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Spring Harvest

Our local bounty inspires a range of delicious seasonal dishes.

Crawfish Crepes Crepes go in and out of fashion, but I’m a fan of them regardless of their current status in the culinary hit parade. This dish is fairly rich, so it’s best served as a first course, with two crepes per person.

Photographed and Styled by Eugenia Uhl


Spring is a wonderful season for those who love to eat. After the heavier food of winter, spring fare is a welcome change and a harbinger of the bountiful harvest we can look forward to in the months ahead. But it’s still too early to put away all the trappings of winter. We never quite know what to expect in March, when the weather can bring blustery winds and chilly temperatures. Not until the pecan trees leaf out can we be sure that the seasons have turned. So this is a time of transition, of lengthening days, more time outside and simpler preparations of fresh, seasonal ingredients, as well as the rebirth of joy that accompanies a hopeful future.


Crawfish Crepes

Crepes:

• 1 egg
• ½ cup milk
• ½ cup flour
• Pinch salt
• 1 tablespoon melted butter
• 2 tablespoons club soda or sparkling water


In a blender, combine egg, milk, flour, salt and butter.
Blend until smooth. Let batter rest for about an hour, then add club soda (which lightens the batter).
Heat a nonstick 8-inch pan over medium heat.
Pour 2 tablespoons batter into the pan while rotating the pan to spread a thin coat of batter over the surface.
Cook until crepe is brown on the bottom, then use a rubber spatula to turn the crepe.
Cook until brown, then turn out onto a plate.
Repeat with remaining batter.

You should have 8 crepes. (Crepes may be prepared in advance and covered with plastic wrap.)

Filling:

• 2 tablespoons butter
• ½ cup diced onion
• ½ cup diced celery
• ½ pound cooked crawfish tails
• ½ cup heavy cream
• Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste


Melt butter in skillet; simmer onions and celery, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
Add crawfish and cream; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 7-8 minutes.
Season assertively with Cajun or Creole seasoning.

To assemble:

• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley


Preheat broiler. Butter a 13-by-9-inch ovenproof dish.
Place a crepe in the dish, add one-eighth of the crawfish filling and roll up.
Continue with remaining crepes, positioning them in the dish with seam side down.
Brush crepes with melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan.
Place under the broiler until lightly browned.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Makes 8 crepes.



Steamed New Potatoes With Fresh Dill

New potatoes taste of spring, and dill intensifies that sensation.
There is something very earthy and elemental about this simple preparation.

Recipe

• 1½ pounds new potatoes, scrubbed
• 4 tablespoons butter, softened
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill


Coarse salt to taste
Steam potatoes until they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15-20 minutes, depending upon the size of potatoes.
Drain potatoes.
Cut each potato in half and add to a serving bowl, along with butter and dill.
Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat potatoes in butter and dill.

Makes 4 servings.



Irish Stew

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to think about some traditional Irish dishes to accompany the Guinness and Irish whiskey. Corned beef and cabbage comes first to mind, but Irish stew is also worthy of consideration. I remember well the first time I made the dish decades ago. I had never eaten it, but a friend from Ireland praised it to the heavens. How, I wondered, could such a simple combination of lamb, potatoes and onions be that good? After tasting it, I understood that this is among those classic preparations (boiled beef is another) that are ethereal and require no elaboration or refinement.

Recipe

• 1½ pounds lamb shoulder
• 1 large onion
• 2 large potatoes
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 ½ cups boiling water
• ¼ cup chopped parsley


Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Cut lamb into ¾-inch cubes.
Peel onion, halve and cut into thin slices.
Peel potatoes and cut into thick slices.
In a heavy casserole dish or Dutch oven, layer potatoes, onions and lamb, starting and ending with potatoes.
Season each layer with salt and pepper.
Pour over boiling water, cover and bake in preheated oven about 2-2½ hours, until meat is tender and stew has thickened.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Makes 4 servings.



Asparagus With Hollandaise

Fresh asparagus can be served with a variety of sauces and accompaniments, but none are quite as sensual as a rich, satiny hollandaise sharpened with lemon. Hollandaise is reputed to be difficult to master, but don’t let that intimidate you. With a little care and attention to detail, making the sauce will become second nature. This recipe calls for unsalted butter. If you use salted butter, omit the coarse salt.

Recipe

• 3 egg yolks
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon water
• 1 teaspoon coarse salt
• 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 bunch thin asparagus


In a stainless-steel mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, lemon juice, water and salt. Whisk to combine.
Place the bowl over low heat and whisk constantly, rotating the bowl at the same time until the egg yolks thicken and the whisk leaves tracks in the bowl.
Begin adding butter, a spoonful at a time, whisking after each addition.
As you work, lift bowl away from the heat or on the heat, as needed to create a smooth emulsion.
Continue until all the butter has been incorporated. Taste and add additional lemon juice and/or salt as desired.
Place bowl in a warm spot while you cook the asparagus.
Cut off the woody bottoms of the asparagus. In a large skillet, cover asparagus with water, add some salt and place on high heat.
Bring to a boil and simmer until asparagus is tender.
Drain asparagus and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Divide asparagus among 4 serving plates and top with a band of hollandaise.

Makes 4 servings.



Three-Berry Shortcake

How fortunate we are to have strawberries, blackberries and blueberries in season. It is a trifecta of eating pleasure, and shortcake is a great way to enjoy them in combination with a sweet biscuit and mounds of whipped cream. The traditional shortcake involves two layers, but today some prefer a smaller portion. That is easily done by serving only half a biscuit topped with berries and cream. Leftover biscuits can be split, toasted, buttered and enjoyed at breakfast.

Berry Filling:

• 1 pint strawberries
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
• 1 pint blackberries
• 1 pint blueberries


Hull and slice strawberries.
In a small mixing bowl, mash strawberries with sugar.
Add orange juice, blueberries and blackberries.
Stir, cover and macerate for a few hours.
 

Biscuits:

• 1 cup low-gluten, self-rising flour, such as White Lily
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 2½ tablespoons chilled butter
• ¼ cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar.
Divide butter into small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry blender or 2 knives.
Stir in milk until a ball forms.
Turn out on a floured surface, knead once or twice and roll out to a thickness of about ½-inch.
Cut 4 biscuits with a 3-inch biscuit cutter.
Place biscuits on baking sheet and bake until nicely browned, about 10 minutes.
 

Whipped Cream:

• 1 cup heavy cream
• 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until soft peaks form.
 

To Assemble:

• 2 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat broiler.
Split biscuits and toast.
Spread toasted biscuit halves with butter.
Place bottom halves in 4 shallow bowls.
Spoon over some of the berries and their juice and add a large dollop of whipped cream.
Place remaining half of each biscuit on top, add berries and juice and finish with a generous amount of whipped cream.

Makes 4 servings.



Cream of Carrot Soup

Fresh, tender and sweet spring carrots are a fitting metaphor for the season itself, indelibly linked in the popular imagination with the Easter Bunny. But there’s no reason rabbits should get them all. This is a quick and simple recipe that yields a velvety rendition of carrot, flavored with a hint of orange and nutmeg.

Recipe

• 2 pounds carrots
• 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
• 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
• 1 cup half-and-half
• Coarse salt to taste


Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Trim, peel and slice carrots.
Combine carrots, broth and orange zest in a medium pot and simmer until carrots soften, about 20 minutes.
Puree carrots and broth in blender or food processor.
Return puree to pot, add half-and-half and season with salt and nutmeg.
Reheat before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

 

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