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The Bahamas are brimming with hidden treasures. Even crawling with island-hopping cruisers there is always a new adventure to embark on. If you’re into that sort of thing. The guidebooks give highlights of the major tourist destinations: swimming pigs, iguana islands, sunken planes and that sort of thing.
But as with anywhere, some of the most exciting things are hidden. The best is meeting someone in love with the place just bursting with suggestions. We met that couple in George Town.
Suddenly, I saw a life-sized grand piano materialize out of the blue background with a mermaid sitting at the keyboard. I can’t say whether or not it was a life-sized mermaid as I haven’t seen one yet.
“It’s here! I see it!” I shouted to the guys in the dinghy to stop and tried my best to swim over to it.
Even with Taira San’s flippers on it was like running on a treadmill that’s gone insane I wasn’t gaining any ground against the strong current. I struggled back to the dinghy and grabbed ahold of the paddle “Just go back to where I was,” I instructed. Easier said than done: the current hadn’t merely kept me away from the statue. Much to my chagrin they hadn’t thrown out the dinghy anchor when I had shouted discovery and we were almost back at the yacht. We had to start the search all over again. At least we knew we were in the right place.
With Sato San and I dragging through the water holding on to the back of the paddle board we earched, peering into a world of blue. Sato San spotted her first this time. The mermaid sat at her massive grand piano, stone tresses flowing. This time we anchored the dinghy close to our quarry.
After fighting the current swimming to the mermaid and fighting the current conching I was more than ready for an afternoon nap when we got back to the boat. By the time I woke up the boys had gone through the rigorous task of shelling and cleaning the conchs we had gathered that day. They had already planned what was going to be for dinner.
I had been leery of working with conch for quite a while. More than just being difficult to clean and cook, the only ways I have seen it served in the Bahamas is in a stew or as cracked conch, or deep-fried. I have had good cracked conch, but still. I’m not the biggest fan of fried food and Umineko is a fry-free boat. Seriously, Sato San has a rule… frying is dangerous underway and too messy in port. So absolutely no frying on Umineko. I’m not complaining.
The more I work with conch though the more I like it. The delicate flavor is reminiscent of clams, but it is a taste entirely its own. Better still, each conch (which you can buy from fishermen for $2-3 or catch and clean yourself) has an enormous amount of meat (compared to other shellfish) and if you pressure cook it tender you can use it in any number of ways.
I’ve never seen conch in white wine sauce in restaurants or recipes, but this may be my favorite recipe:
Whitecap Conch in White Wine Sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t freshly ground black pepper
½ c conch stock (half salt water half fresh)
1 tomato, sliced in wedges
Chop conch into chunks and pressure cook ½ hour or until tender
Cook spaghetti 7-8 minutes
Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until onions translucent and garlic golden-brown
Add conch, stock, lemon juice, salt, and ground pepper and simmer for 7 minutes
Stir in butter until melted
Add flour and simmer another 3 minutes until slightly thickened
Mix sauce with pasta
Dish out, sprinkle with parmesan
I like to serve with rosemary garlic foccacia
*tip* If you do try to catch and clean it by yourself – seeing the enormous shells in the translucent
waters is hard to resist – then a word of advice. Vinegar. Once you get the animals out of their shell it is like a giant sneezed all over the meat. I am sure there is an organ or something that you can remove to take care of the mess. I just don’t know where it is. The nasty stuff is almost impossible to get off without a ton of soap, water, and paper towels. However, your basic white vinegar cuts right through it like magic. I just wish I’d known that the innumerable times I struggled through removing the snot the old-fashioned way.
The Bahamas are one of the only places in the world where fresh seafood is cheaper than fruits and veggies. Even in Nassau, one of the most touristy, expensive islands of the Bahamas you can buy a conch, caught and cleaned for $2-3. Go to the grocery store and you’ll find a head of lettuce for $5, if you’re extremely lucky.
But conch are everywhere in the Bahamas. They litter the ocean floor. Why you can dive down and pick one up almost anywhere. It’s not like they run fast. Unfortunately once you’ve caught one then the hard part begins. Getting them out of their rock-hard shells is all but impossible if you don’t know the trick. Personally I would recommend either getting a local to actually give you a tutorial on how to get a conch out of its shell and clean it.
Locals have told us, we have researched it on the internet, and still the process of removing the little bastards from their home takes strength of will, arm, and whatever you are trying to make the holes with better have a diamond tip or be a laser.
