Steamed Shrimp Cocktail Dumplings

If I see shumai on the menu, I’m getting them. They remind me of our dinners out at our local Chinese spot, Jade Billows, where I ate as a kid. There’s something about that chewy, pillow-y texture of the wontons that’s super craveable and familiar.

I make a lot of shrimp cocktail. It has slowly evolved from what should be a special occasion appetizer, to something I make at least twice a week. I can make cocktail sauce with a blindfold on. We’ve upgraded our monthly ketchup supply to a 64 ounce bottle, and we probably eat more horseradish in a month than the average American eats in two years.

So combining these two shrimp-loving appetizers was a no-brainer. This is another serious Frankenstein recipe for the books. The cocktail sauce – you guessed it – is an Asian-flavored version of the cocktail sauce we all know and love.

This was my first times folding, and steaming, dumplings – so I enrolled the help of a Google search to find ways to steam the dumplings without the traditional bamboo steamer. Some genius thought up the idea of balling up aluminum foil and setting the plate a few inches above simmering water. It worked like a charm. Not only does it save me from attempting to create room for a cooking tool I literally do not have room for, it’s idiot-proof.

The best part? Now you can make steamed dumplings whenever you want. You can substitute equal portions ground pork in the recipe below, or minced sautéed mushrooms, water chestnuts and carrots to make veggie dumplings.

I think sheer volume is the biggest plus to making your own dumplings. When I order Chinese takeout, there’s never enough dumplings. What person is satiated with six shumai? They’re like oysters, I just can’t eat enough.

So go to town on these – make fifty of them if you’d like. Any leftovers will get eaten, just like your Chinese takeout always does. Trust me. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 1 / 2 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined & minced
  • 1 package refrigerated wonton wrappers
  • 3 scallion stalks, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil, plus extra for steaming
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 / 4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg, whisked

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Make the cocktail sauce. Combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sambal oelek and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Mix until combined. Set aside.
  2. Combine the shrimp, scallions, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, mirin, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil, chili oil, 1 tablespoon sambal oelek, salt and pepper. Mix until incorporated.
  3. To make the dumplings, take 1 wonton wrapper, coat the edges with your finger with egg, put 1 tablespoon of the filling in a corner of the wonton, and slowly crimp the edges until the dumpling is in a half-moon shape. Replicate for the others until no more filling remains.
  4. Fill a pot large enough to fit a small dinner plate with 2 to 3 inches of water. Take 2 3-foot pieces of aluminum foil and ball them until they are about 6 inches in diameter. Flatten the tops slightly, and place in the pot, flattened side up. Place the dinner plate so it sits on top of the balls of foil.
  5. Coat the plate lightly with hot sesame oil, and place dumplings on the plate, giving each about 1 to 2 inches of space on either side so they have room to steam.
  6. Once the water is simmering, cover the pot with a lid, and steam each batch of dumplings for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove the dumplings once cooked through, and continue until all batches are done.
  7. Plate the dumplings, serving hot or warm, along with the cocktail sauce.

Brown Butter Bacon & Shrimp Risotto

My job requires travel to Louisiana. Due to lingering hours waiting for connecting flights at airports, I’ve had ample time to hone in on where to eat the minute I land.

I was interested to hear from a Lafayette native that northern Louisiana – specifically north of Alexandria if you drew a line across – embodies an entirely different culture than the southern half, which she claims has a more Cajun attitude toward food and life.

Louisiana natives, what is a Cajun attitude toward life? Because whatever that is, I’m pretty sure I want it.

I had flown into Shreveport and noticed there were a lot of Mexican restaurants. All makes sense, as someone described the Shreveport area as “Eastern Texas.” But I was set on Cajun food this trip.

Some research into the best restaurants in the Shreveport area yielded Crawdaddy’s Kitchen and Marilynn’s Place – and Marilynn’s Place ended up being the place to go, because it was the closest stop from the airport and I was I’m About To Pass Out-level hungry.

Side question for local Louisianans – what other standbys do folks recommend in the Shreveport area?

