Originally from Peru, this seafood dish has become almost common all over South America and Mexico, especially in coastal towns. Ceviche has to be made with the very freshest ingredients possible since no heat is used in cooking this dish in its purest form.

Most people first get exposed to ceviche in a restaurant that serves Latin American cuisine. And it seems intimidating to prepare at first but really it’s not that complicated and well worth the effort.

In the US many restaurants are forced by state laws to cook the dish with heat before adding citrus for food safety concerns. But if you are making this dish at home and you trust your seafood source this dish is much more authentic using lime juice to “cook” the meat. The acid in the citrus juice will cause the meat to take on the characteristics it would have if it were cooked with heat. But with this method comes the risk of food contamination so you need to have a very clean work area when you prepare it.

Ceviche can be made with almost any kind of seafood but is usually made with shrimp, fish or conch or some kind of combination of 2 or 3 of the above.

Raw conch meat

For mine I am going to use conch, shrimp, squid steak, fish and bay scallops. I will admit mine is unusual but no less authentic. Conch is a sea snail about 8″ long in its shell usually found in the carribean and in cuisine the most used and best conch is the Queen conch. Mine comes from a farm in Caicos.

When cutting your ingredients you will want to cut the pieces roughly the same size. For mine I am cutting 1/2″ pieces.

Humboldt squid steak

If you use squid you can use the rings which give a more exotic appearance but I prefer squid steaks because they are much more tender. Squid steaks come from the mantle of 40-100 lb specimens usually caught off the coast of Brazil or Peru.

Wild Halibut fillets

And because I want different textures I have included fish in mine. Not shown but also added are shrimp and bay scallops.

Red onions are best fir flavor and visual appeal.

And for vegetables and herbs – Onions and Cilantro are added along with the lime juice. If you are one of those people that absolutely cannot abide the flavor of cilantro, you can substitute parsley here but it will take on a completely different flavor profile. And lastly you want to add one diced tomato.

I will mince this cilantro up well before adding it to the ceviche

And the primary catalyst ngredient is our lime juice. I am using about a cup here.

1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice.

Everything gets cut up and mixed together in the lime juice. You want the meat evenly coated with the lime juice.

You want enough lime juice so that everything is bathed in it.
Everything is added including a whole tomato and mixed very well.

After adding salt and black pepper, I refrigerate this covered for 4 hours to marinate.

You will want to drain out the citrus marinade juice in a colander after it sits for 4 hours.

Cold and refreshing, this is best served with some minced hot chilis but I would let my diners add that (I provide it at the table) as not everyone likes it spicy.

This is an excellent summer meal, low in carbs and very high in protein. I like mine spicy so I will mince 4 or 5 Thai Dragon chilis and stir it into my own serving. Because I used different types of seafood here, I have different textures which is what I was going for. I will confess now that you aren’t going to get all the different seafood flavors here which is why typically this dish is made with with only one kind of fish.

Ceviche (serves 8-10 as a main course)


  • 1 lb fresh or thawed frozen conch meat cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 lb fish fillets (red snapper, grouper or halibut) cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 Humboldt squid steaks cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 red onion chopped well
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro or parsley
  • 1 beefsteak tomato diced
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp salt or to taste


  • In a large bowl (preferably one that has a cover) mix all ingredients well making sure that all meat gets a good coating of lime juice
  • Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours minimum
  • Drain the ceviche in a colander and discard the juice
  • Serve over Bibb lettuce and optionally with corn chips
  • Offer minced chilis to diners



She Crab Soup

Out of all the over the top savory dishes I make that might come out of a 5 star restaurant this one has to be the easiest to make.  Provided you can get all the ingredients.  She crab soup is a South Carolina favorite but it can be found in Georgia, Alabama as well as around Louisiana.  It is a personal favorite of mine and my younger brother Rick.  My children have come to love it too.  There are many variations on this dish but one thing they all have in common is that you can’t really call them “She crab” soup unless they have that ubiquitous roe from the female crab. And that ingredient is not easy to come by.  I get mine from the very kind people at Charleston Seafood who are very helpful and about the only seafood purveyor that has it – http://www.charlestonseafood.com – and I do highly recommend them for their outstanding customer service.

Many recipes call for 8 oz of lump crab meat.  But I start with a lb.  You could add backfin crabmeat too for the small pieces but the standard recipe generally calls for 8 oz to 1 lb of the lump.

In addition to fresh crabmeat (the above has already been cooked) you need a few other ingredients.

Above I have some dry sherry, two large shallots, a pair of bay leaves and some mixed peppercorns (white, Telicherry, Malabar and some pink).  And lastly I have crab base there in the upper right corner – the stuff I have there is made from Dungeness crab and seasoned before it’s concentrated which is why my spice mix above is rather scant.  I also don’t like to add any salt at this stage (besides my base has some in it).

Above I have been sauteeing my peppercorns, bay leaves and chopped shallots in butter for about 10 minutes at medium heat before adding a cup of whole milk.  I’ll let that cook for a while (maybe 3 minutes) while I whisk that together and then you will want to strain all solid ingredients out of the milk broth.

The above solid ingredients can be discarded.  They’ve done their part and are no longer needed.  Pour the strained milk broth back into the pot.

At this point I aill add 1/4 cup of that crab base and a quart of half and half and whisk it well over medium high heat.  You will want to stir this often to avoid build up or scorching on the bottom.

I will mix 4 Tbs of corn starch with 1/4 cup of dry sherry and 1/2 cup of milk.  Whisk that together in a separate container until all of the starch is dissolved in the liquid.  Once it becomes a slurry with no lumps, pour that into your pot and whisk well.

After the crab, the roe is the most important ingredient if we’re going to call it “she crab” soup.  I like to take out 1/4 to 1/3 cup of this amber-gold treasure and break it up into my pot with my bare fingers.  Then whisk everything together well.  From a dining exploration standpoint that roe reminds me of a high end Bottarga without all the salt.  You get that crab-fish taste and a barely perceptible (And I mean barely – you have to be looking for it) faintly wax texture that you get with Sardinian Bottarga.  And that really pleases me and is one of the many reasons I love this dish so much.  If you’ve ever had food that had Bottarga with it in any shape or form, this dish will seem to have vestiges of that experience.  It did for me anyway.

When the soup starts to thicken because of the starch – I add two cups of heavy cream and whisk well.  The only ingedient left now is the crab meat.  You can wait to add it and divvy it up at the table and distrubute it among your diners, putting it in the center of the bowl for presentation which many restaurants do.  Or you can just add the meat and stir it in as I did.

