Monthly Archives: March 2015


It is the perfect season for coconut macaroons. They have no leavening. They have no gluten.  If you are lactose intolerant and can drink goat’s milk, they may work if you use Mexican cajeta instead of sweetened condensed milk. I wish I could say they have no calories. Ah well, you can’t have everything.

Traditional macaroons are usually made from almonds, and some say that coconut is the poor person’s almond. I don’t know where that comment originally came from. As for me, I think I prefer coconut.

It is also said that macaroons were first created by the Sephardim. I don’t know whether that is true, either, but before becoming ubiquitous, macaroons were considered to be a North African/Southern European delicacy.


Coconut Macaroons


  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk or Mexican cajeta
  • 2 egg whites


  1. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, almond extract and salt.
  2. Stir in the condensed milk to make a thick paste.
  3. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Then fold into the coconut mixture.
  4. Using a #50 food scoop or a tablespoon, drop the mixture into mounds about 2 inches apart on baking sheets either lined with Silpat or parchment or greased aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the top third of an oven preheated to 325°F. until very lightly browned on the edges.
  6. Cool on a baking rack. Peel from the Silpat or the greased aluminum foil.
  7. Makes about 2½ dozen. Serve immediately or store in a container with a tight lid. (If there are any left.)

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It’s beginning to be the season for fresh strawberries in California, but not here in New Mexico where we still anticipate at least one more hard freeze. Even though the grocery store versions of strawberries lack the sweetness and flavor of those at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, they have the advantage of being available year around. That is good, because this beautiful dessert is worth the effort any time of year. If you prefer, you can substitute your choice of other berries or any combination of berries.

Although I have tweaked it a bit, the original recipe comes from one of Deborah Madison’s excellent cookbooks: Seasonal Fruit Desserts From Orchard, Farm, and Market (Broadway Books, New York, 2010, p. 119). Deborah Madison now lives in Santa Fe and is viewed as the doyenne of the local food-writing community  even though she is not nearly old enough for such a title. She began her cooking career in the Bay Area, working at Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse and then eventually serving as the founding chef of what has been called the first high-end vegetarian restaurant, Greens. The restaurant is still popular and definitely worth a visit at its beautiful site on the edge of San Francisco Bay. Since then her cookbooks, including Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, have won many awards including the James Beard Foundation Book Award.

This dessert fulfills that well-earned reputation.

Just a few minute last-minute pointers: Resist the temptation to overfill the galette with fresh fruit. Make certain that the edges of the dough are well-sealed. Otherwise, it may leak, and you could face a major oven cleanup.


Pastry for Galette


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pastry flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 5-6 tablespoons ice water


  1. In a bowl large enough that you will be able to mix the dough with your hands, mix together the flours, salt and sugar.
  2. With a pastry blender, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. The crust will be flakier if some larger pieces of fat are left unblended.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, lemon juice, and 4 tablespoons ice water. Pour over the dough mixture and work in with your hands.
  4. Add remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. It should not be sticky. Knead lightly; divide into two equal balls. Pat into discs about an inch thick, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Strawberry Galette


  • 4 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ pastry recipe (above)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar


  1. In a large bowl, combine the halved strawberries, maple syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and vanilla extract.
  2. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one of the chilled discs of dough into a circle at least 13 inches in diameter.
  3. Arrange the rolled-out crust on a rimmed 13 x 18 inch baking pan lined with parchment. Top the crust with the strawberry mixture, leaving a 2-inch margin around the filling.
  4. Fold the edge of the crust over the filling so that it drapes over the filling and any folds are sealed.
  5. Sprinkle the melted butter over the filling.
  6. Brush the crust with cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 425°F for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden.
  8. Serve warm or cold with heavy cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.


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For most people, the Spanish word “mañana” means “morning” or “tomorrow”. But around here, we know the real meaning: “not today”. So here it is, several days late, my effort at a Southwestern version of Irish soda bread. This way I don’t have to make apologies for missing Saint Patrick’s Day.

There are several differences between this recipe and classic Irish soda bread:

First, the predominant flour is whole wheat. There are some soda bread recipes that use whole whet flour, but our family recipe calls for all-purpose flour.