I love southern flavors, I think. But one thing I have quickly assumed to be true – is that there’s probably no such thing. I’m no expert in southern food, and I wish I was. I’ve just noticed that there’s an added emphasis on seafood, spices, and deep smoky flavors, compared to other American cuisines. All things I’m a loud fan of.

Back home and inspired to cook something southern-tasting, this recipe came to mind.

The roux which serves as the foundation for many southern meals, most notably Jambalaya, was the inspiration for the brown butter used start to this risotto off.

The rest of the cooking is relatively predictable – it’s a risotto after all!

I think a bold, homemade seafood stock made from prawn carcasses would be an amazing cooking liquid for this instead, but here I just used store-bought chicken stock.

The other reason to love risotto? It’s therapy. A slow, mindless process that quells the busy thoughts – at least for me. Maybe this is the Cajun way to eat – take-your-time kind of food. I hope you enjoy. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 liter chicken stock (I like College Inn)
  • 2 / 3 cup parm reg
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 10 slices hardwood smoked bacon, small diced
  • 1 / 2 white onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 dozen shrimp, almost cooked through and cut in\ bite sized pieces, plus additional whole shrimp for garnish, if desired
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce, if desired
  • Hot peppers of your choosing, if desired

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the stock until it’s simmering – you will be ladling heated stock into the risotto throughout the cooking process.
  2. In a large pot, brown the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove from the pot. Add the onions, sprinkling with a dash of salt. Saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape up any brown drippings from the bacon on the bottom of the pan.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, heat the butter. Cook on medium-low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until the milk solids begin to brown. Remove from the heat as soon as you see the liquid turn golden.
  4. Add the butter to the onions, garlic, and add the bacon back into the pot.
  5. Stir in the arborio rice, and allow to absorb some of the liquid from the pot and toast lightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add a ladle of stock and stir. Keeping the heat on medium-low, gently stir the rice intermittently, and when the rice appears to get a bit dry, add more stock. After about 20 minutes, test the doneness of the rice. The rice should be al-dente, and the consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
  7. At this point, add the parm reg, and stir until incorporated. Then add the shrimp, and stir until heated through, cooking for an additional 2 minutes or so.
  8. Serve hot, topped with Louisiana Hot Sauce, sliced hot peppers, and extra shrimp, if desired.

Steakhouse Surf & Turf Fried Rice

Seafood. Steak. In my experience, it’s calorically dangerous to put those two together. If I’m really doing surf and turf at a restaurant, you’ll hear all about it. And the waiter will make more than one trip to retrieve the extra clarified butter I asked for.

How did I run out? Because I’m drenching my food with clarified butter as liberally as an eleven year old drenches their crinkle fries with ketchup. I don’t just douse the lobster or King crab legs with butter. There are others – the steak and likely potato side(s), maybe even the table bread – that are getting the clarified butter treatment.

If I were one of those unforgivable sins I’d be the gluttony one.

Throwing this duo together in a fried rice? A mind&%$#. I don’t know how I didn’t think of this sooner.

Fried rice can be as traditional or as funky as you want it. There are a few must-have Asian condiments that are going to give the rice that “fried rice”-ness, but besides that, the proteins and vegetables are an open casting call.

I gave myself leeway to go non-traditional on the vegetables, almost mimicking the sides you’ll get at any high end seafood & steak restaurant. The result is an extra decadent profile of flavors, and you get the upside of eating something that is unopposed in its ability to make us feel good and full.

I used King crab meat but upgrade to the lobster, if you can. You can always have shrimp in your fried rice. If you’re cooking it for someone else, well, there’s your excuse right there!

