Monday, November 25, 2013


Say: (Say-BEE-che)

Ceviche is a dish popular all over South and Latin America. It is a light refreshing concoction of fish that is marinated in lime. It is often found at little bars and cafes in coastal areas where there is an abundance of fresh fish plucked right out of the sea. A chemical reaction takes place between the acids in the lime juice and the proteins in the fish flesh. The structure of the meat is altered and it grows opaque and firm. It is also widely believed that the acids kill bacteria. Im pretty sure this is debatable so the same amount of apprehensiveness should apply to ceviche that would be given to sushi. That means that only the absolute freshest fish should be used. To quote Captain Mickey Melchiondo: "There is fresh you can buy and there is fresh you can not buy"  Meaning you can buy fish that is KINDA fresh but if you want truly fresh fish you have to catch it yourself. I love that and there is something special about cooking fish that you have caught yourself.  I will never again make ceviche unless it is fish that has been plucked from the sea and hopefully that day. It is the way it was meant to be and the only true way to make ceviche. 

First Mate Craig cleaning and filleting Our Stripers Dock Side.

There are many different types of ceviche made with all kinds of seafood, with the basic combination of fish and lime juice the other ingredients are only limited by your imagination. If you have never made it I suggest starting with this basic recipe. 


Ingredients for marinade
  • 2 lbs fresh fish  cut in to  half inch cubes (Striped bass, sea bass, flounder etc) 
  • 8 limes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 large onion diced fine
  • tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper 

 Striped Bass in the lime juice marinade.

 To "cook" the fish in lime place the cubed fish into a large bowl or pot. Squeeze the lime juice on top and add orange juice until the meat is covered well with the juice. Pour in the chopped onions salt and pepper. Give a careful stir to make sure everything is well mixed. Cover and place into the fridge for about two ours. This is sufficient time for the reaction to have taken place.  The chunks of fish will be firm and opaque. There is a "window" of a time frame that ceviche is at its best. It is between two and four hours. It is still good after four hours but it is at its best after two or three. I usually try to time it so that it is ready for guests just like anything that I may be cooking. 

After the marinading step is complete take a cullender and strain out the lime juice marinade. You can discard it or drink it. They say drinking it is a cure for a hangover,  well maybe is true, but either way I bet it would be good added to a Bloody Mary, I dont know?  

Strain out the fish and onions,  place it in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. 

  • two avocados cut into half inch cubes
  • two fresh tomatoes chopped (Or a bunch of cherry tomatoes chopped)
  • half cup of chopped fresh cilantro.
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice.  
  • chopped chile or jalapeno peppers or a few tablespoons of tung ot toi Viet Nam chili garlic sauce. Hot pepper is optional and the later works well for making a hot batch while leaving some mild. 
  • 1-2 drops Vietnamese fish sauce.(also optional)

Mix a bit, cover and put into the fridge for fifteen mins so that all of the flavors will marry. Then it is ready to serve. Serve it with deep fried corn tortillas, saltine crackers or even garlic toast. It is a refreshing light dish perfect for breakfast, lunch, a picnic or a snack. 

While we are talking about fresh fish; my friend and associate Jason Simcox and I were privileged enough to have gone on a fishing expedition aboard the sacred Archangel with the famed Captain Mickey Melechindo at the helm. That is where I got the striped bass for this ceviche. He is better known by most as Dean Ween of the legendary rock group Ween, He is also one of the members of the slam ass, toe tappin, meth-rock band Moistboyz. Any of my neighbors for the last twenty plus years will tell you that I am a Ween fan and more recently having discovered Moistboyz my neighbors have even more to worry about. So, needless to say the trip was extra special for us. It is a pleasure for me to watch someone do what they love, whether it is a musician on stage pouring love and magic, or a fisherman reeling in fish.  It is just simply amazing to me.

Well, the guy is a madman at finding the fish. He is the Quint of rock and roll, literally!  We were reeling them in like crazy, my arm was tired and my thumb is still kinda sore. 

Mickey runs charters out of Belmar NJ so if you ever want to go on a great fishing trip aboard the Archangel give him a call. It is one extra cool way to get fresh striped bass for making Ceviche!

