Crab & Artichoke Bisque

If this soup looks and sounds familiar to you, it’s because you are a faithful reader of Comfort du Jour, and you probably remember it from the Chopped Challenge post of a few days ago. In that post, I detailed my thought process in transforming a basket of ordinary mystery ingredients (curated by my darling husband, Les) into stunning food magnificence. Dramatic? Perhaps I have been watching too much of the real “Chopped” on Food Network and channeling host Ted Allen. Or blame the stars—I am, after all, a Leo.

Anywho, because of the overwhelming response and multitude of requests for the details of this recipe (OK, it was only my foodie pal, Dorothy, who requested the particulars, but she is enough), I share it today for your culinary pleasure. Dorothy and I met on WordPress, the digital platform for my blog, and we follow each other’s kitchen adventures with great joy and mutual encouragement. Her own blog, The New Vintage Kitchen, has me swooning over homemade delicacies on the regular, so if she wants one of my original recipes, you can bet I’ll hustle it up here. This works out well for me, too, because my usual M.O. is cooking without a specific plan or purpose, adding a little of this and that, skipping all effort of writing down the ingredients, amounts or instructions. Inevitably, Les will casually mention how much he enjoyed the such-and-such that I made back in oh, I don’t know, 2017, maybe? And at that point, I have absolutely no idea how to replicate it. Sigh.

That will not happen with this delicious soup, which also happened to be easy to make, even though I felt at the time as though I was flying by the seat of my pants (I was). I created it as a challenge to myself, to avoid the pitfalls of my own comfortable repertoire, and to surprise Les with something more interesting than the most obvious dish I might have otherwise prepared from my mystery basket (pizza). Do I not already make enough pizzas here on the blog? [Insert shameless plug for Pizza Party page] Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to jot down my method and amounts, so this will be a piece of cake—no, wait, a pot of soup—and I will be able to refer back to my own blog to revisit the recipe anytime I want (you’d be surprised at how often I really do this).

The soup ingredients themselves are no mystery. You’ll need lump crab meat and canned artichoke hearts, plus some onions (I used leeks), small red potatoes, seafood stock or veggie broth, a generous glug of white wine, a splash of cream and an immersion blender. Oh, and some crispy bacon for serving. If you don’t have an immersion blender, I am confident that this soup would also have been delicious in the style of a chowder, and I almost made it that way myself, except for the fact that Les loves creamy soups, and bisques in particular. I took a chance pureeing it, given that the potatoes had red skin and the leaves of the artichoke hearts can be kind of stringy, but it worked out beautifully. So you choose which works for you.

As a bonus, I will also share the ratio of ingredients for the tangy tapenade I served on the side, taking advantage of another basket ingredient (Kalamata olives) that didn’t seem to fit the soup itself. Enjoy!

Note to self: Must make again; Les loved it and declared my Chopped challenge a “winner.” And it just might be served one day in Dorothy’s own kitchen, or perhaps under her majestic maple tree named Alice, and that would make me super proud.

Recipe makes about 6 servings

Ingredients

1 slice thick center-cut bacon, diced* (see notes)

2 leeks (white and pale green parts), sliced and cleaned (or 1 medium onion, chopped)

2 Tbsp. salted butter

4 smallish young red potatoes, skin-on, diced (should be about 1 1/2 cups)

15 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained*

3 cups seafood stock or veggie broth*

About 1/3 cup dry white wine

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

1 or 2 bay leaves for simmering

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup heavy cream

8 oz. lump crab meat

1 rib celery, strings removed and finely minced

Lemon slices and freshly chopped parsley (for garnish)


*Notes

The bacon I used for this recipe was pasture-raised and very thick cut. If using a grocery store brand, I recommend the thickest center cut available, and consider using two slices.

If you intend to make the artichoke-Kalamata tapenade, cut a few of the artichoke hearts in half, reserving the very tender parts for the tapenade. Otherwise, use the entire can in the soup. These artichoke hearts were packed only in water, not in oil with spices.

I used seafood stock from a carton because I already had it on hand. I knew the crab would be introduced at the very end, and I wanted more of the seafood flavor simmered into the soup. If I had the time (and enough shrimp shells in my freezer stash) I probably would have made this from scratch. In a pinch, a favorite veggie broth would work well. Or perhaps veggie broth, plus a small bottle of clam juice.


Instructions

  1. Place a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon to the pot and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
  2. Add butter to the bacon grease and saute the leeks (or onions) until tender. Stir them around to loosen all the browned bacon-y goodness from the bottom of the pot.
  3. Add the potatoes and artichoke hearts and toss to coat in the bacon drippings mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the stock, white wine, lemon juice and bay leaf. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to simmer for about 45 minutes. Check to be sure the potato cubes are completely tender.
  4. Remove bay leaf from the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup mixture to the desired consistency. Stir in heavy cream. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Add most of the lump crab, reserving a bit to sprinkle on top of each serving. Add the minced celery here at the very end also, for a surprising little bit of texture in each spoonful. Stir gently to combine and simmer until the crab is warmed through. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the reserved crab and place it near the stove to warm.
  6. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Top each bowl with a tablespoon of reserved lump crab, a sprinkling of the crisp bacon, a scatter of fresh parsley and a broiled lemon slice.

