What you need to know about crab 

Being a part time Alaskan something I know an awful lot about is crab. It’s a seafood fan favorite. I think every summer I worked in Alaska you can bet I cooked thousands of pounds of crab. Almost everyone that came off the cruise ship sought after king crab. 
This blog post will help you decide what crab to use for what, how is the best way to cook it and what to look for when buying crab. 
First of all lets talk about how to look for good crab. Luckily this is basically the same from crab species to species. You want your crab to look bright and vibrant not pale and dry. Look at where the legs meet, they should be clean and the flesh bright white. The legs should be firm and have practically no bend when you try. It’s pretty simple to buy crab. I always reccomend buying from boats on the dock. It’ll be the freshest and usually the cheapest. Fish markets are second best then grocery stores after that.

Crab from species to species have different flavor characteristic. My favorite is Dungeness crab it has the most distinct crab flavor. It’s a nice balance of salty and sweet when it’s been cooked. I used to go crabbing on weekends as a kid and I would get so excited when a big Dungeness crab would come off my trap when I pulled it up. 
Dungeness crab is good for crab cakes mixtures, but only about 50 percent of the crab you want to use. This is my favorite crab to eat by itself. Maybe with lemon and an herbed aioli. When you think Dungeness think what can I make with it that the flavor of the crab comes out more than anything else. Like a light crab salad or by itself. 

Rock crab come In several subspecies. Where I grew up there was no catch limit on rock crab. I caught and ate so much I almost got bored with it. Rock crab is sweeter and more mild than most other crab. Usually smaller and less meaty than Dungeness.
When you cook rock crab use them in things like crab cakes where they can be helped by your other ingredients. I also like to use rock crab in crab dips, hot or cold, and potato croquettes. Rock crab and things like bacon and pancetta go well together. Adding something salty really helps rock crab. It can be eaten on it’s own if you like crab that’s a little sweeter. 

King crab to me is like king salmon in the sense people love it because it’s big. You get huge meaty crab segments from it. King crab is more flavorsome then rock crab and less than Dungeness. King crab is the most meaty in texture. It’s actually pretty nice on it’s own. With and herbed aioli and lemon juice. Crab cocktails is a good usage of this type of crab too.
If you’re looking for the funnest crab to go fishing for I would go with king crab. Dungeness tastes the best, however the huge king crab are the funnest to pull out of the sea. 

When I cook my crab I just use salted water. It’s simple and the best way in my opinion. It keeps it flavor neutral so no matter what you’re going to do with it, it’ll taste really nice. Don’t limit what you can do with your crab by adding uneccisary flavors. 
Put your crab in at a full rolling boil. You can slice a knife through the head to kill them instantly before, but if you put them in alive still they’ll be dead within a few seconds. Either way is just as humane. Once your crab is cooked shock it in ice water. This prevents it from overcooking and separates the flesh from the shell. I slice my crab down the leg and peel the shell off to get nice clean segments of crab meat. 

Now that you have just your meat you need to cook something with it. I like a nice simple crab dip. Just mix it with a soft cheese, herbs, cream, butter and vegetables and serve or bake. Baked crab dip with warm bread is incredible. I’ll upload a post with my recipe for this in a later post.

Crab is also popular in sushi. Like in a California roll. A hand roll. Sushi is a nice way to eat crab because it balances the crab flavor with that of the rice and other ingredients. 

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Super easy cold brew coffee

For the longest time I turned my nose up to any cold coffee. I said coffee is supposed to be served hot. Now that it’s summer and I work in a restaurant I tried cold brew coffee and instantly fell in love. Especially after I realized how easy it is to do. 
The nice part is you don’t need to buy anything. You’ll need coffee filters, coffee and something to steep it in like a mason jar. Most people already have these if you drink coffee on a regular basis. 

All you do is pour 1 part coffee grounds to 4 parts water and shake and put in your fridge. 12 hours is easy, 24 is medium and 36 is strong. The other day I had procrastinated straining mine for 4 days and I tried a sip straight, it was like jet fuel strong. Once you’ve strained your coffee out and it’s in a grounds free mason jar it can hold for a long time.

Choose a coffee that you like. Making it cold brew will give you the pure flavor of that coffee. When you cold brew coffee it’s also significantly less bitter than when you brew it normally. It’s also served cold, so if you really want the natural flavor of a coffee try this method it’s a trip compared to normally brewed coffee. Try filling an ice tray with cold brew coffee to use when you serve your cold brew coffee. This won’t dilute your coffee when you serve it like normal ice will. 