  ...and remember, you can tune a piano but you can not tuna fish!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Bean Pie

In our house this is the time of year when we make a lot of pies. They are a big part of the holidays. We do make pies in the summer sometimes, strawberry, blue berry etc. But Thanks Giving is the big pie holiday. For years in our house the king of holiday pies was always pumpkin and sweet potato pie. Then one day I bought a pie from a man wearing a red bow tie. It was a bean pie. I thought to my self, is this a savory pie? Is it pork and beans pie? The man with the bow tie said they are delicious, I was hungry, I had to believe him. Holy cow was he right. From the first bite I was hooked. I still like pumpkin pie, I really like sweet potato pie but bean pie is the new king of pies in our house. I could sit down and eat a whole 9" myself without even batting an eye, maybe two. 

I love making bean pies and it is not terribly difficult to do yourself.  So if you can not find a local Nation of Islam bean pie supplier on the corner then give it a try your self. If you like pumpkin pie you will love bean pie. 

First buy a frozen pie crust from the grocery store. Then when you get home take the pie crust out of the wrapper and throw it into the trash. Because that is where it belongs. Better yet don't buy a pre-made pie crust make your own because it is not very difficult if you follow these rules. They are, all butter crust,  Cold, Cold and Cold and touch it as little as possible. 

Flawless, Flaked Out, all butter Pie Crust

  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 stick of butter (frozen)
  • tablespoon of sugar
  • teaspoon of salt

For each single crust pie put a stick of butter into the freezer. Put in two sticks if you are making a pie with crust on top as well. For bean pies it is an open top pie so put in one stick of butter per pie. When the sticks of butter are completely frozen it is time to begin your crust. 

Take a glass of clean water and drop in some ice cubes. Then take a large bowl and put in 2-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, a table spoon of sugar and a tea spoon of salt. 
*Note: This recipe works for all dishes that call for a pie crust. If you are using it for a savory dish; say Beef Wellington for example, then omit the sugar.  

Next take a coarse grater and as quickly as possible grate the frozen butter into the flour, sugar and salt. Remember "cold, cold' cold" the idea is to incorporate the fat intop the flour as quickly as possible so that it does not get warm. You can use one of those pastry mixers but I find that my fingers work best. Pinch and rub the butter and flour between the palms and fingers into it is mixed. It does not have to e perfect and you should see small pieces of butter through te flour. Next add cold water a couple of tablespoons at a time. Mix quickly and fold over with the fingers. It should only take add water a couple or few times. dont add to much water because this will make your dough tough. add just enough so that the buttery flour begins to hold together and form dough. The dough should be speckled with whole pieces of butter. This is what will make your crust flaky. 

For a pies worth of dough into a ball put it in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and put it in the fridge. It needs to sitt in there for about an hour. Don't rush it. This is where the flour will 'drink up' some of the water and sort of reconstitute.After the dough has sat for a while take it out and flour your rolling surface. Roll it out and place it in a greased and floured pie pan ir a cast iron frying pan. (Cast iron frying pans make great pie pans.) Tuck it in and form the edges by pinching or a fork. 

Bean Custard Filling

  • 1 cup cooked navy beans ( you can used canned but the finished product is better if you use dried beans) you can use almost any kind of beans.
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • Teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Teaspoon of salt
  • Tablespoon of flour  
It may seem as though there is not enough filling custard. This is because bean pie custard comes out much better if it is a little shallower than a pumpkin pie. I pour mine to about  1" to 1-1/2" thick.
Put all of the above ingredients into a food processor and blend them until smooth.  Pour it into the dough you have ready in the pan and place it into a preheated oven at 400 degrees. This is a high heat so keep an eye on it turning it from time to time if it looks like it is getting to dark in spots. 

Cook it until the crust is getting golden to dark brown and a tooth pick stabbed into the center comes out clean. Don't worry if it gets a little over cooked, it is much more forgiving than pumpkin custard pie that will curdle when over cooked. 

When it comes out of the oven I drizzle it with a little maple syrup so that it drinks it up as it cools and leaves behind a shinny glaze over the top of the filling.

Let it cool a bit before slicing so that it holds together. 

I sure hope you will give bean pie a try. It is one of my favorites!

Have a great Thanks Giving and Ah salamu alaykum!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Pardisiacal Plantain

 Plantains are usually available in thre stages. Green, semi ripe and fully ripe. 

For those that do not know the plantain is a fruit that could easily be mistaken for a banana, but what ever you do do not take a bite of one. You will get a big surprise. And not a good one. To be enjoyed it has to be cooked. It is eaten as a vegetable and treated mostly like a potato. It is very nutritious, loaded with vitamin a, b6, potassium and dietary fiber among other good things. Much more than banana. They are a staple of Caribbean cooking in particular Puerto Rican cooking. Those of you that know me,  know that I LOVE Puerto Rican food. A trip to Freddy and Tony's in North Philly for lunch is enough to make me clap my hands, jump and shriek with joy like a little girl. That love includes plantains. 

