BP proclaims victory! Oysters are good again!

Not so fast. I hope we never forget Katrina. BP is working to stay ahead of the lawsuit that cranks up in a few weeks in New Orleans -- and the oyster industry will struggle for years to overcome the stigma attached to the oil spill.

But for now, let's eat!

I had the pleasure of cooking with a great bunch of folks from Fairhope, Alabama. We got together and spent four Saturdays cooking and eating gulf seafood. Opening and eating oysters was a highlight. Take a look at the tab marked "Oysters" and watch the movie showing a pretty good shucker opening an oyster. It takes practice, and care, to do this properly. However, the reward is so great that learning the skill is really worthwhile. When my Fairhope friends first attempted to open a few oysters, they had a little trouble. Remember, that oyster wants to stay closed!

Noted food authority Hagar The Horrible opined that oysters are a perfect snack. "Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside," he said. Unless you are a viking with a jaw as tough as Hagar's, you might want to open the oyster before you eat it. Here the steps, and some tips:

Sarah wielding the Dexter Russel New Haven 
pattern knife. Glove by Ace Hardware and
 the People Republic of China.
1) Buy oysters that are selected for opening and serving on the half shell. This is the most important step. Oyster producers will select shells that contain a single oyster, rather than a clump of oysters. These are much easier to open than oysters that are clumped together and oddly shaped. You can get a 22 lb box that has about for or five dozen oysters. The number of oysters will vary because of the size and shape of the oysters.






2) Scrub the oysters before you open them. They will have a little mud and dirt on them right out of the box. Scrub them clean, and let them sit for a while before you open them. Handling oysters a lot makes them harder to open.

3) Keep them on ice and cold, but not in water. Leave the drain plug on the ice chest open. Let the ice drain out. You can keep box and all in the refrigerator. Put some dishtowels under the box to catch the seepage.

4) Get a good oyster knife. The one pictured on the right is a Dexter Russell New Haven Pattern, with a little curve on the tip. It is not what the pros favor, but it is awfully easy to use. The knife with the blue handle is similar to a gulf coast pattern knife, but with an edge on one tip, and all the way down the other side. There are lots of kinds of knives. Ask the fish guy (or gal) what they use to open oysters. Don't buy that cheap oyster knife you see in the grocery store. It will hurt you! For a nice article on various kind of knives (including the Carvel Hall which we used to sell at Coleman Marine) see http://www.oysters.us/oyster-knives.html



5) Don't open oysters while drinking beer, whiskey, moonshine, vodka or gin. Don't open them in the dark or while you are trying to tell jokes or make time with that cute brunette with the leather glove on her left hand. Take your time and concentrate on what you are doing. Sticking an oyster knife in your hand is guaranteed to give you an infection you'll never forget, so watch what you're doing.

6) Wipe the knife clean -- repeatedly. Don't stick a dirty nasty knife into the oyster meat. You'll carry grit onto the oyster.

7) As always, stay organized. Shuck onto a sheet pan or other tray. If you're not serving and eating immedately, bed the oysters in cracked ice.

8) Enjoy and don't worry. Oysters are good, and good for you!




My Sister, Claudia Coleman, doing what
her daddy taught her. Enjoying an oyster
with a bottle of  Tabasco. A a more varied
bottlescape appears in the background. 
My sister, who knows a thing or two about eating oysters, got the worst case of food posioning of her life from eating oysters which were harvested illegally. That was on the east coast back in the late 1970s.

She got over it and learned the lesson I'll leave with you. Buy your oysters from a reputable source. Handle them properly.


See the tab marked "Oysters" to learn how this product is inspected, tracked and monitored.












Monday, September 5, 2011

For The Love Of The Thing... The Amateur Informs the Professional



One Fish, Two Approaches. 
Amateur vs. Professional and the difference in love and money.

When I was a teenager I had an encounter with a Catholic priest. It changed my life, forever. 