Second, blue corn meal has been substituted for some of the whole wheat flour. These days you should be able to buy it locally. Bob’s Red Mill has unusual flours in most grocery stores, but a local mill, Talon de Gato Farm, takes email orders.

Third, I have added gluten. Corn meal has no gluten, so the additional gluten gives some extra lift in the oven; but if you are leery of gluten, you can certainly omit it. Still, the loaf will not be gluten-free because of the other flours.

Fourth, there is a little bit of baking powder; again to give some extra rising power. Most “authentic” recipes use only baking soda and buttermilk for leavening.

Finally, I have added green chiles and a good melting cheese. I used 4 ounces of canned chopped mild chiles, but you may want more and hotter. Swiss, Cheddar, Monterey jack, and asadero are all good cheese choices. Again, you can add more if you like.


Santa Fe-Style Soda Bread


  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup blue corn meal (yellow or white will work if you can’t find blue)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered gluten
  • 4 ounces canned, chopped green chiles, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup grated cheese (Swiss, Cheddar, Monterey jack, or asadero)
  • 2 cups buttermilk


  1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: whole-wheat flour, corn meal, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and gluten.
  2. Stir in the green chiles and grated cheese. Then stir in the buttermilk and mix until well-combined and the dough has begun to come together.
  3. Turn the dough out on a well-floured work surface. Knead for only a minute or two to bring everything together. If the dough is a little sticky, sprinkle sparingly with more flour and fold in.
  4. Shape the dough into a round and place it in a heavily buttered 8-inch cake pan. With a sharp knife, cut a ½-inch deep X in the top of the loaf.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 40 to 45 minutes or until it is lightly browned and sounds like a drum when thumped on the bottom with a knuckle.
  6. Remove from the pan and transfer to a cooling rack to completely cool.
  7. Wrap loosely in a barely damp clean kitchen towel for 6 hours. This will help the loaf to firm up so that it can be cut more easily.
  8. For serving, cut very thin slices and serve with soft butter. Jam or other toppings your option.


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I had meant to post something on Saint Patrick’s Day – for certain NOT corned beef and cabbage, but maybe something about Irish soda bread. But we were traveling back from San Francisco, and then my friend and fellow blogger, Jim Hastings, the Gringo Gourmet, wrote about his mother’s recipe for soda bread.  I still haven’t given up on a southwestern version of soda bread, but I’ve been so busy since we got home that I haven’t had time to cook, and anyway I am once again on a diet. Susan assures me that the reason I can’t lose any weight is that I wind up eating whatever it is that I’ve cooked for my blog postings.

So, needing something to write about, I thought of our trip the other day to Alcatraz. I couldn’t think of any prison food to go with the text, especially anything that would interest folks who like to read about food. That’s the reason that this is just a travelogue.

If you have never been to Alcatraz during a visit to San Francisco, it is something that you should do. Be advised that same-day tickets are usually impossible to get, so you should make reservations ahead. The ferry leaves Pier 33 about every half hour during the day, and  takes about 15 minutes. You should plan at least 2 hours on “the Rock” before you catch the return boat. You may also be able to plan your trip around a meal at the nearby Fog City Diner.

A special feature right now  through part of April is an exhibit of the work of Ai Wei Wei, the dissident Chinese artist who has spent much of his life in a Chinese prisons. It seems appropriate that Alcatraz is the site of the exhibit.

A centerpiece of the exhibition is a massive Chinese dragon that stretches surely over a hundred feet in one of the main exhibit halls – part of the old Laundry Building. Another of the key displays includes portraits of political prisoners from throughout the world. The portraits are arranged across the floor reminiscent of the AIDS quilt. The most amazing thing about the portraits is that they are all made of Legos carefully pieced together but with remarkable detail.

Alcatraz is pretty much a ruin. It was a military prison for many decades before it became the federal high-security prison. Then it was abandoned on  March 21, 1963. 1963. It was briefly occupied in 1964 by a small group of Sioux Indians. Then, from 1969 to 1971 it was occupied by a group known as Indians of All Tribes. Subsequently it has just sat, crumbling into ruins. Now the place is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many of the buildings are being restored. Still, the ruins are very interesting and also very photogenic. One could easily spend many hours with a camera.