The plantain is eaten all over the world. It is especially popular in tropical areas because that is where it grows best. Like the banana it is a perennial that has a rhizome. It is not very popular among the average American but mostly Africans and Caribbean type peoples. I don't understand why it has not gained in popularity. We have made it a mainstay in our house. If you decide to give them a try, and I recommend it highly, following are a few ways to prepare them.

Aranitas (Plantain Fritters) are very much like Latkas (potato pancakes). They are extra crispy and delicious!

Aranitas (little spiders)

INGREDIENTS for 4-6 aranitas:
  • 2 Green Unripe plantains coarsely grated.
  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic finely grated.
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Lard, Peanut or veg oil for frying.

In a large enough bowl mix the gated plantains with the garlic salt and pepper. Gently mix well but do not mash. Over medium high heat place a fry pan with about 3/4 inch of oil. When sufficiently hot use a tablespoon to and pick up a good amount of the mixture. Carefully place it into the hot oil and then use the back of the spoon to lightly spread it out a bit. They should be about 1.2 inch thick. After a few mins flip them. They should be golden light brown in color. Place them on a paper towel or strainer to remove the excess oil.

It is impossible to talk about plantains without bring up Toastones. These are double fried slices of plantains that are smashed a little in between. They are a fixture on the Caribbean table.

To make toastones first peel and slice the plantains about a half inch thick. Place a frying pan on the stove over medium high heat with about 3/4" of oil. Fry the slices lightly until crispy on the outside. 

Drain the fried slices and let them cool. When cooled smash them slightly until the inside smushes out a little, but dont completely flaten them. We use a tortilla press but you can use a plate or some other flat item on a cutting board.

After  all of the pieces are smashed a little. Heat up the frying pan of oil again and re-fry them.

They can be lightly salted, or brushed with some chopped garlic and olive oil. Or sweetened with cinnamon, sugar and or honey like pictured below.

Plantains are a staple of African cooking and are prepared many different ways there too. They are mashed into a fufu type mixture and served with stews or often boiled in their skin, peeled at the table and eaten with the fingers by pinching off a piece. The flavor is intensified when they are cooked in their skin.

Anyway you slice it the plantain is a marvelous food. Easy to cook, versatile and very nutritious. 

A tasty treat form a tropical paradise. Give them a try!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pan Seared Scallops

Pan seared scallops with pasta and greens sauteed with garlic. This is a great dish to make when you have little time. It looks very nice and because it is very light it is a great meal for those hot summer days. The fast cooking will get you away form the stove fast. 

To make this and any seafood dish the ingredients are key. I find the best seafood at local family owed seafood markets. Seafood from the big chain grocery stores is almost always a disappointment. I look for large fresh sea scallops. They are sweet, delicate and incomparable in flavor.


* I usually use a half lb of scallops per person. The following is for four persons. Adjust accordingly. 

  • 2lbs sea scallops 
  • One bunch of broccoli rabe, spinach or other hearty greens.  (lightly blanched) 
  • One whole head of garlic (chopped fine) 
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh or dry oregano
  • Grated locatelli cheese
  • butter and or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste. 
First drain the scallops of any juice they may be in. Pat them dry and set them aside,Start some salted boiling water for the pasta. Cavtaelli works best but any pasta is great with pan seared scallops.
Put a saute pan large enough to fit all of the ingredients on the stove over medium high heat. Let the pan get smoking hot. The hotter the better. Have a plate ready near by for removing the scallops after they are cooked. Once the pan is super hot add some veg, peanut oil or better yet rendered butter (gee) Then immediately add some of the scallops. Remember the ancient Chinese proverb: "Hot wok cold oil food wont stick" Be sure not to put too many scallops in at once and crowd the pan or make the temp drop too much. Also be sure the pan and ingredients do not burn. Remove the pan from heat as needed to control this. Let them sear until light to dark brown, then turn them over and do the same on the other side. It happens very quickly so don't walk away. I usually do four or six scallops at once then I remove them to the plate. 

Meanwhile cook the pasta until it is almost done. You will cook it a bit more in the pan with sauce. 

