It’s probably no big surprise to folks who know me, but I like food.
Sometimes the intensity to which I react to a food I like can be a bit discomforting to the chefs and restaurant owners when they see me picking through the delicious dish they’ve served me. They wrongly assume I’ve found a bug or severed ear in their Bolognese, greens or crab soup.
If I can find a tiny morsel of meat, cheese or veggie, I’ll figure out what it is and what else is in there. My taste buds — the so-far only undamaged part of my body — take over, and I start re-engineering this dish so I can duplicate the recipe.
It’s not always a perfect replica, but it’s close. Part the reason for that is my penchant for altering that near-perfect recipe to my own tastes. I combine the better attributes of two or more recipes to get the one most satisfying to me.
I’ve already explained the four food groups — beef, pork, chicken and seafood — noting that the green stuff (veggies) that’s supposed to be good for us is only worth eating when well-seasoned with meat. Seafood is an important seasoning for entrées and appetizers we love.
A complete seafood meal for me is a three-seafood platter – fish, shrimp and crab. How each of these is prepared is what makes it interesting. A grocery store from the early 1980s called Big Star had a fabulous deli. For months, it sold a seafood chowder that was the best I’ve ever had anywhere.
I’d buy a quart of it, then attempt re-engineering it when I got it home. The recipe obviously included fish, probably cod or Pollock, shrimp — but not the larger white shrimp — and crab, probably blue crab. It was both creamy and buttery, and it contained the onions and garlic as well as chopped taters and probably some celery.
There also was an unidentified spice I now think probably was Old Bay seasoning.
The store didn’t offer it for very long, at least not long enough for me to finish re-engineering the recipe. I suspect the crab made it too expensive. I still miss it.
Years later, I came across a crab soup that was invented in Charleston for some visiting president. I forget which one. The fact that a crab soup was made in his honors suggests he had a crabby personality, but that’s OK with me. This “she-crab” soup has got way too much flavor (and probably too much fat from all the cream and butter in it) for folks with weak hearts.
I’ve examined a dozen recipes, but none measures up to President X’s she-crab soup. Other crab chowders, stews and soups have since crossed my path. I’ve tinkered with all their recipes and decided the best crab soup I can make is a mixture of five or six restaurant soups I’ve tried and loved, including the crab stew at the Shell House in Savannah and the crab soup at MacElwee’s on Tybee Island:
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ stick of real butter
¾ cup chopped green onion
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
2 medium white potatoes, boiled and mashed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup seafood stock
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 pound lump crab meat, cleaned and picked
2 tablespoons sherry
¼ teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
Sauté chopped green onions and garlic in oil and butter till tender. Stir in flour and mashed taters until well blended. Slowly add fish and chicken stocks, continuing to cook till roux is smooth and bubbling. Add cream, milk and cheese. Fold in crab meat. Add sherry and dry seasonings. Allow soup to simmer 30 minutes, continuing to stir.
Top with chives and bacon bits when serving.
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