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Crab Gravy with Spaghetti

Crab gravy, crab sauce, crabs and spaghetti, crabs and macaroni…..no matter what you call it, we can all agree, it’s delicious.

I had a craving to make this today and my wonderful husband happily went to the market this morning to find me crabs. I was so happy he came home with them because we don’t have a seafood place close by so we had to hope the Italian market had them in today.

This isn’t something I make often. In fact, this is only the second time in my 25 years of cooking that I have. It’s probably more like 30 years, but who’s counting. I figured I’d make it like I make my meat sauce, so it was a kind of make-it-up-as-I-go type of recipe. I will try to be as accurate as possible with the ingredients and process.

Here we go.

Ingredients:

  • 6 blue crabs, uncooked
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 8oz can of tomato paste
  • white wine
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • fresh basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb of spaghetti or long pasta of your choice

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In a large, heavy pot, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil and add 3 cloves of minced garlic and, if you wish, some red pepper flakes. We like it spicy. Get that going a bit and be careful to not burn the garlic. Once fragrant, add about half of the crabs until they turn red, flip and cook until red on the other side. Season with some salt while they cook. Remove from the pot and add the remainder. When they are cooked, remove and set aside Do not let anyone eat them! They WILL try.

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If your garlic burned, like mine did, toss it. Burnt garlic will ruin your sauce. Begin with some fresh oil and heat it up. Add your chopped onion, the remaining minced garlic, more red pepper flakes and begin to saute until soft. Add some salt while you saute. I like to salt every layer of my dishes because salt makes everything better. Once soft, add the can of tomato paste and mix in.

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Add about 1/4 cup of the wine to the tomato paste and stir well. Cook down for about 5 minutes.

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To the tomato paste mixture, carefully pour in the two cans of crushed tomatoes. You will want to add some water to thin it out so fill each can about a quarter of the way full, stir to combine leftover tomatoes and pour into the pot. Add about another 1/4 cup of wine, season with salt and black pepper and add the basil. Stir and bring to a boil for about three minutes. Lower heat to simmering and carefully return the cooked crabs to the pot. Cover, lid slightly ajar, and cook, stirring frequently, for about two hours. If you notice the sauce is becoming too thick, add more water and fully cover with the lid until it thins out a bit. You don’t want it like ketchup but you don’t want it like soup either.

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When the gravy/sauce is almost done cooking, you will want to cook your pasta according to package directions. Do not forget to salt your pasta water! There is nothing worse than unsalted, bland pasta to ruin all of your efforts. 🙂

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Remove crabs from the pot and put on a plate. Drain pasta and place into a bowl and cover generously, or not so generously, with the sauce.

Serve, add some grated Locatelli cheese if you want…who cares what anyone says, and enjoy!

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Black Bean Pot Roast Chili in MolĂ© Sauce

I’ve been looking for a different chili recipe for quite a while now. While I do have my go-to, which is a ground-meat version, although very good, I wanted something with a little more soul. I came across this recipe from The Washington Post. I loved the way it looked and all of the ingredients made it sound wonderful. Well, the anchovies did not but I do know they impart a nice undertone to food and add saltiness so I put aside my fright and bought a little can. By the way, my dog LOVES anchovies. Needless to say, this is not my recipe in any way, shape or form but it is delicious as well as beautiful and would like to share it with you.

I call this a molĂ© sauce because it has the dry chile and cocoa which are two ingredients in molĂ©. One thing I changed up is, I used dry savory instead of oregano. One, because I don’t like oregano and, two, I didn’t have any oregano. I do, however, have a huge bag of savory that my husband got for our Christmas filet roast and I try to find any reason to use it. But, use whatever you like, I don’t think it makes a difference in the end. I also wasn’t sure what espresso powder was and since I had a bag, or brick, of ground espresso from our trip to Italy, I used that. I assume it’s the same thing. Again, it made no difference that I could tell.

I was able to purchase most of the ingredients in the supermarket but I had to go on  a little search for the dry ancho chile but, luckily, we have a wonderful Mexican grocery in town and they had bins and bins of dried chile in many varieties. Next time I think I will buy all of my Mexican products there.

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After happily leaving the grocery and hitting the liquor store for a lovely bottle of Sangiovese, which has nothing to do with this post, I headed home to get started. I wanted to make it a day ahead so the flavors had a good 24 hours to meld. This recipe does take time but is totally worth it.