After all of the scallops are done lower the heat to medium low and add the chopped garlic with a little rendered butter or olive oil. stir around a bit so the garlic does not burn. Once it is lightly browned de-glaze the pan with the white wine. All fo that brown stuff left in the pan is the main flavor profile you are looking for. De-glazing with wine will lift it into your sauce. Next add the oregano, greens salt and pepper. Let this simmer for a min or so and then return the scallops to the pan. Simmer for another min or so and remove from heat.

Once again remove the scallops to the holding plate. Now put the semi cooked pasta into the pan with the greens and sauce. Lightly toss and simmer for a bit and add a bit of water if needed.

Plate the pasta and greens and arrange the scallops on the bed of pasta. Top with grated parm cheese. 

Wonderful summer fare that is simple, fast and DELICIOUS!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Staff of Life

Bread, a simple beautiful gift from the ages, something we take for granted every day. I am not talking about wonder bread either. It is a shame how much we have lost in our world of convenience. They have sold us on the idea that it is better and easier to buy a pack of some kind of bread like substance rather than turn on the oven and bake it ourselves. Well it may be SLIGHTLY easier but it sure isn’t better or even anything that I understand bread to be.

For thousands of years family’s and even entire villages have gathered around great hearth ovens to bake their bread for the week. They would make not just bread but all kinds of stuff. Like pizza for example. These ovens were not only for baking but indeed social gathering places, especially in winter when it was extra comfy to huddle around the wood burning hearth with friends and family.

   Egyptian hieroglyph of bread making

                                                         Butter Crust Uzbek Bread

Making bread is not hard at all. If you are into cooking I highly recommend getting into bread making. It takes a little practice but once you have a system down it is as easy as one two three.  
Bread making requires high heat. Some baker’s hearths and brick ovens are 800 - 1000 degrees. These heats are not possible in the conventional oven in your kitchen. But there is a way to get really great results if you get a few items and follow a few rules.

Baking Bread in Slovakia with a back yard hearth Circa 1950

French Bread an Italian Bread
(The difference being only one ingredient, Butter with french bread dough, olive oil with Italian bread dough. French is longer and thinner the Italian is a round or oval loaf typically.)

Some things you will need include a dough mixer. I feel any good cook should have a KitchenAid mixer. I could not live without mine.  Bread machines do not make great bread but they are great for making the dough. If you get one of these or have one already make sure that it has a dough only function, also make sure that you can set the dough only function on the timer. This is great because you can put the ingredients into the dough machine in the morning before leaving and then you can return home with fresh dough ready to be rolled out and baked in time for dinner. Yes you can make the dough by hand but this is strenuous and takes a good deal more attention. 

You will also need an oven stone. This is a ceramic or clay square or circle that goes on the oven rack. It holds a lot of heat and pulls excess moisture out of the dough as steam forms inside during the baking process. This is one of the main reasons people do not get good results when they first try bread making. The oven and the stone must be very hot before you put the bread in the oven.

Another indispensable tool is the peel. This is a wide paddle usually made out of wood for putting the bread and other dough items in and out of the oven easily.  I can get bread in and out of the oven with no peel but don’t try it with pizza. 

There are many different dough recipes. I suggest starting with simple French bread dough. It is easy to make and it is great practice to get started. One rule of dough making is use the same exact amount of ingredients every time consistently. Exact. If you are using a bread machine follow the recipe for French bread that comes with the machine exactly.
Set the machine on dough only and it will do the rest.

If you are using a kitchen aid or other dough mixer follow this recipe for two or three French or Italian loaves. 

1-3/8 cups of lukewarm water
3 tablespoons of olive oil or melted butter
1 ½ teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 packet of quick rise dry yeast.
4 cups of unbleached flour or bread flour.
More flour and some semolina or coarse ground corn meal for spreading out dough on counter, peel, and oven stone.

Mixing the dough
Set up the mixer with the dough attachment. And put the bowl on. Add the warm water, yeast, salt, sugar and fat to the bowl. Turn the mixer on low and gradually add the flour mix on low until a dough forms, stopping the machine and pulling the dough down as needed. After a ball of dough has formed remove the bowl and then knead the dough over a couple of times. 

Now cover the bowl with a clean damp towel and put it in a warm area to rise. After it more than doubles in size (about an hour or so depending on temperature) take the bowl to the counter. 

Wipe clean and spread some flour out onto the counter that you will be using as your working surface. If using bread machine dump the dough out onto your floured surface. 

 Dump out the dough and punch it down. Then cut it into three or four portions. Fold and knead the dough balls a little and then form a ball using your fingers. Don’t try to roll it out on the counter like a ball of clay. Fold it under into itself until it forms a ball, then pinch the bottom. Now form it into the shape you want. It can be round, oval or a long thin baguette. Sett the small shapes onto the well-floured counter. And cover them with a warm damp cloth to rise again. 