At the very top of the hill sits the main cell block. The cells remain intact, and there are a few furnished to show the not-so-luxurious accommodations.  One stop on the tour is the dining hall along with the accompanying kitchen. The breakfast menu for the closing day is still posted on the wall. It includes choice of cereal, juice, coffee, fruit, eggs, and breakfast meat. Sounds ok, but my guess is that it was slung out of the kitchen where outlines of the terrifying knives used by the cooks still cover the walls.

It is not for nothing that Alcatraz is nicknamed “the Rock”. That’s all that it was until soil was brought in to  make it a more pleasant place to live for the families of the guards and other prison employees. Now there are lots of flowers around the grounds, but they are all invasive species, and there are no native plants.


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When our kids were growing up, I sometimes fussed at them at the dinner table, “Don’t play with your food!” That was usually when they didn’t want to eat the broccoli and so moved it back and forth on the plate.

We’ve been in the Bay Area (again) for the last several days. As usual, that has given us the opportunity to eat out a lot, as well as to do some cooking for our family. What I have taken away from all of this is that you want professional chefs to be creative while – even if the cook wants to experiment – home meals suggest not so much.

One night I made bucatini all’Amatriciana for my son’s family including 7- and 9-year old girls. The recipe was from Diane Darrow’s wonderful Italian cookbook, La Tavola Italia. I knew it was delicious because I had made it before. I also knew that the girls preferred very little to no tomato sauce, so I cut back on the tomatoes. At the same time, they both insisted that they loved pasta, so I felt reassured. When the dish arrived at the table (delicious, I might add) they both recoiled in horror. Bucatini was not pasta to them, and so they wound up eating something else.

The next experience was at a wonderful bistro, Cuisinett, in one of the towns of Silicon Valley. It is run by two French ex-pats, one of them a classically trained chef who simply grew tired of cooking in white-linen-tablecloth restaurants. The two owners take pride in offering French comfort food along with a big selection of French wines by the glass. They usually have croque monsieur on the lunch menu, but the day we visited, they did not. The waitress said that they did not have the appropriate ingredients. Instead, they had what they called a French-style grilled cheese sandwich. It turned out to be thick slices of crunchy French bread filled and topped with melted Brie. Lamb merguez on a bun was slathered with mustard. Salmon was served with a sauce Provencal. Delicious and creative! That’s what I call playing with your food.

Finally, we ate one evening at Rich Table. Everything was excellent, and everything was a play on old standards: the “carrot cake” was deconstructed and unlike any carrot cake I had ever tasted, topped with a carrot ribbon turned into fruit leather; the New York strip steak was topped with broccoli chimichurri , shaved crispy caramelized onions, and coriander flowers; their signature chocolate sable came with drops of chocolate ganache that looked like Hershey kisses; chicken liver mouse served on plancha bread with fruit preserves and micro greens did not taste like my mother’s chopped chicken livers; avocado and trout roe was delicious; sea urchin was almost too beautiful to eat. But perhaps the most creative dish was the “fish and chips”. The fish was a creamy brandade de morue made with cod and potato and seasoned beautifully. The chips were kale, but not your usual kale chips. The kale had been lightly steamed, then pureed and mixed with a tapioca binder, dehydrated on parchment, and seasoned with a dried malt-vinegar powder to capture all of the flavors of traditional English fish and chips. That I call playing with your food – all with a special outcome.

I think that all of this is well beyond my skills, but for the home cook, regular kale chips and brandade would likely be a delicious and worthwhile substitute.


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San Francisco is one of those lucky cities that has lots of really great bakeries turning out really great bread. If you are a bread lover, as I am, that’s important. Of course, it is arguable as to which is the best bakery or best loaf, but Tartine Bakery and their basic country bread have to be on just about everyone’s lists.