In other words it really is better to buy your conch and get someone to clean them. It is worth the $2-3. But once you get the meat back to your galley what do you do with it? If you don’t cook it right the consistency is somewhat akin to that of boot leather. Believe me, years ago, before I knew there was a right and wrong way to cook conch I ended up with an inedible lump of muscle that could have doubled as a dog toy.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways to cook conch that make the meat delectable. The meat is not melt-in-the-mouth tender, more akin to squid; when cooked well conch is a delicious, firm, and flavorful meat.
1. Beat the conch into submission: Take every aggression you didn’t know you had out on the poor mollusk until you have broken every fiber of its being and it is a thin sheet of tender flesh.
It really isn’t as violent as it sounds, but you do need to hit the meat until it becomes a thin sheet. This is the most common method for tenderizing conch, or at least the one I had heard about the most before trying to tame the conch myself. However, it is far from my favorite. It probably isn’t the best thing for a galley to be beating something to bits in it. I prefer gentler means. I don’t even think we have the proper conch pounding materials aboard. On top of that it takes time and effort.
2. Crosshatch it like squid: In many Thai restaurants squid is often cut in a pretty crosshatched pattern the little prickled tubes are lovely in stir-fry, soup, or any meal. This method works to tenderize conch as well. Simply score the conch in a series of vertical lines each about 3 mm apart cutting about halfway into the flesh, then cut a series of horizontal scores. The pattern is quite pretty and the resulting meat is tender and tasty.
3. Slice very thinly: Shaving off little slivers of the conch works well to keep the meat tender. The down side to this is that it can be time consuming to cut thin enough slices. The up side is that it’s freaking delicious.
4. Cook extremely quickly: Just like squid, the key is to cook conch extremely quickly or extremely slowly. Throw it in a pan and stir-fry it for 30 seconds to a minute but no longer than that.
When it is cooked the flesh will become opaque. If you are cooking it like this and using it in something else I suggest cooking it separately and setting it aside and adding it to the stir-fry or dish just before serving.
5. Cook for 2+ hours: If you really don’t care about wasting time and propane then you can boil the conch for 2+ hours. This breaks down the rubbery fibers and makes the conch delightful and tender. I haven’t actually tried this method myself (I use enough propane on the boat as is) but it certainly works.
6. Pressure cook: Pressure cooking is hands down my favorite method for tenderizing conch. Instead of boiling the meat for 2 hours, you can cook it for 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. Not only do you get delicious, tender conch, but you get some of the most delicious soup stock you have ever tasted. You can use the grey bits as well as the pink and pale as well. Cut the conch into bite-sized bits and put it in the pressure cooker. Pour in a mixture of ½ sea water and ½ fresh water until there is about ½” of liquid above the conch and cook for 20 minutes.
7. Eat Raw: Conch sashimi or conch salad are both delicious ways to eat conch raw, and I am sure that conch ceviche is delicious as well. With all these preparation methods conch should be cut into thin slices. Even if you are hesitant to eat raw conch it is certainly worth trying at least once.
Americans don’t need tourist visas to Cuba! How could they? Americans couldn’t go to Cuba, or at least they couldn’t spend money there. That would be “Trading with the Enemy.” When Sato San first started talking about getting visas to Cuba in Nassau I was sure I wouldn’t need one.
Right, why would Cuba charge the people of a country that put an embargo on them? Ahh well, hindsight is 20/20. Clearly I was wrong, but on the up side Cuba doesn’t charge US citizens any more than other countries.
The Cuban Embassy has outsourced its visas. Well, technically Cuba doesn’t have visas. They have “tourist cards.” You get them at tour agencies! Havanatur sells them $15 for a tourist card in Nassau.
Just go, give them the money and you get your tourist card. Of course you have to brave the mean streets of Nassau to get there.
Nassau is a trip, and I do mean that in the vernacular. With dingy strip-malls and rundown street markets, a good portion of the island gives the impression of the Bahamas being a developing country.
Or more accurately, a colony abandoned by its benefactor. Juxtaposed with that is the opulence of Atlantis, the island’s 5 star resort, rising out of the meager background. The resort is a get-away for Americans with more money than time who want the comforts of home paired with tropical weather and an island setting.
We didn’t actually make it to Atlantis or its casino, but sailing past was enough for me. (Okay, I might be talked into visiting sometime.) The building is stunning, but when you see the rest of the island and how the locals live it does seem a little out of place.
Yacht Haven marina, where we moored, is a far cry from Atlantis. It isn’t terrible by any means; decent showers, hot water, wifi… but the street outside is like stepping into the ghetto. And that was where I had to go to get my tourist card.
I wished I had sent my passport with Sato San so he could pick it up for me, but I really hadn’t thought I’d need one. The travel agency was on the same street as the Marina, not even a long walk. Still, taxi drivers tried to solicit my business every half a block or so.