See those little orange and yellow specs?  That’s your she crab roe and it does add some balance and extra character to the dish.  It adds a delicate crab flavor that distinguishes She Crab Soup from just an ordinary bisque.  You really want to make the effort to get the roe and not just for the right to use the “She” label.  Trust me it’s a different experience without it.  When serving you will want to make extra sherry and maybe some hot sauce available to your diners.  This is a very rich dish with so much history.  Some have it that President Taft was visiting Mayor Rhett in the early 1900’s when she-crab soup was created. They were dining at the John Rutledge House when Mayor Rhett asked his butler to create a fancier version of the Scottish recipe of partan-bree (or crab and rice). The butler simply added crab roe (crab eggs), making the soup creamier and therefore creating she-crab soup.

Now I have seen versions in restaurants that are more pinkish looking and I will tell you it’s not because of the crab roe.  Some restaurants will add tomato paste for color and to mellow the flavor some.  But I like sticking with the authentic recipe.  But you can do what you want with yours.  This is a fall or winter dish that you’d serve in the same fashion they do with Oyster Stew up North.

It’s a warming, heavy dish suited for colder weather and is a signature dish from the Carolina and Georgia coast.  To many of us Southerners it is a true delicacy.  I invite you to enjoy this recipe.

She Crab Soup (Serves 8 as a starter soup or main meal)


  • 1 lb lump crab meat
  • 1 large shallot chopped well
  • 1/4 cup crab base
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tabespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 cups milk divided
  • 1 quart half and half
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4-1/3 cup blue crab roe
  • 1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 tsp chopped chives (optional)


  • In a stock pot, begin sauteeing the butter, peppercorns and bay leaves on medium heat for a few minures.
  • Add 1 cup of milk to the pot and whisk well.
  • Simmer for about 5 minutes to get the flavors out of your spices and then strain, keeping the liquid and discarding the solids.
  • Mix the sherry, 1/2 cup milk and starch together well to completely dissolve the starch.
  • Add the half and half and the corn starch/sherry slurry to the pot and whisk very well.
  • Add the crab base to the pot and whisk in well.
  • Agg the crab roe to the pot, breaking up lups with your fingers ehere necessary and whisk in well.
  • At this point I like to taste the soup and see if it needs anything.  It shouldn’t but you can add pepper or sherry as needed.  It should not need salt because of the crab base.
  • Cook a few more minutes whisking gently until the soup thickens.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Fold in your crab meat and stir gently.
  • Ladle into bowls and serve.  You can add chopped chives as a garnish.




Seared Teriyaki Humboldt Squid Steak

In 2015, the country of Peru applied for a sustainable resource harvest permit for Humboldt squid.  It is a predatory cephalopod that can reach 100 kilograms in mass and can even be a threat to humans if you venture out to far at sea during the night.  Prior to 2015 Humboldt squid were considered inedible because like the giant and collossal types of squid, their flesh contains ammonia used to lend bouyancy to the animal.  But someone or some group figured out not only how to get around this problem of ammonia but to both find the best meat on the animal and properly tenderize it.

The steak you see here comes from the mantle of a Humboldt squid and has both an inside and an outside layer of skin removed (from both sides of the steak you see here) and is pounded to make it more tender.

The first time I ever had this was in a Japanese hibachi restaurant a couple months ago and I became fixated on where it came from and how to get it.  I ordered it with fried rice at the time and was amazed at not only how flavorful, but how tender it was.  Now anyone who regularly reads my blog here knows that I am no stranger to squid.  But before spring of this year (2018) I had never seen nor heard of these steaks.  But they are starting to become more well known and my reason for putting this recipe here is not to show people how to make some compex dish they may have heard about but didn’t know how to cook but rather to introduce a newly available food to those, who like me, may not have heard of it before.

Before I continue I must first disclose that this steak is absolutely delicious. And more tender than squid rings.  Fried calamari only wishes it could be so tender!  And cooking it is so simple that I am almost embarassed to publish it here.  But I will 😉

All you need is a little oil or non stick cooking spray, some salt and pepper as well as a little Teriyaki sauce.  I also like to add some Thai basil to mine.

After dusting with a mere pinch of salt and pepper (don’t overdo it), I like to sear it until it gets brown on both sides like you see here.  That takes about 4 minutes on each side.  You should only flip it once because the squid will start to curl if you flip it too quickly.  It sticks to the pan slightly because of the moisture which keeps it from curling so only flip it once after 4 minutes on medium high heat.

After flipping once, I will add some Teriyaki sauce after 2 more minutes.  I like this particular brand of Teriyaki sauce from my grocer because it is thick and very tasty.  But use whatever you like.

I’ll add a few basil leaves (maybe 4-5 per steak) to the sauce.  This will make a delicious glaze and coating for the meat.

And because I had this at a hibachi grill, I am in the habit of cutting the whole steak up into bite sized pieces before I ever start eating it.  The steaks are about 1/3″ thick and as I said – very tender.  Another interesting fact about Humboldt squid is that they recently started showing up off the coast of Maine and have become a nuisance pest, eating many of the food items we normally harvest there.  But these squid are not harvested in the U.S. yet.  At present the only countries harvesting Humboldt squid from the ocean are Peru and China.

This is about the most exciting new cuisine I have had in a very long time.  When you have been cooking as long as I have, there are few if any surprises left.  So this was a huge boon to me and I encourage you to try it.  They are very inexpensive for now and you can find them at Sprouts Farmers market for about $5.99 per lb.  You can get two steaks for less than that.  As these become more popular I do expect the price to go up.

And here is my very simple but refreshing recipe.

Seared Teriyaki Humboldt Squid Steak (serves 1 per steak)


  • 1-2 Humboldt squid steaks
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 tablesoons of good quality Teriyaki sauce
  • 4-5 Thai basil leaves per steak
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil or spray pan with no stick spray.


  • Dust steaks with salt and pepper.  Be sparing because pepper can overwhelm  them.
  • Heat a no stick cooking pan over medium high heat until hot
  • Spray pan with no stick spray or add oil
  • Lay squid steaks in the pan and cook for 4 minutes on medium high undisturbed (until browned on lower side).
  • Flip steaks and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add Teriyaki sauce to the top (already done) side and add Thai basil leaves.
  • Cook 2 more minutes or until bottom side is done.
  • Serve with steamed rice.
  • If desired, cut steaks into bite sized pieces before serving.

Thank you!



Clear Broth Clam Soup

This dish is for serious clam lovers!!!  It can be made with almost any clam but works best with live topneck or cherrystone clams as they have the most meat without being too tough to eat.

You want to scrub the outside of each clam to remove all sand and grit.  Here I have 2 dozen cherrystone clams but I think my fish monger snuck a couple of quahogs in there.   But if I don’t overcook them it shouldn’t matter.  At this size the clams are great for steaming.    I prefer them in this kind of clear broth meal instead of a chowder during the summer so it isn’t too heavy.  This soup is quite nourishing without leaving you feeling stuffed.

