Crabcakes, crepes, and more?

On the phone with my mom today, she asked for my recipe for crabcakes. While I have no problem sharing my recipes, I always worry that my haphazardness in the kitchen will not translate on paper. But part of the point of this blog is to hone in my recipe writing technique. Still though, a few ingredients like the Worchestershire sauce and Old Bay are kind of just randomly thrown in as I mix the crab meat together. Or I just assume everyone knows how to (and appreciates) a good roasted pepper.

Well anyways, I’m sure the Marylander’s that I live with would find the recipe sacrilege. They would say I have too much filler or not enough Old Bay. But this is how I do it and it’s always been a big hit. It works well if you are having a party and want to serve crabcakes as an appetizer but not spend a whole lot of money on crabmeat. Yeah they end up being a good amount of bread, but get a good demi-baguette and coat the sucker with the olive oil/old bay mixture and the crabcakes will still taste good!

Crabcake Recipe

Ingredients:
– 1 demi baguette
– 1 roasted red pepper
– 1 lb lump crab meat
– 1 tablespoon (fresh) minced parsley
– 1 tablespoon Old Bay
– 1/3 cup Olive Oil
– 1 egg
– 2 tablespoons mayo
– Splash of Worchestershire sauce

Method:
1. Whisk olive oil and old bay. Cut demi-baguette in half and coat evenly with olive oil. Toast until golden brown delicious* (approximately 10 minutes). Cut into smaller pieces and process into bread crumbs.
2. Roast the red pepper by placing directly on the flame of a gas range. Turn pepper in 45 degree increments as skin completely blackens. When pepper is completely blackened, set aside in a bowl covered with saran wrap (this steam the skin off). Remove skin and dice pepper.
3. Whisk egg in large mixing bowl.
4. Add crab meat, bread crumbs, red pepper, parsley, mayonnaise, splash of worchestershire, and a sprinkle of Old Bay (not very good at measuring ingredients just go with your instincts…that’s what I do!)
5. Form patties in whatever desired size (varies based on what they are for, smaller for appetizers, larger for entrees).
6. At this point you can either saute them or bake them. I usually bake mine at 375F for 10-15 minutes (until golden brown delicious).

On another note, one of my good friend’s has the unfortunate pleasure of working a 12-hour day. So since I’ve got pretty much NOTHING to do I offered to do what I do best and come over and cook her dinner. Since my kitchen is actually pretty skint since I’m trying to clean house and get through all the Christmas leftovers, I’ve been on this whole crepe thing. They are ridiculously easy to make and are a great way to get rid of those Christmas leftovers! I’m even calling these Christmas Leftover Crepes since I’m invoking the colors of the holiday into the recipe!

Christmas Leftover Crepes

Ingredients:

Batter:
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1/2 cup water
– 1 cup flour
– 1/8 tablespoon salt
– 2 tablespoons melted butter

Filling:
– Shredded smoked turkey (we have this every year at my house, I’m sure ham or regular turkey will also work fine)
– Spinach
– Red peppers
– 1 shallot
– Gruyere cheese

Method:
1. Whisk egg in large mixing bowl. Add milk and water and whisk until smooth.
2. Gradually add flour (I usually do 1/3 cup at a time) so that batter does not become lumpy.
3. Add salt and melted butter.
4. Saute turkey (just doing this until it has some heat). Set aside.
5. Saute shallots and peppers until tender. Saute spinach (this is quick so only needs a minute or two to wilt). Set aside.
6. Laddle batter into a hot well oiled pan (even if the pan is non-stick I’d still add a little cooking spray or butter or bacon fat so that the crepe doesn’t stick). Shake so that batter covers bottom of the pan.
7. Unstick crepe with a spatula and with a firm flick of the wrist flip the crepe over. Alternately you can flip it with a spatula or your fingers. Whatever is most comfortable.
8. Cook on the other side for another minute and then begin filling the crepe. I usually do layers starting with the turkey, vegetables on top and the sprinkle the Gruyere cheese.
9. Finally fold the crepe, trifolds are simplest, fold the right side up over the filling and gently roll the crepe over to the left. (Does that make sense???).
10. Eat and enjoy!!!

