seafood

Last month I had the opportunity to visit Avery Island, Louisiana, the home of Tabasco. Each year the company selects a group of bloggers to visit their island (which is actually a salt dome surrounded by bayou). In turn, the bloggers are asked to write about their experience and create some recipes using Tabasco sauces. Since I was probably going to make some recipes using Tabasco this year anyway, it was an easy decision to join the event.

I’ve always valued Tabasco sauces for their short ingredients list (the original red pepper sauce contains just three ingredients – peppers, vinegar, and salt), and their ability to add a complex flavor to any dish; I feel that acidity is a tragically underutilized dynamic in most kitchens, and Tabasco has acidity in spades. But until this trip I never realized how much care Tabasco puts into each bottle, which you’ll see in my pictures below the recipe. But first, the food.

It’s coming into flounder season here in Florida, and it is easy to find in my area right now. The fish are caught using a spear (called a “gig”), typically at night, much in the same way that frogs are traditionally caught. A favorite preparation for flounder is to simply pan-fry them in Cajun seasoning (often used interchangeably with the term “blackening seasoning”); since I was already making the seasoning from scratch, I figured this is also an opportunity to incorporate it into one of my other favorite dishes from this area, Étouffée.

Étouffée translates to “smothered” from French, which indicates that the main ingredient (often crawfish, but in this case, shrimp) is smothered in a thick sauce of broth and vegetables. Might as well add some bacon to it for good measure, because bacon.

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Ceviche is a popular seafood dish in Central and South America made from raw seafood (usually fish or shrimp) marinated in citrus juices. Today, it is most associated with Peru, who even has a holiday to celebrate the dish (June 28, if you’re interested). Spaniards arriving in the Americas found that the pre-Inca peoples of Mocha had a similar dish, which used the fermented juices of the banana passionfruit. There is archeological evidence of ceviche’s consumption as far back as 2,000 years ago.

Unlike Peruvian ceviche, the Mexican variation often includes tomatoes, jalapeños, and green olives. That’s the variation we’re going to make today.

When choosing a fish, it’s best to use a white ocean fish like sea bass, grouper, halibut, or flounder. Keep the fish as cold as possible while preparing it, and be sure to remove the blood line (the dark line down the center of some fish) to keep the dish from tasting too “fishy”. I also prefer to combine the ingredients near the end; red onions steeped in lime juice will color the dish prematurely.

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Phew! Okay, since last checking in, I’ve completed all of my photos for my upcoming book, Paleo Take Out, and the manuscript is with the editor. I’m happy to announce that the book will feature over 150 recipes! That’s a far cry from the 45-60 recipes I started with last year, and I’m really excited to get this book in your hands. Paleo Take Out will be out in all bookstores starting in June, and I’ll be sure to share more info as I put the finishing touches on it.

Starting today, I’m bundling a preview copy of Paleo Take Out with every purchase of The Safe Starch Cookbook. The preview book features 10 recipes from Paleo Take Out plus three that didn’t make the cut (initially I planned on having 5-10 not make the cut, but I found a way to squeeze them into the book!). One of those recipes also happens to be today’s recipe, which I think you’ll enjoy – Korean Oyster Soup.

Gulguk (굴국) is a quick and tasty soup, often considered a cure for hangovers. It’s sometimes served with cooked white rice dropped in at the end, at which point it’s called Gulgukbap (굴국밥). But if you’re not a rice eater, don’t worry – it’s just as tasty without the rice, or with some spiraled vegetable or kelp noodles thrown in at the end.

One last note – that Virtual Ultimate Health Summit I mentioned last week is now live through March 13th. I recorded my segment last week and had a lot of fun with it; we discussed food, history, and culture, and I think you folks will really enjoy my talk. Plus there are 17 other panelists involved, too! Okay, soup time.

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Clams Blog

As you probably read in my post from the other day, I’m knee-deep in recipe development and writing, in order to get my sophomore cookbook ready for release – which is a lot of fun, but leaves me with little time to keep up with blog recipes. So, I figured out a solution that’s good for both of us: I’ll just post a recipe from The Ancestral Table! I’ve been meaning to share more of these recipes anyway, and this one is a special favorite in our house. The wine sauce is the highlight of the dish, and it is absolutely, ridiculously, heartbreakingly delicious. One of these days I’ll figure out a way to batch-cook and sell this sauce for millions of dollars, but for now, here’s a bit more about the dish, stolen directly from the book (I can do that!):

While clams, wine, and butter are all delicious, the combination of the three is truly divine. This dish, developed in the Provençal region of France, is the quintessential marriage of these rich, decadent flavors. It is equally tasty when prepared with mussels.