Fr. Anthony Zoghby. See entry 
Snapper St. John for more  about
this remarkable and wonderful man.





Got your attention, didn't I? The priest was Fr. Anthony Zoghby. He introduced me -- and thousands of others -- to amateur theater.

Sure, he kept a smart-ass, mouthy teenage kid from running wild in the streets (well, dirt roads in rural Baldwin County).

I appreciated the attention and outlet for all that energy.

What I didn't know when I was slaving away on those productions was the real lesson I was learning -- that doing a thing for the love of doing it is far more precious and important that doing something because you are paid to do it.





  am·a·teur/ˈamətər/
Noun: A person who engages in a pursuit, esp. a sport, on an unpaid basis.
Adjective: Engaging or engaged in without payment; nonprofessional.  More »

Fr. Zoghby taught me to do something because I loved it. He taught me to be an amateur.

A Bonne Femme cooking. A little
bonne femme looks and learns
If you like to cook, your friends may jokingly call you a "chef." Unless you supervise a bunch of folks in a professional kitchen, you are not a chef. You are a cook. Note well that I did not say you are just a cook.


In cooking, as in a lot of pursuits, the amateur informs the professional. Almost all of the fancy stuff you eat in a restaurant was first a dish invented in some person's home. Cuisine Bonne Femme --cooking of a good woman -- properly recognizes that the good cooking starts at home.

If you stick with things that you can cook without fancy tools, exotic ingredients and technically difficult presentations, you can cook food that is a lot better than you can buy in many -- if not most -- restaurants. Sure, there are great places that do things that you can't do, but there are a lot more places that do poorly in a professional kitchen what you can do very well at home.

Of course it's fresh! Chef just opened the can!


Remember, much of the food you eat in a restaurant is pre-packaged, pre-made and pre-prepared. Companies like Sysco and other food service outfits have made the logical leap in understanding that "chef" is a guy with limited skills in the kitchen at most chain joints. The idea is to put out a consistent product which the customers will accept, all without poisoning anyone. That's not a bad thing, but that approach does not put out food that is as good as what you can make at home. Tons of places that advertise "Country Cooking" have never seen a collard green that did not arrive at the back door in a can. If the lady in the above photo cooked any canned collards, she probably canned them herself.



The distinction between a home-style dish and its fancier counterpart is no surprise: technique.


Buy This Book!
The two dishes -- one from Gulf Coast Gourmet and the other its refined cousin -- illustrate how things go from simple to fancy. Both are easy to do, and fun. In the first, Magnolia Cafe Stuffed Flounder, a flounder is stuffed with a crab meat dressing. It is simple, good and easy to do. The second -- from Jacques Pepin's books La Methode and La Technique -- completely bones the founder, fills it with a cream and crab meat/shrimp sauce. This book is something you should have. It is such a useful book!

Both start with two identical fish.  I will admit, these are not the best looking flounder I've ever cooked, but they are big and identical!

The Magnolia Cafe Stuffed Flounder (named, of course, for Blanch Weeks' wonderful and, sadly, long-gone establishment)
is a simple dish that home cooks around here have cooked for generations. It is an amateur dish -- the love fish.

Jacques Pepin's dish is more refined. Something those French guys dreamed up to make sure they wowed all the other French guys and kept their jobs as chefs. It is a professional dish (though not very professionally executed by yours truly). It is a professional's dish -- the money fish.





 In the first dish, cut a pocket for the stuffing, stuff and bake. It's easy. In the second, the fish is partially boned, stuffed, cooked and then completely boned. It is then sauced and served.

The flounder is one of the many flatfish found around the world. The French (no surprise) say it is inferior to Sole; our flounder is tiny compared to a turbot. What's cooking here is a Southern Flounder. Most of them have the elongated tail that you see to the left. In any event, remember that the fish is  thin and easy to overcook.