*Golden Brown Delicious — or GBD. In future posts I will be abbreviating this as such. I have blatantly stolen this from my first chef instructor who I am pretty sure will not mind.

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My Inspiration….I guess

It is only fair that I give tribute to Anthony Bourdain. I did steal his phrase “adventures in the culinary underbelly” from his autobiography Kitchen Confidential. I picked up his book for two reasons, (1) the chef instructor teaching ServSafe (who didn’t really teach anything on the material itself) recommended we read both Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Rahman’s Soul of a Chef since they were polar opposites on life in the kitchen; and (2) I found Kitchen Confidential at the used bookstore for $2.98.

It was probably a mistake to pick that as the first book I read, and therefore my first insight into the culinary world. I had no desire after that to read Rahman’s touchy feely memoir. I wanted to be a badass just like Bourdain. Something about him spoke to me. Now I guess I’m one of the few people out there that does not watch cable television and is relatively proud to live under a rock, so my view of him was formed from reading his book. I had never watched his television show and only vaguely remembered him as that asshole guest judge on Top Chef (one of the few guilty pleasure cable tv shows I find a way to watch).

For my culinary skills class we had to write a paper on the chef that inspires us to cook. Since I had no one else in mind, I picked him. The more learned about Bourdain, the more I fell in love. While I love to cook, the whole plating/artistry aspect of the culinary world (still) is mind-boggling to me.

All those squeeze-bottle Jackson Pollock designs on plates, the carved veggies, and the frizzled this-and-thats, they detracted from the natural beauty of fine ingredients–a time-consuming and costly indulgence that Stanfield only the chef’s ego.

” – Bourdain

Yes! That was how I felt! I didn’t get it and there was someone else that felt the same way! All I wanted to learn was how to cook (and serve) good food.

And I guess I should also give note to the popular (?) Julie/Julia movie/book/blog. Still haven’t seen the movie but I have picked up the book and fingered through it. What culinary student doesn’t have major respect for Julia Childs? And I’m kinda stealing Julie Powell’s whole blogging thing.

So that’s it. That is officially where I am coming from. Still not sure where this blog is going. But for now here’s a little recipe I cooked up tonight:

Lisa’s Risotto
(I’ll explain who Lisa is sometime later…)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Arborio rice
  • 2 cups Chicken stock
  • 2 ounces white wine (optional)
  • 4 ounces chopped roasted red peppers
  • 4 ounces chopped crimini mushrooms
  • 4 ounces minced shallots
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Saute shallots, mushrooms, and peppers in butter until tender.
  2. Add arborio rice, stir for about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in 1/2 cup of broth. Continue cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed.
  4. Gradually stir in remaining broth, a little at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup.
  5. Finish with mascarpone cheese.

Yields approximately 3 cups cooked rice.

Have you ever watched Top Chef…

And thought, hey I want to do that? Well I did! So a little background info, got my undergrad degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins. After two years of working for a research study I found that I was bored and felt like my life was lacking something. A hobby, a creative outlet! So I enrolled in the local culinary school’s evening certificate program and have not looked back or regretted it once ever since.

On the left is a picture of my proudest moment to date, a dish I did for a culinary competition with the ACF (American Culinary Federation). It is a breaded chicken roulade served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed vegetables, and chicken veloute sauce. Start to finish (for the competition) I made this dish in an hour (with ten minutes to plate). By some miracle I managed to finish on time and get a bronze medal!

Excited to start off the new year documenting my continued adventures in the culinary underbelly as Anthony Bourdain has pegged this world.

Does your cake come from a box?

Originally I was not going to say any bad words about this place, because I did learn a fair amount about vegan lifestyle. However, what I did learn I mostly taught myself whiling about days in the kitchen of the Yabba Pot with not really much to do.

