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I remember once when I was in my twenties, I called my grandpa to see how he was doing. He'd had a few too many, and began to tell me in minute and excruciating detail how they used to get rid of crabs in the Air Force.

Not much renders me mute, but this did. I stood with my back against the kitchen wall, head in hand, wishing I had a giant tub of brain bleach I could pour over my head in a constant stream for 45 minutes. I didn't have the heart to hang up. THIS is what dysfunctional families get you: No pleasant walks into the sunset with milk and cookies after. Just home remedies for STDs delivered in a prairie-accented slur. Such is life.

I know people who've had crabs, and that's rough sluggin'. All this crab-talk came to mind when I was at the grocery store checking out the crab selection to try my hand at Crab Imperial. Turns out, crab is wicked expensive. Being unemployed, I went for pollock, or imitation crab. Not as good, granted, but it'll do the job. Hey, beggars can't be choosers:

Crab Imperial

(from Saveur with my variations)

6 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups cream
1/2-1lb pollock or crab meat
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopping parsley
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/ 1/2 tsp worcestershire
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 green onions, chopped into scallions
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, stirring until smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisk in cream, and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crab meat, half the bread crumbs, bell pepper, onion, parsley, juice, worcestershire, half the paprika, mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish.



Mix remaining bread crumbs with paprika and pour on top of the crab mixture and top with scallions. Bake until lightly brown and bubbling in the centre, about 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.



Not only is this a terrific dish, it lasts and tastes better once it's sat for awhile. I re-roasted it and it was better the second day. Can also be served with toast alongside. Yum.

Avoid crabs!

Jessica

www.crasscuisine.com

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No, I'm not talking about Sarah Jessica's face. SNAP!

I'm talking about the homeliest and most unsung seasoning of all, fresh horseradish root.

I mean look at this thing:


It looks like a medieval club used to bash in the heads of serfs. But don't judge a book by it's ugly-ass cover. Cheap like borscht (about $0.70 even at high-priced grocery stores) and utterly delicious, there is so much you can do with this little root of joy. I used to only use it for oysters, but lately I've found lots of things to put it on and in. It keeps too: wrap your root in plastic wrap and it will last for weeks. Peel it with a paring knife, and grate it on a microplane, and here's a starter list of things you can do with it:

Tomato Soup:

I like the cost-effectiveness of tomato soup made with water, but it is lacking something. Put a little horseradish, salt and pepper (and some American saffron if you have it) and it's much tastier.

Cauliflower:

I like to pan-fry my cauliflower, add fresh horseradish and a squeeze of lemon, and dig in.

Meatloaf:

Or roast beef  or beef stew tastes extra zesty and sophisticated with horseradish on top.

Baked potato:

Scallions, roasted white onions and horseradish and a little sour cream? Check.

And fresh oysters of course:


A little champagne mignonette and a chopped shallot with fresh horseradish is a classic dish for a reason.

So yeah. I love this root. I'm sure you're more creative than I am, so buy one for yourself and check it out.

Jessica

www.crasscuisine.com

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On Tuesday, I got laid off. These things happen I know, but it was surprising nonetheless. I was given a fair and generous severance and I can, for the first time in my life, apply for EI, after having worked consistently since I was 13.

It's a funny thing being laid off. You kind of feel like you're present at your own funeral, and you find you don't like the eulogy. Everyone feels like crap. And speaking of crap, it's amazing the amount of shit you can accumulate in a desk over a relatively short period.

It has forced me to take stock and think about the things I want and need to do now, while remembering that I don't like whining or bitching or feeling sorry for myself, or staying in bed all day. Okay, I lied about that last part. Staying in bed rules. But I digress. Shit happens when you party naked. I've had my cry and I'm over it, for the most part. One of the things I admire about my grandmothers is that they didn't fuck around or moan or bitch about shit, they just got it done. And I'm going to try to do that now. Starting by making some damn tasty lemonade out of the lemons they gave me:

Traditional Lemonade

1 cup simple syrup
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
ice
water to taste

The key to well-blended lemonade is not to mix sugar in cold water, which makes it have a gritty texture, but to make a simple syrup by adding 3/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water and cooking over medium heat and stirring until sugar is dissolved. You can use 1 cup sugar if you are using regular lemons, but since I used Meyer lemons for this recipe, which are sweeter, I reduced it to 3/4 cup.

If you are not familiar with Meyer lemons, they are a trendyish food popping up around town and they look like a regular lemon except they are smaller, with smoother skin and a darker appearance:



Pretty.

Prepare your simple syrup and allow to cool. Squeeze lemons (about 5-6 regular or Meyer lemons will produce about 1 cup of juice) and add the juice to the syrup. Now you've made a concentrate, to which you can add as much or as little water as you like to make it just right for you. I recommend about 3-4 cups per half cup, but I don't like mine so sweet. I garnished mine with some Meyer lemon slices and ice, but you can mix in other fruit like lychees or star fruit slices, or a sprig of fresh mint.



Mmmmmmm. There was a chilly lemon-coloured sunset out today, but I was really thirsty for some reason, so this went down perfectly. I had some while Stella wolfed down her daily can of fancy feast, and all seemed right with the world.

Here's to my new life!

Jessica

www.crasscuisine.com

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(I do not take credit for this title. This title is 100% the brainchild of my boyfriend)

Sometimes a girl just has to do something with her hands to keep her mind from scattering. I felt this way on Saturday, and so I decided the best thing for me was to make this complicated coconut layer cake I found in Saveur (again, I should just change the name of this blog to "shit I made from Saveur"). It includes my variations.

This recipe is apparently from a Southern Baptist grandmother from Mississippi. And the way I hear it, these are the finest recipes you can get. In the South, women used to make these cakes every Sunday as a matter of course. Personally, this cake took me 6 hours. I'm sure this cake is like perogies: the more you do it, the faster it gets, but still.

One of the things I love about my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers and studying history in general is that I love to see the way they filled their days. And I can think of no better way to fill your day than making this complicated cake, made with butter and sugar and an obscene amount of eggs and lots and lots of love:

Coconut Layer Cake
For the cake:

16 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
5 eggs

For the frosting:

6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh coconut water
2-3 cups toasted coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 350. Place coconut flakes on a cookie sheet and bake for about 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and allow to cool completely.


Butter and flour two round cake pans, about 9" each. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, set aside. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl, set aside. In a bowl or a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 mins. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high, and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth top with a rubber spatula, drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 mins, invert onto wire racks and let cool completely. Using a serrated knife, halve each cake horizontally, producing four layers, set aside.

Please note this cake should have four layers, but I only had three because I royally fucked up the slicing of the first layer, which resulted in Stella doing this:


Facecouch? Whatever you wanna call it, I got the message loud and clear.

Make the frosting: Place egg whites and salt in a bowl and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, add sugar a little at a time. Add vanilla and increase speed to high, beat until meringue forms stiff peaks.

To assemble, place one layer on a cake stand drizzle with 3 tbsp coconut water, spread with frosting, and sprinkle the top with toasted coconut. Repeat until all layers are assembled. Cover the entire top and sides of cake with the meringue frosting and sprinkle all sides with the toasted coconut. Serve cooled or at room temperature.




Oh yes please:


This was delicious, a perfect thing to do with idle hands, and incredibly huge. I took most of it to work, cut off huge slabs for everyone else I know, and still had so much left I threw away about 2 slices. But worth it. So, so worth it.

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