Sunday, January 14, 2024

Rosie Make Oyster And Shrimp Bisque/Chowder.

 It’s been cold here on the Outer Banks lately and I’m having a hard time warming up.  Today, I put a dent in the nip with an oyster and shrimp bisque/chowder that really hit the spot.

What is a bisque, you ask?  A bisque is a French style seafood soup traditionally made with a stock from crustacean shells and a good amount of cream and a thickening agent of some sort.  Generally, it’s very creamy and smooth.

A chowder is typically chunky, with bits of potato and meats in it.

I’m combining the two.  I’m making a seafood soup with shrimp and oysters.  I’m using the shrimp shells to make shrimp stock and I’m using the oyster liqueur - both for my broth ...  to make it seafoody.  I’m adding cream to it …  to make it creamy.  I’m adding sherry to it … to make it alkie.  And I’m using potatoes in there … to make it potatoey, and to thicken it up naturally with the potato starch.  I’m combining the best of both worlds.

This concoction is perfect for the weather we’ve been having.  I like to get warmed up from the inside out and this bisque/chowder just hit all my culinary happy spots.

I served it with saltines, for a bit of crunch.  Lacking them, you could use oyster crackers, croutons, or toast.  I just like something with texture to contrast with the creaminess of the soup.
ROSIE NOTE:  With soup "recipes," you don't really need to worry about exact amounts here.  A handful of vegetables here, a cup or two of liquid there, it's not going to make much difference. 

I started with the shrimp stock.  I thawed out a bag of shrimp (maybe 12 oz.) and shelled and de-tracted the shrimp.  Yes. I say de-tract, not de-vein, since that black line running down the back of the shrimp is the digestive tract, not a vein.  Save the shells; they’re going into the stock.

Medium size stock pan.  Put in about a tablespoon each oil and butter.  Medium heat.  When the butter melts and sizzles, throw in a handful of coarsely chopped carrots, celery, and onion (I don’t even bother to remove the skin from the onion.), and the shrimp shells.  Add in a teaspoon of kosher salt and a tablespoon of whole peppercorns.  Stir and cook until the shells turn pink.  Then pour in about 5-6 cups water.  Reduce heat to low.  And keep at bare simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the stock was stocking, I started on the rest of my soup.  I diced 2 potatoes and chopped 1 onion.  Added it to 1 TB each butter and oil in another pot.  Stirred around a bit - maybe 3-4 minutes, then added about 1-2 cups water, just to cover.  Cook on low until potato is tender.

Now to add a thickener.  Generally, I use a roux to thicken a soup.  A roux is equal parts butter (or oil) and flour, which you cook, stirring, until you cook the raw out of the flour and it gets a nice nutty flavor.  You can cook to different degrees of color (light tan to brown) depending on your final product.  After cooking the roux, you slowly add your liquid, stirring, until you have the consistency you want.  

That said, I’m not making a roux this time to thicken.  I’m using what’s called beurre manié, or kneaded butter.  The reason for this is because I’ve already got a liquid that my potatoes have been cooking in.  I’m not exactly starting from scratch, so I have to add the thickener to the liquid that’s already there.  For the beurre manié, I knead together equal parts of softened butter and flour - maybe 3 TB each, fully mixing them together with my fingers. Then I drop that little dough ball into the liquid, stirring, and let it work its magic.  The soup will thicken quite nicely and smoothly.  If you just add flour to the liquid, it would clump and form doughy lumps.  Since the butter coats the flour in the beurre manié, it’s incorporated smoothly into your soup.  Cook the liquid (low heat) until it gets quite thick.

  By this time, your shrimp stock should be ready.  Strain the liquid and discard the shells, celery, carrots, and onion.  Slowly add about a cup of the stock, stirring, into the thickened potato soup mixture.  Next you want to add the cream.  I used 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Then I added a good shot of sherry.  Taste test!  Adjust seasonings.  Perhaps more kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, or more sherry.  If you like the consistency, fine.  If you want thicker, add in a tablespoon at a time of beurre manié, cooking and stirring.  It’s up to you.  If you want it thinner, add more stock or milk/cream.

At low heat and bare simmer, I added in my shrimp and oysters with their liqueur.  At least a dozen each.  Shrimp will be ready in about a minute or two, depending on size.  Oysters are already ready.

Ladle into bowls.  Crack some pepper on top.  Give it some sliced green onions.  Maybe a few shakes of Tabasco.  Oyster crackers or saltines.

And that, my friend, will warm your innards.

Now for the step-by-steps:
For the shrimp stock:  Oil and butter into stock pot.  Heat until butter bubbles.  Add in onion, carrots, celery.
Add in shrimp shells.
Stir and cook until shells turn pink.

Add in water.
Let it barely simmer. About 30 minutes.

While the stock is stocking, start on the potatoes.

Melt butter in pot.  Add diced potatoes and onions.

Cook medium high a few minutes, then add water to cover.
Potatoes cooking on left.  Shrimp stock on right.

Stock is ready to strain.

Beurre manié is ready to add to the potato pot.

Drop it in.
Heat and stir until thickened.
Really thickened.
Add in a cup or so of shrimp stock.

Oysters and their liqueur on left.  Cup of cream on right.
Add in the cream.
If you want it thicker, you can always add more beurre manié.

I always like a good splash of sherry.

Drop in shrimp.  However many you want.  I had at least a dozen.  Cook a minute or so.

