Category Archives: not pastry

Foodbuzz 24×24: Florida Bouillabaisse

This post was done in conjunction with the web site Foodbuzz.com, for their monthly 24 x 24 event. The theme this month is the Gulf of Mexico and the oil spill, and Foodbuzz.com is making a donation to the Greater New Orleans Foundation for every participant in this event. I grew up in Pensacola, and my family has been a part of the commercial fishing and marine industry in Florida for generations, so this disaster really hit home for me. I’m honored to be a participant.

When I was a kid in the 1970′s, my entire family used to go clamming together. My mom and my aunts and uncles would drag their children (me and my siblings and cousins) to a clamming area next to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We’d put on old sneakers, grab a bucket, and wander around the shallow water digging clams out of the sand and seaweed. Then we’d take the clams back to my grandmother’s house, and my mom and aunts would shuck the clams in the back yard. As they were shucked, we kids would bring the clams into my grandmother’s kitchen, and she would then cut them up and throw them into a big pot of chowder.

It was amazing chowder. I know that Boston and New England are better known for chowder and lobsters than Florida, and Maryland (my current home) is better known for crabs, but the clams, stone crab claws, and spiny lobster than I grew up eating are still my shellfish benchmark. When my mom and my nephew, Sean, visit me every summer in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., we always spend one afternoon eating a bushel of Maryland crabs steamed traditionally with Old Bay seasoning. And my mother always remarks that the Maryland crabs aren’t as tasty as Florida stone crab claws, and are also twice as difficult to eat. I don’t argue with her. I love stone crab claws, but I also love Maryland blue crabs. As long as I can have both in my life, I figure I’ve got very little to complain about.

Fresh Gulf shrimp.

A few years ago, I assisted a bouillabaisse class at L’Academie. It was a great class. The students made homemade fish stock, and then each student produced a big pot of authentic bouillabaisse and accompanying rouille. Gosh, I loved it. But I really wanted to do was make a big pot of rich saffron broth dotted with potatoes, fennel, and leeks — incorporating seafood that I love. I know the French can be a wee bit stressed out about authenticity and provenance when it comes to their food, but we Floridians tend to not get our skivvies in a wad over such things. If it tastes good, if it’s consumed in good company, and if it’s made with love, that’s enough.

No matter how complicated one can get with the history of bouillabaisse, when it comes right down to it, it’s really just fish stew enhanced with the star local ingredients. Luckily, the Gulf coast of Florida and Provence have a few things in common. Great seafood, great produce, and great citrus — three primary components of bouillabaisse. So, making bouillabaisse using fresh and wonderful local ingredients, even if they are not French fresh and wonderful ingredients, doesn’t seem too blasphemous to me.

My grandfather, J.C. Anderson, fishing in the Gulf in the 1960's.

My preference would be to make my bouillabaisse at my mom and dad’s house in Sarasota, with nothing but fresh Florida produce and Florida Gulf seafood. But for now, I’m making it with what is in season and available to me in Washington D.C. When I go home to see my family at Christmas this year, I plan on making this again with all-Gulf seafood. Currently, the shining star of Florida seafood, the stone crab claw, is out of season, and other ingredients (such as fresh hearts of palm and Florida sweet onions) are a rare find outside of the Sunshine state. I was able to mail order some hearts of palm, and I found some onions that are similar to Florida Sweets.

Fresh hearts of palm.

Fresh hearts of palm.

But my biggest obstacle in preparing this dish was not out-of-season seafood, but the BP oil spill that is making any Florida seafood less common, and is tainting not only the seafood itself, but opinions concerning it’s safety. Articles like this one, in the New York Times, point out that a growing number of people simply don’t trust seafood from the Gulf of Mexico anymore, even if comes from areas that are not (yet?) affected by the spill. I’ll keep eating Gulf seafood until they tell me that I can’t eat it anymore — which I certainly hope never happens.

