Baked Snapper Wings

Baked Snapper Wing with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Both whole red snapper and red snapper filets are pretty common in Gulf Coast seafood markets. They are also pretty darn expensive. Today, however, I stumbled across a curious find tucked in the ice right between those plump whole fish and jumbo filets… an unassuming Post-It note declared “Red Snapper Wings, $3/lb.” Now, I’ve never heard of a fish wing, but for $3 a pound I’m not above asking for details! The fishmonger explained that “wings” are the cut above the filet and below the head on any large fish. This cut, she explained, contains bone and fins, but also a surprising amount of tender meat. Alrightie, let’s try fish wings!

As it happens, fish wings are just about the easiest thing you can make for a quick snack or simple dinner on the Gulf Coast. Simply arrange your wings skin side up on a greased baking pan, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. That’s it. The end. Just pick them up, or use a fork if you are feeling fancy, and eat them as you would a chicken wing. A simple spicy mayo sauce may be served alongside: mix together 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 teaspoon sriracha sauce. Enjoy!

Simple Fish Head Stew

At a local Gulf Coast seafood market, I was able to procure the head of a red snapper for $1. It was big – around 1 1/2 pounds, and sizeable enough to almost fill the bottom of a stockpot – quite a deal for $1! To put that in perspective, if you would like a fresh red snapper head with the rest of the red snapper attached, well, that will set you back upward of $30. Red snapper is not an economical fish, so we’re getting creative to capture red snapper flavor without the red snapper cost!

To make fish head broth, just get yourself a fish head and drop it in the bottom of a stockpot. Ask your butcher or fishmonger for a fish head if you don’t see them… if a market sells fresh fish fillets, they must have had heads at some point, yes? Cover the fish head with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Strain the liquid into a separate pot, and Voila! Now you have mild and delicious red snapper broth as a base for your fish head stew.

If you’d like to pick the meat off of the cooked fish head, go for it. I pulled a bit of meat off of each of the sides or “cheeks,” but that’s about it. Fully dissecting a large fish head is not for the faint of heart; if you’re a little squeamish, just strain your broth and discard the head entirely. No worries.

NOTE: This version of simple fish head stew is low-carb and keto friendly. If carbs are not an issue, consider adding 1 or 2 peeled, cubed raw potatoes and 1 cup of corn kernels along with your seafood in step 1. Either or both would make delicious additions to your stew!

Moving on, here’s what you’ll need to turn your fish head broth into a delicious fish head stew:

Ingredients (Makes a big pot)

10 cups fish head broth (see above)

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 pound of seafood (I used tilapia fillets because they’re inexpensive; other ideas include raw peeled shrimp, canned minced clams, or small bay scallops – use about 1 pound total, in any combination.)

2 slices bacon, diced

1 cloves garlic, minced

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1, 16oz bag “California blend” frozen vegetables, chopped small

1 cup firmly packed chopped spinach

1/2 cup half and half cream

Directions

Step 1) Bring strained fish head broth (see above) to a boil. Add seafood and bouillon cubes. Immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer over low heat, uncovered.

Step 2) While seafood is simmering in broth, fry diced bacon in a small skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside; do not drain or clean the skillet!

Step 3) Add zucchini and garlic to the skillet with the bacon fat. Sautee for about 3 minutes, until you can smell the garlic and the zucchini peel turns bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 4) Check your seafood. If you are using tilapia fillets or bay scallops, they should be turning from an opaque color to white. If you are using shrimp, they should be turning pink. When the seafood appears almost cooked through (i.e., mostly white or mostly pink), add all of the vegetables to the pot. Continue simmering over low heat until the seafood is completely cooked, and any fish in your stew flakes easily.

Step 5) When the seafood is completely cooked, remove stew from heat and allow to cool for one minute. Then, add half and half cream.

Step 6) Ladle your fish head stew into bowls. If desired, ladle into bowls over a scoop of cooked white rice (optional). Garnish with crispy fried bacon and serve immediately!


Amberjack Tacos

Fresh Amberjack Tacos

Spicy and smoky, sweet and savory, these amberjack tacos are a gulf coast delight. Amberjack is a prized fish on gulf coast menus. Mild and meaty, amberjack to me seems like a cross between swordfish and tuna in the kitchen. In the wild, amberjack prefer warm ocean waters, and grow up to six feet long!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

8 flour tortillas

1 pound of fresh, filleted amberjack, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons bacon fat

1 cup romaine lettuce, sliced fine

1 fresh tomato, diced

2 ripe avocados, diced

Juice from 1/2 orange

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For the creamy sriracha sauce:

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonaise

1 tablespoon sriracha (more if you like things spicier)

2 garlic cloves, minced

Directions

1) Blend together creamy sriracha sauce ingredients. Set in refrigerator.