Then I added in the oysters and their liqueur.
Just heat through.

And it’s ready!



Monday, January 1, 2024

 Flan Is The Plan

I ended 2023 with a decadent dessert – my December Dacquoise, so I think it’s appropriate to start off January, 2024, with another dessert, in this case, a Fabulous Flan.  Flan is a simple and elegant dessert consisting of a baked egg custard base with a caramel layer on top.  It’s ultra-creamy, super silky, and exquisitely rich.  A flan bakes with its own enticing caramel sauce on the bottom (which ends up on top as a sauce when you invert the baking dish) and I’m adding a little extra embellishment – spun sugar with which to crown the custards.  You’ll learn some basic techniques along the way – how to make custard, how to make caramel, and how to spin sugar, creating golden, jewel-like strands of confectionary elegance.  With these procedures under your belt, you’ll be able to apply them in many other desserts with a myriad of variations and flavors so that the results will be endless.

 Let’s start off with a bit of flan history.  The origin of flan can be traced back to the Roman Empire.  The Romans, being the first to domesticate chickens for the purpose of harvesting their eggs, began inventing ways, which they adapted from the ancient Greeks, to use their surplus eggs.  And somewhere in here we have the birth of flan, in the form of custards, both sweet and savory.  One of the first versions of flan was a savory peppered eel dish, but it didn’t take long for the Romans to sweeten their creation with honey, the only sweetener available at the time.  As the Roman Empire expanded throughout Europe, its customs and recipes survived, flourished, and spread.  The Spanish were particularly taken with the dish and are credited with adding the caramel element to flan, with the Moors adding a bit of flavorings, like citrus fruits and almonds.  When the Spanish conquistadors landed in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the flan traveled with them. The Mexican flan continued to evolve, with coffee, chocolate, and coconut flavors added to it, and the popularity of the dessert extended to the rest of Latin America.  Although the basic method of preparing flan hasn’t changed much from the beginning, with the custard base being three ingredients (eggs, milk, and sugar), variations of the flan have developed throughout the years. Depending on the availability of ingredients, differing flavor preferences, and the individuality, creativity, and personal style of each cook, something special and ethereal can be created each time.

 Now, on to the flan.  Being totally out of eel, I’m going with a sweet version of flan.  And you’re quite welcome.


 Caramel Flan With Spun Sugar

 6 1-cup ramekins
 9 TB sugar
 6 TB water
 1 cup sugar
 1 pint heavy cream
 1/2 cup skim milk
 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
 2 whole eggs
 6 egg yolks
 For the caramel:
  In a small sauce pan, combine 9 TB sugar and 6 TB water. Without stirring, bring to a simmer over medium low heat, cooking until the mixture turns a golden amber color.

 Working quickly, divide equal amounts of caramel syrup into each of the ramekins, rotating the ramekins until the sides are coated halfway up.

 Rosie Note:  I first let the ramekins sit in a baking dish filled with hot water, to make it easier to swirl the caramel in.  If the ramekins are cold, you'll have a hard time swirling, since the caramel will immediately harden upon hitting a cold ramekin.

 For the flan:
 Pour milk and cream into a saucepan.

Rosie Note:  You can substitute the skim milk with any percentage fat milk.  I use skim because I always have it on hand.

Scrape the vanilla beans and add both seeds and beans to the mixture.  Place over low heat until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan.  Do not boil; just bring to a bare simmer.  Remove from heat and discard beans.

Heat oven to 300°.

Beat together eggs and yolks until thickened and lemon-colored.  Gradually whip in 1 cup sugar until pale and foamy.  Add the hot cream mixture to the eggs slowly, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling.  Pour custard mix into ramekins set in 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Add boiling water to reach about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. 

Bake custards until set, about 55 minutes.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled.

 Run a sharp, thin knife inside each ramekin and invert onto plates.

 These flans are perfectly acceptable as is, although I do like to adorn with a bit of fruit.  Strawberries were not looking good at the market when I made this so I used some Amarena cherries I had on hand.

 If you want to take it a step further, go for the gold – the spun sugar!

For the Spun Sugar:
 9 TB sugar
 6 TB water

Make the caramel as you did before.  Remove from heat.  It needs to cool a tad to be spinnable.  Dip a fork in it and swirl the tines over the flans.  You can use your fingers to pull the caramel strands and drape decoratively over top.  This is the fun part!


Prepare caramel for 
bottom of ramekins.
This is the color you want.
Working quickly,
Pour caramel
into warmed ramekins.


Make the custard:

Scrape out
 vanilla beans.

  Combine milk,
cream, vanilla beans 
and seeds.
Bring to simmer.
Beat eggs, yolks,
and sugar.

Slowly beat 
 hot milk mixture
into eggs.

Ladle into ramekins.

Pour boiling
water halfway
up sides.


Invert onto
 serving dish.

See how the 
caramel pools?

Now, you can eat the flan just as it is, ORRRRRRR,
you could garnish it with some fruit. 
The strawberries at FoodLion were actively growing mold when I checked,
so I topped these with a few Fabri Amarena cherries I had in the fridge.

Here's what they look like:

You might consider
keeping these on hand.




 Now, let's take it to the next level -  spun sugar.

  Make the caramel again. 




Caramel ready to spin.



 Like I said, spinning is the fun part!
Dip the tines of a fork into the warm caramel and just go back and forth with the fork.
You can also use your fingers to pull the threads and position them.

Have fun!