Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stone Crab Season

I wrote this article several years ago on the history and fun facts on Stone Crabs.  I thought it only fitting to re-post it on the eve of the opening of Stone Crab season in Florida. Enjoy the article and more importantly, enjoy Stone Crabs while you can!

Ciao,
Chef Joe

‘Tis the season………
Stone Crab season, that is.

Stone Crab Claws
Being a long time Florida resident, I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to the beautiful resource that has just become available.  In this post we will explore the history and lore of Stone Crabs, some fun facts and my absolute favorite way to serve them.

Now for a bit of history…………..

I’d like to introduce you to the “Everglades icon”, Loren G. “Totch” Brown.  Totch was born on March 12, 1920.  He lived his entire life in the area known as the Ten Thousand Islands.  Totch survived off what the Everglades had to offer as a commercial fisherman and gator hunter.

On a spring day in the late 1930’s Totch had an epiphany.  Tired of having his fishing nets tangled and ruined by these numerous, strange looking crabs, he decided to keep one.  He cooked it, ate it, and a new commercial industry was born.

He quickly met with his uncle, “Dollar” Bill.  In a matter of minutes, they devised a plan. The two worked diligently and quickly built several hundred wooden crab traps.  They set out on the water and their first haul resulted in many large burlap sacks full of crabs.

 “Dollar” Bill loaded the sacks into his truck and headed east.  His destination: a lunch counter in Miami Beach. He met with the owner, a gentleman named Joe Weiss.  Mr. Weiss purchased the crabs for forty cents a pound and put them on his menu.  That restaurant today is known as Joe’s Stone Crab.

Some fun facts about Stone Crabs……..

         Stone Crabs have two distinctly different claws. A large one known as the crusher claw and a smaller one known as the pincer claw. The crusher claw is the only one allowed to legally be harvested.

         Legal minimum size for a claw is 2 ½” in length, measured from the first joint. The smallest legal claw weighs about 2 ½ ounces.  The largest claw harvested on record weighed 25 pounds.

         Once the claw is removed, the crab is returned to the water. It will grow a new legal size claw in approximately 12 to 14 months.

         Claws are cooked as quickly as possible (many times right on the boat).  This prevents the meat from sticking to the shell.  Another reason for the meat sticking to the shell is improper freezing of the claw. Keep that in mind the next time you buy claws for the local supermarket.

How to crack a Stone Crab Claw:

1.      Hold the claw in the palm of your hand.  Using the back of a pasta spoon, sharply hit the center of the claw.  This will cause the shell to crack.  Remember, we are cracking claws not smashing them. Turn the claw over and repeat.

2.    Now, rotate the claw in the palm of you hand so as the first and second knuckle drape over your index finger.  Again with the back of the spoon, crack the first and second knuckle (of the crab………).

The best way to serve these beauties is a simple as possible.  I prefer ice cold cracked claws served in a platter over crushed ice that is garnished with a few strands of blanched seaweed.  The sauce of choice and tradition is mustard sauce.  Here’s a recipe for mustard sauce that was made famous by Joe’s Stone Crab.

Mustard Sauce Yields: 4 ¾ cups

Mayonnaise                         3 cups
Dijon Mustard                    1 ¾ cups
English Dry Mustard          1 Tbl.
Fresh Lemon Juice             2 Tbl.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the dry mustard and lemon juice; blend with a wire whip until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the mustard to “bloom” for 20 minutes. Add the Dijon mustard and mayonnaise and again, blend well with a wire whip.  Store refrigerated until ready for use.

The season only last until may 15th so get crackin’. Let me know how they come out.

Ciao,
Chef Joe


For quick links to this blog, “LIKE” us on Facebook Landry’s Seafood facebook.com/#!/LandrysSeafood and on our Muer Facebook pages at:

Big Fish Dearborn, MI  - facebook.com/BigFishDearborn
Big Fish Princeton, NJ   - facebook.com/BigFishPrincetonNJ
Charley's Crab Grand Rapids, MI - facebook.com/CharleysCrabGR
Gandy Dancer Ann Arbor, MI - facebook.com/GandyDancer
Grand Concourse, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GrandConcourse
Gandy Saloon, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GandyDancerSaloon
Meriwether's, Southfield, MI - facebook.com/Meriwethers
River Crab, St Clair, MI - facebook.com/RiverCrab


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Austin Culinary Tour

A Culinary Diamond in the Rough..... Austin, TX

People often ask my opinion on what's the best food cities in the U.S.  First thoughts are of New York, LA, Chicago and New Orleans. I now have a new name to add to that list.

