Coconut Seafood Soup

Over the last few years, I keep coming back to this soup every year for Christmas Eve supper (we do a traditionally seafood meal). It’s the only recipe I’ve made three years (maybe four?) in a row, and has become a favorite of the family.

15774883_10206147884495656_4690807848044684179_oSARAH’S COCONUT SEAFOOD SOUP

1 (14oz) can coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock
zest & juice of one lime
zest & juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 lbs small seafood (e.g. scallops, mussels, shrimp, crab, etc)
2 spring onions, chopped, for garnish

Combine the first five ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer. I usually like to wait until the simmering has softened up the zest and then run the immersion blender quickly through the liquid so that the strands of zest get better incorporated, for texture’s sake.

Add the seafood and simmer until cooked through. Garnish with chopped spring onions to serve.

Mornay Sauce for Seafood or Pasta

In my general browsing of recipes online, I found myself encountering the term “Mornay,” especially in seafood dishes, such as Crab Mornay or Salmon Mornay. Further research shows that it is — perhaps unsurprisingly — French in origin, a culinary outgrowth of Bechamel sauce, a basic white sauce (butter, flour, milk) that is a core element of French cooking, and that surfaces more widely in recipes of broader Continental origin.

Apparently Mornay is just Bechamel with cheese. The types of cheese used in recipes vary, but the one I seem most commonly is Swiss. I’ve seen it included in recipes to be poured over fish filets, seafood croquettes or crab cakes, even seafood crepes. It doesn’t seem to be used, traditionally, as a sauce for pasta, but its consistency as a cheesy sauce, it seems to me, invites the correlation that Swiss is to Mornay, as Parmesan is to Alfredo, as Cheddar is to Mac & Cheese, etc. Having tried it over pasta, I’m sold! My favorite way to make it, and preserve its longstanding connection to seafood, is to add faux crab and green onions:


2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon white flour
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 cups half & half or cream
8 oz Swiss cheese (Gruyere is most traditional)
2-3 green onions, snipped or sliced
8 oz to 1 lb. faux crab, chunk style, or other seafood
salt & pepper to taste
pasta or bread

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. When it is just melted, add the flour and stir until all lumps are broken up. If you’re going to add some wine, make sure it is a light-bodied white so as not to compete with the subtle flavors of the swiss cheese. Heat the wine through and then add the cream and the cheese. I have gathered from looking at several recipes that Gruyere is the variety of Swiss cheese that is considered most traditional, but it can be pretty expensive. Any type of Swiss — or a combination of Swiss cheeses — will do. I use just plain ol’ low-brow brick o’ grocery store Swiss, but don’t rule out a Gruyere or an Emmenthaler or a Jarlsberg as a higher-brow option.

Heat the cream & cheese mixture on medium-low fire in order to soften the cheese. Meanwhile, snip the onions into a bowl and set aside. When the cheese is visibly melting, puree the sauce with an immersion blender to smooth out all the lumps. After the sauce is pureed, add your fish, if you’re using shellfish or faux crab. If you’re making this sauce to top a fish filet, crab cake or seafood croquette, then prepare the fish separately.

Once the sauce is thickened and heated through, add most of the snipped green onions (reserve some for garnish, if you like), salt and pepper. Serve tossed with pasta, over prepared fish and/or with crusty bread. Garnish with parsley.

To be honest, having read a lot of Crab Mornay recipes, I’m not sure what to make of their serving suggestions. Nobody but me seems to have had the idea to serve over pasta. Fair enough. I’ve done pasta but I have also used it (sans faux crab) as a sauce for salmon croquettes. Some of the recipes I’ve read involve serving it over seafood crepes, sometimes with mushrooms added to the crepes or the sauce. Again, seems logical. However, a majority of recipes suggest serving with “crusty bread” or in “a bread bowl.” Are people eating their Crab Mornay like a soup? Or, perhaps, making it thicker for use as a dip (I don’t add as much flour as some recipes because of carbs, but also so it will be pour-able enough to work as a pasta sauce)? I suppose it would be tasty as a fondue, though having larger fish chunks in a fondue seems cumbersome, unless they are also reserved and served on the side for dipping.

