Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Stir-Fried Chicken and Vegetables

Often times when I have limited time (less than 15 minutes) and I want a quick meal I make a stir-fry. When I work 4 long consecutive days (in the clinic) I would cut, wash and dry all of the vegetables, and store them in the refrigerator. The day before I would thaw a few small pieces of meat from my freezer in the refrigerator overnight. Before leaving the clinic I would text my husband to cook rice and when I get home I can quickly cut, wash my meat, cook everything and we eat in 10 minutes. 

You can make it vegetarian, meat, seafood or a combination of meat and seafood. Cook the hardest vegetables first. If I have time I steam the hardest vegetables (such as carrots and broccoli) partially before using. The keys to making a good stir-fry are to keep the heat high and to not overcook the vegetables. They should be just cooked--have a bright color, maintain their crunchiness and retain most of their nutrients. I love fresh cilantro and when I have some in my kitchen I normally chop leaves from a sprig or two and add after everything has been cooked. 

I found this wonderful creative short animation on green crabs called, Attack of the Green Crabs.

stir-fried chicken and vegetables
Stir-Fried Chicken and Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb chicken thigh, sliced into bite size
1 large garlic clove, smashed, chopped
About 1-2 tsp of grated fresh ginger
1 large carrot, peeled, sliced 1/8th inch thick
1 large broccoli floret, cut into bite size
8 oz sugar snap peas, removed the strings from both sides
12 oz baby bella mushrooms, halved
1 recipe of Green Crab Stir-Fry Sauce (see recipe below)

Method:

Add oil to a heated large pan or wok. Keep the heat to medium to high. Add chicken, garlic, and ginger, saute about 3-5 minutes or until the chicken is almost cooked. Avoid buring the garlic. Add carrot and broccoli. Saute until the carrot and broccoli are partially cooked. Add snap peas, and mushrooms. Saute until the peas are just cooked. Once all the vegetables and meat are cooked then in the last minute add the sauce. Stir or shuffle the pan or wok a few times until all the ingredients are coated with the sauce.

Green Crab Stir-Fry Sauce

 Ingredients:

1 cup green crab stock (please see Simple Green Crab Stock link)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce

Method:

Mix all ingredients together. May adjust the saesoning according to your taste. Be sure to stir the sauce prior to using.

Helpful Hints:

*This recipe may be too much to fit in one wok or even a large pan. You may divide the ingredients and sauce in half and make 2 batches. I made half a batch one day and the other half the next day.
*I prefer chicken thighs over the breasts since they have more flavors.
*I chose these vegetables because they are the ones that are available fresh at my local market at this time of the year. Be sure to buy the broccoli that is firm to the touch, green in color and the stalk side is smooth without a hallowed out area. If you have a broccoli stalk do not discard, remove the tough outer skin and use the interior stalk for cooking.
*It is best to use unsalted green crab stock for this recipe. If you are using salted stock then decrease your seasoning for the sauce. 
*If you would like to add sesame oil to the stir-fry then drizzle a little at the end of cooking. 
 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Happy Holidays!


Any day is a great day to eat green crabs...however, now is the most wonderful time of the year to start eating more green crabs! If you have never tried them I urge you to start today! If this is a new ingredient for you I recommend making a crab stock and use it alone or combine it with another stock such as chicken, turkey, pork, lobster or clam to make umami-rich (green crab umami) chowders, soups, curries, paella, risotto, gumbo, and an endless list of other exciting dishes. Just allow your imagination to take over your kitchen...you may be surprised at what scrumptious concoction you stew up!

sea scallops from Rimrack Fish & green crab umami sauce

The 2018 hardcover Green Crab Cookbook is out this January! This book is for crab lovers and those who have a curiosity about green crabs. This book will have recipes & in depth tutorials. Please check out the link to order. https://www.greencrab.org/shop/. All the proceeds will go to The Green Crab R & D Project. The Green Crab R & D is a group of scientists and activists committed to developing a fishery and market for the invasive green crab.

Green Crab Cafe would like to wish you and your family a very happy holiday season! May you and your family stay happy, healthy and eat more green crabs!