First we add 2 cups of cold water to our pot.

Then 1 quarter cup of dry white wine.  Here I am using a Chardonnay. After that we add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce instead of salt.  The clams have a lot of salt on their own but the fish sauce will give our broth some depth of flavor.

Among the fresh herbs I grow during the summer, one of them is silverleaf thyme which is in the lower right corner of the picture above.  I add just a small pinch of these to my broth.  Don’t add too much but this will give us a lemony thyme taste in our finished soup.

Bring the liquid in the pot to a boil.  Here I have all my clams scrubbed and ready to cook.

Into the pot they go where they will cook covered for 10 minutes.  Make sure to cover them.  You want them to cook until all the shells open.

Strain out the broth and reserve it.  We want to remove all the clams from their shells except for one.   Take one that looks pretty and set it aside and remove the clams from the rest of the shells.  Then pour as much broth as is needed for the soup.  Add the clams and then put the decorative one you saved into the bowl.  Season with cayenne pepper and add 2 TBS of butter.

There’s enough clams here for two servings.  Sometimes I get a real craving for steamed clams.  And this soup takes care of that.  The broth is very light in contrast to the very bold flavor of the clams.   I make this more often for lunch than for dinner.


Here is the recipe:

South Carolina Clear Broth Clam Soup (serves 2)


  • 2 dozen live cherrystone clams or 3 dozen top neck clams
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs good quality Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • Pinch of fresh silverleaf or regular thyme leaves
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbs butter divided
  • 1/2 tsp Tom Yum paste (optional but gives it a Thai flair)


  • Scrub all clams to remove any sand or grit
  • Add water thyme, wine and fish sauce to a large pot with a tight fitting lid
  • Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat
  • Add Tom Yum paste if using.
  • Add clams to the pot and cover
  • Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes
  • Strain the broth and reserve
  • in 2 bowls put 11 of the clams without shells and put one remaining clam in shell each bowl for decoration
  • Top off each bowl with the reserved broth
  • Add 2 Tbs butter to each bowl
  • Add 1 pinch of Cayenne to each bowl and serve

Thank you!


Maryland Style Crab Cakes

One of the things I loved during my teen years in Maryland was crabbing in Ocean City Maryland under the 11th street bridge in the marshy saw grass  with a steel net basket and an ice filled cooler and later, eating crab cakes made from our catch.  Now the term ‘Crab Cake’ can mean a lot of things to different people but to me it is a prime delicacy with almost no filler type ingredients.  Indeed if you were to purchase a crab cake frozen dinner at your local grocer you would very likely end up with crab broth flavored bread crumbs which is an insult to the original intent of this dish.

In its earliest form, people would pick through steamed crabs removing meat by hand until they’d collected enough to start making these sweet lumps of heavenly goodness.  But most restaurants today will use canned, pasteurized crabmeat from a wholesaler.  Today I confess I do the same but it still brings me back to the days when my buddy Sam and I would go crabbing as teenagers in Ocean City.  In my recipe here I will use 2 lbs of crab meat (1 lb of colossal lump crab meat and 1 lb of backfin crab meat).  I start by preheating my oven to 350 degrees.

The process of making the cakes themselves is very simple.  Put all crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure there are no bits of shell in them (to the best of your ability).  You do not want to break up the chunks of crab meat if you can help it.

Then you will mix the other ingredients separately which will include 1 egg, 1/4 cup of mayonaise, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs.  That’s right – I said just one tablespoon of bread crumbs for 2 lbs of crab meat.

Beat the egg and combine with the other wet ingredients with a whisk.  Then gently fold in the crab meat, mixing all the ingredients together being careful not to break up the larger lumps.  You want this mostly dry (no wet ingredients pooling at the bottom).  If you do get liquids pooling at the bottom, you added too much and you will want to drain that off.  That should not happen with the proportions I provide here however.

I take a large ice cream scoop and put the scooped out crab meat on a cookie sheet lined with foil that I spray with Pam or some other non stick cooking spray.

Above I have eleven 3 oz crab cakes dusted with paprika.  I will bake these at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and remove them.  I then put the oven on the low broil setting.  I put a generous pad of unsalted butter on each crab cake and put them back in the oven on the highest rack.

In they go under the low broil for 12 minutes.  I like to watch them carefully as you do not want them to burn here.  The reason I bake them before broiling is because baking them sets the egg and makes the crab cakes stay together better with what little breading we have in them.

After 12 minutes, the cakes are done.  I like to allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving them.

Now you can serve them with a dijon mustard and mayonaise topping or dip with capers or an aioli.  But I like to eat them just as they are.  These are extremely rich and I can manage about 1 and a half cakes before I am full along with a vegetable.

Here is the complete recipe:

Maryland Style Crab Cakes (serves 10 as an appetizer or 6 as a main course with a vegetable side)


  • 1 lb jumbo or colossal lump crab meat picked clean of shell bits
  • 1 lb backfin crab meat picked clean of shell bits
  • 1 TBS bread crumbs (panko or standard)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Paprika (enough to dust each crab cake)
  • 1 pad of butter for each crab cake


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine everything but the crab meat and butter in a large bowl, whisking well to combine.
  • Gently fold in all the crab meat.
  • Onto a cookie sheet lined with foil prepared with non stick cooking spray, scoop out as many crab cakes as you can with a large ice cream scoop
  • Dust each crab cake with paprika
  • Bake for 15 minutes and remove from oven.
  • Move the top oven rack to its highest position.
  • Set the oven to broil (low setting).
  • Place a pad of butter on each crab cake
  • Broil for 12 minutes or until the paprika starts to darken.
  • Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Serve



Cajun Seafood Gumbo

This dish is a strong flavored American classic with roots in the swamps of Louisiana.  Cuisine like this was developed with the idea of stretching ingredients (with lots of sauce and seasonings as well as cheap rice) for the purpose of feeding larger groups of people.  When the Acadians of Canada resettled in the Southern edge of the US after 1755, life was hard.  The people there literally had to eat whatever they dragged out of the swamp.  Anyone who has watched an episode of “Swamp People” on television knows how hardy these people are.  If you go after 10-12 foot carnivorous lizards to make a living, you’ve had to make some harsh adaptations.  And some families have made their living hunting alligators in the swamps for the last 300 years.

While making this recipe I had visions of a mother cooking up a roux with papa tending the simmering stock with kids ranging from 2-12 playing around the fire with an alligator roped to a tree.  Then suddenly papa yells “Run chillun!!  Dat alligatuh is gettin’ away!  Go get him o’ we gonna have nuffin’ to eat!!!!”

