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Tag: shrimp

A Chili Change-Up….Try Seafood Chili

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Recipes and Food


Out there in “food land” there’s an ongoing debate: “Should chili have beans?” With or without, I think there are arguments for either recipe. Chili on a cold winter day should have beans. Chili on hot dogs should not. But how about meat? Having vegetarians at your table is a good reason to consider meatless, so why not a compromise—with shellfish? And beans.


While cooking everyday chili can be easy (from a can or from the Publix deli), really good homemade chili takes some time and energy. That’s especially true if you are using it as the basis for a delicious seafood meal. Seafood, wild-caught or store-bought isn’t cheap so why not pair it with your best culinary effort?


This 4-step recipe involves making your own chili stock from several varieties of dried peppers, adding some spices and vegetables and then finishing with a medley of fresh shrimp, scallops and mussels.



Chili Stock


4 cups vegetable stock

3 dried chipotle chilies

5 dried New Mexico (Hatch) chilies

3 dried ancho chiles

1 clove garlic, whole2

2 cups water


Carefully, with rubber gloves, remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Add, with the garlic, to the water and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; let cool about a half-hour. Then blend to a smooth consistency.


Spice Blend


1/2 tbs. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. mustard powder

pinch ground clove

pinch ground cinnamon


Mix the spices thoroughly.



1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 15-ounce can, red beans (drained)

1 onion

1 bell pepper

2 cloves garlic

2 cups corn kernels

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


Dice the onion , bell pepper and mince the garlic. In a large pot, with the olive oil, cook the onion, bell pepper and garlic until transparent. Add the spices and tomato paste, stir and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Dump in the chili stock and the can of tomatoes, with their juice. Then add the corn and beans and bring to a low simmer.




2 pounds mussels

1 pound medium-to-large shrimp

1 pound bay scallops

1 cup white wine


Peel and devein the shrimp and remove any beards from the mussels. Put the mussels in a pan with the wine, cover and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and scallops to the simmering chili and when the mussels are open, add them, with the wine. Cook about 4 more minutes or until the shrimp and scallops are done.


Add salt to taste and serve with chips or a corn muffin.


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Easy Peasy Seafood Pizza

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Recipes and Food



Over the past 50 years, pizzas have, in my opinion, moved from the sublime to the ridiculous. A simple “tomato pie” topped with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni is now hard to find, and pizzas topped like cheeseburgers or peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches have made their way to “pizzeria” menu boards.   Don’t get me wrong, I like fancy pizzas as much as the next guy, but…


So how about a fancy pizza that’s easy to prepare and one that will excite your family and friends when they come to your dinner table?


Pesto Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Seafood


First, make some pizza dough in your food processor, let it rise twice. Next, crush basil, garlic and pine nuts and olive oil with your mortar and pestle. Then, dry some San Marzano tomatoes in your food dehydrator and soak them in extra virgin olive oil for a day or so. Finally, when it’s time to cook, form the dough into a 12 to 16-inch round.


Just kidding!!! Here’s my simple method with easy ingredients:


Buy a pre-made pizza crust (I like the 2-for-$2.99 crusts at Trader Joe’s.) or some pizza dough at the Publix bakery (In either case, buy several–I keep pre-made crusts in the freezer for last-minute meals).


Pre-heat your oven to 450-degrees. Form the dough, if necessary, and put it on a lightly oiled pan. Top with a layer of store-bought pesto, followed by chunks of mozzarella cheese and some well-drained store-bought sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil).   Sprinkle with some sea salt, a few crushed red pepper flakes and some dry oregano.   Cook until cheese melts and the crust starts to brown, 10-15 minutes.


At this point, the choice of seafood is yours. I like 40-50 count shrimp, peeled and deveined. You might consider bay scallops, sliced sea scallops, clams, squid rings or even thin slices of pre-grilled octopus. The final cooking time is up to you and depends on how long it takes to cook your seafood. 10-minutes should be sufficient, and you may want to finish the cooking under the broiler, to add color.


Give the pizza a few minutes to cool after it comes out of the oven and then top with some shaved Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of chopped Italian parsley. Then, hide the empty jars and packages—and take credit for all the “work” you’ve done!


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Yet ANOTHER Shrimp and Grits Recipe!

