Smoky Shrimp Chowder with Chicken Andouille

Hearty shrimp chowder with Cajun flavors
Hearty shrimp chowder with Cajun flavors

My son J is a third grader and doesn’t seem to be growing out of his picky-eater stage.

I’m always slightly embarrassed to admit that there are nights when I make the poor kid cry; he’ll come into the kitchen and ask what we’re having for dinner, and more than likely it’s not what he’s really hoping for: a Steak ‘n Shake cheeseburger or his all-time favorite home-cooked meal, Pasta Carbonara. That’s when his outraged tears flow and I feel like  throwing in my cooking towel.

I mean, I go to all the trouble to make family dinners from scratch and he breaks down and sobs as if he’s being tortured? I have to remind myself that this is a stage he will grow out of soon enough. How nice that there is already a hopeful sign that he’s well on the way to expanding his culinary horizons: the boy loves soup.

For some reason, he will happily devour most of the foods he detests if there are in the form of soup, so I’ve taken to hauling out the old tureen lately. It’s nice that the autumn weather is finally here –  hot soup is something we all like to eat on a busy weeknight. We’ve had versions of our favorite Roasted Sweet Potato Soup along with plain old chicken noodle.

I have to admit that he did pick the shrimp out of this chowder (more for us!)  but he lapped the remains of his bowl greedily.

Now I better start thinking about the next thing I can turn into soup before he catches on!

Smoky Shrimp Chowder with Chicken Andouille

Serving Size: 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  2. 1 leek, white and light green portions, sliced
  3. 2 crushed garlic cloves
  4. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  5. 1 pound chicken andouille sausage, sliced
  6. 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) Cajun seasoning blend
  7. 4 cups chicken broth
  8. 3/4 pound diced potatoes
  9. 1 cup whole milk
  10. 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  11. Fine sea salt, cayenne and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil or butter in a large pot or heavy saucepan. Add the leeks and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the thyme, andouille and Cajun seasoning and cook until sausage is seared on all sides.
  2. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil; add the potatoes and slightly cover the pot. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. When the potatoes are done, pour in milk and bring to a gentle simmer; if it gets too thick add more stock or water.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink.
  5. Taste the chowder for seasoning and add salt, black or cayenne pepper to taste.
http://familystylefood.com/2009/10/smoky-shrimp-chowder-with-chicken-andouille/

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe

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I’m caught up in Julia Child fever {so much so that I’ve started a new blog – visit Dinner with Julia and follow me as I dive into Julia’s recipes}; the movie Julie & Julia is opening this weekend and I’m not ashamed to say that I will be standing in line for a ticket. I’ve read that Meryl Streep has captured the best of what we love about Julia, from her warbly, exuberant voice to her healthy physical lust for her husband.

Thinking about my Julia Child moment had me plucking my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking off the shelf for a little sit-down time. I wanted to make a recipe from the book, but I had trouble conjuring that spark of hunger that usually makes me rush to the kitchen to cook.

Is it because some of the recipes in Mastering are stuck in a bit of a time warp?

Browsing through the book, I see recipes that speak to another time, a time before crème fraîche became a staple in the grocery store and we knew not to cook a piece of pork to within an inch of its life: cold chicken aspic decorated with slivers of canned pimiento, veal Prince Orloff and crepes filled with boiled, canned pineapple.  In my mind I draw a caricature of the 1960’s American housewife that Julia was writing for – a perfectly coiffed woman about to throw a dinner party in her sprawling suburban ranch house, wearing a bullet bra, Jackie O skirt suit and smoking a long cigarette, like a character from the television show Mad Men.

But in between the thick, cream-colored pages of Julia’s tome are a multitude of other classic recipes and techniques that will never go out of style or fail to please – her precise directions for making homemade mayonnaise, perfect rolled omelets and puffy souffles are what make Mastering the Art of French Cooking stand alone on the cookbook shelf.

I chose to make the bouillabaisse (page 52) the other day, along with a rouille sauce to smear on crusty toasted bread.

Bouillabaisse is a Provençal fish soup, and Julia stresses the importance of keeping it simple; the broth is fortified with lots of seafood shells and trimmings (available for less than a dollar a pound at your fish counter) and flavored with the typical flavors of the region: garlic, saffron, olive oil and tomatoes.

The soup was outstanding and I like how it had something for everyone at my table (picky children among them)  – delicious broth, different kinds of fish and seafood, and a big hunk of bread to soak up every drop in the bowl.