And thank you for visiting my blog (even if you stumbled on this by accident)! 😀

Warmest regards,

Thanh Thai
Green Crab Cafe

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Seafood and Kimchi Soup

My mother made this soup while she stayed with me during my recovery. She placed the partially thawed prepared green crabs in a few clean plastic bags and crushed them against a cement block using a rock from my garden. She agrees that this method works much better as opposed to crushing them with a blender.


my mother hand crushing the crabs
This soup is made with kimchi that I fermented months ago. They are more sour than the freshly made kind. You may purchase kimchi at your local markets. The mixed seafood package is from my local grocery market and found in the frozen section. Once opened you can rinse them in a strainer and add to the soup. If the mixed seafood has been previously cooked then it does not take long to reheat them. I find that this soup tastes even better the next 1-2 days!

seafood and kimchi soup

Seafood and Kimchi Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb prepared hard shell green crabs (about 20 adult crabs)
7 cups cold water
1 lb seafood mix, rinsed in cold water, strained
About 1 1/2 to 2 cups kimchi (home-made or store bought), cut into bite size
1 container of soft tofu (about 12 oz), cut into bite size
1 scallion, green parts only, chopped or cut into 1/2 or 1 inch lengths
2 Tbsp fish sauce (nước mắm)
1 Tbsp chicken stock powder

Method:

Place the crabs into 2-3 layers of freezer or plastic bags. Pound the crabs until they are crushed. Add a little cold water (about 1/3 of the water), use a spoon to stir the mixture and use a fine strainer to strain the liquid and the fine crab bits into a pot. Repeat 2 more times until all the water has been used up. Please see links below for tutorial assist.

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Do not stir. Do not cover the pot. Once the liquid starts to boil the crab bits will float up to the surface in pieces. Let the liquid boils gently for a few minutes (up to about 5 minutes) or until all the pieces are done floating up. Avoid allowing the liquid to boil over. Rinse the seafood mix and add to the pot. Add kimchi, and tofu and stir the pot once. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until everything is heated through. Add scallions and season with fish sauce and chicken stock powder.


Helpful Hints:

*Please see Vietnamese-Style Crab Stock for a tutorial on how to make the stock for this recipe.
*Please see How to Prepare Green Crab for Making Stock for a tutorial on how to prepare the crabs.
*The 7 cups of water will yield about 6 cups of crab liquid.
*If you are to use a blender to crush the crabs then use only the soft crab bodies. Discard the hard carapace, apron, legs, and claws.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Salt-Pepper-Lime Dip

The creamy yellow-orange roe and succulent white flesh from the green crabs are delicacies that you do not want to miss eating. Cook the crabs in boiling water for about 5-7 minutes and remove. Avoid overcooking the crabs as they will become dry and flavorless. You may add fresh guava leaves, fresh kaffir lime leaves, or bruised fresh lemongrass stalks to the water for fragrance if you have access to any of these ingredients. I find that a small thin knife with a pointy tip may be the best tool to scoop out the roe from the interior of the carapace by the spines and on the central part of the body. The meat can easily be removed with a toothpick, skewer or a small knife as these crabs are small. You can do this if you are planning to save the flesh to use for cooking later. However, the ideal way to eat crustaceans such as green crabs, perhaps viewed by some as less formal or even barbaric, is to cut the bodies into 4-6 pieces and simply suck out the sweet juicy meat while everything is still hot. This simple salt-pepper-lime dip, a commonly paired item with some seafood dishes is popular in Vietnam. You may use lemon in exchange for lime. Mix it however you prefer but for simplicity, you can make it 1:1:1 ratio.


salt-pepper-lime dip

Salt-Pepper-Lime Dip

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp salt (any type that you prefer--crushed sea salt or table salt)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp fresh lime juice

Method:

Mix all ingredients and enjoy!