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Recipes and Food


If you want to start an argument about southern seafood, just mention “shrimp and grits”. Yes, while there are differing points of view on hushpuppies (sweet or savory; with or without onions; with guava jelly or not) and coatings for fried fish (flour or corn meal), none seem to be more argued about than the “proper” way of preparing and presenting shrimp and grits.

I’m set in my ways, and until recently and I’ve prepared my shrimp and grits per the recipe in my 2013 Sportsman’s Kitchen column, but without the cheese. Personally, I’ve always thought the concept of cheese grits was brought south by carpetbaggers who didn’t appreciate grits, white or yellow, in their natural state. But that’s neither here nor there. The bottom line is that I’m always willing to expand my horizons and try a different version of a recipe.

Here’s a new and more aromatic twist on an old standard. The addition of small tomatoes and a cubanelle pepper make it an attractive and tasty offering at your next seafood dinner.

And yes, I like it with the cheese!


Shrimp and Grits 2.0



1-1/2 pounds, medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (Peel them yourself and reserve the shells)

1- bay leaf

1-tsp. dry tarragon

1-clove garlic, crushed

1-cup white grits

8-oz. grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

Hot sauce (Tabasco or Cholula)

1/2-stick unsalted butter

1-medium cubanelle pepper, seeded and chopped

1-large shallot, minced

1/4-pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2-scallions, thinly sliced

2-strips crisp bacon, chopped


First, make a shrimp stock by bringing the reserved shrimp shells, the garlic, bay leaf, tarragon and two cups of water to a boil, then reducing heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain out the solids and boil the remaining liquid, reducing it to about a half-cup. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the grits slowly, stirring until well mixed. Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. When done, add the cheese and mix thoroughly. Add salt, ground black pepper and hot sauce, to taste.

While the grits are cooking, sauté the shrimp in the butter, taking care not to overcook. Set aside.

Over medium heat, cook the shallot, scallions and cubanelle pepper in the shrimp stock until soft.

To serve, spoon the grits into individual bowls and top with the shrimp and the vegetable mix. Garnish with the chopped bacon.

(Serves 4)

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Looking For A Simply Devilish Summer Dinner?–Try Scallops Fra Diavolo

by on Jun.24, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Summer means one thing on Florida’s Big Bend—recreational scallop season.  The general madness that comes with crowded marinas, boat ramps and waterways from Bayport to St. Marks bothers lots of folks, but I’ve learned to take all of that in stride and to focus on the dinner table.

Snorkeling for scallops is lots of fun, but coming home tired and waterlogged never puts me in the mood to cook.  Luckily, shucked scallops fare well in the freezer for a few weeks, so tucking a few limits away isn’t a bad idea.  Bite for tender bite, there’s no product of the Gulf tastier than a freshly shucked sea scallop.  And while the adductor muscles are great raw, right out of the shell, most folks would rather have them cooked.

My traditional “down home” method of scallop preparation involves a light dusting of flour and frying in butter.  But here’s a simple upscale recipe for scallops in a spicy tomato sauce with pasta that’s more fit for a hot date than a hot night at the fish camp.

Scallops Fra Diavolo

4 tbs. olive oil

6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. sugar

Crushed red pepper flakes, the “devil’s touch”

1-pound (product of a 2-gallon personal limit) scallops, shucked and patted dry with

paper towels

1-pound linguine or fettuccine pasta

Chopped Italian parsley or basil (as garnish)

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add the garlic.  When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes.  Add the salt and sugar and bring to a boil.  Finally, add the crushed red pepper.  Start with a teaspoon, but depending on your tolerance for heat, more may be required.  Then simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the pasta for 8 to 10-minutes.  Don’t overcook the pasta, draining it to a colander when it’s still slightly chewy, or al dente.

When you add the pasta to the water, heat the remaining oil over high heat in a skillet and sear the scallops, taking care not to overcook them (into the consistency of rubber pencil erasers).  One or twominutes should do the trick.  Add the scallops to the sauce and simmer another minute or two.

Spoon the sauce over the pasta and garnish with parsley or basil.  Serve with a chunk of crusty bread and a nice white wine.  (Serves 4)

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Shrimp and Avocado Salad

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Fine dining doesn’t necessarily involve rocket science.  Some recipes have more to do with quality ingredients than fancy techniques, and this cool, refreshing shrimp and avocado salad is a perfect example.  All you really need to be able to do is boil shrimp and perform some basic cutting and stirring.

