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TCP Kitchen

Dinner from the Gulf

Cast a wide net

As a kid, I used to take seafood for granted. Growing up less than 20 miles from the Gulf Coast gave me plenty of opportunities to eat delicious shrimp, crab, fish and oysters that came right off the boat. I also learned firsthand what it took to catch, clean and cook food from the briny depths. Some days, instead of buying seafood at the store, we would head down to the beach to collect our own.

There were early morning fishing trips with my dad. We would get up before dawn and head to the granite jetties marking the mouth of the Freeport Harbor Channel. There, we would toss our lines in the water, hoping for flounder, speckled trout or, if we were really lucky, a redfish or two. I never had much luck myself, tallying more lost tackle than fish, but when the fish were biting, we’d have a delicious fresh supper.

The canals and marshes near the beach were another hunting ground. Armed with stakes, string and cheap chicken parts, my mom, sister and I would try to catch blue crabs. Meanwhile, my dad would go after shrimp with his cast net.

Successful crabbing took a little finesse. We’d shove a stake into the mud, tie a string to it and secure a piece of chicken to the other end. Then we’d toss the chicken into the water and wait. After a few minutes, we’d ever so gently reel in the string. Feeding crabs would follow the meat into shallow water, where it was simple to net them.

Not so simple was untangling the crabs from the net and putting them in a big plastic bucket. If we dropped one, it would quickly scuttle back toward the water, pincers held high and ready to snap little fingers. But even the ones that got away sometimes were swept up again minutes later.

While we filled our buckets, Dad would stand nearby and with an easy, practiced toss spin the cast net into deeper water, hauling up shrimp, which we kept, and other curious critters, such as croaker fish, which he’d toss back.

Back home after a long, sun-baked morning, we’d clean our catch. Mom would put a huge pot of water on to boil and before long, the crabs were cooked, and we’d feast on sweet claw meat, or she’d make stuffed crab in the shell.

The shrimp either went in the freezer or were immediately boiled or fried. Crunchy, and sweet, fried shrimp are a wonderful treat—and not a staple for those watching their waistlines.

Cleaning and deveining shrimp is a bit of a chore, but so worth it.

You should also peel and devein the shrimp for this creamy soup, which pits the sweetness of corn and shrimp against the spiciness of red pepper and green chile. Thanks to Katherine Bevins, wife of our sales director, Martin, for sharing the recipe.

Shrimp and Corn Bisque

1/4 cup butter
2 onions, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 pounds small shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
1 can (14.5 ounces) tomatoes and green chiles
2 cans (14 ounces) cream-style corn
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper, or more to taste
Salt to taste
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic and bell pepper until onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about another 5 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Stir in tomatoes, corn, basil, milk and black and red pepper. Turn down heat and simmer 10 minutes. Taste, add salt and adjust spices. Add green onions and serve.

Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 406 calories, 25.5 g protein, 19 g fat, 33.4 g carbohydrates, 714 mg sodium, 184 mg cholesterol

October 2009 Recipe Contest