Enough talk about excuses – go get your wok nice & hot and start frying! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 cups 1 to 2 day-old takeout white rice, or 2 cups cooked homemade 1 to 2-day old medium to short grain white rice
  • 6 – 8 oz. filet mignon, cut into medium-sized cubes
  • 1 1 / 2 lb. King crab legs, cooked, shelled, and meat removed
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 6 stalks asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 / 2 lb. white button mushrooms, stems removed & sliced thick
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 / 2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 egg yolks, for topping
  • 1 / 2 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 / 2 large shallot, small diced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish or oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil
  • 3 / 4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons parsley, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cook the white rice according to package instructions if making your own. Drain in a colander and allow to dry out while you cook the rest of the dish.
  2. Heat the butter and neutral cooking oil in a large skillet. Add the shallot, and sauté on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, mushrooms, spinach, and cook until the spinach is wilted.
  4. Add the beef, and cook until the beef is browned on all sides.
  5. Add the rice, soy sauce, fish or oyster sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, salt and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium-high, and stir all the ingredients, allowing the rice to adhere to the bottom of the skillet so you get crispy bits of rice throughout the mixture.
  6. After about 5 minutes of cooking the rice, stir in 2 tablespoons of the parsley and gently fold in the bulk of the crab meat, leaving some for garnish.
  7. Serve hot, topping each plate with an egg yolk and the remaining minced parsley for garnish.

Garlicky Spinach, Crab & Artichoke Dip

Your classic all-American dips, the ones you’ll see at any football party – onion, buffalo chicken, bean & cheese, bacon, ranch, spinach-artichoke, crab-artichoke – have been a socially acceptable excuse to eat what is typically just a hot, cheesy mayonnaise mixture. One of the many reasons I love the country we live in.

The spinach-artichoke or crab-artichoke dip you’ll find in restaurants everywhere is no exception. We inhale chipfuls of it under the guise of eating vegetables.

Sometimes I’ll make a skillet of dip for dinner. What else do you need? I get so full on it, the main course ends up being out of the question anyway.

And what’s the deal with the imitation crab meat? Why do I love it so much? I knew it was made of pollock, but I learned it’s essentially a manufactured paste formed into sticks and dyed red to mimic the appearance of those nice, long pieces of crab meat you’ll pull out of crab legs. I do have a serious love for processed meats, so it makes sense I’d have a love for processed seafood.

Imitation crab meat may imitate too well, because I prefer it over actual crab in this recipe. It makes it much more of a dip you would’ve eaten while you grew up. Plus, it’s cheaper.

So much garlic is required to help this dish reach its potential. I’m talking double the amount of garlic you think you’d need. Not a whole bulb, but a whopping eight to ten cloves. You’ll be surprised how the garlic still manages to linger in the background with all the other flavors in here.

The other musts? Citrus and Old Bay seasoning.

I love lemon, but I find lime doesn’t get as much action in savory cooking that isn’t Tex Mex, and it’s a match made in heaven with any seafood. So I added the juice and the zest of both in here.

And do I need to explain why I’m adding Old Bay? Because this is a crab dip, dummy! 😊

What is the best chip for this dip? That’s the million dollar question. But I think if this question were posed in an episode of Family Feud, pita chips would win out. It’s just the classic go-to for accompanying spinach artichoke dip – probably since cavemen roamed the earth.

Homemade pita chips are a cut above the store-bought pita chip brands. Here I bought a stack of packaged pita bread, cut the rounds into eights like a pizza, brushed the triangles with olive oil, and sprinkled them with salt & pepper. Then just broil until crisped.

Don’t worry about getting too full on this – if you’re not having a main course, that means you can eat the entire skillet for dinner! And no one can judge you for it. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  D i p

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 1 / 2 cup parm reg, shredded
  • 8 – 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 8 oz. quartered artichokes, in oil or water
  • 6 sticks imitation crab meat, chopped roughly
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1 / 4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

F o r  t h e  P i t a  C h i p s

  • 1 package pita bread
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *450 (you will later lower the temperature to *375).
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, and add the frozen spinach, artichokes, garlic, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee on medium-low heat for about five minutes.
  3. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, parm reg, imitation crab meat, juice and zest of one lemon and one lime, fresh parsley, Old Bay seasoning, a heavy pinch of salt and a heavy pinch of pepper. Combine & set aside.
  4. Cut the pita bread into eighths. Lay the triangles on a sheet pan, brushing both sides with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Broil in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Reset the temperature on the oven from *450 to *375.
  6. After five minutes of sautéing the vegetables, remove the mixture from the heat, adding it to the mayonnaise mixture. Combine.
  7. Pour the dip into a medium-sized skillet, evening out the surface. Put the dip in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until the dip is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Drizzle with olive oil for garnish. Serve alongside the pita chips.