I’m often surprised by the number of questions I receive regarding problems with boiled foods like rice, grits, pasta, and shrimp.  Rice and grits involve the proper ratio of water to grain. And pasta involves the time-tested technique of pulling a strand from the boiling water and tossing it onto the fridge door to see if it sticks.   Shrimp can be trickier, but my method seems to work well, especially if the shrimp are medium in size.  First, bring a BIG pot of water to a boil.  Don’t add salt and only add some Old Bay seasoning if you’re doing a peel-and-eat affair—not for this recipe.  Add your cold shrimp, and then let the water come back to a boil.  Drain the shrimp into a colander or strainer and immediately cover with ice to chill.  That’s it.  They’re done and ready to eat.

In recent years avocados have become easier to find throughout the year.  Of course, in cooler months there’s no short supply of those bright green and tasty “alligator pears” from the southern part of our state.  The rest of the year the smaller, dark-skinned Haas avocados from California or Mexico will just have to do.  The Haas variety is usually just as flavorful, but often requires ripening in a paper bag (along with a banana, if you’ve got one) for a day or so after purchase at your local supermarket.  Look for the Florida “pears” at roadside stands, where they’re more likely to be ripe, ready to eat, and the product of a local producer’s back yard.

There’s a fairly long list of ingredients for this recipe, but don’t be dismayed.  You don’t need much more than a whisk to pull this one off, and the individual flavors of mustard, chili sauce, garlic and Tabasco all stand out with each bite, not overwhelming the avocado chunks and the shrimp themselves.  And it’s the shrimp that make the dish the highlight of many a summer lunch or dinner.  But what about using Florida lobster?  I’ve got lobster rolls on my mind!

Shrimp & Avocado Salad

6 tbs. olive oil

4 tbs. white wine vinegar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 lbs. medium shrimp (peeled, deveined and boiled)

1 cup mayonnaise

4 tbs. chili sauce

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

2 large Florida avocados (or 5 or 6 Haas avocados)

4 tbs. fresh dill, minced

4 tbs. chives, minced

salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Lemon juice

Whisk the oil, vinegar and mustard.  Add mix to shrimp, toss thoroughly and allow to marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours.  Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, chili sauce, garlic, Tabasco, dill, chives, salt and pepper until smooth.  Set aside.  Peel, seed and cube the avocados and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.  When shrimp has marinated, drain, gently fold in avocado cubes and the mayonnaise mixture.  Garnish with dill sprigs and lemon wedges; serve with a dry white wine and crusty bread.  (Feeds 8 at a debutante ball or 4 hungry fishermen)

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The Advantages of Using Plastic Shrimp Instead of the Real Thing


Many Big Bend anglers are convinced that plastic (can you say “fake”?) shrimp are the equal of live shrimp when it comes to fishing on our coastal grass flats.  It used to be that artificial shrimp looked nothing like the real thing, but in recent years they’ve almost reached a degree of hyper-reality!  D.O.A. Lures’ 3-inch shrimp (in “glow”) is a good choice, as is the Live Target 3-inch slow-sinking white shrimp.  Either of these lures weights 1/4 ounce and are easy to cast using light to medium spinning tackle.  Many anglers use 2000 to 2500 class reels spooled with 10-pound test braided line and 20 to 25-pound test invisible fluorocarbon leader.  Others, many of whom are not used to making hundreds of casts in a day, rely on popping corks and rig their shrimp so that they just barely skim the grass tops under the cork.

There are several advantages to using artificial shrimp.  One, pinfish don’t eat them up before the game fish have a chance to attack.  Second,  in the long run they’re cheaper than live shrimp.  And finally, your hands don’t stink at the end of the day!

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Shrimp ‘n Grits–To Cheese or Not To Cheese?

by on Dec.27, 2013, under Recipes and Food

To Cheese…or Not To Cheese?

In his or her kitchen repertory, any southern cook should have the successful preparation of grits.  Not fancy grits, but just plain grits.  Many don’t, and I suspect that’s due to the fact that they can’t boil pasta or cook rice either.  All are simple chores, and the success of many a meal depends on mastery of those subjects.   Essentially hominy (corn kernels processed using an alkaline solution like lye), grits come in several variations.  At most groceries, you’ll find all sorts—coarse and fine-ground, yellow and white–even “instant”.  “Real” grits need to cook slowly for about 20 minutes and I avoid “instant” grits at all costs.