Though this recipe does not include alligator meat, I suppose you could make it with some and it would still be authentic.  My recipe here uses seafood and the ubiquitous Andouille sausage found everywhere in Louisiana.  Gumbo traditionally also uses okra as both a vegetable and as a thickening agent.  I do not like okra except fried or pickled in a bloody mary so my recipe here omits it.  But feel free to add it with the aromatics during that step if you want okra in your gumbo.  What separates my method from traditional Cajun cooking is my use of a microwave to make the roux.  This saves an hour off the cooking time easily despite the groaning of traditional Cajun cooks.

Above I have peeled about 8 oz of shrimp and I am saving the shells which I will use in my stock.  Never throw away shrimp shells!!  I save them in freezer bags and freeze them.  Now what I have here is not nearly enough to make a proper stock so I had to take some from my freezer.

Above I have started a pot with 3 bay leaves, some thyme sprigs and about 6 scored and bruised sage leaves.  I’ll add a little bit of salt or a chicken bouillon cube as well (a little salt helps extract flavors from these ingredients).

In addition to my shrimp shells I had half a chicken carcass I had saved from a previous dinner.  After you carve up a roast chicken for a family meal it is my hope that you save the carcass and freeze it like I do.  Nothing is better for making homemade stocks.  You can add chicken feet and necks from an Asian market for an even richer broth.  I’ll simmer this stock covered for about an hour and 20 minutes on low heat.

Here I am setting up the fat for my roux.  Above you see a tablespoon each of ghee (clarified butter) and bacon grease.  To that I have added a tablespoon of butter flavored popcorn oil.

Then I top it off with vegetable oil so that I have one cup of fat.

To this I will add 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.  Do not pack the flour and try to measure exactly.  It makes a difference.  If you don’t scrape the flour off the top for perfectly measured cups, you can have either lumps or oil separating from your flour after cooking which no one likes.

And here is the raw mixture of oil and flour whisked together.  It takes about 12-15 minutes (depending on the power of your microwave) to cook this so you will want to wait until your stock is ready before you start cooking the roux.

Now for our aromatics.  What you see above are what’s called the Holy Trinity “and the pope” flavor components of Cajun cuisine.  Garlic is “the pope” as it’s not always used.  For the holy trinity itself we have orange bell pepper (which I used for color as well as flavor), white onion, and celery.  The garlic I will mince up before using.

Here’s my chicken and shrimp stock drained and ready for use.  That’s REAL stock.  You can buy cartons of stock but I prefer to make my own.  The difference in flavor of the final product is very telling.  We will use about 2 quarts of stock here.

And here I have about 1 lb of crawfish tails.  I love these things passionately so it will be my most plentiful ingredient.

Sliced Andouille sausage is next.  I have about 8 oz there.

8 oz each of shrimp (cut into pieces) and bay scallops.  Also not shown here is 1/2 lb of canned crab meat which I add toward the end of cooking.

And here I have started the roux which is the base and thickener of Cajun sauces adapted from classic French cooking.  After 6 minutes you can see that the mixture is now a medium brown color.

Two words of caution here.  You MUST use pyrex glass here.  Normal glass will likely break from the extreme heat generated from our oil and a plastic measuring cup is absolutely out of the question as it will melt and burn with the hot oil.  The other point is once you start this – watch it carefully.  If there is any moisture in your flour, the mixture will bubble over the top as steam starts to expand from the flour.  And keep a paper towel under the cup in case this DOES happen and you aren’t fast enough to catch it.  It will save some time in cleanup.

Beyond the 6 minutes, you will want to go about a minute at a time between stirring and when it gets even darker, stir every 30 seconds.  The darker the roux gets, the less thickening power it has which is why I started with a whole cup of oil with 1.5 cups of flour.  Any less and at least in my humble opinion, the gumbo will be too thin.  Here we have the roux the color I like it.  A muddy chocolate brown.

I add the roux to a large pot on low heat and add my vegetables.  Stir this well.  It will immediately thicken the roux and form a hash.  This is normal.  The vegetables should hiss upon contact with the hot roux and start to cook.  This is when we start adding our stock a little at a time.

You will want to whisk the stock and the roux together well, adding a little stock at a time and mixing well with the whisk before adding more stock.  It is after this that I will cover the pot and simmer this for about 25 minutes.

Above you can see I have added all my meats and 2 tablespoons of filé powder which you can get at any grocer.  Filé powder is made from the dried and ground leaves of the North American Sassafras tree.  It is both a thickener and adds flavor.  It is at this point that I will also add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of fish sauce (instead of salt) and about 1/4 cup of Cajun seasonings.  The last meat I put in (not shown here) is 1 lb of lump crabmeat because its already cooked and doesn’t stand up well to lots of stirring (flakes apart).  I then cover and simmer this for another 5-10 minutes and then it is ready to serve.

Gumbo is traditionally served with rice.  Often as little as a tablespoon full or as much as you like.  Most people will use a long grain rice here and you will hear Uncle Ben’s mentioned a lot by Cajun cooks.  Traditionally a poor man’s food, the gumbo makes large, cheap plates of rice more palatable for filling bellies.  I like using my Japanese Koshihikari rice as it sticks together well for presentation but comes apart easily when spooned out with the hot gravy.  This dish is reminiscnent of Japanese Kare Raisu (curried rice).

Ladle your gumbo around the rice carefully.  You will note below that I preach better than I practice.

For presentation I wiped the rim of the bowl here.  A professional would plate this such that the rice looks pristine white surrounded by the gravy.  This is where my status as a hobbyist and not a professional comes through.  But I cook mainly for taste and I can tell you the flavor of this dish is absolutely fantastic despite any shortcomings in appearance.

This is traditionally a stew but bursting with flavors.  A real “stick to your ribs” kind of meal.

And here is the recipe:

Cajun Seafood Gumbo (serves 8-10 as a main course)


  • 2 dry measure cups of uncooked rice (chef’s choice)
  • 1 lb crawfish tails (precooked is fine if you can’t get fresh)
  • 1/2 lb sliced Andouille beef sausage
  • 1/2 lb peeled, cleaned and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 lb bay scallops
  • 1/2 lb lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 bell pepper minced
  • 1/2 large (or 1 whole medium) white onion minced
  • 2 whole celery ribs minced
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 Tbs filé powder
  • 1/4 cup Cajun seasoning
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (to taste)
  • 2 quarts of your favorite stock or broth (or you can use my recipe)
  • 1 cup of some kind of oil (feel free to get creative here as I did in my example above)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Stock (if using my recipe)

  • 1 lb shrimp shells
  • 1/2 or a whole previously cooked chicken carcass stripped of most meat
  • 3 bay leaves broken
  • 6 sage leaves bruised and scored
  • 3 whole sprigs thyme
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • Sufficient water to mostly fill a 4 quart stock pot.