Cut right along the backbone
Before you start cooking, you will prepare the fish. In the first, and simpler, dish a pocket for the stuffing is made in the top of the fish. Make a cut right along the backbone of the fish, starting back from the head and stopping an inch or so before the tail. Then, take your knife and cut the pocket right next to the ribs. To do this, put the blade of the knife right along the ribs and separate the flesh from the bone. Make a pocket on each side of the fish.
Cut a pocket in the top of the fish

On the fancy dish, a pocket is cut on the top and bottom of the fish. In either remember there are two tricks here. One, keep the knife against the bone. Two, make sure your knife is sharp. Also, to make this easy, get the right kind of knife! Because I am at the age when the children of my friends are getting married, I easily solve gift-giving problems with a carbon steel 10 inch chef's knife. If they don't cook, maybe their children will. I always tell the recipient, "If you put the knife in a dishwasher, I'll take it away from you."
8 inch fillet de sole
The place to go for these knives is http://store.sabatier.us. They will ship from France to you and it'll be there in a few days. This is the only place I know where I can buy a high quality carbon steel knife. They also sell a fillet knife (known to them as a fillet de sole) which is literally made for filleting flatfish.



The stuffing tastes better than it looks!

After you've cut the pocket in the flounder, fill the pocket with the stuffing. I put the fish on a sheet pan with some chopped hard vegetables under the fish. This will ensure that it won't stick to the sheet pan. See the recipe, below, for detailed instructions.

The only trick with the stuffing is to make sure that it is not so dry that it won't stick together, or so wet that is will make a mushy mess. The bowl of glop on the left is about right.  There are lots of ways to make stuffing, and many other stuffings that would be good with this dish. Something creamy, with seafood and a little more assertive flavor goes will with the the very mild flounder. The Gulf Coast Gourmet flounder is more highly seasoned than Jacques' dish, but that is to be expected.
   



Stuffed!
At this point, the Love Fish is ready for the oven. 20 minutes at 400 degrees is a little too much. I usually do 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Flounder is thin, and easy to overcook. Make sure you don't make the stuffing too wet, or it will not cook. Don't over cook the fish as you attempt to completely cook the stuffing. Just don't put too much stuffing in the fish and you'll be fine.

For the recipe set out in Jacques Pepin's book, cut the pockets like in the simpler recipe, but cut all the way to the end of the ribs. Be careful not to cut through the skin of the fish.













Clip the backbone at the head and tail
Do this on the top and bottom of the flounder. Then, cut the backbone out of the fish and remove it. I use kitchen shears to do this. You will have a fish with the head and tail attached, with no backbone and only the bones in the fin that are on the edge of the fish. Then, put the fish on a sheet pan and put a shrimp and crab meat stuffing in the pockets. 
















Take out the back bone
Jacques (we are on a first-name basis, you know) tells us to put parchment paper over the fish and cook it in the oven. Consult his book for details. (And yes, I am avoiding pinching his recipe without permission. I am also encouraging you to buy the book.)
Cover the boned fish with buttered parchment





















After the fish is done, pull the bones and fins on the edge off of the fillets.Strain the liquid left in the pan into a small sauce pan. You'll use it to make the sauce. Then, using the back of a fork or your fingers, remove the black skin of the fish. It does not taste very good and has a rather nasty texture. Also remove the head and tail from the fish. Because the fish is cooked, you'll be able to do this with a spoon, the back or a fork or your fingers. 
Remove tail, head and fin bones on edges
A messy loaf you can clean up!

Clean up the sheet pan, getting all the cooked bones, head and tail off of the sheet pan. You'll have a little "loaf" of fish left. It looks a little ragged, but it will be fine. Put a platter over the top of the fish, hold the platter down on the sheet pan and flip the whole business over. It is nothing like as daring as it sounds, and will impress those who don't cook much.
Platter ready to flip.




