Though wild and sustainably caught seafood is generally ideal, it’s better to buy farm-raised clams and mussels. They are raised on ropes suspended above the sea floor, which makes them less gritty than wild clams and mussels dredged from the ocean floor. Dredging up wild clams and mussels can also damage the ocean’s ecosystem.

Even though I’m mostly MIA for a bit, there are still ways to get your Russ Crandall fix (is there such a thing?), should you need it. Next week, I’ll be participating in the Virtual Ultimate Health Summit, which focuses on restoring your health through lessons on diet, sleep, energy, hormones, body image, confidence and stress. I am one of 16 panelists, and I’ll be talking about how history, food culture, and health can combine to find that perfect balance of tasty food and healthy diet, with an emphasis on safe starches (no surprise there, right?). It’s free to enroll, and runs for two weeks, so check it out!

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I love buying frozen fish. It’s super handy and still tastes great since many fishermen can flash-freeze it almost immediately after harvesting. And while fish thaws quickly, the thawing process is still a tiny pain in the butt; so I started looking for ways to forgo the whole “thawing” thing altogether (sheesh, how lazy can I get?). And that’s when I stumbled upon my new best friend, Torsk.

The word Torsk itself means “cod” in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, but also is often used to describe a cod dish in Scandinavia that is sometimes cooked from a frozen state. Perfect. When researching Torsk recipes, I found that they were either poached or broiled; never one to do something halfway, I decided to do both methods in the same recipe to get the best of both worlds. Pulling this dish off is a little different from your typical recipe, but don’t worry, I’m here to walk you through the process. I’m really excited about this recipe, especially because you can pull fish out of the freezer and put it on your dinner table in 20 minutes. It just can’t be beat in terms of convenience and tastiness.

Most broiled versions of Torsk call for butter, but in order to keep the butter from burning I mixed in an equal amount of ghee (which has a much higher smoking point since it doesn’t have milk solids). Lately I’ve been using Tin Star Foods ghee, which is hand-poured in small batches using Kerrygold butter (from grass-fed cows). This ghee is awesome – smooth, flavorful, and rich. Definitely worth your time.

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Having spent most of my 20s in Hawaii, we regularly made trips to Giovanni’s shrimp truck in Kahuku to enjoy their signature dish: garlic shrimp. The shrimp is pan-fried in an aromatic scampi sauce, and served with a cubic ton of garlic. I have regularly tackled this dish since moving to the mainland in 2008, but it wasn’t until this past year that I really figured out how to recreate the dish at home.

My process includes marinating and par-cooking the shrimp in butter, then reducing the marinating liquid and garlic until it’s crispy, and finally returning the shrimp to the pan to finish everything off. I have made a couple adjustments over the years that ended up making a big difference in the final product. In order to prevent the butter from burning, I used clarified butter (or ghee) which has a higher smoke point than butter (previously I used olive oil, which I don’t like using at high temperatures). Also, by using tail-on (or even shelled) shrimp, the marinating liquid better penetrates the shrimp, making for a more flavorful (and less messy) experience.

For clarification (no pun intended), there is a difference between clarified butter and ghee, although the two are often confused. Clarified butter is butter with its milk solids removed, generally scraped from the surface of the butter as it gently simmers. Ghee, on the other hand, is made when the milk solids are allowed to fall to the bottom of the butter and brown as the butter simmers. Ghee has a more toasted flavor than the more neutral clarified butter.

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Tilapia has been an important food source in North Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years, but has only recently been gaining ground in the United States. Over the past 50 years, worldwide consumption of this fish has skyrocketed, and for good reason: tilapia is fast-growing, lean, low in mercury, and can thrive on an algae or vegetarian diet.

While wild-caught fish is always preferred, farmed tilapia has an extremely low toxin profile and minimal environmental impact when raised in the right conditions. Tilapia is one of the most sustainable and inexpensive farmed fish; by comparison, it takes over 3 pounds of wild fish to produce only 1 pound of farmed salmon. In a world of decreasing wild fish options, I think it’s prudent to find the next best thing. Seek out tilapia farmed in the United States, as they are better observed than in many other countries, especially fish farms in China and Southeast Asia.