Last weekend, my fiancé and I decided to run away for a day or two.  Now, Landry's corporate head quarters is located in Houston. For years, my coworkers have been telling me to go to Austin, TX.  That's where we went and boy, am I ever glad.

Our morning started at a really neat spot called Easy Tiger.  It's a combination of an artisan bakery and a beer garden.....how can you go wrong.  The pastries are sinful, the coffee great too.  Try it again in the afternoon for a great selection of micro brews and a freshly baked pretzel with house beer cheese sauce.

By now, it's approaching 11:00 am and on the weekends that only means one thing in Austin.... time to get in line for BBQ.

Franklin's BBQ has set the goal standard for pit masters. Testimony to that is, if your not in line by 8:30 am you are not guaranteed to get fed.  The hours are proudly displayed as 11:00 'til sold out.  We drove by and decided not to join the line (which looked more like a tail gate party).

Instead, we took a very short drive to another icon, John Meuller's Meat Company. 

John Meuller's pickup line
 Located on Sixth Street this corner lot consists  of a large screen porch with two mammoth barrel smokers, a trailer with two windows  (one to order, one to pay), a larger tent with picnic tables and of course, a small stage for  the band. More on the band later.

John Meuller's Meat Company
When we arrive, the line was not bad, about 40 people deep.  As we stood waiting our turn, a man walked up with an arm full of ice cold  Lone Star beers. He handed each of us one. Being a rookie, I turned to my neighbor and asked what's up.  He's response, "that's John and Texas hospitality". Meuller's doesn't have a liquor license but that doesn't say the owner can give you a beer and thank you for standing in the hot sun for his BBQ.  As I approached the window, my mind was made up.  I ordered the brisket (both lean & fatty cuts), baby back ribs, sausage and potato salad. 

 
Meuller"s  Rib Plate
The brisket was everything I dreamt of.  Smokey, slight spice from the outstanding  dry rub and fork tender.  Depending on  where you slice the brisket, your selection  can be lean or fatty. My preference is the f  fatty cut because of its richness..... but get a little of both so you can compare. 

The ribs were outstanding with a nice crust and perfect seasoning. Once cut into, they were juicy as can be. All meats are sold by the pound so you can mix and match as you please.

Now, back to the band. I was surprised to see that we were going to enjoy a little live music with lunch.  Again being a rookie, I turned to my neighbor and said what's up with that.  His response, "Welcome to the Live Music Capital of the World". It appears that almost every bar and food venue offers live music.  An added bonus to an unforgettable lunch!

After a short rest and a swim back at the hotel, it was off to dinner.  This time, on the recommendation of a dear friend and fellow foodie, were off to Lucy's Fried Chicken.

Lucy's Restaurant

And the star of the show...... you guessed it, 
Lucy's Fried Chicken
Fried Deviled Eggs
fried chicken.  Perfectly seasoned and with just the right amount of breading, the chicken was fried golden, juicy and delicious. There were several interesting side dishes that we chose.  Grilled Smashed Potatoes, Baked Mac 'n Cheese and Grilled Corn on the Cob were great items to round out the meal. The best surprise for me was our appetizer. Fried Deviled Eggs with Chicken Cracklin' Aioli.  Not exactly sanctioned by the American Heart Association but boy was it good!


Give Austin a try. It's not just another college town, it's quickly becoming a culinary Mecca.   