  • Simmer the stock covered for 80 minutes (if using my stock recipe) before doing anything else
  • Mix the oil and flour (hereafter referred to as the roux) in a 1 litre or larger Pyrex glass bowl or measuring cup
  • Microwave the roux for 6 minutes and watch it carefully.  If it starts to bubble towards the top of the glass, stop the microwave and stir the mixture.  As the roux cooks and the moisture in the flour evaporates, this will be less and less likely to happen (bubbling over).  Stir well at the end of 6 minutes.
  • Continue microwaving the roux for 2 more minutes, again watching carefully.  The roux will start to darken.  Stir well.
  • Continue microwaving the roux now for 30 second intervals watching the color of it very carefully and stirring in between.  You want a brown to dark brown color depending on your tastes.  The darker the roux gets the more character the flavor has but the less thickening capability it will have.
  • When the roux reaches the desired color, pour it into a large pot and put on the stove at medium heat.
  • Add all the vegetables and stir well, cooking the veggies in the thickening roux.
  • After about 30 seconds, slowly start adding the stock, whisking it into the roux well.
  • After all the stock has been mixed in, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • While the stew simmers, cook whatever rice you plan to use with the meal.
  • After the simmer, add all the meats and stir well.
  • Add the fish sauce and Cajun seasonings and stir well.
  • Add the filé powder and stir well.
  • Simmer for 8-10 more minutes.  Feel free to taste and add hot pepper to the gumbo at this stage if you want it spicier.
  • Add the crab meat and gently fold in.
  • Form the rice into small mounds in the center of your serving bowls.
  • Carefully ladle the gumbo around the rice.
  • Serve.



Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice

This is just about one of my favorite fried rice dishes.  And three months ago I had never heard of it.  I went into a Malaysian/Thai restaurant I go to now and then and saw this on the menu.  They had three “salted fish” dishes and this one was recommended by our waiter so I ordered it.  And I was amazed at how delicious and simple it was.  Nothing haute cuisine-ish.  Just delicious taste without being fishy.  So I set out to duplicate this at home since I loved it so much.  I spent weeks researching ingredients and testing things.  And I will tell you I made some dreadful mistakes.  What you see here is the correct recipe with the bugs worked out.

The most important ingredient to mention here is the salted fish.  The dish gets a LOT of flavor from this one ingredient and if you don’t get the right salted fish, it will be a disaster.  Online research was very little help in this area so I had to go out and experiment.

What you see here is the correct ingredient though you might also find it in chunks without the skin.  What I have above is dried, salted Yellow Croaker.  It is the whole fish gutted and then dehydrated.  The meat has the texture of stringy beef jerky and a mellow salty fish taste.  It is not putrid smelling but it does smell like fish.  To use this, you peel the flesh off of the skin which will have (the skin) a firm leathery texture.  After peeling off about a dry measure cup of loose dried meat, you will want to mince it with a sharp knife.

What you see above is your dried, salted fish removed from the skin and minced.  If you can find it without the skin that is fine.  But I love what I have here despite it looking creepy because I know what I have here was made by the staff at this farmers market and therefore fresh and quality controlled.  And when I say it looks creepy – check the image below for what the dried fish looks like flipped over…

So with this ingredient explained and prepared, lets move onto the rest of the pieces.

Here we have day old long grain Jasmine rice cooked in a rice cooker and then refrigerated overnight.  I wet my hands and broke up the clumps into individual grains of rice to make what you see here. You want the grains as separate as possible before frying.

Above I have everything except for the fried rice sauce.  Starting with the oil and going clockwise, we have vegetable oil, thin slices of chicken tenderloins, 3 eggs beaten, minced garlic, cut snow pea pods, scallions and the flower buds from Chinese chives, green romaine lettuce minced into strips, minced salted fish, frozen vegetable mix and finally our rice in the center.

I get my wok burner very hot and preheat my oil.  But before I start cooking after the oil gets hot, I lower this heat to about 20%.

After the heat is lowered, I toss in my garlic and salted fish.  Gently fry these ingredients.  If you start smelling anything burning, drastically reduce the heat.  This dish is ruined if you burn any part of it.  In making this, my blast furnace of a wok burner is actually a handicap.  I had to be very careful here.  After you fry the fish and garlic for 20 seconds, move them aside and add the eggs and scramble them.

After the eggs are scrambled, add your chicken and start stirring well.  keep the food moving to avoid burning anything.  After this, I add my scallions and chive buds and snow pea pods.  Get the pods coated well with oil.

After the pea pods cook for about 15 seconds, add the rice.  Turn up the burner to about 30-40% and keep cooking.  Again if you even smell the hint of burning, back the heat off.  Dump in the frozen vegetables and the romaine lettuce.  You may be asking yourself what the romaine lettuce is for.  The salted fish is dry.  Mixing this food around here, the romaine will give up its moisture and help steam the fish.  It will make it a little softer so it’s not so much like beef jerky and the romaine also helps keep the moisture well balanced within the rice.  It seems strange but trust me, it works!

Carefully add the fried rice sauce, pouring in a spiral and mix well.  After another 45 seconds or so, remove the wok from the heat.

Move the rice to a large serving bowl.

Once again, without any ceremony or rituals my son does the taste test for me.  He likes this as much as I do.

And here is mine with hot peppers and fish sauce added to season.  I am so happy I was able to reverse engineer this dish to find out what was in it and make it myself.  This is not an especially sweet dish – mostly savory.  And unless you add hot peppers, it’s very mild too.  But what it lacks in peppery heat it more than makes of for in flavor!  Despite being full of salted fish, it does NOT have a fishy flavor at all.  Even people with an aversion to seafood flavors will be able to handle this dish.

Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice (serves 6-8 as a main course)


  • 4 dry measure cups of uncooked Jasmine long grain rice
  • 3/4 lb thin chicken filets cut into strips
  • 1 dry measure cup minced salted dried fish
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 large eggs beaten
  • 1 cup snow pea pods cut in half
  • 1 cup scallions
  • 3 tablespoons chinese chive flower buds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup romain lettuce greens minced into small strips
  • 3/4 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water


  • Cook the 4 cups of Jasmine rice the day before and refrigerate overnight
  • Wet hands and break the rice into individual grains.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl well
  • Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a wok.
  • When the oil starts to smoke, lower the heat by 70% and add the garlic and dried fish.
  • Fry gently, stirring carefully as not to break up the pieces of fish.
  • Move the garlic and fish up the side of the wok some and pour in the eggs
  • Scramble the eggs
  • Add the chicken and stir well with the other ingredients until the chicken starts turning opaque.
  • Add the snow pea pods and stir, frying gently.
  • Add the chive buds and scallions.  Stir well.
  • Increase the heat to 40%
  • Add the rice and if needed, add a little more oil to the center of the wok.  Stir well.
  • Add the frozen vegetables and the lettuce strips and mix well.
  • Pour in the fried rice sauce carefully in a spiral and stir well.
  • Cook another 45 seconds and remove from heat.
  • Put into a large bowl and serve.
  • Provide chopped peppers and fish sauce as desired.