 Then make a sauce. Jacques will tell you how, or you can just make the same sauce used with Pompano (see that blog entry).  The sauce I'll use here is the strained liquid from the fish, three egg yolks and about a 1/2 cup of cream. Heat and stir until it becomes thick enough to coat a spoon. (That means, dunk a spoon in the sauce. If it sticks to the spoon and covers it -- thick enough.) You can make it thicker, but it should not be as thick as a Hollandaise Sauce.
This is French -- Make A Sauce!
Clean up the Platter...





















The plain dish looks and tastes like a stuffed flounder. Plain and simple. The more refined dish from my culinary hero Jacques is a little more refined, and does have that nice sauce!


Then Sauce & Serve.
 On the right, is the stuffed flounder with the sauce. I've added chopped green onions to the sauce to give a little color. Chives would have been even better but --- hey --- I didn't have any chives (Learn to cook with what you have!)
Plain Stuffed Flounder... but Good!

Below is Jacques' country cousin. Simple stuffed flounder. I've removed the head (because the fish was too big for the platter) and garnished with a little leftover watercress and a lemon. 


OK. Garnish your fish with a lemon if you like. You can make fancy little cuts in the lemon like this. Take your paring knife and hold it over the top of the lemon -- right at the tip where it came off the tree. Put your thumb on the knife at a place that lines up with the outside of the lemon. The distance from your thumb to the tip of the knife will be half the diameter of the lemon (get it!) Then hold the lemon in your hand and poke the knife in the lemon in a little zig-zag pattern. You can't poke yourself with the knife because your thumb will stop the knife from going in the lemon too deeply. (If you moved your thumb, start over -- dummy!)





Is the fancy dish any better than the simple one? Is love better than money? No.

Both are good, one is a lot more work than the other, and has only the advantage of being easier to serve and eat.

Maybe the best flounder fish would be to cook the fish very simply in butter, and then add a little lemon. That's a dish that combines love and money!! Simple is good!

Here are the recipes in red with comments in black.

MAGNOLIA CAFE STUFFED FLOUNDER
Wash fish thoroughly. Split open lengthwise
on top of fish.  Insert sharp knife in each side
of opening and slit to make a pocket for stuffing, No argument there! Do as it says
Put pinch of salt and one tablespoon of melted oleomargarine in pocket. I am sure I should make some crack about how you should use butter instead of "Oleo margarine". When the cook book was written, margarine was a new and big deal. Many states (those with a good dairy lobby) refused to allow producers of this corn-based butter look alike to color it yellow. It was packed with a little container of yellow dye, so you could make the whiteish oleo yellow like butter. It is nothing like as good as butter and I don't cook with it. However because it has a higher burning temperature than butter, it can be useful in cooking fish. See Frank Davis' Seafood Notebook. Hardcover - 288 pages. (June, 1983). Pelican Pub. Co.; ISBN:0882893092  http://frankdavis.com/Store/tabid/64/ctl/ProductDetails/mid/469/ProductID/2/Default.aspx 
for a good discussion of the use of margarine in cooking seafood.

 Use one-half of the Deviled Crab recipe for.
stuffing. Substitute garlic bread crumbs for
cracker crumbs in this recipe. For a sight
variation one fourth teaspoon of herb seasoning  may be added to Deviled Crab recipe
also. It's all good. If you don't like this stuffing recipe, try something else. 

 Fill the pocket with stuffing
Place stuffed fish in shallow, buttered baking
pan. Add enough water to prevent fish from
sticking to pan. Baste fish with melted oleo I baste with butter.
Sprinkle with the following.

