Opening Oysters

Opening Oysters — photo of open oysters in their shell on a black plate with lemon

Coming Out Of Their Shell
I have come to the realization that no matter how long you do something or study something there will always be those moments that surprise you. For example, I was today years old when I found out that you can open an oyster without using a shucking knife and potentially losing a finger. Mind Blown.

I have had oysters on the brain lately which makes sense because of Valentine’s Day. Although, honestly, after 23 years of marital bliss, I think my husband and I will celebrate over a bucket of chicken. We’re fancy that way. Never fear, my love and I will be celebrating with dinner out on Friday when it’s not such a scene…

Anyway, back to the oysters.

I am one of those people who loves oysters. I love them raw. I love them baked. I do not however want them anywhere near the Thanksgiving stuffing. (I think that’s weird.) The issue is, I have a fear of shucking. My hands are covered with scars from cuts and burns I have earned over the years. And I know, I just know, that I would be the one to injure myself greatly while shucking. So, what’s an injury-prone gal to do?

Turns out there are a few ways to open an oyster sans oyster knife. They are listed below. And to all of those oyster-loving, ten-fingered Valentines out there, you’re welcome!

Opening Oysters
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Cioppino

Cioppino or Italian Fish Stew from San Francisco

Souper Bowl
The 49ers are in the Super Bowl this weekend and most of the Bay Area is excited. (There are a number of Raiders fans who just can’t bring themselves to watch, despite the departure of the team.) Around The Bay, there will be the usual parties with the usual nosh required to keep the energy up to support the team. Burgers? Sure. Brats? Of course. Guac? Wouldn’t be a party without it. If you want to go with something truly San Francisco for your Super Bowl party, I have a suggestion that is a bit outside of the box.

The recent opening of the local crab season has me thinking about cioppino, which couldn’t be any more authentically San Francisco, since it was invented in the late 1800s by Italian immigrant fishermen in North Beach. Legend has it that when a fisherman returned from fishing off the wharf empty-handed, he would walk around with a pot asking the other fishermen if they could chip in anything they could spare. The combination of fish and shellfish that made it to his pot became his cioppino and it was expected that, should the fisherman be successful on another day, he would then chip in some of his catch for another who was not as fortunate.

I love a good cioppino. In my mind you can never go wrong with mixed seafood in broth be it tomato-based or white wine and stock. It’s also pretty easy to feed a crowd. I will point out that this is not finger food. It requires a seat at a table with napkins and a place to put the shells. Perfect for Halftime.

Since cioppino was created to use whatever was available, there is no right or wrong mix of seafood for you to use. My daughter can’t have shrimp, which is a pretty standard component, so I will leave them out and use more mussels and clams. And, when it’s crab season, I will get a cleaned and cracked crab or two to throw in the pot. The legs go in whole, but I get the other meat out of the shell and top the stew with it before serving.

Cioppino Recipe
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and The Food Network
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Salmon Chowder

Photo of ingredients to make Salmon Chowder

Books Of Life
I am a bookworm. I love everything about books. I like to read them. I like the smell of them. And, anytime I get to be in a room with a lot of books I feel centered.

For that reason, it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite places in the whole wide world is Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. Anytime I find myself in Portland for either work or leisure, I try to carve out just a little bit of time to go to Powell’s.

To be fair, anywhere I go, I somehow end up in a bookstore whether I plan it or not. And, without fail, I will find myself in the cooking section of said bookstore because my addiction to books most vividly manifests itself in my cookbook collection. Cookbooks are my favorite souvenirs. To me, the best way to remind yourself about a place, its people, and its culture, is through its food.

I have spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest during my lifetime, so I don’t need more souvenirs when I visit. But, I almost always find something new at Powell’s. One of my best finds was a book by Naomi Tomky called The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook. The title of the book sounds pretty straightforward. But, it is an excellent collection of recipes that teaches the reader some interesting ways of cooking the amazing variety of fish and shellfish that come from the waters off of the coast of Washington and Oregon.

One of my favorites is this Salmon Chowder which is super easy to make for a midweek dinner. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a clam chowder that has substituted the salmon. This recipe is more of a very fish-forward, thick stew with great flavors that will transport you north.

Salmon Chowder Recipe
Yields 2 to 4 servings
Adapted from The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook by Naomi Tomky Read more…

Pecan-Crusted Fish with Crab Salad and Crushed Corn Sauce

Photo of the Commander's Palace sign for Pecan-Crusted Fish with Crab Salad and Crushed Corn Sauce RecipeCommander’s Palace
When we decided to head to New Orleans, I knew the one thing that we had to do was have dinner at Commander’s Palace, an icon of the New Orleans culinary tradition. It has launched the careers of many a celebrity chef and earned countless awards along the way. There was no way I was not eating at this establishment. I made our reservations the minute the date was available, two months prior to getting on a plane.

By far, the hardest thing we had to do was not eat too much during the day. It wasn’t easy but somehow, we muddled through.

The sacrifice was worth it. We feasted on classic Cajun fare and had to be rolled into our Uber. There was turtle soup (I know, but we had to give it a try). There was gumbo and crawfish. There was also the world-famous bread pudding soufflé.

My choice for dinner was the iconic Pecan-Crusted Fish with Crab Salad and Crushed Corn Sauce. A longtime staple on the menu, the fish was perfectly cooked, the corn sauce was amazing and don’t get me started on the crab on top. Both my husband and I agreed it was the best choice between the two of us (though perhaps not as healthy as we might have hoped).

I wasn’t able to find the exact recipe in either of my Commander’s Palace cookbooks, but I was able to find it online thanks to the Today Show.

Pecan-Crusted Fish with Crab Salad and Crushed Corn Sauce Recipe
Adapted from Today and Commander’s Palace
Yields 6 servings

Crunchy pecans add texture and nutty flavor to mild white fish. The sweet crab salad and fresh corn sauce, round out this signature dish that is not difficult to prepare at home. Read more…