Saturday, November 24, 2018

How to Process Green Crabs Humanely

How to Process Green Crabs Humanely

Many people are concerned about killing a living organism for food such as shellfish more humanely. How do we determine what is humane? Some people may view a quick death as better than a slow drawn out death. Would you slowly freeze a lobster before boiling or steaming it or would you just place a live lobster in a pot of boiling water? For the green crabs it seems that placing them in boiling water will kill them much faster than spearing them with a sharp object through the brain or freezing them. Spearing them may cause you injury and believe me they do not die instantly. Removing the carapace and gills while they are still alive causes them to die nearly as fast as spearing them in the brain. If you believe that freezing them is the most humane way as many seem to think then be sure to freeze them in your home freezer for at least 2 hours before you process or cook them. Of course it all depends on how cold your freezer is. If you are unsure how cold your freezer is then you can start by placing a bag of crabs in your freezer. After 2 hours remove the bag and look inside to check for signs of life =  any hint of movement. If there is none then quickly process or cook the crabs.

One interesting survival instinct of these green crabs (applies to those with hard shells) that I see repeatedly is that they tend to self amputate one or more of their claws and/or legs when they sense stress, threat or danger. Hence, you may notice that when you drop the live green crabs in boiling water they tend to loose part or all their claws and legs. If you freeze them for at least 30 minutes and then drop them in boiling water, their claws and legs tend to remain intact. This indicates the crabs are not stressed and is the most humane way to cook them, and provides you a complete crab for your recipe.

frozen green crab from the freezer
cooked green crab--the most humane way

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Garlicky Crustacean Pasta

I have a lot to be thankful for...

I am extremely grateful that my husband and I survived a major car accident...that we walked out of our crumpled car that day.

Since September 10th I have cooked only a handful of simple dishes...mostly since the beginning of this month. I am still healing...although my body is not 100% yet I am making noticeable progress each week. While on the mend my mother has been staying with us, cooking constantly and before returning to her home she would leave us an abundance of prepared food in the freezer and refrigerator until her next visit. Thank goodness that I have a supportive, loving, and caring supermom. 

This dish is simple and you can make it even if you have only one good hand and a partial use of the other. For this dish I use garlic and shallots grown from my parents' organic garden. My mother already removed the lobster meat and kept them frozen. The roe was previously frozen. I partially thaw them before cooking. This dish makes about 2-3 servings.

garlicky crustacean pasta

Garlicky Crustacean Pasta

Ingredients:

12 oz Squid Ink Spaghetti
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small head of garlic, smashed, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled, finely chopped
3 oz uncooked green crab roe
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Meat from 2 medium to large lobsters, cut into bit size
2 scallions, green parts only, chopped
2 tsp fish sauce (nước mắm)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
A pinch of dried crushed seaweed, garnish

Method:

Cook the Squid Ink Spaghetti according to the package instructions, drain and set it aside.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic and shallots. Saute for about 2 minutes or until the shallot is soft. Add crab roe, and butter, saute about a  minute. Add lobster meat and scallion, saute about 2 minutes or until the meat is heated through. Add spaghetti and season with fish sauce, sugar and pepper. Once the spaghetti is heated through (about 2 minutes) then turn off heat and serve with a sprinkle of seaweed and more white pepper.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Temporarily Off Duty

Dear Readers,

Due to an auto accident, I am unable to trap, cook or write about green crabs. In the meantime I will work hard to get better, and I look forward to sharing more green crab stories with you in the future.

Best regards,
Thanh Thai
(Remember to always please wear a seatbelt when in a car!)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Green Crab Sandwich

Removing meat from the green crabs is a feasible task but it is definitely not a job for everyone. Please check out my link on How to Remove the Meat and Roe from a Cooked Crab. Recently Dr. Gabriela Bradt graciously gave me nearly 300 crabs including about 40 large crabs from her lab and traps. Somehow I had a strange notion that she was delighted (if that is even the right word) that I was willing to haul her crabs away! Within 24 hours I prepared most of them and stored them in the freezer in bags for future use. For some of the larger ones I removed the meat to make 2 open-faced sandwiches. 