The agency didn’t look like much from the outside and was almost empty. Still, I had to wait almost an hour to get my tourist card. Not an involved process by any means.
Still, it was late afternoon by the time I got back to the boat. I had my tourist card. Everything was set – we were going to Cuba! I had to make a celebration dinner.
I am a big fan of cream sauces and gnocchi sounded good. You don’t have to use cream, for a lighter version just use half a cup extra of plain yogurt and the sauce is still delicious.
Tidal Thyme cream sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
¾ c plain yogurt
½ c cream
1 t thyme
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 T corn starch
Sauté garlic in butter over medium heat 3 minutes
Turn temperature down to low and add yogurt, cream, and seasonings
Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add corn starch, stir in well and cook another minute
Serve over gnocchi or other pasta (I’m a sucker for gnocchi though) and garnish with dried cranberries
We anchored in the middle of the ocean. In 20 feet of water. Many a Spanish galleon ran aground in the Bahamas, giving it its name. Spanish Baja (low) mar (sea). Unfortunately, unlike the last time I was on a boat anchored in the middle of the Bahamas the seas were anything but flat. Thinking back to sailing across lake Erie I should have remembered how choppy shallow bodies of water get. So it makes sense that it doesn’t take much of a wind to stir up water that shallow but still
A rolly anchorage didn’t begin to cover it. Waves slammed into us from what seemed like all sides. At
least it was a good test for our new Rocna anchor.
Anchored in the middle of the ocean, fish for dinner just made sense. Though white fish isn’t my favorite it does lend itself well to glazes and sauces and we had picked up some cheap frozen tilapia at Costco before leaving the States. I know, fresh fish is invariably better but we like to hedge our bets. Just in case we don’t catch fish it’s always good to keep your freezer stocked. You’d think a Japanese boat wouldn’t have any problems catching fish, but we hadn’t had the best luck so frozen tilapia fillets it
We had just done our last time in the States provisioning extravaganza and I was doing what I could to use the fresh vegetables before they went off. Leafy greens go first so I always try to use them as quickly as possible. As much as I adore salads keeping fresh greens on a long passage is all-butimpossible.
This glazed fish would be delightful over a bed of rice as well, though possibly not quite as healthy. So if
you manage to pick up some spinach or similar greens along the way they accent this scrumptious fish
Lime-soy Tilapia over a bed of Spinach
2 T soy
1 T honey
1 T mirin
1 T water
Juice from 2 limes
2 T Olive oil
2 c fresh spinach
4 tilapia filets
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix soy, mirin, honey, and lime juice in bowl
Heat 2 T olive oil in large skillet over medium heat
Fry fish for 2-3 minutes
Flip fish and add sauce
Stir slowly until sauce reduces to glaze
Flip fish and turn off heat
Serve over a bed of spinach
Pockets. Sato San wanted me to make pockets. Now this may sound easy. I’m sure for some people it is. I do not belong to the order of the seamstresses. It took months to get the right needle, correct thread, not to mention right tension for sewing canvas.
Did I fail to mention these were heavy-duty canvas pockets? That’s right, the canvas our wonderful friend “the Dude,” no not Jeff Bridges, this Dude has never seen the Big Lebowski. He’s a canvas-sewing master in Syracuse, gave us was made for boat-covers. Not exactly the easiest thing to sew with an every-day sewing machine. Did I mention I don’t really sew to begin with. Well, like everything else I jumped in head first and went head to head with my arch-nemesis… the sewing machine.
I can cook sure, but sewing. There’s a steep learning curve. “The Dude” had made it look easy. Of course he also had a heavy-duty machine not to mention an attachment for bias tape.
Don’t get me started on bias tape the damn stuff you sew borders with. I’m pretty sure this machine has a special attachment that sucks all the energy out of the user. By the end of the first day I felt like an empty shell and the resulting “pockets” were nothing to write home about. Functional sure, but pretty? Not so much.
I’m stubborn though. I’d been given a mission to make pockets. Master that damn sewing machine and make pockets is what I would do. I just needed a drink to make it through.
La Parilla, a Brazilian fusion restaurant in my hometown of Lawrence, has an amazing drink called Brazilian Lemonade. I have never seen it anywhere else but as a university student I loved it. We had a lot of limes on the boat that needed to be used up before they went off. I adore limeade. Not the sickly-sweet stuff you buy but real homemade limeade that is more juice than water or sugar. As good as limeade would have been I wanted to try and create a Brazilian limeade.