The simplicity and authentic taste of this recipe is what Julia Child is all about to me. It also defines how I love to cook.

Julia says it best:

This is the kind of food I had fallen in love with: not trendy, souped-up fantasies, just something very good to eat….the ingredients have been carefully selected and beautifully and knowingly prepared. Or, in the words of the famous gastronome Curnonsky, “Food that tastes of what it is”. (from My Life in France)

Here’s to you, Julia!

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

Serve the bouillabaisse with toasted bread and rouille on the side.

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 cup olive oil
  2. 1 cup each chopped onion and leek
  3. 4 cloves mashed garlic
  4. 2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  5. 2 1/2 quarts water
  6. Fresh herb sprigs: thyme, parsley, fennel fronds and basil (in any combination)
  7. 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  8. 1 tablespoon sea salt
  9. 3 - 4 pounds fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells
  10. 1 1/2 pounds each peeled shrimp (use the shells for the stock); wild cod, halibut and/or sole cut into chunks, and debearded, scrubbed mussels or clams
  11. Toasted rustic bread
  12. For the Rouille:
  13. 1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper
  14. 1 roasted hot red chile pepper or ground cayenne pepper to taste
  15. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  16. 1 small peeled garlic clove
  17. 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs or finely chopped almonds
  18. 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  19. Fine sea salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
  20. 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

    For the soup:
  1. Heat the oil in a tall pot (I used an 8 quart stockpot) over medium heat; add the onion and leek and cook gently until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, water, herbs, saffron, salt and fish bones. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat so that the broth bubbles slowly without boiling.
  2. Cook 30 minutes, then strain the broth into a large bowl or another pot and discard the solids.
  3. Pour the broth back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, a minute or two. Add the rest of the fish and shellfish, cover and simmer until the mussels or clams open. Taste the soup and add more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
  4. For the Rouille:
  5. Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.
http://familystylefood.com/2009/08/julia-childs-bouillabaisse-recipe/

Trout Roasted in Salt

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I recently read Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe, and it kind of rocked my seafood-lovin’ world. Grescoe writes in an entertaining, slightly curmudgeonly style, and what he presents very convincingly is that the end of the world is coming – our oceanic world stocked with a diverse abundance of fish and seafood, that is.

He reports that because over the past fifty years or so the premium, top of the chain predator fish like tuna, cod and swordfish have been fished out of existence, the world’s oceans will have nothing left to offer us but bottomfeeders and plenty of algae. That could means lots of jellyfish on the menu by the year 2025. Jellyfish fingers anyone?

How depressing! Just think that if more sustainable fishing practices are not put in place soon, our children’s children will never know the pleasure of eating fresh, wild seafood.

Mark Bittman wrote about the sad state of seafood in the New York Times the other day, too. Besides the fact that some people are of the opinion that Bittman might be verging on going vegan, I think it shows that the situation has reached a tipping point, and attention must be paid.

If you head over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website, you can print out a cute and handy pocket guide to help in the search for sustainable seafood. And now there’s a new guide for sushi, too!

Farm raised trout is one of the best, sustainable choices out there. Roasting the whole fish in a bed of salt couldn’t be easier, and because the salt helps the fish retain moisture as it cooks, the flesh remains tender and juicy. And no, it’s doesn’t taste at all salty.

Trout Roasted in Salt, Italian Fisherman Style

4 servings

4 whole trout, about 1 pound each
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced
4 sprigs each fresh basil, thyme or rosemary or a combination
Fresh ground black pepper
2 (3-pound) boxes kosher salt

•    Arrange rack in center of oven and heat to 400 degrees.
•    Pour the contents of one box of salt in a roasting pan large enough to hold the fish side by side. Pour the other box of salt into an ovenproof pan or baking dish. Put both pans in the oven to heat for 20 minutes.
•    In a small bowl, stir together the garlic and olive oil. Open trout like a book and drizzle the oil over the flesh, using your fingers to distribute it evenly. Arrange 2 lemon slices on one half of each trout and sprinkle with pepper; scatter with the herb sprigs and close.
•    Nestle the trout into the hot salt in the roasting pan and pour the remaining pan of salt over to cover, patting it down gently.
•    Roast 20 minutes; remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before scooping off the top layer of salt. Carefully lift the fish out of the pan with a spatula and transfer to a serving platter.
•    To serve, present each trout whole, or use a spatula to gently lift each fillet away from the skin, discarding the backbone.