Hot Seafood Casserole

It’s not always easy to come up with a dinner plan, especially if you’re the one who does the majority of your family’s cooking. One way to overcome this dilemma is to browse your recipe collection for ideas.

That’s exactly what I did today. And what I came up with was a recipe for a hot seafood casserole. I don’t know who cut it out of a Relish (http://relish.com) magazine, but regardless, it’s what we’re having for supper tonight.

What sold me on the recipe was that it was described as a shrimp and crab casserole mixed with buttery cracker crumbs.

I love casseroles, and the idea of combining shrimp and crab along with some green pepper, onion, celery, mayonnaise and a little Worcestershire sauce really was appealing.

Hot Seafood Casserole
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 6-ounce can crabmeat, flaked
1 pound shrimp, cleaned, cooked, cut in small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise (see note)
1 cup buttered Ritz-style cracker crumbs (see note)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine green pepper, onion, celery, crabmeat, shrimp,salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl. Mix Gently. Spoon into an 8-inch-square baking dish or individual ramekins. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs.  Bake for 30 minutes.
Yield: Serves 4 to6.
Tip: This dish is is also good with 1/4 cup cooking sherry added to the seafood mixture before baking.
Note: Substitute low-fat mayonnaise and crackers to reduce calories if desired.

Crab Cakes with a Kick

I couldn’t help but think about an old friend, the late Gordy Love, when looking at the weekly food report we receive from McClatchy News Tribune. One of the items on the menu was a recipe for crab cakes, which Gordy claimed as one of his specialties.

I met Grody at the gym several years ago. We shared a passion for a few things, including hunting and cooking, which I consider inseparable. I used to love the stories Gordy would tell about his experiences as a camp cook for an Alaskan outfitter in his younger days.

One day, I mentioned making some crab cakes for supper the previous night, and Gordy proceeded to tell me about the good recipe he had for them. Gordy never got around to sharing the recipe with me, much to my dismay, so I can’t pass it on to you.

But here’s the recipe that I mentioned earlier, which gives crab cakes some zip by seasoning them with a little curry and chili. It’s built on one published a few years back in The Hartford (Conn.) Courant by Linda Giuca, the former food editor, and Christopher Prosperi, owner of Metro Bis restaurant in Simsbury, Conn.

Curried Crab Cakes
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons curry powder
4 green onions, minced
1 green chili, such as jalapeno, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 piece ginger root, peeled, minced
1 pound claw crab meat
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Canola oil
Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add curry powder; cook until powder darkens slightly and turns fragrant. Add green onion, chili, garlic and ginger; cook until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Gently mix cooked ingredients, crab, eggs, bread crumbs, pistachios, parsley, salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Form mixture into 18 balls; flatten each ball into a cake.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry a few cakes at a time (don’t overcrowd the pan), 2 minutes per side. Replenish oil as needed. Keep finished cakes warm while cooking remainder. Serve with chutney on the side.
Variation: You can play with seasonings for the crab cakes. The original recipe called for red onion, celery, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and Old Bay seasoning.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 323 calories, 50 percent of calories from fat, 18 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 168 milligrams cholesterol, 16 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 619 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip

I can’t wait host another brunch or take part in another brunch. That’s because I’ve found a very interesting recipe to share. The recipe is called Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip, which comes from “The Flavors of the Florida Keys” (Atlantic Monthly, $27.50) by Linda Gassenheimer.

Gassenheimer is the Miami Herald’s Dinner in Minutes columnist who I’ve followed over the years in my newspaper’s association with Knight Ridder Newspapers and now McClatchy Newspapers. The book is a follow-up to her “Keys Cuisine.”

Gassenheimer has taken an interest in the Keys as a culinary destination, and in the process has reached out to the chefs and beach-shack cooks for many recipes in her column who have made it so. Seafood stars in a lot of the book’s recipes, including the crab-artichoke dip that caught my eye. I’m a big fan of dips at parties or get-togethers.

In this holiday season, I’m sure a lot of entertainers will find the recipe to their liking, too.

Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip
¾ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and diced
¾ lightly sauted spinach, well-drained and chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¾ pound fresh picked stone crab meat (from about 2 pounds stone crabs in the shell)
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together artichoke hearts, chopped spinach, mayonnaise, Monterey Jack and Parmesan. Gently stir in the crab meat, breaking up any large chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow, oven-proof dish, and sprinkle the Pecorino Romano over. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through and slightly bubbly. Serve with water crackers.
Yield: Serves 8.
Note: Lump crab meat or imitation crab can substitute for stone crab in this rich and creamy dip.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 300 calories, 77 percent of calories from fat, 25.3 grams fat (6.8 grams saturated, 5.9 grams monounsaturated), 59.5 milligrams cholesterol, 14.6 grams protein, 2.8 grams carbohydrates, 0.4 grams fiber, 727 milligrams sodium.

Nothing To Crab About

I’ve been fond of imitation crab ever since my first taste of it dipped in a little homemade cocktail sauce. And I kind of like imitation crab that’s mixed with cheese that can be found at some Chinese buffets. The former is great to serve as an appetizer at a party.

But after discovering lump crab meat, I’ve decided the real thing is a lot better. My only cooking experience lump crab is the canned variety, which is about all we can get up here in the hinterland. I used it in a seafood chowder along with some shrimp and halibut.

Crab meat, like shrimp and salmon, works great for appetizers. The following finger-food recipe for crab-stuffed mushrooms would be a nice addition to a New Year’s Eve party.

I think the canned or even the imitation varieties would work well in the recipe. Both usually can be found in a supermarket’s meat department, although the canned sometimes is lumped in with other grocery items such as tuna.

Spicy Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms
20 large (about 2½-inch diameter) white mushrooms
POACHING LIQUID
2 cups white wine
2 cups water
1 clove garlic
Juice of ½ lemon
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
CRAB MIXTURE
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 shallot, peeled, minced
1 clove garlic, peeled, minced
1 pound cooked lump crab meat
1 egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ cup bread crumbs
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and finely chop the stems . Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, bring all the poaching liquid ingredients to a boil. Add the mushroom caps. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 5 to 7 minutes. Remove mushrooms from poaching liquid, season with salt and pepper and place bottom side up on a baking sheet.
In a medium skillet heat vegetable oil and saute the chopped mushroom stems, shallots and garlic until light golden brown. Set aside and let cool. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and mix in the crab, egg, Dijon, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and zest and bread crumbs.
Evenly divide the mixture among the poached mushroom caps. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm or room temperature.
Yield: 20 stuffed mushrooms.
Approximate nutritional analysis per stuffed mushroom: 48 calories, 37 percent of calories from fat), 2 grams fat (no saturated), 2 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 101 milligrams sodium, 29 milligrams cholesterol, no fiber.