I love making bouillabaisse, and I do not always have time to make fresh fish stock. In early June, I got a nasty summer cold. I was absolutely miserable. I spent two days thinking about curling up on my sofa and watching an old movie with a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse, and I finally dragged my miserable, aching, wheezing self home after a few pit stops to get ingredients, and I fished out a frozen container of Perfect Additions Fish Stock from my downstairs freezer. I keep several containers of it on hand (I buy it at my local Whole Foods, in the freezer section). It’s excellent, and it cuts preparation time to the point that you can make bouillabaisse on a weeknight for a quick meal. That’s awesome. I’m a huge believer in making one’s own stock, and I always have frozen baggies of homemade chicken stock in my freezer. But frankly, Perfect Additions makes great fish stock, and works just fine if you don’t have the time to make it from scratch.

This is how I make my bouillabaisse, with ingredients from my home in Florida if I can get them. It may not be authentic, and in the case of something like bouillabaisse that may ruffle some feathers. But when I was sick last month and sitting on my sofa watching Bringing Up Baby, I was curled around a steaming bowl in less than an hour, and it was mighty good.

Happiness in a Bowl

I eat Florida Gulf seafood as much as I can. I fear for the future of Gulf seafood. I hope that BP oil spill has not compromised the supply. At one point in the 1980′s, my family decided that the Tampa Bay had become too polluted to clam off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge anymore. Now, when I drive across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, usually on my way to or from the Tampa International Airport when I visit my family, I always gaze wistfully at the area where we went clamming when we were kids, holding buckets and kicking the sand with our old sneakers to find buried clams. I miss it.

Make a big pot of bouillabaisse (or whatever you want to call it if you are a stickler for authenticity) with whatever bounty you appreciate. Whether it’s New England lobster, Pacific Northwest salmon, or California Dungeness crabs. If there is one thing that this BP disaster has taught me, it’s to never take for granted the food that I grew up eating, assuming it would always be there. The food that reminds me of home, of my grandmother’s kitchen, and of good times shared with those I have loved best in this world.

A 1976 family photo.

A 1976 family photo.

Florida Gulf Bouillabaisse

makes 4-5 servings

4 tbs. good olive oil
3-4 chopped Florida Sweet onions if you can get them, leeks if you cannot
1/2 cup diced Florida hearts of palm, or fennel if you cannot get hearts of palm
1/2 cup diced potatoes (unpeeled is okay), from Florida if possible
pinch of saffron
bay leaf
salt

2 containers Perfect Additions fish stock, thawed (reserve a couple tablespoons for rouille)
1 can no-salt-added canned, diced tomatoes (I find this to be important for the freshest tomato flavor, and to keep the acidity down)

1 lb. cleaned Gulf shrimp
1 lb. scallops, rinsed
10 small clams, rinsed
2 lbs. firm-fleshed Gulf fish (flounder or snapper are both good), chopped into bite-sized pieces
10 stone crab claws, or 1/2 lb. crab meat if stone crabs are out of season or unavailable

zest from one orange

Rouille:
1 tbs. Key Lime Juice (or plain lime juice if you can’t get key lime juice)
a few tablespoons of fish stock
fresh, white bread
4 cloves garlic
1 piece roasted red pepper (about 1/2 a pepper)

1. In a soup pot or Dutch oven (I use an enamel Dutch oven) heat olive oil over medium heat (don’t get too hot, if it’s smoking it’s too hot).

2. Add onions or leeks, fennel or hearts of palm, and potatoes, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occassionally, until all veggies are just soft, but still hold their shape. You are not sauteeing the vegetables. You don’t want any color on them. If they are starting to brown, turn down the heat.

3. Add saffron and bay leaf and stir. Add fish stock and tomatoes. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes (if you are really hungry) to 45 minutes (if you can wait). Just before serving, turn heat up to high, and bring broth to a hearty boil.

4. Add fish and clams (and fresh stone crab claws, if you have them). Place cover on pot and boil until clams open. Turn off heat and stir scallops and shrimp into still hot broth, stirring in hot broth until they are just cooked through by the residual heat.

5. If using crabmeat instead of stone crab claws, place a large spoonfull of crabmeat in the center of a large bowl. Spoon soup around the crabmeat, distributing fish and shellfish evenly between bowls.

6. Drop a large dollop of rouille into center of bowl (to stir into broth while eating). Sprinkle each bowl with orange zest. Serve with a sliced baguette on the side.

