Sunday, November 3, 2013

Crawfish Bisque--it's soup season!

The Starving Artists Cook Crawfish Bisque!

NOTE: this is from our old LiveJournal version of Starving Artists, too...slowly moving things here!

I love the lobster bisque at Ventana’s Gourmet Grille *...but Ventana’s is closed on Mondays, as I wrote this, and for some reason Thursday is lobster bisque day). (If you’re ever in town, I recommend a visit! )

Anyway, what we had on hand was frozen crawfish meat. Joy of Cooking has a recipe for Crawfish Bisque, but it assumes you start with, well, mudbugs. Crawdads. Crayfish. Crawfish. Whatever! And the recipe reserves some of the critters to stuff for garnish.

I really wanted the taste of lobster or shrimp bisque, so decided to combine, expand, and experiment–as I usually do. (Who actually follows recipes unless you're baking?)  Crawfish is ever so much less expensive than lobster, by the way, unless you live by the sea, and it's very, very tasty!

One thing I learned, though, was that it’s not such a good idea to fill the blender container 2/3 full of hot soup stock and turn it on high without a REALLY good grip on the lid...

Ever see a geyser? Volcano, maybe? Yes, I made “Crawfish Vesuvius”...

This recipe requires doing several different things at once, so my knight rode his white charger into the kitchen at my cry for help and cleaned up the mess on the counter...and under the microwave...and all over the blender...and his 7-day vitamin container...

With a SMILE. Bless the man!

I kept cooking...


Here are the basics!

1 lb. crawfish meat (tails, fresh caught, frozen, etc.) (or shrimp, or lobster) (We found crawfish tail meat at our local grocers and also at the little fish market out by the Missouri River. A buddy gets it at WalMart--it's not hard to find.)
(If you have to prepare your own, shell them and saute lightly with butter and finely chopped onion, then grind.)

1 ½ C. chicken or other soup stock (I had mostly veggie, with a bit of chicken flavor)

1 sweet onion, chopped

3-4 ribs celery and leaves, chopped

2 cloves garlic (the recipes didn’t call for garlic but I know us...)

1 bay leaf

Since this was crawfish, I added a bit of gumbo file herb–I had it on hand! Maybe ½ t.

Freshly ground peppercorns–we like the medley of several different kinds

A little sea salt...we try to cut down, so just a wee tad for us, thanks...

2 C. half and half, warmed

½ C. sour cream (optional. You can just use extra half and half or milk, or yogurt*)

1/4 C. sherry (I didn’t have this, so I used white wine. It was FINE.)

4 T. butter

1/4 C. chopped or grated onion

A goodly sprinkle of paprika, maybe a half teaspoon, more if you like (had smoked on hand, yum...)
Another sprinkle of nutmeg.

OK, so I may have made this a bit more complicated than it needed to with me here!

Chop the onion and celery and put them into the soup stock with a couple of cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, the gumbo file, the pepper. Simmer, covered, for half an hour, then remove the bay leaf and puree in the blender.

A little at a time.
Not on high speed.

Meanwhile, melt the butter (or butter/canola mix, like we use) in a small skillet, and cook the finely chopped or grated onion till soft. Add the crawfish meat and keep stirring till it’s warm.

Warm the half and half, then stir it into the stock, along with the optional sour cream. (I just like sour cream!)

Put half of the crawfish and onion mixture in the blender, with half the warmed half and half, and whir. Carefully. With a tight lid.

Add to the pot of stock you’ve put back on the stove, and repeat with the other half. (You can use a hand grinder if you prefer, or a Cuisinart if you like high tech.)

Now, add the white wine or sherry, about a half teaspoon of paprika, and the nutmeg. Stir, and summer gently for a few more minutes...

Some recipes suggest adding flour or bread crumbs to thicken, but this was plenty thick enough. I think I had more meat than they normally use, and we avoid grains for health reasons.

Seriously good, seriously rich. This is not low-cal eating, here, folks...

We were at Costco last week and looked at their already prepared lobster bisque...and then remembered the taste of this. We weren't even tempted, we'll make our own!


If you really do prefer having a more complete recipe to go buy, this book looks like a good possibility: Fine Kettles of Fish: A Treasury of Seafood Chowders, Bisques, Soups & Stews  It's IN there...

Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More makes me want to hit the road in search of the perfect bisque...but ya know?  May have found it in our own kitchen!

* The Taste of Missouri site is the brainchild of my good friends and webmasters at it out! If you're in the area, I can recommend the places they've featured. And hey, you'll find my website and blog there, too!

*  As noted you can substitute yogurt for the sour cream--whole milk yogurt is about 160 calories in a CUP, and 2 TABLESPOONS of sour cream is 60 calories--so 480 calories for a cup of sour cream.  More fat, too...and yogurt offers more calcium, so your choice!)


The crawfish in the illustration was done years ago for one of my books--I don't even remember which one, now! It's watercolor on Fabriano cold pressed paper...

Squash Soup! (or in this case, pumpkin...)

The weather gets nippy and we begin to crave soup, soup, and MORE soup. But different.

(NOTE:  this recipe was originally on our LiveJournal version of Starving Artists,  but since we just came into a free post-Halloween pumpkin, I'm making it that way.  clean out, cut up, and steam pumpkin till tender, just like the squash...)