After they double in size they are ready for the oven. At this point be very careful when you handle them or move them. Try not to punch them down.

Here is the real trick to making good bread in a regular oven. Set the pizza stone in the oven on a rack about ¼ from the bottom. Then turn the oven on broil for the pre heat. Let it heat up for at least 15 mins. on broil. This will get the stone good and hot. The stone has to be very hot because this is what will crust the bottom of the loaf. If the stone isn’t hot enough the top of the loaf may end up with a nice crust but the bottom will be white and soft. 

Now spread out some flour mixed with coarse semolina or corn meal on the counter and onto the peel covering it well so the dough does not stick.  

 Uncover the dough and take some flour onto your hands. Lightly spread some flour onto the top of the loaves being very careful not to deflate them. Score the tops with a very sharp knife (this will keep them from bursting open when they rabidly expand during the baking process) With the peel in one hand and again handling them very gingerly slide the dough onto the peel. Open the oven and carefully slide the dough onto the stone. Be very careful with your hands around the stone. Simply bumping it means an instant burn. Only put the peel onto the stone and give it a flick like snap to get the loaf to come off. Use the laws of inertia to get it off of there. It takes a little practice but you will get it in no time. After a while you will be able to do it with not only bread but the more advanced pizza. I will go into that more in an upcoming pizza post.After you have all of the loaves on the stone close the oven and set it to the highest oven setting lower than broil.

It is always asked of cooks: “How long do you cook it?” Well this is a hard question to answer. Especially with bread, because all ovens are different. The answer truly is cook it until it is done. Check on the bread as it cooks. It will rise more and then start turning brown. Check for spots that may be getting more brown than others this may mean a hot spot in the oven. And just like a professional baker does you may have to move the loaves around in the oven to keep them even. Carefully but quickly reach in and move them around.  

If you take them out when they are light brown you will have a softer loaf. More bite-able for say sandwiches. For a hearty crusty bread let it turn dark brown. This will give you a thick rustic crust.

With a little practice using this dough recipe and oven method you will be turning out artisan style bread in no time at all. Then you can branch out learning other types of bread and pizzas.

Making dough is great for the whole family. There is something about kneading and forming dough that every child likes, and it is just so good for them to learn. It will give them a healthy understanding and respect for where food comes from, a life-long skill that they will thank you for, and (most importantly) its quality time spent together. 

Making pizza at home is great too and the above dough recipe works very well for that. Do every thing above only spread and stretch the dough out with your hands and fists until it makes a thin circle. NEVER roll the dough with a roller. This will flatten it and compress all of the bubbles in the dough. Always stretch and spread. Then place it on to the peel. Then put on some sauce and cheese. open the oven door and lay the edge of the peel to the back side of the stone shake it back ad fourth a little until the edge of the pizza dough is on the hot stone then quickly pull it back like a magician puling the table cloth from a able leaving the settings. Don't worry if you don't get it the first time, it takes a little practice. After a while your pizzas will be round. .

There is virtually no end to the kinds of pizzas that you can make. You are only limited by your imagination. 

I hope you give bread making a try and that you love it as much as I do. I will be posting more on making bread and pizza at home soon! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Building A Better Bowl of Bisque

Shrimp Bisque
This is one of the first dishes I ever learned how to make. It is a lovely rich, decedent concoction from France. This seafood stew is no doubt the most requested thing that I make. It is also one of the recipes that I am often asked to share, but until now have not. So, to make up for my long absence from the Holy Ravioli I have decided to let the secret out. With a little practice you will be a bisque master like me and your friends and family will be licking the bowl. 

All in all a simple dish, made with just about any kind of seafood. Crab, lobster, fish, scallops, oysters, clams and mussels or a combination of all for a Bisque Royal. People put all types of vegetables in too, while others sometimes leave the vegetables out. After you learn the fish stock and cream base you can use your imagination and add your own personal touch working with what you have. Good stuff!

To make Bisque one of the first things you do is get some fresh seafood, fresh fish is great. If you are using fish it is best to get the fish whole and then filet it saving the spine and head for stock. 
 For crabs and lobster you will cook them in the stock live then let them cool, pick all fo the meat out and then save the, butter, shells and legs for stock. For clams, oysters and mussels they will not be used to make stock and they will go in at the very end cooked only just until they open. 

