October 7, 2010

Carolina Seafood Feast

While my family was here this summer and I wasn't blogging, we went to the beach in North Carolina for two weeks. A beach vacation in North Carolina is a family tradition—we've been going since I was a kid. It made more sense then, when we lived in North Carolina, but even now, the beaches are so nice and the whole vibe so relaxing that it's worth making the trek down from Brooklyn.

For me, one of the main attractions of the NC beach is its warm water—no matter how long I live in the Northeast, I never get used to the cold ocean up here. People up here always say that it's refreshing, or that they don't like too warm "bath" water, but I think that's a bunch of rationalizing hogwash. Warm water is better—you can frolic in it all day long, and if these same people are so set on their "refreshing" water, why do they go to Miami, or the Caribbean, or Mexico? Do people spend time in St. Bart's thinking, "I wish the water were cooler?" I don't think so.

Anyway, all of this is just to say: imagine my surprise when we arrived at the NC beach this summer and the water was—cold! Not just cool, but a toe-numbing cold, a less-than-60 degrees F cold.

The culprit was something called a "coastal upwelling" in which winds push the warmer surface water away and deeper, colder water rises up to replace it. Upwelling, upschmelling, all I know is that it almost ruined my beach vacation. I had never spent two weeks at the beach before and was really looking forward to it, but somehow it wasn't the same when I was reluctant to go in the water.

Anyway, the point of all this is that, instead of swimming, a lot of cooking and baking got done (mainly by my mom, but some of it by me). And that's why you're reading this, right? To hear about the food.

The pic above shows my version of a Carolina seafood platter. I love the fresh shrimp that you get down there, and the crabs. And I like them best just boiled up with some Old Bay or other seafood seasoning. (Here we used some house brand that the fish store had.) Peel-and-eat fresh shrimp and some crabs, what could be better? Well, most of my family doesn't like shrimp. Or crab, apparently. Too much work, they all say.

So thank goodness for the fish. My brother was out surfcasting every dawn and dusk, and one pleasant side effect of the cold water was that he caught a lot of fish. And I mean a lot. He had two hooks on each of his poles (In case you haven't figured it out, my brother is one of those fishing-crazy guys. Weird, I know, but it takes all kinds.) and sometimes the Soccer Monster and his cousins would be fishing with him and they would cast their lines and pull in a fish on each hook less than a minute later. My brother threw three quarters of the fish he caught back and we still ate fish almost every morning, noon, and night. My mother usually fried them, which is how you see them on this platter, but towards the end we started to grill them, and I prefer them grilled, I think.

To go with the seafood platter, my mother made this, a classic Hungarian dish and a childhood favorite of mine.

Then, the next day, I made these with the leftovers and everyone raved about them.

Of course they raved, because these were incredibly time-consuming (though not difficult) to make, what with picking the leftover crab out of the shell and all. It's not my favorite ratio, the "time spent preparing food:wow factor" one. I have some quick dishes that really wow, but the world needs more of these, especially for us lazy busy cooks.

I'll leave you with a recipe for the cabbage noodles, because, trust me, you don't want to make the time-consuming seafood cakes and the platter is so simple, it doesn't need a recipe. And besides, these noodles are delicious.

Hungarian Noodles with Cabbage

1 medium head green cabbage
1 pound wide egg noodles
1 stick butter
4 tsp sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1) Shred cabbage, place in a colander, and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Leave for at least 15 minutes. Then rinse, shaking colander to get rid of excess water.
2) In a heavy saute pan, melt the stick of butter. when foam subsides, add sugar and stir till it begins to caramelize, turning a light brown. Add cabbage and stir for one minute, or until cabbage begins to wilt a little. Then lower heat and cook cabbage, stirring frequently, until it is soft and brown, about 15-20 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions. (Or, if you're me, cook them a minute less than the package says.)
4) When cabbage is done, add cooked, drained noodles to it and mix. Grind on lots of black pepper and salt if needed. Mixture will be dry, but if it seems too dry, add in another tablespoon of butter and some pasta cooking water.

Makes a great buffet dish, as it's good at room temperature as well.

1 comment:

Judit said...

Re the cabbage noodles, it may take longer than 20 minutes for the cabbage as it should be very soft and brown for best taste.

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