Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thai-Style Turtle and Potato Curry

Turtle can stand up to bold flavors, and Thai curry is one of them. For those with sensitive palates, this dish will hide any wild aromas that snapping turtles may still have. What's left is a savory, spicy soup with tender, pork-like meat and buttery potatoes to be served with crusty bread or jasmine riceYou and your guests will be amazed that you're eating reptile. What's more, turtle bones can make great stock. The bones are high in collagen, leaving you with a rich, gelatinous stock that requires no thickener when making soup, curry or stew. 

On a different note, there have been some concerned readers over our turtle photos on Facebook. Some of you may have heard that eating turtle meat is frowned upon because they are endangered. You may have learned this on TV, in movies or read this information in books. True, the consumption of sea turtles is discouraged and illegal, but snapping turtles are not. Unlike its saltwater relatives, the common snapping turtle is a freshwater species that is found all over the U.S. Generally, they are not threatened. In states that do have them and allow a season, limits are set to make sure that they can be harvested sustainably, no different than any other species that is legal to hunt or catch. So when you hear of people eating turtle today, it is most likely snapping turtle and not to be confused with sea turtles. Please don't be so quick to judge. 

If turtle hunting/catching is something you would like to try, check out our upcoming book Hunting for Food: Guide to Harvesting, Field Dressing and Cooking Wild Game to learn how, to be released July 15, 2015. Yes, we finally have a title that both our publisher and we can agree on. Yay! 

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 1/2 hours
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 15 Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes, halved (or 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced)
- half an onion, chopped
- 1 (14 ounce) can of unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons of yellow Thai curry
- 2 bay leaves
- fish sauce, to taste
- 1 pinch of sugar
- zest of one lime or lemon
- chopped cilantro for garnish
- cooked jasmine rice or bread for serving
Turtle Stock
- 1 1/2 pounds of turtle meat (on the bone)
- 4 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 yellow or white onion, quartered
- 6 cups of water
- 4 tablespoons of minced lemongrass (or 1 whole stalk of lemon grass if you have it)

1. Combine turtle, celery, carrot, quartered onion, water and lemongrass in a stock pot. Bring to a simmer (but never let it boil), cover and cook for 1.5 hours, or until turtle meat is tender and can be pulled away from the bone. Best to check after 1 hour-- you don't want your meat to overcook and get mushy. 

(We keep minced lemongrass handy in the freezer.)
2. Once tender, remove turtle pieces from the pot, and then remove the meat from the bones. Set meat aside and discard bones. 

Turtle bones are pretty weird...

3. Run stock through a fine strainer, or a strainer with cheesecloth. Discard spent vegetables. Set stock aside

4. Next, add potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Parboil potatoes until just tender, but not cooked all the way. Drain and set aside. 
5. In a wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
6. Lower the heat to medium, then scoop out the top thicker and creamy layer of coconut milk from the can and add it to the wok. 

It will look solid white, almost like lard, while the bottom layer is a more coconut juice-like liquid. 
Allow the coconut to liquify and bubble for a couple minutes, then add the yellow curry. Stir well to combine. 

We used these two brands for coconut milk and curry paste. We got the coconut milk from Walmart and the curry past from a Vietnamese market for under 2 bucks. Mae Ploy is a fairly popular brand-- you should be able to find it at your local Asian grocery store. It's also available on Amazon. 
7. Next, add the rest of the coconut milk, turtle meat, potatoes, bay leaves and enough turtle stock to cover all the ingredients. Stir well and bring to a boil. Then simmer for 30 minutes until desired consistency-- add more stock if needed. 

Keep the extra stock on hand in case if you need to loosen up the curry again when reheating leftovers. 
8. Add zest, fish sauce and sugar, to taste.

Remove bay leaves before serving. Ladle soup into individual bowls, sprinkle cilantro on top and serve with  jasmine rice or crusty bread. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Crawfish Burrito with Salsa Verde

If you like seafood, you know that lobster can be expensive and in some parts, hard to get. However, if you live near water where crawfish roam, lobster's little cousin, then you are in luck! Crayfish can live in all sorts of freshwater habitats, and over 300 species live in the United State alone. Your best bet is to talk to locals and even fishermen who may have come by these "mudbugs."

Like lobsters, we battered and deep fried crawfish tails to a crisp and added them to Mexican beans, rice and fresh herbs wrapped in a warm tortilla. This is a simple dish that brings back memories of warm sunkissed afternoons sitting under a palapa on the white beaches of La Paz, Baja California, Mexico. With a burrito in one hand and ice cold beer in the other, the imagery is something Kenny Chesney would sing about!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- about 24 crawfish tails, cooked and peeled
- vegetable oil for frying
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1 Serrano pepper, sliced
- salsa verde for serving (store bought or homemade)
- Mexican rice (recipe here)
- Mexican re-fried beans (canned or homemade)
- 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
- 4 large flour tortillas 
Crawfish Batter
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 small egg
- 1/2 cup of Mexican beer
- cayenne pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil to 375ºF. Add the chopped Serrano and 1 chopped scallion to the oil. Once the chile and scallion turn fragrant and begin to brown, scoop them out and discard. 
2. To make the batter while waiting for oil to heat up, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl. Then whisk together beer and egg in a small bowl, and pour it into the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated.

Once ready to fry, drop in the crawfish tails and coat. 
3. Fry crawfish tails on both sides until golden and crispy. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding and for more even frying. 
Drain on paper towels...

4. Heat up refried beans, Mexican rice and flour tortillas. Flour tortillas can be quickly warmed in the microwave. 
For our Mexican rice recipe, click here:
Buy canned Mexican re-fried beans or make your own here:

Find our salsa verde recipe towards the end of this post:
5. Working quickly while ingredients are still hot, spread on some beans, rice, salsa verde and fried crawfish pieces onto the tortillas. Sprinkle in some chopped cilantro and green onions. 
Fold the sides over and then roll up the burrito. Do not overstuff because burrito may not roll correctly.
6. Serve immediately to keep crawfish from getting soggy. Allow each person more salsa verde on the side. Serve with leftover beans and rice. 
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