Thursday, June 18, 2015

Crab Bisque

This is a recipe I worked on last summer but never got around to posting.  Every summer we go through several dozen Maryland Blue Crabs.  It is quite the feat to bring the crabs home because they are very messy.  I cover our dining room table with newspaper or heavy duty brown paper.  I buy mallets, knives and tons of paper towels.  We sit around visiting and pick crabs.  We like to buy the large crabs because they are easier for the little kids and less experienced "pickers" to pick.  Small and medium crabs take time, more time and a lot of patience.

Eating crabs is a social event.  It is not a quick in and out dinner.  It takes time to dig the meat out.  I like this because then we are encouraged to sit around the table and talk, reflect and discuss how our days unfolded.  Finnley really thought the crab meat was delicious.  This means that I am picking crab meat for her and for me.  She eats it faster than I can pick it.  

When it is all over I am left with a huge pile of crab debris.  The shells from the bodies and legs make up most of the pile but included is the mustard, the lungs that we scrape out and the insides.  I am always at a loss as to what I should do with this pile of refuse.  Well, last summer I decided to make a broth out of my pile.  I had really nothing to lose because the extra added ingredients were minimal.  If it worked then I would be left with a flavorful and crabby broth that I could use in a soup.  

To my delight it worked.  I loved it. To the broth I added celery, carrots and onion.  I kept the crab shells covered in Bay Seasoning.  This, I believe,  is what gives the broth the brown coloring (see picture below). I added water to cover the contents of my pot and let it simmer for one hour.

Once the broth was finished I drained it through some cheese cloth and stored it in the refrigerator.  I thought all night on what I wanted to make.  I wanted something different.  I remembered a crab bisque that I had while I lived in Utah and another time in California.  It was a long time ago so the memory was vague other than I knew I really enjoyed it.

I set out to find a recipe that I had the ingredients for.  First I had to figure out what a bisque was.  I knew it was like a soup but different.  What makes it different?  In my research I came across a definition that stated that a bisque is made using roasted vegetables and a shellfish stock.

Well, well, well....I have the stock so lets make some bisque.  I chose to roast sweet potatoes and use this as my base along with the crab broth.  I am happy with the result.  This recipe is a labor of love if you chose to make it from scratch.  It takes some planning to make the broth and to roast the vegetables. If you have the time then I would encourage you to make it.  It is possible to make using store bought fish stock; although I can't say the flavor will be as crabby as using this homemade version.

One final note is that I believe this bisque taste better the next day.  It has a chance to marry the flavors together.  If you do make it the night before, then when reheating the soup, don't boil it.  The soup should be served warm.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Crab Stock Recipe
Makes about 10 cups of stock.  Freeze what you don't use.

12 cups of water or enough to cover the shells
Crab Shells from 1-2 dozen crabs
4 carrots, cut in half
4 ribs of celery, cut in half
handful of flat parsley
1/2 red onion, quartered
optional: add more Old Bay Seasoning, Salt or Garlic Powder as desired

1. Add all of the ingredients and bring pot to a boil. Simmer for one hour. Strain contents through a colander and then strain it through cheese cloth.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Crab Bisque
Makes 4 servings or a bunch of shooters

1-2 sweet potatoes, depends on size (you need two cups for recipe)
olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup grated carrot
1 1/2 tablespoon red onion
1/4 cup sliced celery
2 cups of crab stock (see recipe above)
squeeze of lemon juice
sprinkle of nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh flat parsley
1 can coconut milk (15.5 oz)
2 tablespoons of butter (omit if dairy free is necessary)
Lemon and Salt to taste

OPTIONAL:  Crab meat.  I had a few extra crabs that I picked and used the meat served in the center of the bowl.  My family was able to stir the crab meat into their bisque.  NOTE:  To make the crab meat sit up in the soup, I roasted some sweet potato rounds that the crab could sit on. This is not necessary.  It just looked prettier to me.

1. Cube sweet potatoes.  Toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt.  Roast until tender.  This will depend on how small you dice your sweet potatoes.  I shoot for about 35-40 minutes.