Broiled lemon slices: Cut thin slices from the center of a lemon (where it is thickest). Remove the seeds and press between paper towels to remove as much juice and moisture as possible. Arrange the lemon slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and broil on low for a few minutes (watch them closely). I placed mine on a baking sheet with another item and baked them for about 20 minutes, and the result was nearly the same.


Artichoke-Kalamata Tapenade

A handful of pitted Kalamata olives, preferably packed in brine with oil

1/4 cup artichoke hearts (only the tender “bottoms”)

2 large “lemon twist” cocktail olives in vermouth (mine were Tillen Farms brand)

2 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes, snipped into bits and rehydrated with boiling water

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (mine happened to be from Kalamata olives)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper


Chop up the olives, artichoke hearts and cocktail olives (including lemon peels inside) into very small bits. Do this by hand, as a food processor would pulverize them into mush. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and add them to the mix. Stir in lemon juice. Drizzle in olive oil and stir to coat everything. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the soup with crackers, pita, crostini or bread sticks.




South-of-the-Border Crab Cakes

We are on a bit of a Southwest/Mexican kick at our house recently, and there are two likely reasons. First, it’s grilling season, and we enjoy cooking outdoors where it is already hot rather than heating up the house with the oven or stovetop. Southwest flavors go hand-in-hand with the grill. The other reason for this spicy flavor trend is that when my husband, Les, and I make anything with jalapenos or cilantro or chipotle, we usually begin with fresh ingredients, which means we stay on the lookout for other ways to use the remainder of those fresh items. Last week, we hosted one of Les’s buddies for dinner in our home, and our entire meal followed this theme, from the pineapple-cilantro mules and a tropical shrimp-crab ceviche to the cilantro-marinated skirt steak with handmade tortillas, all the way through to a salty-citrusy Paloma pie, which I will be sharing with you very soon. Ooh, I do love a theme party.

There are many ways to enjoy the flavors that are beloved south of the border, and this time, I’m diving into the ocean to put a slightly spicy, southwestern twist on fresh crab cakes. These easy-to-make patties are Mexed out with minced jalapenos, red onions, fire-roasted corn and a chipotle-spiked mayonnaise binder. I coated them with panko crumbs and pan-fried them for a crispy edge that kept all the tender, delicate crab nicely contained.

These crab cakes have just the right amount of heat, and the panko breading makes them nice and crispy.

What I love about this recipe (besides the fact that it was simple to make in stages when I had free moments through the day) is that it can be imagined and served in various ways—we paired the crab cakes with sautéed zucchini and onions for a light, low-carb weeknight dinner, but you could just as easily turn it into a crab cake sandwich on a brioche bun, with a chipotle-infused tartar sauce. Or perhaps as a Mexican-style Sunday brunch benedict, atop a crispy fried corn tortilla with a poached egg and green chili aioli. You could even make them itty-bitty and serve them as an appetizer. If you wanted to go way outside the box (or shell, as it were), you could swap the crab for drained, chopped hearts of palm and make them vegetarian! I mean, it’s your party. I’m only here to offer inspiration and pictures.

This recipe follows the same general ratio of ingredients as the scallion-sriracha salmon cakes I shared a few months ago and the artichoke-crab cakes that I put on top of a salad. Hey, that gives me another idea—why couldn’t these south-of-the-border crab cakes adorn a Tex-Mex salad? Of course they could.


Serves 2

Ingredients

1/3 cup canola mayo

1 Tbsp. chipotle w/ adobo puree* (see notes)

2 Tbsp. minced jalapeno

2 Tbsp. minced red onion

2 Tbsp. fire-roasted corn, thawed and patted dry

1/2 beaten egg (save the rest for another use or discard it)

Salt, pepper and garlic powder

1/4 cup panko crumbs (plus 1/4 cup extra for shaping)

6 oz. lump crab meat, picked over to remove pieces of shell

Small handful of cilantro, optional for serving


*Notes

To make the chipotle with adobo puree, empty an entire can of chipotles in adobo sauce into a food processor or blender. Pulse, then run continuously until the mixture is relatively smooth. You will only use a small amount of the mixture for this recipe. We use up the rest of it in a number of ways—in deviled eggs, hummus, homemade bbq sauce, hot dog chili, or anything else you want to give a little smoky, spicy kick in the pants. For sure, try Les’s smoky guacamole, which includes a few tablespoons of this pureed chipotle with adobo.


Instructions

Combine mayonnaise and chipotle to desired spiciness. Reserve a few tablespoons of this mixture to serve alongside the finished crab cakes. I transferred it to a small zip top bag, so I could drizzle the cakes with it.

Add the onions, jalapeno and corn to the chipotle mayo and stir until blended. Stir in the half amount of beaten egg. Fold in the crab, taking care not to break up the lumps. Sprinkle some panko crumbs into your hand, and gently shape the mixture into four patties. The mixture will be quite messy, but it will firm up in the fridge.