SERVINGS: 8

Yield: Makes about 13 cups

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SPICE MIX

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika

  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano or savory

  • 2 teaspoons salt

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FOR THE CHILI PUREE

  • 6 dried ancho peppers (4 ounces total)

  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, such as La Morena brand

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets

  • 3 cups low-sodium beef broth, heated, plus 5 cups broth at room temperature

FOR THE CHILI

  • 3-pound chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and patted dry with paper towels

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped (4 cups)

  • 6 ounces canned tomato paste

  • 4 ounces canned green chili pepper, such as Hatch brand

  • 1 large bay leaf

  • 1 small bunch thyme, tied together with kitchen twine

  • Two 15-ounce cans no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 8 tablespoons Salvadoran crema or sour cream, for garnish

  • 1/2 cup grated pepper jack or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish

  • 4 whole scallions, trimmed and chopped, for garnish

  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish


DIRECTIONS

For the spice mix: Combine the chili powder, cocoa powder, smoked paprika, espresso powder, garlic powder, minced onion, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano and salt in a medium bowl.

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For the chili puree: Heat the ancho peppers in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium high-heat, turning them often, until they soften, puff up and char and blister slightly, about 2 minutes. Note: This part worried me a bit because they were immediately hardening  upon transferring them to the plate, but the hot broth in  a next steps took care of that.

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Transfer the peppers to a plate to cool.

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When they are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the stems and seeds and transfer the peppers to a blender along with the chipotle peppers, garlic, anchovies and 3 cups of hot beef broth. Remove the center knob from the blender lid and hold a clean kitchen towel over the opening to contain any splash-ups. Puree for 1 minute, until the mixture is smooth.

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For the chili: Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Season the roast generously on both sides with salt and pepper.

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Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the roast to the Dutch oven and let it cook undisturbed for 5 to 7 minutes, until it is well browned. Turn the roast over and brown for 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the roast to a plate or a slow cooker.

Add the onion, spice mix and tomato paste to the Dutch oven. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes to allow the spices to bloom.

Stir in the chili puree, the remaining 5 cups of beef broth and the green chilies.

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Submerge the roast in the liquid and add any juices from the plate. Add the bay leaf and thyme. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 4 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender, occasionally skimming off any fat that floats to the top.

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Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Use two forks to shred the meat into bite-size chunks. Return the meat to the Dutch oven with the cooking liquid, add the beans and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

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To serve, discard the bay leaf and thyme bundle. Garnish each portion of chili with crema, grated cheese, scallions and cilantro.

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NOTE: To make this in a slow-cooker, place the roast in the slow-cooker after browning it. After cooking the onion, spices and tomato paste and adding the chili puree, broth and green chilies, stir to combine and pour over the meat in the slow-cooker. Add the bay leaf and thyme, cover the slow-cooker and cook on HIGH for 4 1/2 hours. Shred the meat as directed, return it to the slow-cooker with the beans and cook for 20 minutes.


Sausage Scallopini

A traditional favorite in our house; Sausage Scallopini is a quick and delicious meal.

You can use either hot or sweet Italian sausage, or even chicken or turkey sausage. It’s entirely up to you. I prefer hot Italian.

The peppers, same here, red or green. I do prefer the red bells to the green. Better flavor and they just look prettier.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, sliced into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 large bell peppers, red or green, sliced
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • red wine
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper

Prepare all of your ingredients and set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil. Once hot, add the sausage and cook until golden brown. About 15 minutes.

Add peppers and onions to the pan.

Season with salt and pepper and cook down a bit.

Add mushrooms to pan.

Again, cook down, stirring frequently. Season again with salt and pepper.

Add the entire can of tomatoes and about a 1/4 cup of the red wine.

Season with a bit more salt and pepper. Simmer, low heat, for about 45 minutes.

Serve. White rice goes nicely with this dish.


Beef Brisket Tacos

I love tacos. I really do. But I get tired of the ground-meat variety and wanted something a little more authentic.

I chose brisket because it has a deep, robust flavor and cooks beautifully when braised for a few hours on low heat.  You can use another tough cut as well, such as chuck, if you don’t care for the taste of brisket.

The coffee gives it a nice background flavor that you really can’t put your finger on, but you know something is there. The brown sugar gives a touch of sweetness to the spiciness of the rub, but it’s not overly sweet.

I prefer to serve these with corn tortillas heated in pan with a bit of oil. It crisps them up just a little bit and makes the texture really nice, as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3lb) beef brisket
  • 3 cups beef broth
  •  1 3/4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coffee
  • 3/4 tablespoon cumin
  • 3/4 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • Juice of 2 limes

Preheat oven to 325° F

Measure out all of your dry ingredients for the dry-rub. You don’t have to arrange them prettily on a plate, but it sure is fun.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.

Liberally sprinkle your brisket with spice mixture and give it a nice rub down. Everyone likes a massage, even beef.