2 dishes of lemon juice
salt
1 dash Worcestershire Sauce
1 dash Louisiana Hot Sauce Tabasco
4 Tbs. melted oleo
You'll need to moisten the stuffing with something. This is as good as anything!
Bake at least 30 minutes in 400° F. oven. I think this is a little too long and a little too hot. Check the fish at 20 minutes. I have found that is plenty, unless you have a huge mound of cold stuffing in the fish
Remove from oven and press boiled. shrimp split lengthwise, into stuffing. Run under
broiler until dressing browns,  Sure, great idea. This is probably what was intended in the Eggplant Creole recipe. The shrimp have to be added after the fish is cooked. If you left a poor little shrimp in that oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees he would be Shrimp au carbone for sure.
Remove: fish
from pan with spatula. Add a few_drops of
lemon juice to pan juices and drizzle over fish.
If no juice remains in pan, add two tablespoons water, bring to a boil on top o£ the stove, add
lemon juice and drizzle over fish. Garnish with
parsley and serve. Great. Do it like this, if you think it needs it. I find squeezing a lemon over the whole thing is sufficient.

DEVILED CRAB

1 lb. crab meat I use claw meat, not as expensive as lump. It also has a little stronger flavor, which is a good thing
3/4cup butter
3/4 cup minced celery
3/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbs. minced green pepper
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
2 Tbs. lemon juice ,
l Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
l tsp. dry mustard
1-1/2 tsp. salt
I dash cayenne
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pick Over crab meat and remove any cartilage. Always a good thing. You'll get little bits of shell and stuff in claw meat.
Start your oven an 350° F, Not here, pal. We're going to do this on top of the stove in a saute pan.
Place butter into 1-1/2  quart casserole and
plant in oven. When butter is melted, put
minced vegetables  into casserole and return.
to oven until they are wilted but not brown,
Spoon vegetables and into mixture
carabmeat, crumbs. lemon juice and all season-
ing. Pour egg: and cream  into this mixture
and stir together thoroughly Spoon into
casserole or shells and dot the top with  little additional butter. Bake casserole 30 minutes.
Bake individual shells 20 minutes. Serve hot
Nope. Here is a lot quicker method for doing this for this dish. Put the butter in a hot saute pan. Let the hard stuff cook, but not brown. When it is nice and cooked, dump it into a bowl with the crab meat and seasonings. Stir it up, add the eggs and bread crumbs. Stir this up and add cream until you get the consistency you want. Taste for seasoning (only the egg is raw, and it should not kill you). Make sure you don't get it too liquid. Add the wet stuff last. It is easy to add liquid -- but it is hard to take it back out!!

Next Time -- Back to the Oyster...













 














Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Drinking Man's Guide to Getting Pickled

Getting Pickled -- Lessons from the Master

Is that boozy slide into fuzzy affability the same by any other name?

In our family you could be bent, besotted, blasted, blitzed, blotto, bombed, crocked, destroyed, drunk, drunk-as [a lord, Cooter Brown, a boiled piss-ant,] fried, hammered, loaded, looped, mellow, pickled, plowed, polluted, shit-faced, sloshed, smashed, snockered, wasted and the Barrett family favorite... a little tired.

From that first warm Pabts Blue Ribbon beer consumed on a "camp-out" to the beautifully cold Martini I'll have tonight, I have taken pleasure in that gentle stimulant, that oil of conversation the philosophic wine.

Gulf Coast Gourmet has no drink recipes.

It's is a pity too, because the folks who wrote, enjoyed and cooked out of the book were from a generation of some of the really heroic drinkers of the 20th century.

Capt. Jack R. Coleman (Next To
The Woman, of course) Aboard
One Of His Ships in 1950.

The Old Master was my late Uncle Jack. He was born and reared in the hills of Mississippi. He hated the farm and left there to go to sea as a very young man.


 A carpenter's mate  in the navy, he later was a merchant mariner, a mate and captain during WWII. He worked for Waterman Steamship Lines, and was later part of a team who introduced containerized cargo to the shipping industry.

He was also a delightful troublemaker and absolute tyrant. He was accustomed to being the Captain, and you had better understand that on his ship -- his word was law. (He considered the whole of the known world to be an extension of his ship).