The mystery of Mornay will persist, but I’m advocating here and now that we add it to the canon of classic pasta sauces! This simple sauce is quite delicious; cheese lovers rejoice!

Pad Thai Noodles

I’ve made a couple attempts at Pad Thai with different recipes I’ve encountered online. I can’t say previous attempts were failures, but while enjoyable enough, they just didn’t turn out quite right. This time around, I compared and contrasted a few recipes (including the one I had used the last time), and put together a list of ingredients based on what had worked and what hadn’t during my last attempts. I was quite pleased with the result:


8 oz rice noodles
1/2 cup crushed peanuts (or more, to taste)
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3-5 green onions, snipped or sliced
8 oz or 1 lb. of shellfish, meat, faux crab, tofu, etc.
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
4-6 eggs
1-2 limes

Soak the rice noodles in warm water for about 30 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

At the same time, in a small non-stick skillet, toast the crushed peanuts dry on a low heat, stirring every so often.

DSC01867In a large skillet, heat the oil. Snip the roots off the white ends of the green onions. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs (most recently my recipe for African Peanut Soup), I like to use kitchen scissors for snipping herbs and spring onions. Using scissors will make it very easy to separate the whites from the greens in this recipe. Just snip the onions, starting at the white end, into the saucepan. When you get to the green part of the onions, simply move to a bowl and snip the remainder of the onion to reserve the greens for later.

Saute the white snips of the onion with the minced garlic for a minute or two. Add your meat, fish, etc. and saute until cooked. I used an 8oz package of faux crab, chunk style (I don’t like how the flake style falls apart), and so did not have to cook it long, just to heat through.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce: lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind and sriracha. Mix until brown sugar is dissolved. Add the drained noodles to the pan; stir fry for a minute or two, then add the sauce. Reduce heat to low.

DSC01868Mix about half of the toasted peanuts in with the noodles. Reserve the other half in a small bowl and set aside. Use the small skillet to fry the eggs (no need to wash first). I like to mix the eggs with a little extra fish sauce before scrambling. I used 6 eggs because I only used 8 oz of fish, but you can use fewer eggs if you’re using a larger amount of meat or fish. I also added a touch of additional vegetable oil to the pan before scrambling. Stir the eggs in with the noodles once they are scrambled.

Once your stir-fry is heated through, garnish with the reserved peanuts and green onions, and fresh cilantro if you have some on hand (I didn’t this last time and it was perfectly tasty without). Quarter your limes and serve with lime wedges to be squeezed over the noodles before eating.

I didn’t have terribly high hopes for this recipe since it is quite a complex dish and it comes from a cuisine tradition that I have otherwise found difficult to reproduce with great authenticity.

I must say, however, I was quite surprised with how this recipe turned out. It looked like Pad Thai I’ve had in restaurants, and it was extremely tasty. I found myself going back for more time and again throughout the day, eating much more of it than I had intended (sorry, diet!). Pad Thai itself varies from restaurant to restaurant, and I haven’t had a restaurant version terribly recently for comparison, but I found this recipe so delicious that I frankly did not care how close it was in authenticity to my favorite restaurants. I suspect I will be making this dish again very soon!

Thai-style Peanut Sauce

This recipe is amazingly delicious and versatile. It works as a sauce for noodles (hot or cold), a marinade for meat or fish, a slow-cooker sauce or as a base for vegetables and meat in a thai-style curry over rice.


1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 (14oz) can coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
dash of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

images_Coconut_Lime_Ver_4bc68778a6e3d1Combine the above ingredients in a bowl or saucepan or crock pot. I like to use an immersion blender to integrate the peanut butter and puree the garlic. Use cold as a sauce for noodles, for dipping or as a marinade. Add meat and/or vegetables to the sauce for slow cooking or heat in a pan for curry or noodles. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

I’ve used this sauce many times before with meat (usually chicken) and vegetables as a curry over rice. This past weekend, I decided to combine it with some faux crab meat (chunk style), put it over noodles and garnish with some green onions.