Ciao, 
Chef Joe

For quick links to this blog, “LIKE” us on Facebook Landry’s Seafood facebook.com/#!/LandrysSeafood and on our Muer Facebook pages at:

Big Fish Dearborn, MI  - facebook.com/BigFishDearborn
Big Fish Princeton, NJ   - facebook.com/BigFishPrincetonNJ
Charley's Crab Grand Rapids, MI - facebook.com/CharleysCrabGR
Gandy Dancer Ann Arbor, MI - facebook.com/GandyDancer
Grand Concourse, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GrandConcourse
Gandy Saloon, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GandyDancerSaloon
Meriwether's, Southfield, MI - facebook.com/Meriwethers
River Crab, St Clair, MI - facebook.com/RiverCrab




Sunday, March 31, 2013

Alaskan Halibut is here!

It's that time of year.......... 
Alaskan Halibut is here!

Spring has sprung and thoughts in the Pacific Northwest turn to halibut

Chef Joe with
daughter Maggie
Fishing has begun in this lucrative resource and soon fish lovers from around the world will 
Alaskan Halibut
again indulge in a true seafood delicacy. 


In this article I'll give you some fun facts (or "Fin-facts" as we call them in the restaurant) about halibut. Finally, we'll finish up with a great recipe that's sure to be a hit at home. 


Two-man fishing boat
Commercial fishing for halibut began back in the late 19th century. Large steam vessels would make their way to the fishing grounds, off load small, two man boats and fishing was laboriously done by hand.  A lot has changed since then due to the competitiveness of the fisherman. 


Today, small more agile boats are used, often carrying a crew of 4-5 anglers. These boats set out "strings" or long cables of line containing hundreds of baited hooks. The strings are allowed to "soak" or sit in the water for anywhere from 2 to 20 hours before they are hydraulically retrieved. Each strings catch can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Small Fishing Boat


In the late 1990's, this valuable resource  became well managed.  Today, halibut season is not dictated by a calendar, it is defined by the total pounds caught.
Two Halibut Fishermen

Each fishing permit is allotted a specific number of pounds and when those pounds have been caught, your season is over. In 2013, the total quota for the entire season is 23,000 million pounds. Sounds like a lot but its much less than allowed in years past.

Halibut are know as flatfish and similar in nature to flounder. The are the largest of the flatfish and thought to be at the top of their food chain with only sea lions and orcas as their predators. They grow to an average size of 25-30 pounds with the largest fish on record tipping the scales at a whopping 763 ponds.

They are born with one eye on each side of its head. Then at six months, the begin to change. The top side of the fish darkens in color and the bottom side becomes snowy white. This is excellent camouflage for the fish. In addition, both eyes are now located on the top side of the fish and it begins to swim sideways through the water.

The meat of Alaskan Halibut is snow white in color. If your local fish counter is selling you halibut that has a slight yellow tinge, chances are it is from the North Atlantic
Halibut White Meat
and not of the same quality at Alaskan. The taste is sweet and clean and the texture is firm.  It is ideal for sautéing, baking, broiling and grilling.  About the only thing it's not good for is smoking because of it's low fat content
.

Here's a recipe I really enjoy with halibut. The subtle saltiness of the glaze pairs well with the natural sweetness of the fish. The title "Lacquered" refers to the sheen of the fish after the glaze has been applied


Enjoy the recipe and celebrate the season. Alaskan Halibut is here!

Ciao,
Chef Joe



Lacquered Alaskan








Yields 4 servings

4 portions Alaskan Halibut, 6-7 oz. each,skinless
Pinch kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 Tbl.  Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Soy Ginger Glaze (recipe follows)
4 Tbl.  Wasabi Cream (recipe follows)
Steamed White Rice
Fresh Vegetables of your choice (I prefer steamed broccoli rabe or sautéed spinach)

1) Start your charcoal grill and bring to medium heat. Clean and oil the grill grates well.

2) Lightly rub the halibut portions with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Place the fillets on the grill with the smooth side up and cook for 1-2 minutes. Using a spatula, pick up each fillet, turn 45 degrees and return to the grill. Cook for 1 minute.

3) Turn each fillet over and liberally baste with soy ginger glaze. Close the lid of the grill and cook for 2 minutes. Repeat the basting process, close the lid and cook again for 2 minutes. The fish should be firm to the touch.

4) Place a small mound of rice in the center of each dinner plate. Arrange the vegetables around the rice.