Rouille:

In a mini food processor, grind the white bread into fine crumbs. Add all other ingredients except stock. Process, adding just enough stock to make a smooth paste.

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The Best Salad Ever!

Louis Pappas' Famous Greek Salad

I am a 7th generation Floridian (on my mom’s side), and as such I have accumulated an embarrassing mass of kitschy, Florida-themed stuff. A lot of it has come from friends who find it at yard sales and second-hand stores and think of me when they see it, but I must admit having a soft spot for old Florida memorabilia myself. I love the coveted “pre-Disney” era of Florida memorabilia, when the maps of Florida painted on ashtrays or embroidered onto tablecloths omit Orlando (which was an obscure little farming town until Mr. Walt Disney paid them a visit), and I’ve got a huge soft spot for anything alligator-themed.

1940's era salt and pepper shaker Florida souvenir.

Florida Memorabilia

Some of my growing collection.

So, I started displaying all of this stuff in my basement, which was originally built as a “mother-in-law” apartment in the 1980′s, but now serves as my guest room, overflow closet, and extra kitchen (everyone needs an extra kitchen). Once I found a home for it all, the Florida memorabilia collection started multiplying and sort of took over my basement. I moved all of my Florida-themed cookbooks onto a shelf in my basement, separate from the four Ikea shelves that hold the rest of my cookbook collection (yes, I have four Ikea shelves full of cookbooks). I get all kinds of grief from my friends and family over my Florida-themed basement. My youngest sister, Katy, refers to it as my “Tacky Florida Room”.

Katy's just jealous because she does not have THIS in her condo in Sarasota!

I was cleaning up my Tacky Florida Room last weekend (in anticipation of my mom’s looming summer visit) and while I took a short break with a Diet Coke, I started leafing through an old cookbook that has been a part of my life — well, all of my life — The Gasparilla Cookbook. It was a fixture in my paternal grandmother Victoria’s kitchen in her home on Clearwater Beach, where I spent just about every summer of my childhood. She only had about five cookbooks (Grandmother Victoria was not very domestic), but The Gasparilla Cookbook was among them. I cannot remember a time when my mother has not owned this cookbook, and it is on a shelf in her kitchen in Sarasota to this very day.

The Gasparilla Cookbook was originally published in 1961, and is still in publication by the Junior League of Tampa. It’s a treasure trove of recipes from the Tampa Bay area — some donated from some of Florida’s most historic restaurants, and some from the Junior League members themselves. There are two recipes that I distinctly remember my mother making quite often when I was a kid. The first is the Greek salad from the historic Louis Pappas Restaurant in Tarpon Springs, a Florida town with a rich Greek heritage. The second recipe from this book that was a regular feature in my mom’s kitchen is the Spanish Bean Soup from The Columbia Restaurant, another historic Florida restaurant which has now branched out all over the state. I absolutely love this soup, and I make it quite often in the middle of Washington D.C. winters. Forget about chicken soup, nothing cures a cold or makes me feel better than rich, saffron-scented broth loaded with beans, ham, potatoes and chorizo! Here’s the authentic recipe, but my mom usually left out the beef bone, and used a leftover ham roast to make the stock, adding the ham that she chopped off the bone into the soup with the chorizo.

We love Spanish Bean Soup!

We Love Spanish Bean Soup! Yum!

But the shining star of this cookbook is not Spanish Bean Soup (although this soup is mighty good). It’s the Louis Pappas’ Famous Greek Salad recipe, printed on page 46 of the 1961 edition of the cookbook (which is the edition I own). My mom made this salad regularly when I was a kid, for boat picnics and potlucks and summer suppers. I have very happy memories of accompanying her to the commercial fishing docks to buy shrimp right off the shrimp boats for 88 cents a pound, complete with heads and feelers. Mom usually bought about 10 pounds at a time, and she boiled the shrimp in a huge kettle with a can of my dad’s beer, and then we sat at the kitchen table and cleaned the cooked shrimp for the salad and for snacking (the little beady, black eyes always used to freak me out). The original Louis Pappas’ Famous Greek Salad recipe calls for four shrimp for the entire salad, but putting that few shrimp on this salad is a crime against culinary nature. I load this salad down with shrimp!