Mediterranean Grilled Octopus

This is one of those dishes whose end product is often used in ANOTHER dish. You can eat this as it is after it is grilled or chill it and use it in a salad, soup or fried rice.  It is not an overly flavorful dish which is a good thing.  Most people who have never tried octopus think it is a very fishy tasting dish.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Octopus has its own flavor which is delicate and rich.

I like to get my octopus fresh at a local farmers market.  For this recipe I bought two octopi under 2 lbs in weight each. Mine were already cleaned (beaks and guts removed) such that everything I was given was edible.  The meat is very limp and pliable raw.  But even in sushi preparations octopus is never served raw.  So before we can grill it, the octopus must be simmered for over an hour.  I have about 3 lbs of octopus here so I will simmer mine for about 3 hours covered on low heat.

You want to pour in enough water to completely cover the octopus. Then add 1 cup red wine vinegar, your herbs, salt and pepper.  It looks rather flat here because it is still raw.

Ok, so here I have added some thyme sprigs, bay leaves, a little culantro, garlic, sage and parsley.  I also added a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons of salt.

Here I have also added one lemon half which I squeezed into the water and will stew with the meat and herbs.  Now that the water is hot, the octopus balls up and the flesh starts to get firm.  At this point the meat is completely inedible because it’s like rubber.  It is at this point that I cover it and lower the heat and cook oil the meat is tender.  After 90 minutes I flip the octopi over so that the bottoms cook some as well.  The herbs will lend some flavor but even if you overdo it with one or more herbs it won’t overpower the flavor of the octopus.  Trust me.

Have a large bowl or bucket with ice water (mostly ice) in sufficient quantity to submerge the octopi in.  When you remove them from the simmering herb water and vinegar, plunge them into the ice bath and stir.  Move them around preiodically in the ice bath but leave them in there for 20 minutes.  The action of the vinegar in the simmer and the sudden freezing water will make the flesh so tender you can literally pinch the tentacles off with your fingers.  In the above pictire, the octopi are cooked, shocked and drained.  Discard the water and cooked herbs as there isn’t really anything you can use that for.  That broth will be too bitter to be palatable.

And here I have the cooked octopus brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt.  Very exotic looking indeed!  At this point I’ll carve the meat up into sections ending in tentacles.  You do not want pieces too thick and if they are, trim them even if you have sections without tentacles attached.  You want 1″ or less thickness for the flesh here.

I sprinkled some more coarse kosher salt on the oiled tentacles before putting them on the fire.  The charcoal sear on this gives it a delicious flavor.  I dare confess after the meat comes off the grill, it will be at it’s absolute peak flavor.  If you store it to use it in something else it will be very tasty but it will slightly less flavorful than it was when it first came off the fire. There is no way around this but it is still wonderful in a soup or salad, cut up in fried rice or even minced as a cold topping for canapé hors’deuvres.  I will grill it here for 12-15 minutes, turning every couple of minutes to get a good flame grilled flavor on all sides.

And the first batch is served.  You’ll note the paper plate in the background where I sliced off a piece to taste it first.  Wonderful mediterranean flavor! As the chef you have to do this 😉  I like this chilled in a salad as well with chopped red onions and radish slices along with a crisp romaine lettuce and a light Greek dressing (I’ll include a little fish sauce in the dressing for an umami punch).  If you do use it in a salad, cut the meat up further into small bite sized pieces.

Here is the recipe.

Mediterranean Grilled Octopus (serves 4-6)


  • 2 octopus cleaned and eviscerated (under 2 lbs each)
  • Enough water to cover the octopus in a stock pot.
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 6 garlic cloves cut in half
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 culantro leaves shredded
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
  • 6 sage leaves scored
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon cut in half with one half cut into wedges for serving.
  • 1 scallion (save for garnish at the end – do not add to the pot).
  • 1 bowl or bucket of ice water sufficient to submerge both octopi in after cooking.


  • Place the octopus in a stock pot that has a lid.
  • Cover the octopus with water with 2-3″ water above the octopus
  • Add all herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar
  • Squeeze the lemon juice into the water and drop the lemon half into the pot as well.
  • Heat to boiling.
  • Cover and lower the heat to barely a simmer.
  • Cook for 3 hours or more.
  • Test the meat with a sharp knife for doneness.  The meat should not be very rubbery.
  • Drain the octopus and plunge into the ice bath.
  • Stir the octopi occasionally in the ice bath.
  • After 20 minutes in the ice, drain and cut the octopus into slices not more than 1″ thick.  But keep tentacles intact.
  • Brush the octopus generously with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  • Grill over high heat for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently until well seared on all sides.
  • Serve with lemon wedges and top with chopped scallions.



Squid Ink Linguine with White Clam Sauce

I recently came into possession of my latest cooking implement.  I won’t retroactively add this to my tools post but will make this both a fundamentals and recipe post.  First on the tool itself.

This is a Phillips pasta maker.  As far as I know there are two different models.  This one is the better of the two because it includes a built in scale.  The scale makes things ever so easy because all you have to do is pour in your flour and let the machine weigh it – and then ask it how much liquid to add.  It’s that simple.

For years I have seen pasta kits that include some cute crank device to cut your noodles after you mix the flour and egg, knead the dough, let it rest, flatten it with a rolling pin and then run it through the device a couple times before screwing in the cutting attachment.  I don’t know about you but by the time I got done with all that, my family is already burping and asking what’s for dessert.  I like convenience.

Ok, so first lets talk about the pasta.  One of my absolute favorite dishes is Linguine and Clam Sauce.  I first had this as a teenager and have loved it ever since, putting my own tweaks on it when I started making it myself until I developed the sauce which I have provided the recipe for at the end of this post.  Now I have had it with marinara and while good – my heart is forever embedded in the white.

Linguine Vongole Bianco.

That sprite garlicky taste of the sea with juicy clams and al dente pasta.  Give me a little bread to sop up the liquid and you might not see me for a while.  But if Linguine with Clam Sauce is the darling dish, then Squid Ink Linguine is the dark secret love affair!  It looks as decadent and exotic as it tastes.