Your cold brew coffee can always be ready in your refrigerator unlike hot coffee. It’s also far better when it’s hot outside. No one really wants cold brew coffee in January like they do in July. Just imagine having a week’s worth of coffee ready. Just waking up on a warm spring or summer morning with your coffee ready in the refrigerator for you. Strain your coffee Sunday night into 7 smaller mason jars, so all week all you have to do is grab one and go. 
You can even premix your coffee. I like mochas myself when I’m drinking cold coffee. I can put my syrup in the bottom of the jars and just gran one In the morning add a little milk, shake it and it’s ready to drink. No steaming milk or waiting around for the coffee machine to hurry up. 

You can also try new things. Add some chocolate, milk and some ice and blend it up. Make yourself a frappe. Make it anyway you want. All the things you can add and best of all it’s so much less expensive than most coffee shops. If you like whip cream you can make that yourself. You can just buy heavy cream and use that as the dairy in your coffee. Whipped cream is just cream and sugar whipped until it’s the proper consistency. 

On weekends you can easily spike your coffee. I think spiked coffee tastes better cold. Make a mocha or a frappe and add some Bailey’s. It’s really good this way. You can even use bourbon and honey with your cold brew coffee. Try some new things. Create your own cold brew coffee recipes.

Try a few ways to enjoy an oyster 

Oysters are really delisuous. Oysters have the most wonderful ocean flavor. It’s like salty ocean breeze. I love raw oysters. A lot of people have written off oysters, because they tried them raw once and they hated the texture. The texture of a raw oyster can be off putting for people who are texture oriented. When you buy a whole oyster you have to shuck it. Take an oyster knife to the joint of the oyster. It’s the part of the back where the little indent is. Gently place the tip of the knife in and rock slowly back and forth. This will pop the oyster open. Then pull the top off and separate the oyster from the bottom by gently running the knife around the bottom of the oyster. 

When I eat a raw oyster I like a splash of Tabasco, or lemon juice. The acidity does wonders with the salty ocean flavor. A  mignonette is a nice touch too. It’s vinegar, or lemon juice with shallots and sometimes liquor or honey. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. 

When you go to buy an oyster make sure it’s closed. Oysters are alive when they’re closed and they go bad quickly when they’re not quite closed. Scrub the outside of the oysters well to make them look nicer. Be mindful when you harvest oysters to check for red tide warning. This is where there’s been a algae boom and shellfish harvested in that area shouldn’t be eaten. They can be very dangerous. 

 When a raw oyster doesn’t suit your fancy try cooking them like something more relatable. Fry frying oysters. Fried oysters can be incredible. They’re already seasoned, I simply flour them, eggwash and coat them in panko. They cook extremely quickly. Serve them with some dipping sauce like a herbed aioli. 
Try putting the fried oysters on a sandwich like a po-boy. A baguette toasted with a spicy remoulade, tomatoes, onion and lettuce. The oysters go perfectly on this sandwich. Fried oysters also go really well with cole slaw. 

Baked oysters can also be nice. When you cook an oyster the texture is much nicer. It’s firm not slimy. When you bake an oyster try removing them and adding some mayo, herbs and bread crumbs to the oyster and baking it in the shell. These make for a really wonderful appetizer. Just serve with an aioli and lemon. 

Scallops a culinary gem of the sea

Scallops are beautiful in flavor, texture and appearance. Sweet with a mild ocean flavor they’re a real treat. You can take a scallop dish so many different ways. I prefer them seared myself, however you can also poach, or eat them raw. 
Luckily, most scallops you’ll find in the store, or at the fish market will come cleaned and ready to cook. Watch out for milky looking scallops that usually means they haven’t been kept well. 

Sometimes they’ll come in their shell and you’ll have to clean them. Cleaning a scallop is easy. Simply take a small knife and insert it into the shell and gently scrape it from the shell. Open the shell and remove your scallop. Now all you have to do is remove the skirt from the scallop. Just run your thumb around the main peice if the scallop and gently pull the skirt off. You’ll be left with a beautiful,  clean scallop ready to cook.

Like i said before I like to sear my scallops. They get a nice crust and a beautiful medium rare. The middle of the scallop should be pink when you’re done searing it. Over cooking a scallop will make it go rubbery and lose its flavor. I use a very hot sautee pan with some butter. I also coat the foot, the flat end of the scallop, in seasoned flour. This does a few things, it makes the scallops crust nicer and more distinct, as well as creating more of a fond. That’s the brown bits at the bottom of the pan when you sear it. I also make sure to sear my scallops in butter. 

Place your scallops in the pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Once you put them in don’t touch them until they’re ready to flip. Flip them after about 30 seconds once they have a nice golden brown crust. Wait about another 30 seconds and remove your scallops. 