Chad Robertson, the co-owner of Tartine Bakery, has  roots in West Texas, but he has travelled to France and probably other places to perfect his craft. He still bakes 250 loaves of bread a day when he is in town. He is driven in his quest to make the best loaf of bread he can, along with pastries and other baked goods. But he is generous in sharing his knowledge. Other chefs in San Francisco have been mentored by him, and now their bread is well-known. An example of that is Outerlands in the Outer Sunset district of San Francisco. Their grilled cheese sandwich on thick slices of house-baked bread is justifiably famous.

Robertson is now getting ready to install a custom-made behemoth of an oven in a new space in San Francisco so that he can increase his baking production. He is planning to open bakeries in Tokyo and maybe London and New York.

He has also written or taken photographs for several cookbooks, including a beautiful book, Tartine Bread (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2010). That classic (already) gives detailed instructions and beautiful photos for the home baker. The book also describes Robertson’s method to replicate the characteristics of a baker’s oven in the home. The problem is that the chapter on the basic loaf is 38 pages long, and the recipe itself is 26 pages long. That might be enough to put you off from trying your hand. That would be too bad, because by using those instructions, even a novice (me) can produce the best loaf of homemade bread that he or she has ever made.

You will need to be ready with your own sourdough starter that you have developed, stored, and if necessary rejuvenated by daily feedings of flour and water.  I have previously posted several methods to begin your own sourdough starter. You should also have the equipment for the process. These items can be purchased from King Arthur Flour, Breadtopia, and of course, Amazon if you can’t find them locally.

The recipe is based upon weight rather than volume (the standard for professional bakers), so you will need a reliable kitchen scale capable of registering metric weights.

One essential piece of equipment is the Lodge cast-iron combo-cooker. It has shallow and deep halves. The shallow half serves as the baking surface while the deep half covers the loaf and provides the necessary heat above the loaf for the steam needed for good lift and crisp crust. You can use a regular Dutch oven with the deep half on the bottom, but that makes it awkward to handle the loaf at 500°F and with oven mitts. Undoubtedly I would burn myself seriously with such an arrangement.

For the fermentation process, you can use any large, clear plastic or glass container, but the container from King Arthur Flour or Breadtopia is especially convenient.

Two bowls lined with clean dish towels will work to hold the loaves during their final rise before baking, but woven bannetons with their special liners are very handy. They are available from Breadtopia.

To make it easier for me to follow Robertson’s instructions without ruining my pristine copy of his book with flour-covered hands, I have condensed the instructions to numbered steps on a sheet of paper that can be stuck on the refrigerator door. Here are those instructions.


Tartine Bakery Basic Bread


  • kitchen balance reading in grams
  • large metal mixing bowl
  • rubber spatula
  • 8 quart plastic or glass fermenting container
  • bench knife
  • 2 bannetons with cloth liners
  • kitchen towels
  • Lodge cast iron combo cooker
  • oven mitts
  • lame (you can use a new single-edged razor blade or sharp knife)



  • sourdough starter
  • 200 grams warm (78°F) water
  • 200 grams 50/50 flour blend (white bread flour/whole wheat flour)


  • 700+50 grams water (80°F)
  • 200 grams leaven
  • 900 grams white bread flour
  • 100 grams whole wheat flour
  • 20 grams salt
  • 50/50 rice/wheat flour mixture
  • rice flour


The night before: Developing the leaven

  1. Discard all but I tablespoon of starter.
  2. Add 200 grams of warm water.
  3. Add 200 grams of 50/50 flour blend.
  4. Stir until well mixed.
  5. Cover loosely with a towel and let stand in a warm place over night.