5) Place one fillet of halibut on each portion of rice. Garnish the plate by drizzling soy glaze and wasabi cream around the fish.

Soy Ginger Glaze
1 cup Light Soy Sauce
2 Tbl. Light Brown Sugar
1 Tbl. Fresh Ginger Root, minced
2 tsp. Cornstarch
1 Tbl. Water

Combine the soy sauce, sugar and ginger in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. While the soy mixture is heating, mix the cornstarch and water in a small cup. Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. When the soy mixture has simmered, stir in the cornstarch and cook, while stirring, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, strain and reserve the liquid.

Wasabi Cream

1/4 cup Dry Wasabi Powder
1/4 cup Cold Water
3 Tbl. Sour Cream
1 Tbl. Heavy Cream
1 Tbl. Mayonnaise

In a small bowl, blend the wasabi powder and water with a wire whip until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until all are incorporated.
  
For quick links to this blog, “LIKE” us on Facebook Landry’s Seafood facebook.com/#!/LandrysSeafood and on our Muer Facebook pages at:

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Big Fish Princeton, NJ   - facebook.com/BigFishPrincetonNJ

Charley's Crab Grand Rapids, MI - facebook.com/CharleysCrabGR

Gandy Dancer Ann Arbor, MI - facebook.com/GandyDancer

Grand Concourse, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GrandConcourse

Gandy Saloon, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GandyDancerSaloon

Meriwether's, Southfield, MI - facebook.com/Meriwethers

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Exploring Exotic Grains


Exploring Exotic Grains


Chef Joe and his
daughter Maggie 
As many of you have noticed, our lifestyles are changing and taking on a more healthy approach. That being said, Chefs and Culinarians are trying to find new healthy menu options for our guests. One option gaining momentum is the use of exotic grains. In this article we will look at some of the grains and finish with a delicious, health and nutritious salad. 
      
     
Farro
Farro
Farro is the whole grain from a particular wheat species. It can be traced back hundred of years to many parts of the world including the mountainous regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo.

   
    
 Couscous
Couscous
There is a long standing debate as to whether couscous is a grain or a pasta.  We'll save that argument for another post. It is mainly found in Middle Eastern countries and comes in several sizes. Israeli couscous is the largest in the couscous family.




Wheat berries
Wheat Berries
These are the entire grain of wheat with the husk removed. It is the primary ingredient in the Eastern Europe Christmas porridge kutya. It can be cooked an eaten as a side dish or tossed with salads.





  Amaranth
Amaranth
Amaranth is not actually a grain but is lumped into this category. It is actually the seed of the amaranth plant. It can be cooked like a porridge but I prefer this. Place the amaranth in a sauté pan with a little clarified butter over medium heat. While stirring, the seeds will begin to pop like popcorn. It can then be sprinkled over salad for a nutty flavor and an interesting crunchy texture.


Quinoa
Quinoa
Originating in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru, quinoa is one of the hippest grains currently being used. When cooked like rice, it can be used in a variety of ways.

Quinoa is considered a super food, of which there's only a handful. It contains all 5 essential amino acids that we need for survival. In short, if you were stranded on a dessert island and all you had was a bag of quinoa, you would survive!
  
Quinoa comes in a variety of colors and favors. Below is a recipe for a delicious Red Quinoa Salad that will sure to be a crowd pleaser at your dinner table.  What's more, it's good for you.

Enjoy the salad and healthy eating!


Ciao,
Chef Joe


Below is a video, presented by Chef Joe, as he discusses the exotic grains mentioned in this posting. At the conclusion of the video, you may continue browsing this posting. 

Click on the arrow to start the video.