I ran into a bit of a roadblock with the noodles, however. Having been to two different Thai restaurants in the last few weeks, I noticed that the menus included noodle dishes containing Thai egg noodles. However, when I was out and about at grocery stores this week, I could only find Thai rice noodles. The Thai egg noodles I’ve had in the past — and thus the ones I had in mind — have been relatively wide and flat, not unlike fettuccine. Browsing other types of Asian noodles at these grocery stores, I found nothing to replicate that memory of Thai egg noodles. I couldn’t even find any on Amazon.

I realized, of course, that I could very well make my own noodles. Flour, eggs and a pasta maker were already in my kitchen. I’m always reluctant to make my own noodles, however, because of the cleanup. Making dough, be it water- or egg-based, is always easy in the food processor, but the extra flour required to ease the dough’s path through the pasta maker gets EVERYWHERE. It’s one thing to clean up my workspace, but to have to clean the floors and every stray little item nearby with a light dusting from clouds of flour doesn’t seem worth the effort.

thai-peanut-noodles-11900012rca-ssAfter hitting my last dead-end with the search for something that could pass as a Thai egg noodle, I promised myself that if I felt ambitious enough the next day, I would make my own noodles, but if not, I would simply use the angel-hair-like Chinese egg noodles already in my cupboard.

I was up early the next day without much else to do, so I decided to attempt the noodles. The idea struck me that if I could make the dough just dry enough, I might not need to add extra flour and make a mess. I started with a cup of flour, added a couple eggs, added a bit more flour, etc. until I got a food processor full of fine, powdery dough that formed a somewhat tacky ball when I grabbed a handful and worked it with my hands.

Here is the recipe/method I came up with:


2 cups flour (plus at least 1/4 cup in reserve)
3 eggs

Combine the flour and eggs in the food processor. If your eggs are large, you may want to start with two, and reserve the third. The result should be a mealy or powdery substance that will form a ball of dry-ish dough when kneaded in batches. If the dough does not hold together when you try to form a ball, or if it stays somewhat together but cracks, then it is too dry. If the dough won’t even hold together, add your third egg; if it holds together but is too dry to knead without it cracking, try adding a tablespoon of water. If it is too sticky to go through the pasta maker (the pasta maker rollers should be dry without any sticky dough residual after the dough goes through), return the dough to the food processor and add a tablespoon or two of flour. Depending on how large your eggs are, you may need to add more or less flour. Just keep adding it a tablespoon at a time until you get your desired result.

I was able to make a dough with about 2 cups, plus one tablespoon flour, and 3 medium eggs that needed no additional flour for the pasta maker. The process created a few dough crumbles, but they were much easier to clean from my workspace, counter and floor, than a ubiquitous dusting of flour.

Salmon or Seafood Cakes

Crab cakes are wonderful and delicious; problem is that good lump crab meat, even the stuff in a can (not the “crab dust” you get in a tuna-style can) is super expensive, i.e. over $10 for even the smallest usable amount. Salmon and other types of fish fillets, and even other types of shellfish like scallops, are much more reasonably priced.

My trick for making a tasty “crab cake” without the crab is to use salmon, instead. This feat can be accomplished, of course, with canned salmon; I still consider that an upgrade because tuna-style canned salmon tends to be of much better quality than the canned crab sitting on the shelf next to it. But if moderate poverty (and not extreme poverty) is driving you toward a cheaper crab alternative, frozen or fresh salmon fillets work swimmingly. I can imagine that tilapia or other types of fish fillets would work just as well.

When I cooked these the other day, I used what my parents had leftover around the house. There were three individually packaged salmon fillets as well as a handful of bay scallops.


2 large eggs, lightly beaten
15 oz or so of seafood, salmon fillets, tilapia, scallops, etc.
1 small apple, peeled and shredded
1/3-1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumb
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder (I use Badia)
1 teaspoon paprika
(optional) 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
salt and black pepper

Cilantro Sauce

dijon mustard
lime juice
cilantro, chopped

Lightly grill, bake or pan fry any fish fillets. If you’re feeling ambitious you can marinate the fillets ahead of time in citrus juice and ginger. The fillets don’t necessarily need to be baked through (the cakes themselves will be baked, after all), just enough to be able to fork flake the fillet. Shellfish can simply be thawed. Larger pieces can be chopped up.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. If the mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape into cakes and arrange on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake until golden brown. Serve with cilantro sauce.