Baking Day

  1. Test the leaven by dropping a spoonful in a cup of water. If it floats, it is ready to be used. Otherwise let it work until it floats.
  2. Pour 700 grams of water into a large metal mixing bowl.
  3. Add 200 grams of the leaven and stir to mix.
  4. Add the bread flour and whole wheat flour. Mix thoroughly by hand until there is no loose flour.
  5. Allow the dough to rest for 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. Add salt and the remaining 50 grams of water to the rested dough. Squeeze the dough between your fingers to incorporate the salt and water.
  7. Fold the dough onto itself and transfer to the fermenting container. The dough will not rise much at this stage.
  8. Allow the dough to rise for 3 to 4 hours at 78 – 82°F, giving the dough one turn every half hour for the first 2 hours. Turn by dipping one hand in water, grab the underside of the dough with the wet hand, stretch it up, and fold it back over the remaining dough, repeating three times. After the second hour, turn the dough more gently so as not to deflate.
  9. Continue to let rise, with the turning process, until the dough releases from the sides of the container, ridges left by the turn hold their shape for a few minutes, and the dough increases by one-quarter to one-third in volume.
  10. Pull the dough out of the container onto an un-floured work surface with the spatula. Lightly flour the surface of the dough, and then cut it into two equal pieces with the bench knife. Flip the two pieces of dough so that the floured surfaces are on the work surface, and seal the raw dough with the floured surface.
  11. Work the dough into loaf shapes using your hands and the bench knife. Then let them rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Lightly flour and cover with a towel to prevent drafts.
  12. Form the final loaves by lightly flouring the top surface and then flipping the dough rounds so that the floured surface rests on the work surface.
  13. Working with one round at a time, fold a third of the dough closest to you over the middle third. Stretch the dough to the right and fold this over the center. Then stretch to the left and fold over the previous fold, anchoring with your fingers. Then grab the dough closest to you, and wrap it over the loaf while rolling so that the smooth underside is now the top, and the seams are on the bottom.
  14. Put the ball of dough between your hands and pull it toward you, rounding it at the same time to stretch the surface and close the seam. Let the shaped loaf rest for a few minutes while you repeat with the second loaf.
  15. Dust the lined bannetons with the rice/wheat flour mixture. Transfer the shaped loaves to the baskets with the bench knife so that the smooth sides are down.
  16. Let rise, covered with a towel, at 75-80°F for 3 to 4 hours.
  17. About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake, place the combo cooker with its lid in the middle of an oven preheated to 500°F.
  18. Dust one of the loaves with rice flour. Then remove the shallow lid of the combo cooker from the oven, and place it on the stove, using oven mitts, and leaving the deep half in the oven. Turn the dough into the hot pan. Score the top of the loaf with the sharp lame or razor blade. Then return the filled shallow pan to the oven, and cover with the deep half. Immediately reduce the temperature to 450°F.
  19. Bake for 20 minutes. Then using the oven mitts, remove the top and continue to bake for 20 to 25 minutes
  20. Again wearing oven mitts, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the loaf to a cooling rack to cool completely
  21. For the second loaf, wipe out the cooker, reheat for 10 minutes in a 500°F and repeat the process used for the first loaf.
  22. Cool completely before slicing.


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Within the USA, there seem to be two major schools of thought on how to stuff a shrimp (prawn). In New England, most recipes call for crushed Ritz crackers in the ingredient list, and then the shrimp are usually baked. (Parenthetically, Ritz crackers seem to be a basic staple in New England.) Along the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana, shrimp are stuffed with a spicy crab mixture and then deep-fried.

My first experience with crab-stuffed shrimp was at Freeman and Harris Café in Shreveport, Louisiana. It is claimed that  at one time Freeman and Harris, established in 1921, was the first and longest operating African-American-owned restaurant in the United States. Those seem likely to be highly arguable claims, but what is not arguable is that the food was delicious. Even though the café was located in a poor black section of Shreveport (Saint Paul’s Bottoms or just “The Bottoms”, later renamed Ledbetter Heights), the food attracted politicians, business people, and prominent citizens – black and white – to enjoy chicken and dumplings specially prepared one day a week, other Southern favorites, and the cafe’s famous crab-stuffed shrimp.

Freeman and Harris long ago became Pete Harris’s Café and then eventually closed. But even today  descendants of the original families and some of the early cooks still serve up their versions of the stuffed shrimp, to the point that locals think of them as Shreveport-Style Stuffed Shrimp.

This recipe is a pale imitation of the stuffed shrimp I first ate at Freeman and Harris, but it still brings to mind Louisiana cooking.


