Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Recipe for Nothing Like Disaster

I've been trying to focus on designing and I am totally hung up on one pattern, so I am taking a mental health morning - and I guess that means I can blog! I recently finished this Elise Shawl.

I LOVE it. I added dagger beads along the edge because 1.) I had them and 2.) I love sparkly things. It was a fast crochet experience, blocked out beautifully, and even Yoshi approves.

Maybe a little too much on the Yoshi approval there...

Six year old me wishes I was my own grandma.

These are heading for Texas soon for Grandbaby April who is no longer any kind of a baby, but I still call her baby. I will have to work on giving that up soon, I think.

This past weekend was Father’s Day. It’s also shortly before Mr. W’s birthday, so it seemed a good time to gather the three local children around, with spouses, and celebrate the man. There was, as sometimes happens on these occasions, a fair amount of beer and wine. When it was all over, as I struggled to recover from being bitten by the wine bug, I concocted a really yummy seafood stew that I just have to share with you. Regardless of the brilliance of the stew, it’s a really good thing these sorts of events only happen a couple of times a year. Nothing slaps you in the gracefully maturing face like a long night.

Now, in order to properly prepare this recipe, you'd ideally have a clambake of sorts in your back yard, and get tanked with your adult kids. If you need to skip that step, I understand. The clambake part could probably also be avoided, but in case you want to indulge I am including that "recipe" too. For the clambake we used a combination of Martha Stewart and Ina Garten’s “Stovetop Clambake” recipes and came up with a fitting compromise, outlined below.

In the bottom of my big enamel canner we put three big Spanish onions, quartered. I set the canner rack on top of the onions and lined this with a large piece of cheesecloth – big enough so that the four corners of the fabric extend out of the pot and hang over a good bit. Next we added, in order, 1 ½ lb of small red potatoes (about 2 inches each), 1 lb of Andouille sausage (four links), 5 ears of corn (husked and cut in half), 4 pounds of steamers (scrubbed and rinsed) and 2 pounds of mussels (de-bearded and washed well). On top of this we placed 4 quarter lobsters. Quarters weigh between 1.25 and 1.5 pounds. We then poured a large (24 ounce) can of Rolling Rock (yes, Rolling Rock. Save the BBC for a glass, thank you very much) beer over all, and a second beer can of water for good measure. The cheesecloth was then tied twice on the diagonal, corner to corner, over everything to make it easier to retrieve the good stuff once steaming was complete. The canner was put on the side burner of our gas grill, which was set on high.

Unfortunately we lost track of time – I think it was the sangria - and our intended half an hour steam turned into something more closely resembling an hour. I don't recommend this step. Stick with the half hour. Set a timer. Anything. My rule is that when the lobster is red and the clams are open, it's all done. I am sure some official warning someplace says something different, but this is how I roll. We removed the neatly bundled shellfish and vegetables from the pot (the cheesecloth thing worked brilliantly) and dumped them into my big roasting pan. I squeezed two lemons over the whole mess. The broth from the clambake was strained into bowls, and a pan of melted butter was set out. On a platter to the side was a pair of very large, perfectly prepared (by stepson #2) sirloin steaks, my generous nod to Mr. W's birthday. I don't cook beef any more if I can avoid it. We all gathered, standing, around an eight foot banquet table, hacking into shellfish with various and yet entirely appropriate tools, and everyone ate until they were stuffed. There were leftovers. No matter how I fuss and plan, and think I am going to run short, there are always leftovers. The leftovers went into the fridge, and strawberry shortcake (the kind you eat, not the cartoon one) came out, followed by a not insignificant quantity of further imbibed cheer. I think the party drew to a close around 1:30am. I say “I think” because, well, I frankly wasn’t doing a lot of thinking by then. We all went to bed.

I woke up at around 5 am, definitely the worse for our evening’s debauch. As I lay there in my discomfort, I alternately contemplated my age vis a vis my stamina (is that the right word for 'complete inability to party anymore'?), and wondered what I could do with the leftovers. It came to me that a rich, beer-based, flavorful stew would hit the spot just right, if I could remain vertical long enough to prepare it. Not wanting to disturb the other members of my family - who were still recovering their feet - I slept (if you can call it that) until around 8. After I’d made breakfast for the stragglers, and everyone had headed off to their proper homes, and Mr. W. and I agreed that we are really much too old for this kind of behavior, I started the stew. It’s pretty amazing, and it definitely hit the spot at lunch time – and for a couple of days after! I even took some to my father and stepmother and they both expressed approval. So here I present to you this charming recipe, but only on condition that you follow the rules, including the above celebration of excess (with or without adult children), in order to make it.

Hair of the Dog Seafood Stew

Leftovers from the night before (or new if you're wimping out on the party part):
1 cup BBC Lost Sailor IPA, the dregs of a growler (feel free to substitute your own beer selection)
1 cup corn (previously steamed and stripped from ears)
2-3 small cooked red potatoes, cubed
3-4 ounces leftover lobster meat, chopped roughly
6-8 ounces leftover mixed clams and mussels, chopped roughly
4 ounces andouille sausage, chopped roughly

New stuff the morning after:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt-free Creole seasoning; we like Tony Chachere's (if salt is allowed in your house, feel free to use the regular kind)
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes 
1 - 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes (I used my own pints of canned tomatoes for these)
2 cups water
1 - 15 oz. can seafood stock

Prepare all leftover steamed seafood and vegetable from the previous evening’s clam bake. Chop potato and seafood and sausage, and remove corn from cob. Set aside in a bowl.

Chop onion and carrot. Add oil to 6 quart stock pot and set on high. When the oil is hot, add the carrot and onion and stir. Allow to cook down for a minute or so before reducing heat to avoid burning. Let sweat for a few minutes, and chop the garlic while you wait. Add garlic and sauté until garlic begins to change color and the onions are translucent. Add Cajun seasoning and stir all well.  Add beer and let reduce for 1-2 minutes.

Add seafood stock, tomatoes, water and tomato paste all at once. Bring back to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, then add the leftover seafood and vegetables. When the leftovers are hot, the soup is ready! 

In fact, it was SO ready that before I could take a picture of it to show you it was all gone. Made me want to go buy a ton of expensive shellfish and start all over again. But maybe next year...

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