Now I add some white wine to my pan and deglaze. I add aromatics like thyme and parsley. Thyme and scallops are a match made in culinary heaven. When the white wine is almost gone mount with butter off of the heat and stir vigorously. Pour this over your scallops and serve. Finish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. That’s my favorite way to have scallops. 

What you need to know about tuna 

For the longest time most thought of tuna as the cans you buy for 50 cents that you mix with mayo and put on bread. Tuna is much much more than that. Canned tuna is all the scraps and lesser quality tuna cooked way longer than it should be. It’s dry and bland. It needs tablespoons of mayo to be attractive to eat. 

Tuna steaks can be really nice.  You need to make sure the tuna is of good quality. Good tuna is deep read and stays together nicley when you slice it. Most tuna at the grocery store has been frozen, so I reccomend a fish market. 

In my opinion, and that of most chefs, tuna should be seared all around and sliced. A nice tuna niscoise salad is great. Green beans, fingering potatoes and niscoise olives tossed in a simple dressing with your tuna sliced over top. 
When I sear my tuna I use sesame oil and get it smoking hot and sear it all around until it’s a nice golden brown all around. I set it aside and let it rest a bit. Slice it thin, it’s relatively dense, the texture is nicer if it’s sliced tjin.
Eating fresh tuna raw is also nice. However when you eat raw fish you always need to make sure it’s never been frozen and it’s fresh. If it’s not fresh and it has been frozen i won’t usually eat it raw it’s just a safety thing. Being safe is the most important.
Poke is nice with tuna. It’s sliced red and green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and the tuna diced small. It usually has a little more than that, but that’s the just of it. Raw fresh tuna of course is always nice on sushi.

Tips for taking the challenge out of white fish 

White fish is a fisheries term used for most fish with white flesh like cod and halibut. Usually more common than fish like salmon, because it freezes better and can thus hold longer. Fish and chips is an obnoxiously popular way to cook white fish here in the United States. I like fish and chips, but do nt limit yourself to that. 
A nice benefit of most white fish like halibut and flounder is the lack of trouble any bones will give you. Flat white fish have no bones that go into the fillet, so you just cut off your fillet, skin it and you’re good to go. Most of the time in super markets it’s already fillet and portioned ready for you to cook.

I said earlier about how it freezes better, however fish doesn’t freeze well. This is why most of the time, especially with fish and chips, the fish itself offers almost no flavor. White fish is delicate in flavor to begin with, so when you freeze it a lot of the flavor it does have is lost. It freezes better in the sense that it doesn’t fall apart on you as much as say salmon or trout would. When buying White fish look for non previously frozen. It should also be bright white and not grey. 
When I cook white fish I cook it with a gentler method that imparts more flavor and aromatics to help it along. I like to poach mine in olive oil with herbs, sear it in a pan, or bake it with lemons and herbs packed on top. White fish is a little more dense so it will take a bit to cook so lower on the tempature is better to cook it through evenly. 
Everyone’s impressed by the massive several hundred pound halibut that are pulled from the ocean floor. In reality those don’t taste good. Halibut over around 80 pounds start to loose flavor and a proper texture. Around 50 pounds is the perfect size halibut for eating. 

Tips to take the challenge out of Salmon 

I lived in Alaska on and off for years and one of the best ingredients there was the incredible salmon and crab. Almost everyday, all summer long I would come into work and fillet at least 2 big king or sockeye salmon. Fish can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. 
Salmon is great, it has it’s own distinct flavor, yet it’s light and takes on other flavors well too. Stay away from pink or chum salmon. I used chum salmon for bait and pink salmon for smoking. They don’t have the most pleasant and clean flavor you want out of a salmon. King salmon, or Chinook depending on what you call them where you live, are nice and large. King salmon to me has a little bit of a generic flavor compared to sockeye. Chinook is so popular, because of their large size. Sockeye is flavorsome and contains the least amount of mercury. The fillets that come off of a sockeye salmon have a very bright and distinct color.  Coho salmon is also pretty nice. It’s similar to the taste of a king salmon, just a bit smaller. 
I always prefer fillets over steaks. I think steaks don’t look as nice and they’re more of a pain to eat. Usually in super markets salmon comes fillet and with the pin bones already removed. Also I find salmon cooks more evenly cut into fillet portions rather than steaks. 
Look at the label in the case. Wild caught is always better. Farmed fish isn’t good. They feed it corn pellets and something to make the flesh look kind of how it’s supposed to. The flesh should look bright, not washed out or faded. Look for salmon that hasn’t been frozen. Previously frozen salmon will almost always end up being dry and it makes it harder to cook, because it’ll be falling apart more. This will also drain it of a lot of its flavor. 
Try cooking it skin on. A nice crispy skin can be nice on A salmon. I prefer it myself. If you don’t like the skin and don’t want to ruin your fillet by trying to skin it, cook it skin on and it’ll just come right off with your fingers. 
When it comes to cooking your salmon I prefer to pan sear, bake or eat it raw. Salmon is nice on sushi and in poke if it’s fresh and fatty. When I sear mine I just heat a pan up with some oil in it and put it skin side down in the pan. Let it cook about 70 percent the way on the skin and flip it. It will finish soon after. You can see it when you cook your salmon in a pan how cooked it is by looking at the side. Salmon is nice medium rare. When you bake it just season it and put it skin side down in a oven around 350 degrees until it’s done. It really is that simple. 

