The Crab Melt

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This sandwich is a variation on the classic tuna melt, which is itself a variation on the classic grilled cheese sandwich. This sandwich is a bit more upscale, since it uses crabmeat in place of tuna.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
Soften unsalted butter
4 slices ciabatta bread
4 slices Swiss cheese
10 ounces crab claw meat
3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning


Directions:

Prepare the bread. Spread butter on each slice and lay a slice of Swiss cheese on the unbuttered side.

To make the crab mixture, in a medium bowl, mix the crab meat, Monterey jack cheese, mayonnaise, green onions, and Old Bay Seasoning.

Add an even layer of the crab mixture on the top of one cheese slice. Place the other bread layer on top of the mixture, with the buttered bread side on the outside.

Heat a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan on medium high heat. Grill the sandwich, browning each side for a few minutes until golden and crisp or until the cheese melts.

Cut the sandwiches in half and set at an angle for that endearingly crabby appearance.

Serve immediately with French fries or potato chips.

Cook’s Note:
If cibatta bread is not available, a large store bought Italian bread is an excellent substitute. You want a bread that has a moderate crust and a fairly soft crumb. A coarse-textured peasant bread or a dense sourdough might be too hard to bite through without making a mess of the filling.


Fried Shrimp Po’ Boy

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In the late 1800s fried oyster sandwiches on French loaves were known in New Orleans as “oyster loaves”, a term still in use in the 21st century. A sandwich containing both fried shrimp and fried oysters is often called a “peacemaker” or La Médiatrice. Most likely the earliest known version of a po’ boy

A staple of New Orleans cuisine, the po’ boy sandwich harkens back to 1920s. The origin of the name is unknown. A popular local theory claims that “po’ boy”, as specifically referring to a type of sandwich, was coined in a New Orleans restaurant owned by Benny and Clovis Martin (originally from Raceland, Louisiana), former streetcar conductors. In 1929, during a four-month strike against the streetcar company, the Martin brothers served their former colleagues free sandwiches. The Martins’ restaurant workers jokingly referred to the strikers as “poor boys”, and soon the sandwiches themselves took on the name. In Louisiana dialect, this is naturally shortened to “po’ boy.”

Po’ boys usually features some sort of meat, though the type ranges from roast beef to fried seafood most often shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters or crab to sausage, that’s served on baguette-like New Orleans French bread, known for its crisp crust and fluffy center. In New Orleans, the two primary sources of po’boy bread are the Leidenheimer Baking Company and Alois J. Binder.

New Orleans is known for its grand restaurants, but more humble fare like the po’ boy is very popular. Po’ boys may be made at home, sold pre-packaged in convenience stores, available at deli counters and most neighborhood restaurants. One of the most basic New Orleans restaurants is the po’ boy shop, and these shops often offer seafood platters, red beans and rice, jambalaya, and other basic Creole dishes.

It’s safe to say that I have a love affair with the cuisine of New Orleans. It is a magical place where the local residents like to say there are four seasons: Mardi Gras, crawfish, snowball and football — and they all revolve around food. Just give me a po’boy dressed and beignets with a steaming cafe au lait, and I am good…..

 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 small loaves of French bread (or 2 larger loaves, halved)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large tomato, sliced
2 cups lettuce, shredded
Dill pickle spears, for serving

Directions:
Peel the shrimp, but leave the tails on, if desired.

With a sharp knife, make a shallow cut along the length of the back of a shrimp. Pull the dark vein out or scrape it out with the knife. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.

Rinse the shrimp under cold running water; pat dry and set aside.

Heat the oil to 375 ° F in a deep, heavy saucepan or deep fryer. Line a baking sheet or pan with a double layer of paper towels.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, hot sauce, and egg and whisk to blend.

Add the shrimp to the mixture and allow to stand for 3 to 4 minutes.

In another bowl, combine the flour and cornmeal with the baking powder, Creole seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Take the shrimp out of the milk and egg mixture and dredge in the flour and cornmeal mixture. Coat the shrimp thoroughly.

Drop several coated shrimp in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overcrowd the shrimp or the oil will take longer to return to temperature and the coating will absorb more oil.

With a slotted metal spoon, transfer the cooked shrimp to the paper towel-lined pan and repeat with the remaining shrimp.

Slice the baguettes into serving lengths and split.

Spread with mayonnaise and arrange 6-10 fried shrimp on the bread and top with tomato slices and shredded lettuce.

Serve with a side of the dill pickle spears and enjoy!

 

 

Cook’s Notes:
To “Dress” your po’ boy with the traditional lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mayonnaise. Hot sauce is optional.

Instead of dressing the po’ boy with regular mayonnaise, you can substitute with a traditional remoulade. To make the remoulade, combine 2/3 cups mayonnaise, 1/3 cup parsley, 2 tablespoons mustard, 1 teaspoon hot sauce, the juice of one lemon, and two chopped green onions in a blender. Process until a smooth consistency is reached, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Store the remoulade in a glass container covered, refrigerated.
season to taste with salt and pepper.


Oyster Stew

 

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With the first wave of Irish immigrants entering America in the 1700s, prior to the onset of the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852, many brought with them their culinary traditions of eating fish and shellfish of their home country. The vast majority Irish immigrants were Roman Catholic. And like most Catholics today, they followed religious dietary customs around holidays, one of which was to abstain from eating meat during Lent and on Christmas Eve and fish was the protein of choice.

In Ireland, the Christmas Eve meal revolved around a fish called the ling where home cooks made a simple stew using dried ling, milk, butter and black pepper. However, Irish cooks could not find dried ling in America and out of necessity, they adapted to using oysters because they were similar to dried ling. Today, many families enjoy serving a most satisfying dish of Oyster Stew as part of their religious customs. Oyster stew can be enjoyed any time of the year and the most important factors in preparing oyster stew is not allow the milk to boil and do not overcook the oysters. Be careful to avoid overcooking oysters, which causes them to become tough.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 quarts whole milk, warmed
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 dozen fresh oysters, shucked, with liquor reserved
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ bunch fresh chives, snipped, for garnish
Oyster crackers, for serving

Directions:
Drain the oysters using a very fine strainer to remove and reserve the liquor. Set aside.

In 6 quart Dutch oven, melt about 5 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and add the onion, celery and salt. Cook slowly, until onions are translucent and the celery is softened, for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring well to blend, cooking for 2 minutes.
Whisk in the milk, heavy cream and reserved oyster liquor. Add the cayenne pepper. Reduce the heat to a light simmer, stirring often to prevent scorching, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining butter. Add the oysters in a single layer, being careful not the crowd them. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and sauté until the edges of the oysters begin to curl, slightly revealing the gills.

Add the oysters to the Dutch oven and return to a gentle simmer to warm the stew through. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the stew into shallow soup bowls. Garnish with chives and serve with oyster crackers.

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