The ingredients for the pasta itself couldn’t be simpler.  From left to right above – imported Spanish squid ink (which does impart some flavor!), semolina pasta flour, an egg and all purpose flour.  Mixing these in the right proportions is all that is required to make pasta noodles.  This machine makes this ridiculously easy.  Add the dry ingredients first to the hopper in the machine.


Here I have mixed one egg with a round tablespoon of the squid ink which has the consistency of fruit jam when you spoon the stuff out.  If you buy the squid ink online like I did – you will want to take the jar and spoon its contents into an ice tray and freeze it.  17.6 oz of squid ink will spoil once you open it unless you make this stuff every day.  I have found that one standard ice cube of this squid ink is enough to make 1 lb of pasta.

After the machine weighs the flour it tells you exactly what to add as far as wet ingredients go.  For the above I had to add a little water to reach that amount.  The maker comes with a graduated cylinder to measure the wet ingredients.

Then you start the pasta machine and it starts mixing the flour.  Pour the wet ingredients into the slot on the lid and for 3 minutes it will knead the dough.  After that, the pasta starts to extrude.


Silky noodles of ebony linguine with the smell of the salty beach start to come out.


The pasta is as beautiful as it is flavorful.  A celebration of the ocean’s treasures on the mouth and while it is extruding from the machine, a feast for the eyes and nose as well.


In just a few minutes I have just under 1 lb of artisanal pasta.  Seriously – I ask you, please tell me where you find pasta like this that isn’t dry, odorless and tasteless.  Unless you spend a lot of money or know a La Trattoria that also has a deli counter, it isn’t going to happen.  When my wife and I used to visit her parents when they lived in New Jersey, my mother in law would get the most delectable, freshly made cheese ravioli at an Italian deli and make my family a supper to die for.  My oldest son STILL raves about her gravy with that ravioli.  But even those places do not make squid ink pasta.


For the sauce, there are multiple schools of thought.  You can really impress your guests by going to a fish monger and coming out with a 10 lb bag of live clams and set to scrubbing them and shucking some and I would applaud you if you did.  Indeed the grandeur of your table would certainly benefit from it.  But for this particular dish and my recipe – I will confess I cheat.  And with amazing results.  But I will have to issue some caveats if you decide to do what I did.  Above I have frozen clams.  I also use canned clams along with these.


I also use concentrated clam broth for added flavor.  Believe it or not, it does make a difference and I would rather use that than add salt.


My recipe will make a LOT of clam sauce.  What you see above is one serving ready for dishing out on top of the pasta.  The recipe for the sauce is at the bottom of this article.


6 minutes of boiling and our fresh pasta is perfectly al dente.


As an added flavor booster I like to add salmon roe to the completed dish.  Stirred into the pasta after serving, the eggs pop when chewed and give a very pleasant seafood kick to the overall meal.


And the dish plated.  At this point I’ll toss the pasta, roe and clams and dig in.  This is truly one of my all time favorite dishes and one my kids adore as well.  Definitely one of those heirloom dishes that get passed down from generation to generation (I hope).  This one started with me 😉

Below is my recipe for the clam sauce.  I didn’t include the recipe for the pasta only because I have a pasta maker.  But using the post above you can see what I did.  I used a 70-30 mix of semolina to all purpose flour.

Don’s White Clam Sauce (serves 8-10 with pasta)


  • One 16 oz container frozen clams thawed.
  • Two 10 oz cans whole baby clams (and juice).
  • Two 6.5 oz cans chopped clams (and juice).
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley leaves.
  • 6-10 (to taste) cloves garlic minced.
  • 3 cloves garlic thin sliced with a mandolin (optional).
  • 3-4 tablespoons arrow root (recommended) or corn starch.
  • 1 tablespoon concentrated clam broth (optional but recommended).
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (optional but recommended).
  • 1 tablespoon of salmon roe per dinner guest (optional but recommended).
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil.


  • Heat the olive oil in a pan.
  • Add the chopped parsley to the olive oil and heat for 10 seconds, stirring.
  • Add the mandolin sliced garlic and half the minced garlic.  Cook for about 30 seconds.
  • Pour in all the clams and juice from the cans (do NOT add the frozen clams at this stage).
  • Pour in the white wine and stir well.
  • Add the fish sauce and clam concentrate and mix well.
  • Simmer the mix for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Mix the arrow root or corn starch with a small amount of cold water very well and add it to the sauce in the pan.  Stir very well – use a whisk if you have one.  I prefer arrow root because it has no flavor and thickens the sauce without making it cloudy. You have a thicker, clear clam sauce.
  • Add the remaining garlic.
  • Stir and simmer another minute
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for ten minutes. This is VERY important.
  • After 10 minutes, stir in the thawed frozen clams. Do not do this too soon – if the sauce is still boiling the frozen clams will be VERY tough.
  • Serve over fresh cooked pasta.
  • Garnish each dish with a tablespoon of salmon roe.
  • Save leftover sauce in a sealed container and refrigerate for use later.  When reheating the sauce, heat only to room temp.  Do not heat to boiling.  Let the heat from your pasta warm the leftover sauce up the rest of the way.

Thank you!


Salt and Pepper Squid

This is a truly spectacular dish and is one of my top 5 favorite Chinese dishes.  Yes its preparation shares much with that of Salt and Pepper Shrimp.  But there are a few differences and the flavor profile – at least in my humble opinion – is superior with the squid.  I made this last weekend for my family and some close friends and there were no leftovers to be had.  I will share a lot of minute details with you on making this dish to minimize errors and really get this restaurant quality.  If you ever go into any remotely ethnic Chinese restaurant you will see this dish on the menu.  And as I mentioned in the shrimp recipe, you will need very high heat (in excess of 600 degrees F) to properly cook it.  I’ll go into more detail below.

The first thing we want is to start our rice.


I am cooking for 6 people here so I am steaming 4 cups (uncooked) of Japanese Koshihikari rice.  I am using the umami setting which, with this particular model of rice cooker, will mean most of the cooking time will be under pressure.  As you can see, I have 81 minutes before the rice is ready so we have plenty of time here.


Our dredge will be the first thing I make.  Since I have two lbs of fresh squid here (you can use previously frozen squid and thaw it – it won’t affect the flavor profile) I want to be sure I make enough dredge.  Above I have white, green and schichuan peppercorns.  White are in the spice grinder I have at the top, the green in the lower right and Schichuan peppercorns in the lower left.  Not seen are black peppercorns which I also include.  The schichuan peppercorns in the lower left there are an interesting spice so I will go into some detail here.