This drink was everything I hoped it would be and more. It lasts for ages in the refrigerator and is perfect to pull out on a hot day. You can also add more water to the mixture to stretch it further, or just load it up with ice (if you’re lucky enough to have that on board. But my favorite thing is to mix it with rum and make what I’ve started calling a “Brazilian Bikini.” It is a new favorite cocktail of mine.
I would love to hear what you think!
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 ¼ c lime juice (juice from about 8 limes)
- ¾ c sugar
- 4 c water
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly making sure that all of the sugar dissolves. If you have a blender you may be able to mix it more thoroughly but I found shaking it every time worked splendidly
My new favorite cocktail:
the Brazilian Bikini
- 1 recipe Brazilian Limeade
- Rum to taste
- Lime wedge for garnish
Motoring into Fort Lauderdale, there is a sign boasting that the city is the yachting capitol of the world. It is a different world: mansions with megayachts moored in front of them line the ICW. Down each of the side streets it seems as if there are boats moored in front of every home regardless of size. Even the local Episcopal church has a message to yachties on their sign. Boats are the standard rather than the exception.
Unfortunately, transient spots (places for traveling boats) for catamarans were somewhat limited. Especially the week after the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. After calling numerous marinas, I had reserved a place in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, at the downtown city docks. The dockmaster, Matt, had been extremely helpful and knew boats.
In other words he realized our timing was weather-dependent and didn’t try to pin us down to exact dates. He even knew how to spell the word catamaran, which is more than I can say for some marina workers. (“catamaran… is that spelled with a “C” or a “K”?”)
The city docks are right next to the prison. Sure it sounds sketchy, Matt told us, but it’s actually an incredibly safe place to be. The prisoners get out and no way do they want to go back. Not to mention that there is excellent security in the area.
We motored into downtown Fort Lauderdale snacking on the Riverboat Strawberry Rose Scones I had made for brunch that Sunday morning. I adore rose water. The delicate flavor adds a richness and vibrancy to almost any dessert you add it to. I am a firm believer that rose water should take its rightful place beside vanilla and almond extract in the pantry.
I first started cooking with it in baklava and I couldn’t get enough, unfortunately at the gourmet food shops you can find rose water (as well as orange flower water another of my loves), but a tiny bottle can be as much as $12-15.
Then I discovered Mediterranean and Indian groceries. A bottle 5 times larger costs a quarter the price. Thankfully rose water is beginning to make its way into regular groceries, but you can always find it in Indian or Mediterranean shops, as well as some Asian groceries.
Strawberry, rose water, and just a hint of lime combine to make a delectable tender scone. A delightful and easy snack to piece on motoring along the ICW, or just on a lazy Sunday at home.
Riverboat Strawberry Rose Scones
- 3 c flour
- ½ t baking soda
- 1 T baking powder
- ¼ t salt
- ½ butter, melted
- ½ c sugar
- ¾ c milk
- Juice from 1 lime
- 1 T rose water
- ¾ c strawberries, sliced
- Preheat oven to 375◦ F (190◦ C)
- Mix dry ingredients in medium bowl and make a well in the center
- Pour butter, milk, lime juice , and rose water into well
- Mix slightly (there should still be lumps)
- Gently mix in strawberries
- Spoon large dollops onto flour-dusted tin foil
- Bake 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden brown around the edges
Saint Augustine is the oldest city in North America, or so they claim, and quite possibly the most touristic town. It is absolutely beautiful though. The majestic fort overlooks the charming town comprised of museums souvenir shops, and restaurants. Umineko spent the day being complete and utter tourists. We went to the fort and learned about coquina, the cannon-ball eating stone that made up the fort walls. We visited the Pirate museum and I looked longingly at a book on woman sailors. (Though since starting to sail and living in fear of them, I’ve been more and more confused by why anyone would glorify thieves, murderers, and rapists). The town was charming, but after one day I was ready to go back to Umineko and set sail.
Rather than pay the exorbitant $2.25 a foot at the local marinas, Umineko decided to stay on a mooring ball between Anastasia Island and Saint Augustine. We dinghied back to the boat. After a day of ice cream, wine tastings, hot-sauce tastings, and all sorts of snacks I couldn’t wait to make dinner. It was finally warm out which meant I could make more salads.
We didn’t have any lettuce on board nor spinach or any other salad-y greens, but I had the perfect thing. I had gotten a bunch of beets at Marion farmer’s market and was itching to try them in something.
Beets are delicious. Their sweet, rich flavor makes a fantastic salads or part of a salad. They are excellent, roasted on their own and of course the traditional Russian borscht soup. But though beautiful and a wonderful root vegetable to have around be extremely careful of the wily beet. It has a mind of its own and will stain everything around it brilliant hues of pink. Plastic bowls, wooden spoons… even your countertop isn’t safe.