                             video



Red Quinoa Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
Quinoa Salad
1lb.  Red Quinoa
1 qt. Vegetable Broth
1 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbl. Minced Garlic 
1 pint Red Grape Tomatoes, Halved lengthwise
1/4 cup Green Onions, sliced 1/8" on the bias
1/4 cup Chopped Cilantro
1/2 cup Chopped Mint
1/2 cup Chopped Italian Parsley
1 Tbl. Lemon Zest
1 cup Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette 

  • Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and run under cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well.
  • Combine the vegetable broth, olive oil and minced garlic in a small stock pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  
  • Add the drained quinoa and stir well. Return to a boil and cook the grain, stirring occasionally, until it is tender (approx. 20-25 minutes). Drain the excess liquid from the quinoa and transfer to a sheet tray to cool.
  • Once cooled, place the cooked quinoa in a mixing bowl. Add the chopped herbs, lemon zest and the vinaigrette and fold together. 
  • Next, add the grape tomatoes and gently fold to incorporate. 
  • Serve as a side dish with grilled chicken or scallops.
  
Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup Roasted Garlic Cloves
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbl. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 Tbl. Ground Cumin
2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 tsp. Ground Coriander
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
A few turns of Fresh Ground Black Pepper
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Condiment all ingredients except for the olive oil in the carafe of a blender. Blend on high speed to form a paste. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil. Transfer to a small bowl and reserve for later use.

For quick links to this blog, “LIKE” us on Facebook Landry’s Seafood facebook.com/#!/LandrysSeafood and on our Muer Facebook pages at:

Big Fish Dearborn, MI  - facebook.com/BigFishDearborn
Big Fish Princeton, NJ   - facebook.com/BigFishPrincetonNJ
Charley's Crab Grand Rapids, MI - facebook.com/CharleysCrabGR
Gandy Dancer Ann Arbor, MI - facebook.com/GandyDancer
Grand Concourse, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GrandConcourse
Gandy Saloon, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GandyDancerSaloon
Meriwether's, Southfield, MI - facebook.com/Meriwethers
River Crab, St Clair, MI - facebook.com/RiverCrab

Saturday, October 27, 2012

King Cake


The King is here! King Cake that is.....


King Cake
 Now that the holidays have past and Mardi Gras is just   around    the corner, thoughts here in New Orleans turn to King cake. In t this article we will take a brief look at the history and tradition of King cake and I'll give you a neat trick for preparing the cake in under 20 minutes!


King cakes date back to the 1660's. They are found in Latin, Spanish, and French origins but all have the same meaning. It's a celebration of the Epiphany and named after the three wise men that visited the baby Jesus on the eve of his birth.

King cakes are traditionally a cinnamon sweet dough cake,
Baby Figurines
baked in a circle and glazed with colored sugar crystals.

Before baking, a small plastic baby figurine is hidden inside the cake.  The tradition is the person who is served the slice of cake with the baby is to have good fortune for the rest of the year. One other thing, they are also responsible for supplying the King cake for next years party.






Cake Ingredients 




Now, here's a neat trick for easily preparing a King cake. You won't even need a mixing bowl!



1)     Open the roll of Cinnamon buns and separate them. Gently, un-roll each individual bun producing a long strand of cinnamon dough.

2)     Using three strands of dough, braid them their entire length. Repeat until all strands have been braided. Now, hide the baby in one of the strands.

3)     On a parchment lined sheet tray, place the braids in a circular pattern and pinch the ends of the braids together to produce one continuous circle.

4)     Bake in a preheated 350 degree until golden and when tapped, produces a hollow sound, generally around 16-18 minutes.

5)     Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Glaze with icing and decorate with the colored sugar crystal.  Now that was easy!

King Cake


Enjoy the Mardi Gras season and have a slice of King cake for me!


Ciao,
Chef Joe


For quick links to this blog, “LIKE” us on Facebook Landry’s Seafood facebook.com/#!/LandrysSeafood and on our Muer Facebook pages at:

Big Fish Dearborn, MI  - facebook.com/BigFishDearborn

Big Fish Princeton, NJ   - facebook.com/BigFishPrincetonNJ

Charley's Crab Grand Rapids, MI - facebook.com/CharleysCrabGR

Gandy Dancer Ann Arbor, MI - facebook.com/GandyDancer

Grand Concourse, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GrandConcourse

Gandy Saloon, Pittsburgh, PA - facebook.com/GandyDancerSaloon

Meriwether's, Southfield, MI - facebook.com/Meriwethers

River Crab, St Clair, MI - facebook.com/RiverCrab