The owner (cannot call someone who does not cook meat or fish a chef — ask Gordon Ramsey) is a pretentious bitch that does not pay her employees that is ever absent basking in the sun somewhere in Puerto Rico. I met her once in my half year tenure at the YP and she just really was not a pleasant person. Can’t put a finger on exactly what it is about her that peeves me so, but it probably does have something to do with her lack of integrity (she has not paid several of her employees) and has not put a cent of her own money into improving the restaurant. She does manage to CRITICIZE the fact that the food at the restaurant has taken a downwards spiral. Maybe it’s because there is NEVER ANYTHING TO COOK WITH!

Okay so lets start from the beginning. There are cockroaches (amongst other creatures) in the kitchen. I should have just packed up my knives and walked out right then and there because I thought it was maybe a ONE TIME THING. But at least once during every shift a little critter would crawl across my cooking space. At some point, with what little loyalty I had for the place, I told the health inspector that no, the Yabba Pot did not have a rodent problem. LIES. I shake my head now as I reminisce. After sometime, I wouldn’t even eat any of the food there. Just didn’t trust it.

One of the biggest complaints about the YP is that the food is hit or miss. Sometimes I would walk into the kitchen and find the reach-ins stuffed to the brim with fresh veggies and herbs. Sometimes I would walk in and have nothing. Once or twice I came in and there was no salt OR oil. I don’t even want to think about how much money (and time) was spent going across to the local Safeway to purchase last minute (and needed) items!

So onto the cooking. They cook those slow ribs STRAIGHT from a bag that comes from an asian supply store. The sauce is very similar (if not the same) as the type of sauce you would find in a cheap chinese carryout. Its all kinda gross, and a monkey could saute some veggies, dump this bag of “meat” into the pot and call it a dish. I guess that is how restaurants make their money, but still! The food is overpriced for what you get. Another thing that perpetually amused me is that they add dry-pasta to some of their dishes. Umm…what about that little note underneath the ingredients list that says “packaged in a plant that uses egg products.” Aren’t these supposed to be vegans???

All tofu served at the YP is first deep fried in a deep-fryer. A note on this oil, the oil was dirty when I first started working their in August. That same dirty oil was still there and god knows how much more dirty when I left in December. Again, I’m cringing a little as I’m thinking about this.

Now part of the reason I decided to finally write about this place is because of a particular ‘upstairs’ employee that took a severe disliking to me. For some reason my mere presence seemed to offend her. I could do nothing right. Which was strange because I’d had plenty of compliments from my fellow cooks, dinners, and other upstairs staff. My food in her mind was always underseasoned or had some issue. On one occasion, she even brought the food back downstairs to the kitchen to ‘fix’ it. Needless to say, that was the last day I set foot in the place. Seriously, if this chick thinks she knows oh so much about food, maybe she should reconsider her place in the restaurant.

A quick note on those lovely ‘vegan’ cakes they serve and charge up to $4/$5 for. They come straight from a Pillsbury/Better Crocker box bought across the street from the Safeway for 2 for $4. Substitute apple sauce for eggs. Put icing and sprinkles on them. Cut into individual sized pieces, boxed up in those little plastic boxes and sold. This was all done on the sheer brilliance of the business manager, who evidently is not a vegan.

In closing, for a supposedly health and Earth conscious vegan restaurant, there is nothing organic or green about this place. There is one recyling bin in the kitchen, and when it is full, all other recyling goes into the trash. Beans come from a can and along with their other dry ingredients are bought from wholesale Restaurant Depot or Safeway. The vegetables are delivered when there is money to pay for them from a supplier that does not employee organic practices and are more than likely coated in lovely pesticides and other chemicals! Otherwise produce also comes from Safeway. And might I mention again, that boxed cake?

I finally left in early December after the re-cooking my food incident. It coincided with the owner selling off the place and my friend who got me the job telling me that since everything was up in the air he didn’t want to further involve me with the drama. At least I walk away with some life experience.