Crab Stuffing


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped bell pepper (I used miniature red, orange, and yellow “snacking” bell peppers, but you may use whatever you prefer.)
  • ½ cup finely chopped  green onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled between your hands
  • 6 ounces crabmeat
  • ¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt


  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are wilted and the onions are translucent.
  2. Stir in the garlic powder, black and red pepper, and oregano. Remove from the heat and stir in the crabmeat, breadcrumbs, and Worcestershire sauce. Adjust the seasoning with the salt.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Crab-Stuffed Shrimp


  • 1 pound of unshelled extra-large shrimp (13-15/pound or larger)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • cayenne pepper (optional and to your taste)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg beaten
  • fine bread crumbs
  • peanut oil for deep frying


  1. Shell and de-vein the shrimp, leaving the tail.
  2. With a small, sharp knife butterfly the shrimp by cutting along the central line, being careful not to cut completely through. Open like a book. and set aside. You may see another black line (not the intestine. This is the shrimp’s nervous system, so don’t worry about it.)
  3. In a small bowl, combine the pepper(s), salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and oregano. Reserve 2 teaspoons for sprinkling on the shrimp.
  4. Combine the flour with the remaining seasoning mixture. Place the seasoned flour in a bowl or pie pan.
  5. In another bowl or pie pan, combine the milk and beaten egg.
  6. Put a good amount of breadcrumbs in another bowl or pie pan.
  7. Sprinkle the shrimp with the reserved seasoning mix.
  8. Place a generous tablespoonful of the reserved crab mixture on each of the butterflied shrimp. Press firmly so that the crab mixture sticks to the shrimp.
  9. Working in batches, dip the stuffed shrimp in the flour mixture, then in the milk and egg mixture, again in the four, and then in the breadcrumbs.
  10. Have ready about 1-2 inches of oil heated to 350°F in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan.
  11. Fry the shrimp, 3 or 4 at a time, until browned on all sides. Drain on layers of paper towels and keep warm in the oven until all the shrimp are fried.
  12. Serve immediately with your favorite seafood sauce – tartar, cocktail, etc.  Allow 3 to 5 stuffed shrimp for each serving.


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For those of you who live near an ocean, crab is probably not so special, even more so now during crab season. Evan fishes for crabs at the beach near home in San Francisco. Carol goes to a great seafood shop right on the pier in Los Angeles. We land-locked folks are not so lucky. We can buy small plastic containers filled with pasteurized crab from Indonesia, and that’s about it. The pull date on the package is nearly 6 months away, so it is hard to think of the product as “fresh”, although it certainly beats canned crab filled with paper wrapping hard to distinguish from what is called the crab.

In spite of these shortcomings, I recently bought some of the pasteurized crab because I thought it would be easy for Susan to eat. As directed, I looked for bits of shell, and sure enough I found some. I admit that I did use a crutch. Some time ago, we bought a little ultraviolet (“black light”) flashlight from American Science & Surplus to search for scorpions in the desert with the grandchildren. It really works for that, and so I thought it might work with crab. Many restaurants use black light to screen their crab before they use it, so it was not an original idea. Nevertheless, our cheap little black light worked, and I found several pieces of shell and cartilage. One of my images shows my discovery of a bit of cartilage, although holding the camera and flashlight in a dark room while struggling with proper focus and exposure was a set of coordinated activities beyond my skill set.

After that little adventure, I set about using the crab in something that would be soft enough and not too spicy for Susan. Crab and mushrooms seemed like a perfect option.


Deviled Crab and Mushroom Gratin


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon prepared whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod
  • 6 crimini mushrooms sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup crabmeat
  • 1 cup panko, divided
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour and to make a blond roux. Do not allow to brown.
  2. Stir in the milk and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil until thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and then stir in the garlic, mustard, parsley, and Pernod.
  3. In another saucepan, sauté the sliced mushrooms in the olive oil. Stir into the sauce along with the crab and ½ cup of the panko.
  4. Arrange in one or two buttered ramekins. Top with the remaining panko and grated Parmesan. Brush on melted butter.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 15 minutes or until bubbling. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is browned.
  6. Serve immediately. Serves two.



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