2.  While sweet potatoes are roasting, heat a medium saute pan.  Add the butter along with with carrots, onion and celery.  Cook until tender.

3.  In a food processor or a Vitamix (this is what I use) add the tender vegetables from step 2 along with the lemon juice, crab stock, and nutmeg.  Pulse and blend until smooth.

4.  Add the coconut milk, parsley, and melted butter.  Pulse two or three times. Transfer contents to a small pot and simmer until warm. Do not boil.  The soup is best served warm.

5.  Taste your soup and make any necessary adjustments.  It should be smooth.   If needed add: lemon juice, salt, garlic powder or a bit or red cayenne pepper.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sifting Through Life: Being Crumb Free

Releasing the negative and moving forward.

Stop shoving things under the carpet.  Like I did this morning. The flakes of cereal that I didn't feel like sweeping at that very moment I lifted the rug and swept them under the carpet for no one to see. I was wrong. I should have gotten up right then and retrieved the broom to take care of my mess. Instead I pushed the small pieces under my huge living room carpet with the intention of dealing with it at a later date.

The problem is that no one sees the crumbs;  even I can't see them, but I know they are there.  The knowing is worse than the actual deed of getting the broom and sweeping it up. It is a constant reminder to my subconscious mind that I was putting off something that I could have easily fixed by grabbing the broom and dust pan.

What if a later date never comes and we have all of these crumbs of our lives shoved under  the carpet of life?  This is not what I am striving to do each day.  I need to focus on being the best me.  I want to be crumb free. There in lies the challenge.  Trying to be crumb free each and every day.

These little life lessons that I am becoming aware of daily in my life are so rewarding.  When I first began writing I focused on my past. Those stories the shaped me as a person, a mother and a wife.  I thought all of my writing time would be spent dealing and sifting through my past.  I am learning and discovering it has nothing to do with my past but more about my present. My now.  Today.

I can only control this very moment.  I make choices that define me and my family with each waking breathe that I take.  Wasting any time on the "crumbs" of our past leaves us empty and deflated.

I am seeing life differently because I am looking for it.  I am not hiding it under a carpet with the intention of finding time  at a later moment to clean it up, explore it, move it, shape it, or discover it.

When I release the need to "put off todays crumbs until tomorrow", I enjoy life more.  Release yourself from the what ifs, the what fors, the wonderment of a better day, a brighter future, a future plan.

Live today.
Act now.
Be mindful of everything around you.
Stay connected. Live.

The crumbs of our lives have a way of holding us back.  It took me a long time to realize this.  Sometimes I still struggle to remind myself that this simple idea is key to a happier way of living.

I sweep my floor about four times a day.  I am always amazed at what I find in the dustpan and how much crap I sweep up every day.  I hate carpet.  I don't like to use that word very often but I do dislike carpet with a passion.  Carpet hides so much shit: dirt and crumbs.  Have you ever taken carpet out of a home and were surprised that underneath the carpet was a whole village living and functioning on its own.  Scary huh?

I am reminded of the movie, Horton Hears a Who, and how they had this complex life living on a dust speck.  What if that is us?  We have this complex life and we live on this dust speck and yet we choose to see things on a larger scale when in reality we are small.  Very small beings trying to do the best we can with what we have.  Eating our bread and leaving a trail of crumbs behind us.

Should we leave a trail or should we clean up our messes?  This is one of those questions of our lives that leave me scratching my head.  To clean or not to clean is not the question here.  To live presently or to live in the past is.   Spend your days channeling the present.  Stay connected to the now.  Find a way to let go of the excess baggage that your ego feels defines who you are.  These past crumbs do not make you who you are NOW.  They led you down a path but you are still walking the steps that are guiding your body during this lifetime.

Crumbs are messy.  They deserve to be attended to and not swept under the rug. Our lives and families deserve our very best at every second of the day.  There are times when those crumbs will hold us back or keep us distracted but they shouldn't define us or take away from those that we love.

Start lifting the rug and sweeping out the crumbs.  Release yourself from the weight of mistakes, failed attempts, mangled relationships, judgement or anything that you deem a crumb in your life.

Just let it go.

You deserve to be your best.

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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