This recipe is for shrimp bisque.  Start with the freshest shrimp you can find. Get them raw and unpeeled. I get them in Chinatown live. That fresh they are incredibly sweet and delicious. If you have a good Asian or special seafood market near you you may be able to get them live. The next best thing is shrimp with the heads on, they will make the best stock. 

Makes 6 large servings
  • Two lbs of raw unpeeled shrimp. 
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sherry or dry port wine (Key. You can substitute white wine but...)
  • 3-4 large red or yellow potatoes peeled and cubed in 1-1/2" pieces.
  • 10-15 stalks of fresh asparagus or a couple of handfuls of fresh green bean cut into one inch lengths. 
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic chopped fine.
  • 1 stalk of celery chopped fine.
  • 1-2 stalks of green onion or leak chopped fine.
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon of Old Bay. (Key)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of celery seeds.
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or better yet a bunch of fresh needles. (Optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons of butter flour roux as needed to desired thickness (See below)
  • Fresh cracked pepper and sea salt
  • Fresh clean water for stock. 
Rinse peel and de-vien the shrimp. Put the cleaned shrimp into the fridge and put the shrimp peels and tails into a small stock pot. Get the pot hot first over medium heat and add a tablespoon or two of butter or veg oil. Drop in the shrimp peels and toss them in the hot oil letting them brown a little bit. You will smell pure shrimp flavor. Pour over enough water to cover by about an inch. Add a little salt to the water and a teaspoon of fish sauce if you are using it. Cover with a lid and simmer on low for about 20 mins, then turn off heat and keep covered until used.

Roux is an essential ingredient in French cooking as well as many other types of cooking. It is used as a thickening agent in sauces and soups. A lot of cooks will use some flour mixed with water, while this will work in a pinch it just does not of that signature French flavor. You can make up a roux and it will keep in the fridge for quite a while. I always make some extra because it is better to have more roux and not need it than it is to have too little. It can make or break your bisque. If you do not know, roux is flour cooked down a little in a fat, typically butter. We use ghee, or clarified butter but regular butter works great. In a french restaurant they may keep several types of roux on hand. Different types are made by using different types of fat, one may be made with beef fat or tallow another with rendered duck fat. Also varying degrees of browning the flour makes for different flavor profiles. For a butter or roux butter is melted into the pan and melted sometimes on medium heat and left until it browns lightly. Then flour is added and the flour is toasted in the butter for a few moments. Left to cool and use as needed.

Butter Roux Ingredients.

  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup of unbleached flour
  • pinch of salt
Get a small pan or pot hot over medium heat  melt the butter and simmer while stirring for five mins. The butter will clarify and reduce some. Then add the flour a little bit at a time while stirring. Add it until it is well blended with the butter. Dont worry if it gets too thick, add a little more butter. If it is too thin add some more flour. It will end up a thick paste in the fridge. Mix the flour and the butter and stir over low-medium heat for another five mins or so and then remove form the heat.
Now you have one of the essential ingredients for making bisque and many other types of sauces! 
Now to assemble the bisque. 
Put a large heavy stock pot on a medium hot burner. Let it get good and hot and then add a pat of butter or a little veg oil. Quickly add all of the chopped vegetables and the garlic. Saute a bit and let them brown a little stirring from time to time. Add a bit of salt and pepper with the rest of the herbs and spices.  Then pour in the sherry or port wine to de-glaze. Take the stock that you made and strain out the shrimp peels pour the stock over the vegetables. Cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 15 mins and then add the cream. Once the creamy mixture begins to simmer again add the roux a teaspoon at a time and stir it in waiting five mins or so to see how thick it gets each time so that it does not get to thick. Some people like it on the thick side, we keep it a little on the soupy side.

Now cover it and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are almost soft. Uncover and check thickness, if too thick add some more stock or cream, if too thin ad more roux. Also check for salt to taste. Add some fresh chopped parsley. Add the shrimp meat. You can add them whole or cut them up a little bit. We cut them up some so they spread out a little more. Once you drop the shrimp in give them a gentle stir cook them only until they are opaque about five or seven mins. Then remove the pot from the heat and your bisque is ready to serve. 
One of the best combinations in the world is this soup alongside french bread. So make sure you get some or better yet make it your self. 

One of my upcoming posts will be about just that. Baking bread at home.

Keep an eye out!

I hope you give this recipe a try. Let me know how it turns out. After having this soup try to eat light for a few days and maybe get some exercise. And whatever you do do not get your cholesterol checked for a least a few weeks!!!