In many parts of the American South, grits are considered breakfast food.  In fact, northerners often confuse grits with cream of wheat and apply sugar and milk. More likely you’ll find them an accompaniment to eggs, bacon and sausage in our southern states, but in Florida, much to the initial surprise of my Eastern North Carolina-native wife, we eat grits with fish and seafood.

In recent years, shrimp and grits has become a standard menu item in many establishments and homes.  The dish is simple to cook and a hearty main course on a cold winter night.  And it can be varied with regards to whether or not to include cheese or the type of meat to include.  Cheese can add richness to the grits, but some chefs feel it overpowers the taste of the shrimp.  Others go to great trouble to include elaborate combinations of cheddar, Parmesan and even cream cheese.  The choice is yours, but I’ll stick with simplicity and use extra-sharp cheddar—if I use cheese at all.   As for meat, “salty” is the key.  It’s hard to beat store-bought bacon, but you can easily substitute Cajun-style tasso or Italian pancetta to give your version of shrimp and grits a regional or continental touch.

Shrimp and grits can easily become a standard main dish at your dinner table, taking simple ingredients to new heights.   Serve with a salad or slaw and a buttered biscuit and you’ll find that, along with compliments about the meal, guests and family will be asking for a repeat performance.

Basic Shrimp  and Grits

6 cups water

1 tbs. salt

1/2 tbs. freshly-ground black pepper

1-1/2 cups yellow grits

1/2-stick butter

2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, lightly dusted with flour

1-pound bacon

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a large saucepan, bring the salted water to a boil.  Then, add grits and pepper and stir for about 30 seconds.  Turn down heat to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed.  If the grits are too thick, add some more water (or milk) and continue to cook, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in butter and cheese.

Fry bacon in a skillet until crispy; drain and crumble.  In the reserved grease, sauté shrimp until pink, just a minute or two, and remove to a holding plate.  Don’t overcook your shrimp! Then, add parsley, garlic and scallions to the hot bacon grease and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until the scallions are transparent.

Spoon grits into a serving bowl.  Stir in all the other ingredients, serve immediately– and enjoy.

Serves 4 to 6

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Shrimp Créole–It’s Not Just For Christmas

by on Dec.27, 2013, under Recipes and Food

Christmas dinner at Chez Thompson isn’t always traditional.  We like to cook, and roasting turkeys or rib roasts just doesn’t present much of a challenge any more.  So, you’re likely to find more complex recipes featured on our holiday table.  Paellas are good, as is bouillabaisse, but one of our favorites is Shrimp à la Créole.

A good Shrimp Créole, as it’s translated into Inglés, depends on the quality of the ingredients.  Of course, Florida shrimp are the best and you can find them almost year-round, so that’s not a problem.  But don’t cut corners with the single most-important ingredient–the tomatoes.  Fresh ripe heirloom Créole tomatoes make the very best Creole, but they’re not available canned and can even be hard to find outside Louisiana.  In warm months, fresh tomatoes from Ruskin, south of Tampa, work well, but when it’s cold you’ll have to rely on canned product.  Don’t be fooled by the propaganda you hear on the television from large factory canners.  Accept only canned tomatoes that come directly from San Marzano, Italy or are labeled “San Marzano style”.  These flavorful plum tomatoes are simply the best, and luckily there are now some American farmers growing them.

Shrimp sauce piquanté was the original name for shrimp créole and my version is spicy, with just a hint of cloves and allspice, as the name implies.  None of that bland tomato-soup-like stuff that’s served in second-rate eateries for me.  This version will warm you from the inside out!

Shrimp Créole

2/3-cup canola oil

1/2-cup flour

1-3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions

1/3 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup copped green pepper

4 tsp. minced garlic

3 tsp. minced parsley

1 28-ounce can/box crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 tbs. minced chives

4 tbs. dry red wine

4 whole bay leaves, crushed*

6 whole allspice*

2 whole cloves*

2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

4 tsp. lemon juice

2 cups water

2-pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
There’s an old expression made by Cajun cooks:  “First, make a roux”.   Based on a misconception that a roux is difficult, that very statement turns many folks away from making this recipe at home.  In fact, in Louisiana you can actually buy a jar of ready-made roux.  But really, folks–it ain’t rocket science.  Just keep stirring and be sure not to burn the flour.