Schichuan peppercorns or ash berries as they are sometimes called are the husk of a seed of a plant referred to as Chinese coriander.  Oddly enough the seed is normally discarded and it is the husk that is desired for Schichuan cuisine.  If you ever eat one of these husks raw (as I had my guests do) you will notice it tends to numb the taste buds and even make them tingle after a while.  But mixed with other spices, this seasoning is amazing.  I realize it can be hard to find but it is worth the effort.  While it won’t ruin your dish if you don’t have it, you will notice a difference.


So here I have mixed my spices including salt, msg, rice flour, corn starch and the peppercorns well ground.  You will want to mix these dry spices well.  I only put a little dredge in my dredge bowl at a time as unlike egg wash based frying you will not use up lots of your spice dredge as you coat your meats with it.  In fact you will have leftovers that you can save for use later if you want.  So I’ll add about 2/3 cup of powder at a time to my bowl and mix with the meat.  If you have not done so you will want to clean your squid.  With that I bought, most of that work was done and all I had to do was cut the tubes into rings.


And here I have tossed in a bunch of paper towel dried rings and will stir and shake this around some.  The rings are a little tacky and will make only as much dredge as we actually need stick to their surface.  Be sure and shake off excess or you will end up with a bunch of sediment in your oil after cooking which will need to be filtered out if you want to re-use the oil.


And here we see some rings covered with our spice mixture.  Notice that even with the peppercorns, the dredge is still mostly white.


And here we have 2 lbs coated and separated and ready to fry.  Note that I have the tentacles nicely coated in here too.  I love them not only for their texture and flavor but their appearance adds an exotic element to the presentation of the dish as well.


Before cooking we want to get the oil as hot as possible.  I have about 2-2.5 cups of peanut oil here so I will heat this for about two and a half minutes on full blast from my wok burner.  You want the oil extremely hot.  If you look at the flames above, they are going almost up to the top on all sides.  The oil will heat fast.


I will say this now – this dish is impossible to cook on an indoor stove.  You will not get the oil hot enough on a stove with a 50,000 BTU or less burner.  The coating will be soggy and the squid will be like rubber.  Because even if you do get the oil to 600 degrees, the squid will cool the oil too fast and it will take a weaker stove too long to get the oil back up to temp preventing the seasoned dredge from crisping up.

I was watching Andrew Zimmern yesterday on a rerun of Bizarre Foods and he was doing a special on cuisine in Mississippi, focusing on Delta foods.  He ate with a Chinese American family in Mississippi that were making some Chinese, Mississippi Delta fusion dishes on a burner like mine with their wok outside.  And Andrew said “If this doesn’t make you want to get an outdoor wok burner, I don’t know what will!”  I could not agree more!  One thing that was very striking to me was watching a very Chinese looking woman talk about her heritage cuisine with a very Southern Mississippi drawl.  To see it yourself, look on this Travel Channel episode recap.  This has a special place in my heart because my older son is a student at Mississippi State University.  Again, for less than $100 you can have a wok burner like this and make the same kinds of cuisine.


When you drop the squid into the oil it should bubble furiously as mine is above.  It took me about three batches fried separately to cook all the squid.


And here I let it cook for about 75 seconds.  You want the outside to be a light golden color (not brown) when you remove the squid.  Have a bowl lined with paper towels standing by for this.


You will want to have a large slitted spoon or screen scoop with which to quickly remove the squid from the hot oil.  Let the oil sit for about ten seconds each time before adding subsequent batches.  Special thanks goes to my friend Lesley Litt for taking the pictures while I fried these.  Your help was much appreciated and I am glad you enjoyed the squid with us!


What the extreme heat does is makes a slightly crispy, seasoned crust on the outside of the squid pieces that makes them absolutely delectable.


After all the squid has been cooked, I empty almost all the oil out of the wok (except for maybe 2 tablespoons) and get that oil smoking hot.  Then I put the squid back in and toss in the aromatics.


You want to mix the aromatics and squid well, tossing them around for maximum flavor.


Note how high my burner heat is.  This is essential to this dish.


And at the table it is ready for serving with rice.  I normally like to serve a soup before the squid but did not here.  Note the bowl of hot chili paste above.  Since I did not cook this with hot peppers (I had guests here that could not abide the heat) I used that paste spooned over my squid.


I love taking a piece of squid with some garlic and green onions and eat that and follow it with a clump of plain steamed white rice.  The alternating savory and bland flavors play very well together.


With the chili paste, the dish becomes very spicy-hot.  You will see people eating it this way in Chinese restaurants as well.  The hair on the back of my head will get soaked with sweat as I eat this.  But this dish is truly divine and I consider myself blessed that I can cook it at home as well as it is in a restaurant.


And the inevitable result is above.  You will not have any leftovers of the squid.  In fact, you will probably get (as I did) people asking you if there is any more in the kitchen.  I suppose you could cook a lot and have leftovers.  But if you do, do NOT reheat them in a microwave.  You will want to toast them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.  I find that reheating the squid in this way will get it pretty close to the way it was when you scooped it out of the wok.

Without any more pomp and ceremony, here is the recipe.

Salt and Pepper Squid (serves 5-6)


  • 2 lbs squid tubes (or rings) and tentacles (fresh or thawed).
  • 4 cups uncooked white rice.
  • 2-2.5 cups peanut oil.
  • 1 cup rice flour.
  • 3/4 cup corn starch.
  • 4 Tbs finely ground white peppercorns.
  • 1 Tbs finely ground black peppercorns.
  • 1 Tbs finely ground green peppercorns (optional – I added this because I happened to have them but they are not really necessary).
  • 2 tsp finely ground Schichuan peppercorns.
  • 3-4 Tbs fine grained sea salt (to taste – I like using 4 Tbs).
  • 2 tsp monosodium glutamate (gourmet powder) (optional but if you omit it, it will noticeably change the flavor of the dish).
  • 1.5 cups chopped green onions.
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh garlic.
  • 1/4 cup sliced Thai chili peppers (optional).


  • Begin to cook the rice in a rice cooker or in a pot.
  • Cut the squid tubes into rings if necessary.
  • Mix the ground peppercorns, salt and msg into the starch and rice flour mix.
  • Mix the squid pieces into the dredge and toss well to coat each piece.
  • Set dredged squid pieces aside.
  • Preheat your oil in the wok and get it extremely hot.
  • Fry the squid in batches.  I find that 2/3 lb of squid at a time works best.
  • Put each batch into a paper towel lined bowl to drain.
  • When all squid is cooked, dump out most of the oil into a container to save the oil to use again later.
  • Put the cooked squid back into the wok with about 2 Tbs oil.
  • Toss in the green onions, garlic and sliced chilis.
  • Toss the squid with the aromatics and mix well.
  • Place in a paper towel lined bowl and serve with steamed white rice.
  • Provide chili paste as desired.
  • Save leftover dredge in a sealed container and refrigerate for use later.

Thank you!