If there is some spice mixture left over, you can add this to the beef broth in a later step.

Heat a large pan, such as Ducth Oven, over medium-high heat and add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Get it nice and hot.

Carefully lower the brisket into the pan and brown nicely on both sides. Remove from heat.

Squeeze the juice of one of the limes over the meat.

Add all of the beef broth and any leftover spice mixture to the liquid. Cover pan with a heavy lid and place in the upper part of the oven.

Cook for about 1.5 hours and turn meat over. At this point, you may want to lower the heat to 300°, if it is boiling too much. Cook an additional 1.5 hours, or until fork-tender. Let cool until you are able to handle it.

Place on a board and shred meat using two forks.

Return to pan with its liquid. Squeeze an additional lime into it and cook for another 20 minutes or so. You may need to add a bit of water if it looks too dry before heating.

Remove from pan, place into a serving dish and serve with your choice of toppings, such as guacamole, pico de gallo, shredded cheese and sour cream. Basically, whatever you like. Even as is.

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Strawberry-Balsamic Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

There is nothing better than the combination of strawberries and balsamic. Well, maybe Nutella and banana, but that’s another story. Add to that, some crisp baby greens, blue cheese and walnuts, and you have yourself one delightful salad. Ready in just a few minutes.

  •  3 cups of Mixed Baby Greens (Or lettuce of your choice. I used mixed greens and spinach for this.)
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
  • 2 – 4 strawberries, sliced (depending on size and preference)
  • Balsamic Dressing

It’s pretty simple from here, folks. Mix together lettuce, blue cheese and walnuts. Pour dressing over. Season with salt and pepper. Toss.

Arrange on a plate, add sliced strawberries and drizzle with a little more dressing. Not much left to do, but enjoy.


Manhattan Clam Chowder

One of my favorite seafood soups is Manhattan Clam Chowder. I remember, as a younger girl, watching my grandmother, who would come over on Wednesdays, make this in our kitchen.  Hers was always perfect. So, I rumaged through my memory bank, what’s left of it, and came up with this recipe. It’s quite good, I have to say. I added a couple of ingredients that she never used, and it worked out pretty well.

Now, if you want this meatless, omit the bacon. But if you want that smokey undertone, by all means, add it. I also used a couple of these extremely hot peppers my mother-in-law got on our trip to Italy in the fall. And these things are HOT. So I only added two. You can replace them with hot pepper flakes, if desired.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

serves 4 to 6

  • 3 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 to 4 potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes, optional
  • 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes, chopped well
  • 3 8-ounce jars of clam juice
  • 2 cans minced clams
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly-ground black pepper

Heat a stock pot over medium heat. Dice the bacon and add to pot. Cook, until browned, about five minutes. If you’re omitting the bacon, use olive oil, about a tablespoon, instead.

To the pot, add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper. Saute until softened, about three to five minutes. Season with salt and pepper while cooking.

Add the tomato paste, stir well, and cook for one minute more.

Carefully add the clam juice, canned, chopped tomatoes (I chopped mine in my food processor) and chopped potatoes. Season again with salt and pepper and add the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and celery salt.

Cook for 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Add the minced clams with their juice and taste for seasoning. Cook for another five minutes.

Once it is done, remove the bay leaf and serve.

Enjoy!


Special Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chambord Ganache

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d make a special cupcake with one of those favorite V Day treats, a dark chocolate-covered strawberry.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes

  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut up into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Dutch process cocoa
  • 3/4 all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Combine the butter, chocolate and cocoa in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan with barely simmering water. Stir ingredients until smooth and combined. Remove from heat and set aside until just cool enough to touch.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a whisk.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until mixed. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture in and whisk until combined. Stir in sour cream. Sift remaining flour mixture in and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, divide mixture evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake about 20 minutes.

Let cool about 30 minutes before frosting.

Chambord-Spiked Chocolate Ganache Icing

  • 12 ounce bag of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 8 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup of Chambord

In a food processor, process chips until very fine.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to just a soft boil. Bubbles will just begin to form around edge of pan. Remove from heat.

Add cream through the feeding tube of processor and process for about 10 seconds, or until smooth. Pulse in the butter until combined. Add the Chambord with motor running for a few more seconds to combine.

Strain and let sit in refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap for several hours, until hard enough to frost with. Mine took about three hours for piping.

Using a piping bag and tip, pipe icing onto cooled cupcakes and top with a chocolate coverered strawberry.

To make the straweberries, I simply melted chips in the microwave until almost melted. Stir to finish the melting. Dip in a strawberry and lay on a a wire rack and let cool in refrigerator.

Cupcakes adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Ganache adapted from serveral sources.