I don't remember ever seeing Uncle Jack really intoxicated. As I look back, I was usually plowed by the heavy hand he used as he plied me with Manhattans. If he had been drunk, I, myself, would have been too drunk to notice.
He, a Mississippi Baptist, married an Irish Catholic girl from New York City. Katherine Coleman, a product of an urban world that was completely foreign and fascinating to a kid from Magnolia Springs, Ala.,  didn't know how to drive until she was in her thirties.


She was very Catholic -- her "mom" was from "Up Mayo" in Ireland. She and Aunt Kaye were very genteel people and much adored by Uncle Jack. The hospitality in the home of my aunt and uncle was legendary. They loved a party and had many of them. They never had any children, and lavished attention on us when we were young adults.

As he and my Aunt Kaye aged, my cousins insisted on calling him "Unkie." This would be mildly disgusting if the cousins had been little children -- they were women in their late 50s and 60s.

 Shortly before his death he lived in a dingy little nursing home. His beloved "Kate" had died, and he was easily confused, often mistaking the cramped room in which he lived for the confines of a ship. My son James and I would visit him, and take him out for hearty breakfasts at Waffle House and clandestine rides through the country.

On one, he was introduced to the joys of a canned ready-to-drink cocktail. He declared it a fine invention -- if a little too sweet.

His interest in rearing James -- surely in moments of approaching senility -- consisted of declaring "a few years in  a Luckenbach Lines steamer" would be just the ticket before college. James himself was sometimes the object his delusions. "Laddie Buck," the confused old captain once said, "How about I take you down on the pier-head and whip your ass?"

James, a  puzzled but patient 15-year-old, answered. "OK, Uncle Jack."


Jack Coleman's Drink
of Choice -- A Manhattan


After he died his house full of beautiful furniture and possessions was picked over, and then auctioned off. I bought a painting of one of his ships done by a Japanese admirer.My sister bought (and gave to me)  Uncle Jack's sterling silver flask. I am sure everyone thought it was silver plate!

I have most of his pictures, maritime charts, books and logs. He was a fascinating man, and one of the toughest guys I've ever met.

He also mixed a good drink....


 Chatham Artillery Punch.

Besides the Manhattan, there is one other alcoholic concoction that rides high in Coleman Family lore. The mighty, some say deadly, Chatham Artillery Punch. (for a slightly different recipe see http://www.food.com/recipe/chatham-artillery-punch-121495 )

This is one of those 18th and 19th century hard liquor punches that convinces me that boozing -- like sex -- is not an invention of the current generation.

Part of the recipe Daddy used consisted of soaking fruit in the alcohol mixture. My father undertook the job of pouring the resulting fruit flavored liquor off of the fruit. This was done in the basement of our home in Magnolia Springs. Rather than waste that booze infused fruit, my frugal Daddy started eating a few whiskey soaked cherries, and then a few more.

He had to be helped up the basement stairs. I was probably scarred for life by the experience -- or maybe have inherited an affinity for Chatham Artillery Punch.

My Hot Weather Drink
of Choice. A Martini. There
Is Only One Way to Make
This Drink. Gin, Dry Vermouth
Ice, Olives and A Cocktail
Shaker. No -- Don't even
Start About Any Other Recipe

Mix up a batch of this stuff, but be ready to collect all the car keys before serving, and have plenty of hangover remedies ready for the next day.

Is drinking alcohol bad for you? Is it a..... sin? Should it be outlawed? Discouraged? Applauded? It is altogether appropriate to listen to what another native son of the Magnolia State said on the subject.
One man -- Soggy Sweat, took the floor of the Mississippi legislature in 1952 and captured perfectly the tension between good and evil that rests in the seductive brown fluid shown below. Here is a recreation of that famous disquisition...





Put your drink down, and learn now how to pickle something other than yourself or your girlfriend.

Pickled shrimp are a great thing to have before a meal. They are, of course, tart and vinegary. You can serve them as hors d'oeuvres, or on a little circle of rice on a plate as a hors d'oeuvre course.

In any event, the trick is to pickle the shrimp without over cooking.