When we first immigrated to the United States in 1980 my mother came up with this butter sauce. I think it was my mother's way of helping our family become acclimated to the American ways of life, food and culture. I honestly believe that just about everything tastes better with fish sauce! Try it for yourself, instead of salt just add fish sauce. In my family we use this delicious sauce (sometimes with moderation and sometimes not) to dip or drizzle over our lobsters, crabs, steamers and other seafood. When my mother, brothers and I make this we never measure the ingredients. For convenience, we put all the ingredients together in a small bowl and microwave about 20-30 seconds or until the butter melts.

green crab sandwich

Green Crab Sandwich

Ingredients:

1 hamburger bun, toasted
About 2-3 oz of freshly picked green crab meat and roe
My Mother's Butter Sauce (see recipe below)
Flowers from Thai basil and shiso plants, garnish (optional)

Method:

Toast the bun. Divide the crab meat and roe, and add over each half of the bun. Drizzle with the butter sauce and garnish with flowers.

my mother's butter sauce
  
My Mother's Butter Sauce (makes about 1/4 cup)

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp salted or unsalted butter
1/2 tsp good fish sauce (nước mắm)
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp chopped scallions (preferably green parts)

Method 1:

May put everything together in a bowl and microwave for about 20-30 seconds or until the butter has melted. Stir to blend.

Method 2:

In a small sauce pan add butter, fish sauce, sugar and scallions. Cook until the butter has melted.

Helpful Hints:

*You may adjust the sauce according to your taste. You may add more scallions if you prefer more greens. Depending on the power of your microwave you may start low at 10-15 seconds and work up to melt your butter.

Grilled Oysters

The other day our friends/neighbors Jim and Karen invited a few of us over to their house for a cookout on their deck. Luckily I was able to purchase a bag of fresh oysters from my local market. I made shooters on the half shell (minus the crab meat) with most of them, adding just a little cocktail sauce, a squeeze of lime, a dash of hot sauce and vodka. Everyone seemed to really enjoyed them. Our friend/neighbor Carlos gave me a nice compliment when he tells me they tasted as good as in any high-end restaurants. My husband tells me they tasted good, even better and easier to eat than the shooters in a glass that I made a few posts earlier. He thinks everything blended well when they are on the half shell. A few of them did not have any of their natural liquid in them so I added olive oil, minced onion and vodka and grilled them. In Vietnam people often grill (using charcoal) shellfish by adding chopped scallion or green onion and oil.

This time I am inspired to grill some oysters to use up some of my beautiful coral color green crab roe. I was able to gather 3 bags of fresh oysters from my local market. We invited our friends/neighbors Inge and Marshall over for a little last minute grill on our shady deck despite 90+ F outside. We ate most of the oysters fresh with a little lime juice and I saved the rest to experiment on the grill. On a few of the grilled ones I added fresh hot chili peppers for a little kick since Marshall and I like spicy food. The secret to spicy foods is that it helps you sweat and cool you down! The garlic, shallots and chili peppers came from my parents' garden. Inge brought over a few different opened bottles of chilled white wine and I chose the Chardonnay to drizzle over the oysters. You may use whichever type of alcohol you prefer or have at home. Here is the recipe.

these oysters are prepared and ready to place on the grill
grilling oysters
Grilled Oysters

Ingredients:

8 oysters with liquid
1 blade of fresh scallion (green parts only), chopped or cut with scissors
1 garlic clove, grated or smashed and minced
1/2 medium sized shallot, minced
Cooked green crab roe (use as much or as little as you prefer or have)
Hot chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
About 1 Tbsp oil (I prefer either canola or olive)
About 3 Tbsp white wine (or another type of alcohol such as sake, rum, tequila or vodka)

Method:

Shuck the oysters and remove/discard any shell bits. Add a little chopped scallion, garlic and shallot. Add some of the crab roe. May add a little chili pepper if interested. Drizzle with a little oil and white wine (about 1 teaspoon of wine for each oyster). Grill until they are cooked to your preference. Use tongs to carefully remove the oysters from the grill.

oysters on the half shell with a squeeze of lime
(aka naked oysters)

Stir-Fried Chicken and Vegetables

Often times when I have limited time (less than 15 minutes) and I want a quick meal I make a stir-fry. When I work 4 long consecutive days (...