Farmed tilapia does not have the same Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio as other, wild-caught fish, but it is still an excellent protein source – it just shouldn’t be treated like an Omega-3 rich meal. Instead, we like to think of it as the nutritional equivalent of chicken breast; not a robust source of vitamins and nutrients, but still great to have from time to time.

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Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew first developed in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Originally made by Italian fisherman who had settled in the region, it was crafted directly on fishing boats using rudimentary cooking tools before making its way into local restaurants and beyond. Much like the French Bouillabaisse or the Eastern European Brudet, Cioppino is made with a variety of seafood, depending on whatever is on hand. Also, apparently I’m obsessed with tomato-based seafood stews, because this is my third such recipe in the past year.

The origin of this dish’s name is the subject of some debate. The most likely answer is that it comes from the word ciuppin, which means “chopped” in the Ligurian dialect spoken in Genoa, Italy’s largest seaport, from where many immigrants in the San Francisco area originated. The idea is that fishermen chopped up a bunch of fish for the stew. There’s also a seafood stew from Genoa called Ciuppin, so there’s that, too. But a more compelling origin is that the name comes from Italian-Americans asking their fellow fishermen to “chip in” some seafood for a communal feast, and their broken English formed the word we know today as Cioppino.

No matter its etymology, this is a quick and versatile dish to make for any weeknight or weekend, allowing you to maximize your flavors based on whatever seafood is on sale at your local market. For us, king crab was (somewhat) affordable the other day, so that’s what we used to spice up our dinner. Just stick with the underlying foundation of the recipe and you can’t go wrong.

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Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

So, did you see the news? The Whole30 program now includes white potatoes. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Whole30, it is a 30-day eating program with a moderately strict interpretation of the Paleo template – no alcohol, sweeteners of any kind, or faux foods (like almond flour pancakes); in my cookbook, I reference it as “a tough-love plan to transform your diet.” It’s especially popular right around the New Year, as people look to clean up their eating habits.

Since its inception, the Whole30 has forbidden white potatoes, likely due to the fact that most potatoes are eaten in the form of chips or french fries. I have been an advocate for white potatoes since first changing my diet in 2010, after reading about the Perfect Health Diet. My inclusion of those little delicious tubers on this site has constantly confused readers who were introduced to Paleo through the Whole30 concept. So I’m happy to see that potatoes are gaining more acceptance as a whole food that has just as many nutrients as its favored cousin, the sweet potato.

White potatoes serve as an excellent example of mindful eating. They have a moderately high glycemic load, but studies have shown that it is greatly reduced when eaten with certain foods, especially fats and acids. So be sure to smother your baked potato with butter and sour cream. Also, the skin of white potatoes are high in glycoalkaloids, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation. This is a known issue – in fact, modern potatoes are much lower in glycoalkaloids than in earlier history, as farmers cultivated certain potatoes (especially the russet potato) to be more digestible.

Preparation of potatoes is also important; when compared to white bread, boiled potatoes are 323% more satisfying per calorie. Potato chips? Only 91% as satisfying. That’s why most people are able to easily eat three potatoes’ worth of potato chips, when they’d have a hard time eating three boiled potatoes in one sitting. So at our house, we typically only eat our potatoes boiled (and mashed) or baked. Or twice baked, like in today’s recipe.

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Bacalhau à Brás is a Portuguese dish using salted cod (bacalhau), eggs, and potatoes. The Portuguese were one of the first European cultures to fish for cod, making huge harvests and preserving the fish off the coast of Newfoundland shortly after Columbus discovered the New World. Since then, this salted cod has been an integral part of Portuguese culture, and it’s often said that you can cook a new recipe using bacalhau every day of the year (some say there are over 1,000 recipes that include this fish). Advances in fishing technology in the mid 20th century had collapsed the Northwest Atlantic cod market by the 1990s – cod takes a long time to mature, and overfishing had run rampant. Today, bacalhau is most often made using cod harvested from Arctic waters under more strict quotas.

Bacalhau is made by salting and drying the fish in the sun; while it was originally a method of preservation (salted cod keeps a long time even without refrigeration), its unique, strong flavor is unmistakable and delicious, and its popularity endures today. The only downside to eating bacalhau is that it requires a bit of foresight, since it needs to be soaked overnight to reconstitute the fish.

Bacalhau à Brás is one of the most famous Portuguese dishes, and is considered the ultimate comfort meal in Portugal. The dish uses many of the quintessential ingredients found in Portuguese cooking – bacalhau, eggs, potatoes, and black olives.

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