Polenta 

Polenta is one of the most versatile sides I’ve come across. It’s not even limited to side dishes, I’ve made it into an appetizer and a dessert as well. Easy to cook and inexpensive. Polenta is a ground corn meal that’s usually cooked with water, or cream. Simmered until it’s cooked and finished with cheese and butter. Creamy polenta can be served with almost any protein.
As an appetizer polenta is nice, because it can take on so many forms. I like to make polenta cakes. I make my polenta and put it in a dish and chill it. Then I can cut shapes out of It once it solidifies and toast them. Toasted polenta cake with a bell pepper, onion and mushroom gravy is a breakfast dish I made for myself all the time in the past. A good appetizer is toasted polenta cakes with sauteed mushrooms and a sunny side up egg, finished with basil and oregano. 
As a side polenta cakes are nice too. With a chicken dish try using chicken stock. With shrimp use a shrimp stock. Asiago cheese is very nice inside a polenta cake and creamy polenta. Asiago goes well with all sorts of stock too.  Creamy polenta is a nice side too. It’s smooth and creamy with a nice neutral texture. Try it with maybe a braised lamb shank or ox tail. 
Dessert polenta was an idea I had in culinary school. We had to make a dish out of polenta, but that wasn’t really challenging enough for me so I decided to make a dessert polenta. I used orange juice and heavy cream as my liquid. I chilled it and cut it into rounds. I toasted it and cut orange Supremes. Fanning them out over top of the cake and dusting it with sugar and took a blow torch to it like a creme brulee. It came out pretty nice and I’ve been meaning to do it again with lemons. 

Ceviche the perfect summertime dish you don’t even have to cook

Ceviche is, in my opinion, the perfect summertime dish. It’s light, it’s refreshing and you don’t even have to cook it. This is a recipe where having really nice fresh ingredients is the key. Ceviche pairs well with crisp, fruity white wines or summery cocktails. The only down side to this dish is you have to eat it the day you make it or the day after. The acid in the lime juice will turn the tomatoes mushy after a few days. What you’ll need: 

Cilantro 

Lime juice 

Salt/pepper 

Jalapeno pepper 

Tomatoes 

Red onion 

Avocado 

Halibut or some other white fish 

Shrimp 

Olive Oil

First of all you’ll dice your fish and Prawns into the desired size. About a medium size is what you’ll want. If you cut your fish too small the fish will taste too acidic. Cover just slightly with lime juice and season. The acid will actually almost cook the fish 
Then you’ll want to dice your tomatoes, red onion and avocado. Mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and jalapeno peppers. At this point you can mix with your fish and lime juice mixture. Finish with chopped cilantro. Serve with chips. 

For a nice touch try making plantain chips. Slice a plantain into quarter inch slices and deep fry. When they come out of the fryer, smash them flat. It’s crispy in the outside and fluffy on the inside. This is a fun and different alternative for a tortilla chip. 

Cajun risotto 

Risotto is a simple Italian rice dish. It’s almost like a blank slate of flavors. You can take it in many directions. One of my favorites started as an experiment. It’s now a common weekday dish I cook for my fiance and I. This is a simple recipe and very tasty, Cajun risotto with prawns and sausage. What you’ll need:

Butter 

Bell pepper

Onion 

Garlic 

Spicy andoulie sausage

Mushrooms

Chicken thighs 

Shrimp 

Aborio rice 

Cajun seasoning 

Salt
First of all you’ll hear your butter and sweat your onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. Season and add your diced sausage, chicken and whole prawns. Sautee until meat is cooked, then add your rice. 
Add water and stir. At this point adr your cajun seasoming. Continue to add water and stir. The dish will be cooked and thicker when it’s done. This usually takes about 35 minutes.