Hack-&-Eat Crabs (Done the Maryland Way)

The state of Maryland should open a crab-themed theme park, funded by taxpayers. That’s how much we like crabs. I’m thinking a crab rollercoaster where riders sit sideways. Crab-flavored cotton candy.  A ball pit filled with live crabs for children.

My sister’s boyfriend’s family has a bay house where they pig out on crabs as often as possible, with obligatory pitchers of Bud Light.

For my birthday he gave me a big freezer bag full of crabs with…

Happy Bday

-Billy

…written in pen on the bag. My boyfriend and I sat there destroying these guys with mallets, eating them ice cold from the fridge, doused with copious amounts of Old Bay-seasoned melted butter. We were also probably a little drunk at that point.

In my all white, pristine apartment. Don’t do what I did.

Summer is coming up. And to that end, here are some recommendations for a crabby extravaganza!

That yellow bile you get when you break the crab in half is godly. Suck the juice out every claw (leg?) you pull off at the joint. You can eat the shell of some of these softer appendages, if you’re also a fan of eating the tails off of shrimp (a-la shrimp cocktail).

Here’s a short video showing how to correctly dismantle the body.

Serve these with beers poured from pitchers into pre-chilled beer mugs. List of Maryland-based brews here.

Eat outside because, please. If you live in a city like I do, I would probably find a wooden table at a nearby park.

You only really need mallets and tiny forks for meat retrieval. I never end up using the shellfish crackers. Put newspaper or some kind of durable paper down before you heave them across the table steaming hot out of the pot.

Put lots of melted butter, lemon wedges (for masking post-crab eating finger smells), malt vinegar, hot sauce, cocktail sauce and old bay on the table. Don’t forget the paper towel rolls either, or the big bowl for shells and carcasses.

And then, prepare to get flecks of crab shell in your hair, folks.

To quote a scene from Wedding Crashers, a ground-breaking motion picture that forever redefined film in America –

*bro catches touchdown pass*

Crabcakes and football, that’s what Maryland DOES!

I N G R E D I E N T S

The recommended amount of crabs to serve per person is anywhere from 8 to 12. A bushel is 7 to 8 dozen blue crabs. The recipe below would serve 4 people, so adjust accordingly when you order the crabs.

  • 1 / 2 bushel live Maryland blue crabs (approximately 48 crabs)
  • 3 lemons, halved
  • 4 -7 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning, plus additional for sprinkling after being boiled
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 sticks melted, clarified butter*
  • Enough water to fill the pot 2 / 3 of the way full

*To clarify butter, put the desired amount of butter in a shallow saucepan and melt until the solids separate from the golden liquid beneath, and with a large shallow spoon, remove the fat solids from the top. Reserve the remaining liquid.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Fill a 6 quart pot with water 2 / 3 of the way full. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, the lemon halves, and 4 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning to the pot, adding an additional 1 tablespoon with each new batch of 12 crabs that’s added.
  2. Submerge the 12 live crabs in the water, one by one, making sure to keep the claws intact.
  3. Cook each batch for 10 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, carefully remove the crabs with tongs to a very big bowl or several large bowls (whatever you have on hand), sprinkling with additional Old Bay seasoning as you finish each batch.
  5. Serve immediately with the clarified butter and optional Old Bay seasoning, malt vinegar, hot sauce and cocktail sauce, as desired.

O P T I O N A L

  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Malt vinegar
  • Tabasco Hot Sauce
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • Bottled cocktail sauce*

*If you prefer to make your own cocktail sauce, mix 2 parts ketchup to 1 part prepared horseradish. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or Tabasco sauce for an extra kick.