Arrange the cakes on a parchment-lined sheet; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least one hour, though two hours is better.

Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Swirl in about 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil. When oil begins to shimmer, carefully arrange the crab cakes into the skillet and leave them, undisturbed, until the bottom edges appear to be crispy. This should be about 4 minutes. Gently turn the cakes over to cook the same amount of time on the second side.

Serve as desired, with reserved chipotle mayo for dressing or dipping.



Cobb with Artichoke-Crab Cake

A good many years ago, a work colleague from my radio days shared with me about his unusual mental habit of assigning colors to the months of the year—not surprisingly, several of the months were given colors that matched a holiday within the month, such as green for March (St. Patrick’s Day). My buddy gave July deep red, for its blazing summer heat. Orange was obviously the color of October, reflecting Halloween pumpkins and fall foliage. But January? You guessed it. Gray.

He’s right about that. The whole month of January looks and feels gray and lifeless, with the Christmas decorations down, no leaves on the trees, no flowers to enjoy. Gray is bland and boring, the color of a steak cooked in the microwave.

As many millions of other Americans, I let go an enormous exhale this week as our battered country took its first steps forward toward what we hope is a new chapter of compassion, cooperation and unity. The installment of a new president has me feeling hopeful for the first time in years, as if gigantic gray clouds have parted to allow sunshine and color back into our lives. I’m not naïve about politics, and I have seen enough in my years to know that smooth-sailing government is a goal rather than a given, but attitudes and intentions must be positive for progress to happen, and we are overdue. I’m ecstatic and proud about the historic swearing-in of our nation’s first-ever woman vice president (I’ll be raising a toast to her in a day or two here), optimistic about making up lost ground in our relationship with the rest of the world (and the planet), and relieved at the promise of giving science a louder voice than ego in our battle against this wretched virus.

Things are looking up, and I’ve needed something to be excited about after so much gloom.

And so, here begins a fun and color-filled parade of recipes to brighten up your plate. Nutritionists will tell you about the benefits of “eating the rainbow,” for all its varying vitamins, antioxidants and whatnot, and it’s undeniable that bright colors in general make people feel happier. I’m determined to bring that color!

Color my world! 🙂

To kick things off, I’m chasing away the gray with a mostly classic Cobb salad, authentic in the sense that it has all the key Cobb ingredients—avocado, bacon, hard-boiled egg, bleu cheese and tomatoes. In step with my recent celebration of seafood, I’ve swapped out the usual chicken breast in favor of a homemade artichoke-crab cake. I love the flavor of artichokes, with their slight lemony tang, and the pairing with crab has been a favorite for years. To pull the flavors together, I’ve punched up the vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice and a few shakes of lemon-pepper seasoning.

The end result is fresh, bright and cheerful. The flavors all work great together, and the colors are breathing some much-needed sunshine into gray and gloomy January. Enjoy!


Serves: 2 dinner salads with extra crab cakes for another meal
Leftover idea: crab cakes benedict, with poached egg and english muffin, topped with sauce of your choice


Crab Cakes

1 1/2 cups lump crab meat, drained and picked over for shell pieces

1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained well and chopped fine

4 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 large egg

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup cracker or panko crumbs (I used seasoned crackers)

1/4 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning (or more if using bland crackers)

Small handful fresh parsley

Lemon wedges for serving

Mix it up!

  1. Combine all ingredients except crab and mix with a fork until mixture is completely blended.
  2. Add crab meat and fold gently about 6 times, just enough to fully incorporate the mixture.
  3. Cover mixture and chill about 2 hours.
  4. Shape crab mixture into 6 equal-sized cakes*, then cover and chill again 2 hours until ready to cook.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake crab cakes about 25 minutes, until set but not dry.

*I misjudged my portions and ended up with a smaller seventh crab cake. Better than trying to re-shape them!


Citrus vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s orange muscat champagne vinegar* (or substitute any light or citrus-y vinegar + a pinch of sugar)

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

3 or 4 shakes lemon pepper seasoning (I used McCormick, which already contains salt)

1 Tbsp. expeller-pressed canola oil + 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  1. Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and lemon pepper seasoning in a small bowl or measuring glass.
  2. Slowly drizzle canola oil into the mixture, whisking constantly to create an emulsion. Repeat with the olive oil. Cover and allow mixture to rest to “wake up” the seasonings. I typically make my dressings several hours or even days ahead, then bring to room temperature for serving.

Cobb salad

1 full romaine heart, washed, dried and chopped

1/2 cup finely shredded red cabbage (for color :))

1 small shallot, chopped (or substitute red onion)

8 baby tomatoes, halved

1/2 medium avocado, cubed

1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles

3 slices uncured, smoked bacon, chopped and cooked crisp

1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and chopped



Want to make this colorful salad?


If you’re a fan of the crab-artichoke combination, check out my easy recipe for Creamy Crab and Artichoke Dip!