Equipment
I've used a mandolin like
this one for 20 years. About $40

It Slices! It Dices (does not) It crawls on its belly like a reptile! (not that either).

A mandolin slicer is a low tech gadget that makes prep work for a dish like this easy. Buy one, and don't bother to spend the big bucks for an expensive metal mandolin unless you're going to use it twice a week. Most of us mokes do fine with one similar to this one.


Ingredients

2-1/2 Lb Raw Shrimp Use something rather large here. It is easier to make an attractive layer in the kind of jar we are going to use. It is also harder to overcook the shrimp
1/2 cup Celery Tops If you don't have tops, slice ribs of celery very fine.
1/4 Cup Pickling Spice Buy and use a whole jar. Don't count on that pickling spice that you bought during the Carter administration
3-1/2 tsp. Salt
Sliced with a Mandolin, the coolest kitchen
gadget!
1 Pt sliced Onions Ah yes, if you don't have a mandolin, get one (not the musical instrument, the slicing gadget. It will make slicing very easy, and this dish manageable.
8 Bay Leaves
1-1/4 Cups Olive Oil This does not have to be some high priced stuff picked from the slopes of Mr. Etna by red haired virgins, however -- use something that taste good raw -- right out of the bottle.



3/4 Cup White Vinegar
2-1/2 tsp Celery Seed
1-1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Coarsely ground black pepper
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
Dash Tabasco



Lets Cook...

There are lots of good pickled seafood recipes which combine an acid with raw seafood for a pickled, firmly textured product. This is a very basic and fool-proof approach. A hot pickling liquid is combined with shrimp and the vegetable ingredients. Many of these let the seafood cool in the liquid, and are eaten the next day. Some of these recipes only subject the seafood to the acid for a short time -- just to change the color and texture of the seafood.

This is typical Gulf Coast Gourmet -- make sure nothing is raw and everything has the hell cooked out of it. I'll tell you how I do this, and then go through the recipe. My way is in red here:

Look, this is simple. Soak the shrimp in brine and then peel them. Boil the pickling spice in water with some garlic. Put the shrimp in and turn off the heat. Let the shrimp pick up the pickle-spice flavor. They can cool in the liquid while you prepare the other parts of the dish. Start tasting for done-ness in a few minutes. When the shrimp are barely done take them out of the hot liquid. The idea is to let them steep in the hot pickling spice as long as you can, short of over cooking the shrimp. Just "taste and see". 

Pack the jar with a layer of vegetable on the bottom, then a layer of shrimp, then a layer -- you get the idea -- an artistic stripe of pink shrimp and green/white veg. (Feel kind of like Martha Stewart, don't you?)

Then pour the oil, vinegar and seasoning mixture over the whole thing and put the ice box. Remember, the olive oil will solidify in the ice box. Don't despair, let it come to room temp before serving


If you follow the cookbook -- unless you have shrimp that are very cold or very large -- you'll end up with overcooked shrimp. The recipe text is in black, my comments are in red

Cover shrimp with boiling water.Nope, this is not how I cook this dish. I say peel the shrimp first.
Then  Add celery tops, pickling spice and salt. to the water only Bring to a boil and start tasting the shrimp for donness as soon as they come back to a boil. DO NOT simmer shrimp about 10 minutes. Drain, cool with cold water. Don't do that either.



Take the shrimp out of the seasoned water and let them cool. Don't wash off the seasoning and spice by running the under water. Peel under cold running water. Devein. Alternate cleaned shrimp and sliced onions in a shallow dish.

Pack them in layers in a jar like I'm doing here. Sure Add bay leaves. Combine olive oil, vinegar, celery seed salt, Tabasco and Worcestershire . Mix well, pour over shrimp and onions. Hey, I knew we'd agree on something!!

Cover and store in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving. Yes, absolutely. They will not taste like much until they sit in the liquid for at least a day or so. Put them in the ice box, and let them sit for a couple of days.