Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tempura Soft Shell Crab With Citrus Gastrique

Everyone has his or her own opinion on when summer starts. For me, it’s when I see soft-shell crabs in the seafood display at the grocery store. Soft-shell crabs are just regular crabs (blue crabs in the U.S.) that have outgrown their shells. They are full of fresh crab flavor without the hassle of dealing with the hard crab shell. Though there are many delicious ways to cook soft shells, my favorite recipe involves breading and frying the crabs, and topping them with a sweet citrus gastrique! The combination of tender crab meat coupled with Asian flavorings is sure to get you in the summer state of mind. 

From the recipes of Suzanne Virgilio

Tempura Soft-shell Crab w/Oriental Salad & Citrus Gastrique

Serves 2 - 4


  • 4 large cleaned soft shells – (Ask your fishmonger to prepare them cleaned for you)
  • 2/3-cup flour
  • 1/2-cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1-cup cold seltzer wate 
  • Oil for frying
Season soft shells with salt & pepper
Combine the next six ingredients in another medium bowl – stir well
Add seltzer water & beaten egg to flour/cornstarch mixture and whisk until smooth

  • 3/4-cup soy sauce
  • 1/2-cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup Asian Chili garlic sauce or to taste
Combine all ingredients and stir well

Oriental Salad

  • 1 lb angel hair pasta, cooked a la dente and tossed w/ olive oil
  • 1 julienned red pepper
  • 1 julienned yellow or orange pepper
  • 1-cup julienned Napa cabbage
  • 2 cups steamed broccoli florets
  • 1 bunch sliced scallions
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro – chopped  - additional for garnish
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts (optional) – additional for garnish
Toss vegetables with pasta and top with dressing – toss until well combined


Definition of a Gastrique: In plain terms, a gastrique is a sweet-and-sour sauce at its simplest. You caramelize sugar (or sometimes honey), combine it with equal parts vinegar, and reduce it slightly to make a tart, slightly thickened syrup. (Definition from

  • 1-cup sugar
  • 1/2-cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium flame, stir occasionally and bring to a simmer.  Continue to heat until all sugar is dissolved and mixture is clear. 

Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof pitcher.


Heat oil until almost smoking.

While oil is heating dip softshell into tempura batter, shaking off any excess.

First, carefully holding the top of the softshell, drag the legs thorough the oil first, for 1 minute.  This will allow the individual legs to fry separately instead of together.  Then lay the softshell top side down, into the oil.  Fry 2-3 minutes or until golden.  Flip the softshell over and continue frying for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the fryer and allow draining on paper towel
To serve -  mound the salad into the center of a platter. 

Arrange the softshell around the salad.

Drizzle the gastrique over the entire platter

Garnish with additional chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple Cider Syrup

The priorities for Christmas in our house go something like this: 1. God 2. Food 3. Family. Okay, so perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic putting food before family, but what we eat between Christmas Eve and Christmas evening certainly has its importance. On Christmas Eve, we celebrate the Italian feast of the seven fishes. On Christmas day, we’ve cooked everything from prime rib and Yorkshire pudding to roasting a whole goose. And while both of these meals are two of my yearly favorites, it is the Christmas breakfast that I’ve come to enjoy the most.
Once my family has finished opening gifts on Christmas morning, my two brothers will start playing with their latest video game, my mom will be relaxing on the couch and my dad will head to the kitchen to get another round of coffee brewing. Since my mom is always in charge of cooking Christmas dinner, I try help her out by taking the role of the breakfast chef.  This year, I’m planning to serve family favorite: pumpkin pancakes with apple cider syrup. This is a recipe that my mom has used for years at the bed and breakfast. The flavor of pumpkin paired with sweet apple cider is sure to be the perfect ending to Christmas morning.
Pumpkin Pancakes with Hot Apple Cider Syrup
Cider Syrup
·         1 ½ cups apple cider
·         1 cup brown sugar
·         1 cup corn syrup
·         4 tablespoons butter
·         2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
·         1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
·         1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
·         Grated zest of 1 lemon
·         2 granny-smith apples, cored and cut into small dice

