B. Smith’s Swamp Thang with Deep Fried Julienne Vegetables

The Late Barbara Smith (1949-2020), was a famed fashion model and was the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine. She went on to build an empire that included television shows, restaurants, her own furniture line (another first for an African American woman), and other lifestyle products from rugs to kitchenware. Called “one of the most formidable rivals of Martha Stewart” by The Wall Street Journal, Barbara Smith not only shattered glass ceilings, she also brought America a casual, elegant, easy style that is all her own. This recipe is from “B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style”, published in 2009. This cookbook focuses solely on the food – no table settings, no party plans – and gives readers more than 200 recipes and colourful tales from her incomparable career. Readers and home cooks alike will find a number of mouthwatering dishes based on Southern cuisine. One of her most popular dishes, The Swamp Thang ,was created at her Union Station restaurant in Washington D.C. The list of ingredients include shrimp, scallops, crawfish that are combined in a creamy light Dijon mustard sauce and napped over collard greens. The dish is finally dressed with deep fried julienne vegetables.
I would order this signature dish every time I visited her establishments in both D.C. and New York. And even though it always tasted slightly different every time I had it, I was never disappointed. The dish is Southern comfort food that has been elevated. The food always reflects the soul of the person who cooks it. And as a cook, I get the feeling that the dish was spontaneously created by whatever items were left in the pantry. It has a feel of a kitchen sink kind of recipe, which in my opinion are the best kind, because it leaves so much room for interpretation and the imagination of the cook. So as one who like to experiment, I added my own spin to the dish, by searing the scallops rather than adding them to the mustard sauce. It makes the dish all the more visually appealing.
Adapted from
“B. Smith Cooks Southern Style”
2009
Serves 6 to 8 Ingredients: For the Seafood Mustard Sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided               
1 cup white onion, finely
1 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper                  
1/2 cup finely diced celery          
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound medium scallops 
1 cup white wine                      
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves        
1 bay leaf                                  
2 cups fish stock                        
1 tablespoon lemon juice              
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce           
1 cup heavy cream                     
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound crawfish tails, peeled
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Cooked Collard Greens,for serving
Deep-Fried Julienne Vegetables, for garnish (Recipe Follows)
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Directions: In a medium Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft and the onion is transparent. Add the wine, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and return to a boil. Stir in the heavy cream, mustard and the Old Bay Seasoning. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the shrimp and crawfish tails. Cook for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and discard. For the Scallops: Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. In a separate skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer, spaced about an inch apart. The first scallop should sizzle on contact. If it doesn’t, wait a few seconds to let the pan heat before adding the rest. Do not crowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Cook the scallops undisturbed for 2 minutes. If the scallop doesn’t release easily from the pan, let it cook for another few seconds until it does. Flip the scallops over. Cook the scallops on the second side undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes more. Both sides of the scallop should be seared golden-brown and the sides should look opaque all the way through. The scallops should feel firm to the touch, but still slightly soft, like well-set Jell-O; do not overcook or the scallops become tough and chewy. To serve, place a helping of collard greens to the center of a plate. Nap the seafood mustard sauce over the collard greens. Garnish with the deep-fried julienne vegetables. To finish the dish, add the seared scallops and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy this classic signature dish from B. Smith. For the Deep-Fried Julienne Vegetables: Ingredients:
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne zucchini            
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne yellow squash       
1 cup 1/4-inch julienne carrot              
1 cup 1/5-inch julienne sweet potato        
1 small julienne shallot
1 cup whole milk    
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Directions: Add the vegetables an milk to a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag. Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 200 o F. In a deep Dutch oven or caste iron skillet, add enough oil to reach a depth of 1 inch. Heat the oil over medium high heat to 350 o F. In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt and pepper. Using a colander, drain the vegetables and toss them into the seasoned flour. Transfer the vegetables to a large sieve and shake off the excess flour. Working batch, deep fry large handfuls of the vegetables in the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a wire spyder or skimmer, or slotted spoon, remove the vegetable from the oil and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Photo Credit: Tangie Holifield, 2020
Photo Credit: Tangie Holifield, 2020
Cook’s Notes: Shrimp or even chicken broth will  work well in this recipe. If you cannot find fresh crawfish, you can substitute frozen crawfish tail, just make sure that you defrost them before using. Remove the side muscles from the scallops if needed. The side muscle is a little tag of muscle tissue on the side of the scallop that secures it to the shell and may still be on the scallops. It will feel a bit tough and its fibers run opposite the rest of the scallop. Just pinch it with your thumb and first finger and pull it away. If you miss one, don’t worry; they’re a little tough to chew, but are safe to eat. Cook the scallops as the last thing you do before serving dinner. Prepare everything else so that the scallops can be served immediately after cooking, while they are at their best.