This one is rich and delicious as well as different...I made it with a twist, this time. Chicken! (Yes, more things to do with a roast chicken, though this one was hickory smoked...somehow the thought of that lovely smoky flavor with this particular soup recipe just sounded right!)

As usual, we ate fresh hot chicken as soon as we got home with it–that hickory chicken smell was too tempting!–then J. pulled the meat off the bones for me and I boiled the bones for soup stock...again rescuing about another cup of meat in the process.

Alternatively, we use breakfast sausage, browned, which is luscious! 

This is delicious without meat, too, though, so if you prefer a vegetarian version just leave it out!   The squash itself is wonderfully good for you--check out the info here:

You’ll need:

one large sweet onion
a winter squash (we like butternut squash for this--and of course if you can get organic, all the better)
1-2 cloves of garlic (or the jarred, minced stuff)
5-6 cups of soup stock, preferably home made
1 C. or so of diced chicken, unless you’re skipping meat
Or saute and crumble breakfast sausage--about a lb.
1 T. butter or olive oil (organic, if you can swing it!)
dash of sea salt
a generous grating of fresh pepper

and (optional) about a half bottle of hard cider
dollop of sour cream or plain lowfat yogurt, also optional
dash of hot sauce, optional squared...

Peel and chop the onion into about ½" pieces, and brown lightly in the hot oil–you can use the pot you’re going to cook the soup in, if you like. Add the garlic. Keep stirring while you slice and dice the squash...

It’s not easy to deal with (winter squash has a tough skin, which some of us could use!), so get the longest-necked butternut squash you can fine–the neck has no pith or seeds, just good eating that’s easiest to get at! Cut into rounds and peel, then dice. When you get to the body of the squash, scrape out the pith and seeds, then peel and dice the meat as normal.

(I’ve got a buddy who doesn’t waste a thing–he cleans the seeds, toasts them, and eats them for crunchy nutritious snacks. They’re REALLY good, but there aren’t a whole lot of seeds in a squash. Maybe if we do a pumpkin later...)

(And of course, we can put the leavings in the compost heap--we don't waste all THAT much...)

You can of course use any winter squash you prefer–acorn, turk’s head, whatever...this is just fairly simple, delicious, and almost always available at the store.

So. Dump in the soup stock, cider, and squash, along with the meat, and any seasonings, and simmer till the squash is soft.

Squish up as much of the squash if you can with a potato masher or big spoon (if I’m doing the vegetarian version I just toss it in the blender, but I don’t much care for puree’d meat. Reminds me of baby food...).

Serve with that optional dollop of sour cream or yogurt and an artful swirl of hot sauce and dive in! It will warm you from the inside out...

This is SO good, I made another version of it...we'll share it soon!


Oh my–I wonder if there’s a similar recipe in this book!?

(And sorry, you can't actually look inside unless you hit the text link above--I just couldn't manage a different view of it!)

I love the picture of the pumpkin bowls on the front! (Guess our butternut squash would make pretty small bowls, though...)

I went looking for the soup tureen I remembered, which would be such fun to serve this in–shaped like a big pumpkin–and instead found Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens at Winterthur (Winterthur Book)! WOW. As someone in love with our history and with good food, this is terribly tempting...I still want to go to Winterthur, in Wilmington, Delaware!

Wonder if they have reproduction tureens in their museum store?  (Sorry for the long link, I hope it holds!)

There is EVERYTHING on’s a recipe for organic butternut squash soup from the Hippy Gourmet!

What fun...

And of course I have things there slideshows for artists, mostly, here:


As always, we'd love to hear what you think--going for that Five Chef's Hat rating, y'know...


For the artists out there...the illustration was done on hot press Fabriano watercolor paper, with burnt sienna ink and mostly Kremer Pigments watercolors.  I blotted the wash while still wet to give some definition to the shape of the squash...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Savory Sausage-Stuffed Squash--say THAT 3 times fast!

We've shared a stuffed squash recipe here before, with maple syrup...this is a more savory version and it was GOOD.  (Check the link!)

J. does the maple one, so he turned the savory version over to me--I improvised!

You'll need:

1 acorn squash, preferably organic
2/3 lb. breakfast sausage of your choice (not links, of course!) or make your own from ground pork
2 stalks celery
1/2 sweet yellow onion (Vidalia's good!)
1/2 C. cheese of your choice, cubed; I had provel on hand, but cheddar would rock, too
1/2 C. Greek yogurt or
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste; we use organic Pepperman, a sea salt and variety-of-peppers mix)

(Grated carrots and chopped mushrooms would be a nice addition if you have them)

Cut squash in half and take out seeds and pulp (you can roast these if you wish)
Steam, bake or even (gasp!) microwave squash till tender--I put them in a pan, cut side up, with about an inch of water, put on a lid and steam till done

Meanwhile, saute and separate sausage in a big skillet (I know, I'm lisping again) till brown and set aside to drain and cool.

Dice celery and onion and cook in sausage drippings till transparent and even lightly golden. (You can use oil or butter if you prefer, but the drippings are pre-seasoned and I hate waste.)  Mix with sausage meat in a large bowl. 

Mix in yogurt (or egg, if you prefer) and cheese; if you're going strictly Paleo, use the egg and skip the cheese

Press into squash "bowls" and bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

This is SO good--we finished the leftovers the next morning for breakfast!  (It was great cold, too...)

Hearty, filling autumn fare!

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