·         2 cups flour
·         2 tablespoons sugar
·         4 teaspoons baking powder
·         ¾ teaspoon salt
·        ½ teaspoon ground coriander
·         ½ teaspoon nutmeg
·         1 tablespoon cinnamon
·         1 ½ cups buttermilk
·         1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
·         4 egg yolks
·         ½ cup salted butter, melted
·         1 tablespoon vanilla extract
·         4 egg whites

Cooking the Cider Syrup
In a saucepan, bring to a boil all of the ingredients except for the diced apples. Once the mixture has come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the mixture is the consistency of maple syrup. Just before serving, add the diced apples and heat for several minutes until the apples are soft.
Making the Pancakes
Sift the dry ingredients, combine them in a bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine and mix the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Once mixed, add to them to the dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites with an electric beater until they are stiff, but not dry (see photo below for an example of how the egg whites should look). Once the egg whites are stiff, fold them into the pancake batter.
Once the batter is ready, melt 1 tablespoon of butter on a griddle over medium-low heat. Scoop pancake batter onto the griddle using a 1/3 measuring cup. Cook pancakes on one side for 4-5 minutes, then check to see if they are ready to flip. Once you flip the pancakes, they should only take a few more minutes until they’re ready to serve.
Serve pancakes with a slice of butter and top them with the apple cider syrup. Enjoy!

Duck Panang Curry With Julienne Vegetables

Valentine's day is here, and many of  you will be heading out for a romantic dinner. But considering that Valentine's Day falls on a Tuesday, you may be considering staying home to make a special meal. If that's the case, we recommend treating your date to this delicoius duck panang curry dish.
Thai food is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. While some Thai curries can be VERY spicy, Panang is milder and pairs perfectly with the flavor of duck.
The toughest part about making Thai food is the preparation. Before you start searing the duck or cooking the sauce, we recommend chopping all the vegetables and herbs ahead of time. Once you've prepped everything, the recipe is actually quite easy to follow!
4 to 6 Servings
  • 3-4 duck breast halves
  • 2 red bell peppers, julienned
  • 10-15 brocoli florets
  • 1/4 lb frenched green beens
  • 5 carrots, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili garlic paste (sambal oelek)*
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5" piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 Cup Thai Panang curry paste**
  • 27 ounces unsweetened coconut milk**
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce*
  • 2 Cups cooked jasmine or basmati rice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

*These ingredients are available in the Asian section of many supermarkets and at Asian food markets.

**Be sure to buy good quality curry paste and coconut milk. For all Thai dishes we make at the bakery, we use Maesri brand curry paste and Chaokoh coconut milk.
Cooking the Duck Breasts
Duck is a very fatty meat, and the fat adds to its flavor. To prep the duck, you'll want to score the skin side and season it with salt. For an example of how to score a duck breast, see this video:

Place the duck breasts skin side down in a cold skillet over low-medium heat. Starting off with a cold skillet allows the skin to crisp without burning the skin. After eight minutes of cooking on the skin side, flip the duck and cook for another three to four minutes for a nice rosy-pink center. Once the duck has cooked, put it aside to cool, and then slice the breasts so they are ready when the time comes to add them to the curry sauce.
***There will be leftover duck fat in the pan. Pour this fat into a bowl for use in the vegetables and curry sauce.
Saute the Vegetables
Add two tablespoons of the duck fat to the skillet and saute half of the shallots, garlic and ginger until fragrant. Then, add the brocoli, green beans, and julienned carrots. Saute these vegetables for two to three minutes, and then add the bell peppers and hot chili paste. Saute for another two to three minutes to allow flavors to combine. Once vegetables are sauteed, take them out of the skillet and set them aside.
Making the Panang Curry Sauce
Add two tablespoons of duck fat to skillet and saute the remaining shallots, garlic and ginger. Once these three ingredients are fragrant, add the curry paste, brown sugar and fish sauce to the skillet. Mix these ingredients together with a wooden spoon over low-medium heat for two to three minutes. Once the flavors have combined, stir in the unsweetend cocunut milk. Bring to a boil and then simmer the sauce. You can add 1/2 cup of water if the sauce seems thick.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Finally add the sliced duck breast to the sauce and stire until coated.
Prepare for serving
Scoop a cup of rice onto the plate. Then add the sauce and a few slices of the duck breast on top. Top the curry sauce with the sauteed vegetables and some freshly chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fire-Pit Paella