Sarasota Mileage Sign

Reminder of home.

I’m not sure how many more Gulf shrimp we are going to have in our future, thanks to the BP oil spill. I’ve spent most of my life on the Gulf of Mexico, from Pensacola to Sarasota, and seven generations of my family have worked as commercial fishermen, marine mechanics, and in the boat manufacturing industry for the 150 years that we have called Florida’s Gulf coast home — including my granddad, my dad, my brothers, and some of my cousins. I have so many happy memories of boating in the Gulf off of Pensacola, walking on Clearwater Beach with my paternal grandmother, Victoria (and stopping at The Palm Pavilion for french fries that were covered with as much sand as salt), high school outings with friends from Siesta Key to Fort Walton Beach, and family reunions on Manasota Key (at a park named after my great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Daniel “Jody” Anderson). My mom grew up on Midnight Pass on Siesta Key, and my parents were married in a little church on Siesta Key. I graduated from high school on Longboat Key, and I lived on Longboat Key when my family moved back to Sarasota from Pensacola (before they bought their current house and moved out to the Sarasota “boondocks”). It breaks my heart when I see the pictures of the oil-stained white sand covering the beaches that have meant so very much to me all of my life.

my grandfather and kids

Granddaddy J.C. Anderson and his brood (mom's the one in pigtails).

Now that I live in Washington D.C., I make this salad when I want to remember home, especially in the summer when Washington D.C. can give Southwest Florida a run for its money on the thermostat. And as I sat in my Tacky Florida Room basement surrounded by my alligators, license plates, and flamingos, reading The Gasparilla Cookbook, I realized how long it had been since I made this salad. Which, of course, means that it was due time to make it again. I went on a search for some Gulf shrimp, wondering how much longer I would be able to find real Gulf shrimp. I certainly hope we won’t lose them, and the rest of the bounty and beauty of my home, forever.

Clearwater Beach

Little Me on Clearwater Beach

This really is The Best Salad Ever. From The Best Place Ever.

My family home. The beautiful Florida Gulf Coast.

I hope it stays that way.

Louis Pappas’ Famous Greek Salad

I use a lot more feta and shrimp than the recipe calls for.

serves 4

For the potato salad:

6 boiling potatoes

1 small, finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup salad dressing or mayonaise (my mother uses a homemade Greek vinaigrette, but recently I started using this, from pastry chef David Lebovitz, with great success)

salt

For the composed salad:

1 head of lettuce (iceberg or romaine. don’t get fancy here!)

3 cups potato salad (recipe above)

12 sprigs watercress (or roka leaves, if you can get them)

2 tomatoes, cut into 12 wedges (or halved cherry or grape tomatoes)

1 cucumber, peeled and cut lengthwise into 8 fingers

1 avocado (or “alligator pear”, if you use the Florida variety), cut into 8 wedges

4 portions of feta cheese (my feeling on Feta cheese is that more is better!)

1 green pepper, cut into 8 rings

4 slices beets, (the recipe calls for canned, but there are some great beets at area farmers’ markets right now!)

4 cooked, peeled shrimp (that’s what the recipe says, but get real! I usually load this salad down with shrimp — big ones!)

4 anchovy fillets (I am one of those weird people who likes anchovies, but leave them out if you must)

12 pitted Greek black olives

4 salonika peppers (pickled yellow banana peppers like the kind they slice put on subs)

4 radishes, cut into rosettes (I’ve been known to leave out the radishes)

very thinly sliced red onion slices, preferably on a mandoline (the original recipe calls for whole green onions, but I like thinly sliced red onion better)

vinaigrette made from garlic, lemon juice, mashed feta cheese, and olive oil (OR more of that lovely feta dressing from David Lebovitz mentioned above)

Instructions

1. Boil potatoes in skins until soft but not falling apart.

2. Drain, cool, peel and cut potatoes into slices in a bowl.

3. Add remaining ingredients.

4. Fold in salad dressing and add salt and pepper if needed. Potato salad is best if made a day ahead.

Salad:

1. Line a large platter or individual plates (depending on whether your are making one big salad, or 4 individual salads) with darker green outside salad leaves. Shred remaining lettuce.