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Shrimp Scampi Florentine Pasta

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The classic Florentine preparation places the main ingredient on a bed of buttery spinach, topped with sauce and cheese and browned under the broiler. We’ve replicated the basic idea, giving you all those rich and cheesy flavors, but with less effort than a full-on Florentine. We’ve even improved it, with a bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. Tip: An easier way to mince parsley? Gather them all in one hand and lay on the cutting board. Use your knife in rocking motion to cut, then turn 90 degrees and repeat until the herbs are properly minced!

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS:

5  ounces spaghetti pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound 16-20 count shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 shallot, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces  baby spinach, roughly chopped
¼  bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
2 teaspoons mirepoix base or vegetable
¼ cup light cream
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Bring 3 1/2 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a medium pot. Once water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. While pasta boils, cook shrimp.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, until oil is shimmering. Working in batches if necessary, add shrimp to the skillet n and cook undisturbed until seared on one side, 1-2 minutes. Flip shrimp, and add shallot and garlic. Cook until aromatic, 30-60 seconds.

Lower heat to medium. Add the parsley and spinach to the skillet and stir occasionally until spinach is wilted. Add the shrimp and stir to cook until the shrimp is opaque and pink when it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145ºF, 2-3 minutes. Stir in cream, Parmesan, half the pasta cooking water, mirepoix base, and pasta. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Once simmering, cook until sauce is slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes. If too dry, add additional pasta cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Remove the skillet from the heat and season with salt and  crushed red pepper flakes, to taste.

To serve divide, the shrimp Florentine between two plates and garnish the pasta with parsley.

 Bon appétit!

Cook’s Notes:

Many chefs consider mirepoix to be the key ingredient for adding that extra umph to a dish. It’s the secret sauce; the essential ingredient; the reason your food tastes so good. Mirepoix plays an important role in flavoring soups, stews, casseroles, braised meats, and marinades.358 (1)

You can find mirepoix soup bases in the soup aisle of your local supermarket. If that is not the case you buy it online at speciality gourmet shops. Click here for the link.

To learn how to make your own mirepoix base, just click here for the link to a great teaching video.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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Ginger Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry

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An easy stir fry that you can quickly prep ahead of time for the whole week! Simply add jasmine rice and you’re set! If you don’t have a wok, use a saute pan or even a cast irons skillet. Just make sure you get it nice and hot before starting—stir-fry is a high-heat, quick-cooking operation. And, if you do have a wok, gold star goes to you! Use it!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons water, divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons safflower or other high-heat oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
8 shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced into 1/4-inch strips
1 Fresno chile or jalapeño, sliced into thin rings
2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
Cooked jasmine rice, for serving

 

Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, 2 tablespoons water, lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar and sugar. Set aside.

In another small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of water and the cornstarch. Whisk with a fork until the cornstarch has dissolved. Set aside the slurry.

Heat a large wok,  sauté pan or a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan evenly. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the shrimp, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and chile and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and continue to cook for an additional minute. Add reserved soy sauce mixture to the pan and cook for 1 minute.

Stir the slurry to be sure the cornstarch hasn’t settled, then add it to the stir-fry. Toss and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve immediately with jasmine rice.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!