Fire-Pit Paella
Serves 8-10

When it comes to outdoor summer cooking, burgers, ribs and bbq come to mind. But our personal favorite meal to cook outdoors is paella. Though paella can be cooked any time of year on a stove, the smokiness that comes from cooking over a wood-burning fire will enhance the flavor of the overall dish.  So light the fire pit, grab the paella pan, and invite your friends for a great outdoor meal that everyone will remember.
Paella is a dish that originated in Valencia, Spain. Named after the giant pan that it is cooked in, Paella recipes come with many forms and ingredient combinations, but our paella calls for a few essential ingredients.
Medium grain rice, such as bomba or callaspara rice, have the right texture for paella and soak up all of the flavors of the dish. Saffron threads give the paella a yellow color and distinct flavor that can’t come from any substitute. Spanish chorizo will give the paella a spicy and smoky taste. Hot seafood stock, preferably homemade, is the best liquid base to cook the rice. A licorice-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod, will enhance the seafood flavor of the paella.
The Fire
We recommend building the fire pit with a mix of hard wood and wood-charcoal briquettes. This will give a nice smokiness and consistent heat for the large paella pan. Build the fire and allow it to burn down to hot coals. While the fire burns, prep your ingredients.
  • 2.5 cups Rice (bomba or callaspara rice preferred)
  • 2 lobsters, halved (ask your fishmonger to do this)
  • 1-2 lbs. medium wild shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb. fresh calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1-2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 lb. Spanish Chorizo, cut into ½ inch thick rounds
  • 7 cups hot seafood stock (homemade stock preferred)
  • ½ cup licorice-flavored liqueur (Pernod is preferred)
  • 3 bell peppers cut into strips
  • 2 cups thawed petite peas
  • 2 cups chopped leaks
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs. Smoked Parika
  • 2 tsp. Saffron threads
  • 2 lemons cut into wedges
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup freshc chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt to taste

Making the Paella

After paella pan has become hot over the fire, drizzle the olive oil and begin sautéing your sofrito. The sofrito is the base of aromatic ingredients that is sautéed in olive oil. For our paella, the sofrito is composed of chopped leeks, garlic, and chorizo. Add these ingredients to the olive oil, one by one, layering the flavors.
Once your sofrito is sautéed and fragrant, add the chicken and chorizo to the pan and sauté for three to four minutes. Next add your smoked paprika and toss ingredients once more. Then, add your rice and toss until ingredients are combined.
Once the rice has been combined, add hot seafood stock, one cup at a time, and stir as you go. After the stock is added, mix the saffron threads into your paella.
Now that the stock and saffron is mixed in, restrain the urge to stir your paella until the liquid has boiled down and the rice has cooked. Not stirring your paella will allow a toasted, flavorful crust known as the soccarat to form on the bottom of the pan.
After the liquid has boiled down, add your Pernod and stir the Paella to incorporate the liqueur. Next, add your bell peppers, shrimp, lobster and petite peas. We recommend covering the pan with tin foil and allowing the heat to cook your final seafood ingredients.
Once the shrimp is cooked and the lobster has turned red, sprinkle the paella with fresh parsley. Serve paella with lemon wedges, and be sure to scrape some of the soccarat on the bottom of the pan onto each plate. Enjoy!