2. Place 3 cups of potato salad in the middle of the platter.

3. Surround with shredded lettuce.

4. Arrange watercress or roka, tomato, cucumber, avocado, feta, green pepper, beets, shrimp, anchovies, black olives, radishes (if using), and sliced red onion decoratively around potato salad and over shredded lettuce.

5. Shake vinaigrette (or alternative dressing) and drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with oregano. (or, as I do sometimes, with a basil chiffonade instead of oregano.)

Serve immediately.

license plate

My last Florida license plate.

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Citrus Beurre Blanc, a.k.a. Devil Sauce

Citrus Beurre Blanc and Salmon

Citrus Beurre Blanc and Salmon

I cohabitate with a fish hater. Which is hard for me, being a native Floridian who grew up eating fish and seafood as a food group. My last meal, without a doubt, would be smoked mullet and swamp cabbage, exactly the way my grandmother made it. But even in the absence of smoked mullet and swamp cabbage, I eat fish every chance I get. Which is not often, considering my unfortunate living situation. So when I do eat it, I make it special. Being left all alone and to my own devices this weekend, I went to Whole Foods in Silver Spring and got a big piece of beautiful wild caught salmon, and made Sandy Patterson’s Citrus Beurre Blanc to go with it (grapefruits cost like THREE DOLLARS each at Whole Paycheck!!!!). This stuff is not for the feint of heart. It contains a ridiculous amount of butter, and as such is also ridiculously delicious. Which makes it dangerous for anyone who is not a supermodel or an Olympic athlete (or just annoyingly genetically blessed). If it moved to New York, Bloomberg would ban it.

Sandy Patterson, who graduated from and teaches at L’Academie de Cuisine, includes this sauce in some of the classes she teaches at the recreational school. (Her husband, Brian Patterson, teaches lesser sauces in the professional program.) I’d say it was the Food of the Gods, but it’s too good. It’s the Devil’s Sauce. How else could something so good be so bad ? And I’m also pretty gosh darn proud of myself for being able to consistently make it. I had a few greasy, nasty, unemulsified disasters with some early attempts.

I know what you’re saying… this is a PASTRY blog, not a beurre blanc blog. But one must diversify in one’s gratuitous butter intake, and a little savory never hurt anyone. Except for this sauce, which makes creme anglaise look like diet food. Here’s how you make it: (I can’t reprint Sandy’s original recipe. First, I don’t know where it is. Secondly, it’s unethical to hand out someone else’s recipe without permission. Thirdly, I’ve made it so many times that I stopped needing her recipe years ago and have strayed from it a bit. But at heart, it’s still Sandy Patterson’s Citrus Beurre Blanc/Devil Sauce.)

Finishing with Butter

Finishing with Butter

Combine the strained juice from a variety of citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, etc.) in a non-reactive saucepan with a bunch of roughly chopped shallots (2 or 3 or so) and a sprig of thyme if you have some lurking around but it’s not a big deal if you don’t. Reduce until the citrus juices are somewhat syrupy and almost evaporated, and then throw in some heavy cream (a good splash) — and reduce again until thick. Then whisk in a lot of butter, one pat at a time. At least 1-1/2 sticks (10-12 oz.) or so. The more butter you whisk in, the richer, creamier, and more devil-like it becomes. Strain, season, serve.

You can’t keep this stuff for more than an hour or so. It breaks if you try to reheat it. And you can’t just throw away the leftovers, nor can you put it in a coffee cup and drink it like milk. Really, you CAN’T! I mean, you could, but you really shouldn’t. That’s the devil sauce in your head telling you that you can. Instead, look around for other stuff to nonchalantly dip in the leftover sauce so you can pretend like you are not actually eating a bucket of butter and cream. Some suggestions are:


    leftover broccoli


    the ends of bread that you were saving for the birds


    leftover pizza


    saltine crackers


    Pringles


    melba toast


    leftover take-out dimsum


    dill pickles


    microwaved chorizo


    hard boiled eggs


    cherry tomatoes


    baby carrots


    Stella D’oro bread sticks


    the rice cakes you bought for your diet


    a big spoon




Finished Sauce

Finished Sauce

Thank you, Sandy!

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