In a heavy 6 to 8-quart pot, heat the oil and gradually add the flour, stirring constantly.  Cook the mixture over medium heat and stir until the medium brown roux is formed.  It should be the color of peanut butter.  Remove the roux from the heat and add the fresh vegetables and parsley.  Mix well, and then return to low heat and cook, stirring constantly until the vegetables begin to brown.  Mix in the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, and then add the chives, wine, seasonings, and lemon juice.

*Wrap the bay leaves, cloves and allspice together in a packet of cheesecloth before adding to the sauce.  This eliminates crunchy surprises at the dinner table.

Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a low boil.  Stir in the water and bring back to a boil.  Then, reduce heat to a simmer for 45 minutes.  About 10 minutes before dinner, bring the sauce back to a boil, add the shrimp and simmer until ready to serve.  Serve over parboiled/converted rice.  (Feeds 4)

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Garlicky, Lemony, Buttery—The BEST Shrimp Scampi–Sportsman’s Kitchen Archive (March 2012)

by on Aug.16, 2013, under Recipes and Food

Garlicky, Lemony, Buttery—The BEST Shrimp Scampi

Archived, from Florida Sportsman Magazine, March 2012, Sportsman’s Kitchen

Shrimp are likely the most versatile seafood.  According to Bubba Gump, they’re good boiled, fried, sautéed, or served with grits.   They even make good fish bait.  And they’re available year round.  Buy your shrimp from a reputable seafood shop that isn’t hesitant to let you smell their product.  Good shrimp, although likely frozen aboard the boat soon after being caught, don’t have a ‘fishy’ smell and should smell like the waters from which they came.

There’s no comparing properly prepared shrimp scampi to what many restaurants serve.  Shrimp soaked or poached in garlic butter can be good, but there’s more to scampi than just a quick swim through a sauce.  When garlic, shallots, butter and lemons mingle with that of fresh Florida shrimp, the explosion of flavor is hard to describe. Here’s my recipe, along with one for a nice companion Caesar salad:

Shrimp Scampi

3 shallots, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3/4-cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2-1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

2 cups dry white wine

6 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 -cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Combine the shallots, 4 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a mini-food processor or blender.  Process to make a smooth paste.  Pour 6 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining crushed garlic into a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the garlic sizzles, add about half the shrimp.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sauté until seared, but not fully cooked, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the first batch of shrimp to a holding dish and sauté the second half.  Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil and the garlic-shallot paste to the skillet and cook until the paste is so thick it almost sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Then add the white wine, lemon juice, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and 4 tablespoons butter.  Bring the sauce to a boil until its volume is reduced by half.  Finally, whisk in the remaining butter, add the shrimp and cook about 2 more minutes.  Don’t overcook the shrimp!

This recipe feeds 4 hungry fishermen if served as an entrée over linguine or fettuccine. Or a few shrimp, each on a piece of thinly sliced French bread toast, make an excellent appetizer.  In either case, garnish the servings with chopped parsley.

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Don’t Miss a Meal at Rachel’s Restaurant in Steinhatchee

by on Dec.29, 2010, under Steinhatchee

Rachel’s is open for breakfast (on weekends), lunch and dinner and has become a great hangout for folks wanting a homecooked meal in Steinhatchee.   I’ve listed it in the Fishing and Boating category because one of their specialties is ‘guest fish’–not that the fish are ‘guests’, but that they’ll happily cook your catch for lunch or dinner.  Larry and Leianne Carnes, the owners (and cooks and bottle-washers) say that most folks who used to want their fish fried are now asking for it to be blackened.  Redfish, grouper and snapper all ‘blacken’ well, and the the next time you catch a bunch of fish at Steinhatchee, clean them up and bring them to Rachel’s.  It’s at the north end of the 10th Street bridge.

Larry and Leianne with a couple of Rachel's great lunchtime sandwiches.

rachels outside

Rachel's serves a wide variety of home-cooked meals

In addition to fish, Rachel’s also serves full breakfasts (on weekends in Winter months) and some great lunchtime sandwiches.  There’s also a daily lunch and dinner special.  Recently, they featured fried quail, and according to Larry, the most popular dinner entree is his chicken-fried steak.  In addition to all of the above, Rachel’s serves an All-You-Can-Eat Fried Shrimp dinner on Friday nights for only $19.95.  And the best news is that the shrimp served at Rachel’s are GULF SHRIMP!

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