2) Toss diced avocado gently in juice from 1/2 orange. Set aside.

3) Add bacon fat to skillet over medium high heat. Add cubed amberjack to skillet. Allow to cook for 2 minutes without disturbing. Then, use a tongs to turn the pieces of fish over and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove fish from skillet with a slotted spoon.

4) To assemble your amberjack tacos, first spread some of the creamy sriracha on each tortilla. Top with lettuce and avocado. Add 5 or 6 pieces of cubed amberjack. Garnish with diced tomato and a sprinkle of cheese.

Enjoy! Life is short. Eat good food.

Kids in the Kitchen: Cake Mix Cookies II

cake cookies

Shown: Funfetti mix with extra sprinkles, and Devils Food mix with mini chocolate chips!

If the kiddos in your life are asking to bake something, and you don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, Cake Mix Cookies are a perfect 15 minute treat. That’s right – it will only take the kids 5 minutes to Continue reading

Salem Seafood Chowder

Soup1Chowder, or Chowda as the locals say, is popular in Salem. Many diners and pubs feature clam chowder high on their menu as either an appetizer or a complete meal with fresh bread. Two establishments, Tavern on the Green in the Hawthorne Hotel and also the wildly popular Red’s Sandwich Shop, offered amazingly delicious seafood chowder. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ve done our best to recreate authentic seafood chowder, loosely based upon Continue reading

Kids in the Kitchen: Build a Gingerbread Train!

So, the kiddos are home from school on Christmas vacation, and you are smiling as you assure the world that everyone is having a jolly good time. I get it. But you aren’t fooling me. The little darlings are starting to argue with each other, aren’t they? And your nerves are beginning to fray, aren’t they? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt! Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Part I: Airplane Snacks

airplane snacksOur bags are packed, our flat has been rented, and our airline tickets have been printed. Crowded Earth Kitchen is off on a Tokyo Food Tour! We promise to bring you lots of amazing photos and delicious foods to recreate… but first, there’s that little detail about needing to travel halfway around the world. Spending over 12 hours on an airplane with children – after hours spent driving to Chicago and flying to Toronto to catch the flight to Tokyo – is not for the faint of heart. That said, it’s not impossible, either. Here is the two -part method to our madness:

  1. Pack really light. Don’t be that goofy American in an international airport, trying to drag 100 pounds of nonsense behind you to the train station. Seriously, reconsider every item you pack! Nobody needs 3 pairs of shoes on vacation. Most people in the world don’t even own 3 pairs of shoes. People will notice your accent… they won’t be looking at your feet.
  2. Pack your own travel snacks. While all of those shoes are silly, travel snacks are smart. Just try a 12 hour flight without snacks for children… that’s taking your life in your hands, my friend! Snacks in airports are outrageously, sinfully expensive. Bring a carry-on with healthy food items to get you through your travels and hold you over for a first meal of two (if needed) in a foreign country. Use the carry-on to bring foreign foods back home!

granola barsHere’s what we pack:

Homemade granola bars (dense and satisfying, these pack well)

Cereal bars (these are a great way to use up open cereal boxes before you travel)

Vegetable chips (provides crunch without making you feel icky on an airplane)

Fruit pockets (ever popular with kids)

Whatever you decide to pack in your carry-on, make sure it can stand up to a bit of jostling and squashing. Also, avoid foods that are too fragrant – the people seated around you may not appreciate your love of curry or aged cheese! Finally, make sure not to pack foods that can be considered liquid (applesauce, gelatin, etc.) – these will be confiscated by airport security.

The world is your oyster. Enjoy your trip!

Medley of Fudge

WIN_20150515_190501We’re back! Crowded Earth Kitchen celebrated the end of Exam Week by taking a hiatus. We loaded Half Pint, Pickle in the Middle, and Half Grown into the kidmobile and headed “up North” to the land of waterslides, miniature golf courses, restaurants with paper moose antler hats (seriously), ice cream parlors, and fudge shops. The kids arrived back home sleep deprived, over sugared, and smelling faintly of chlorine. In other words, they had a great time.

But about the fudge… what is it about family tourist destinations and fudge shops? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one without the other. It’s not like fudge is ever on my grocery list, but on kid-centered vacations, stopping for fudge is an absolute must.

Clockwise from the top in the photo above, we sampled root beer fudge, Heath bar fudge, classic chocolate fudge, and milk chocolate vanilla swirl fudge. Which of these treats would you like to see recreated at Crowded Earth Kitchen? Post a comment with your favorite and I’ll work on a recipe for you!