I warned Sato San that Umineko might be pink after I made dinner. Characteristically he laughed and said he liked pink. Still, I wanted to prevent as much dying as possible. My mind kept going back to the famous borscht incident at Paradise Café, a restaurant I had worked at. One evening we tried something different and made borscht. It came out fantastically, all of the patrons loved it. Unfortunately the soup dyed everything that it came in contact with. Bowls, spoons… everything had to be thrown away.
Thankfully none of Umineko’s countertops or bowls were dyed in the making of this beet salad (one wooden spoon wasn’t so lucky). Happily, it turned out everything I hoped it would be and more. And so backstay beet salad was born… just like backstays support a mast this salad supports a main wonderfully. I highly recommend it for cruising inland and off-shore alike. It probably isn’t too bad on land either!
Beets are a root vegetable that you may not think about often but they are an excellent way to get a salad when you haven’t been provisioning in a while. But be careful…
When preparing beets on a boat (or really anywhere) make sure to clean surfaces immediately unless you want your countertops and white bowls splashed with a lovely pink. Wooden spoons’ porous surfaces never will regain their original shade but you can keep your white countertop gleaming.
Backstay Beet Salad
- 4 medium-sized beets
- 3 oz feta
- ½ small onion, finely sliced
- 2 T white balsamic vinegar
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 t salt (or to taste)
- 1 t freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- Preheat oven to 350◦ F (170◦ C)
- Wrap beets in tinfoil and roast in oven for about 40 minutes
- Allow to cool (run cold water over the beets to speed up the process)
- Peel (peels may slide right off)
- Cut into cubes
- Put beet cubes into medium-sized bowl
- Mix in onions, feta, vinegar, and olive oil
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
It was an overnight sail from Charleston. Smooth sailing all the way, unfortunately not fast, but smooth which was nice.
We had originally wanted to find a marina in Brunswick but all the marinas either didn’t have space for us or were extremely expensive. We opted for anchoring out a bit further South. Almost at the border between Florida and Georgia.
We anchored among a few other boats in the lee of an island.
“There are horses on the island.” Sato San told me.
Of course I had to go outside and see. He was right, there was a small herd of ponies in the woods down the beach. We dinghied out to the island and tied up at the dock. As soon as we got off the boat we could feel the grandeur of Southern
nature. A hush of the cathedral forest made it feel holy. The cool sweet air had a different texture than the ocean just feet away. We walked through the woods’ grand corridors gawking at the ancient trees with their elegant tresses of sphagnum moss.
We were in a completely different world. A doe sprang away from us as we startled her browsing by the pathway. But I had my heart set on seeing the feral ponies. Their droppings littered the pathways but nary a pony did we see.
We wound our way through the woods to the beach on the opposite side of the island without hide nor hair of a pony. Finally we happened upon some other people who told us that the ponies generally stayed near some grassy ruins a short dinghy ride away.
The three scrubby ponies we happened upon weren’t scared of us at all. In fact they were accustomed to people. Feral ponies are always fun to see, but I could easily see why Assateague’s feral ponies were more well-known than Cumberland Island’s. (okay, so Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague may have helped a little) Soon I was wowed by the enormous buck that crashed through the trees just ahead of us, pausing to look back at us. His antler crown made him seem like royalty of the forest.
But Sato San was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and so we headed back. After the night sail and exploring the island I was a little tired. I wasn’t really in the mood to make an involved dinner. I asked Sato San what he wanted to eat he suggested unagi. Not the simple unagi I was used to. He wanted to teach me how to make a special dish: Hitsumabushi Unagi.
This unagi-fest of a dish was invented in Nagoya but soon spread throughout Japan. I adore Unagi. Given the choice of a last meal I might have to choose unagi. Still, this dish is like the Japanese equivalent of an all-you-can-eat crab dinner. You know you shouldn’t eat more but you just can’t stop yourself.
Simple and delicious. The only problem is finding the unagi. You can usually find it in the frozen section at Asian supermarkets but unfortunately the price of unagi has gone up in the past year because eel has been overfished and they are increasingly hard to find. Still, I highly recommend trying this dish if you can find unagi. The tender meat practically melts in your mouth in a sweet-savory blend of deliciousness. Balanced by rice and a little wasabi I can’t think of many things more scrumptious.
Under the Lee Hitsumabushi Unagi
Under the Lee: Located in the calm area to the lee of an island or peninsula
– Sea Talk Nautical Dictionary
- 1 recipe unagi sauce
- 2 unagi steaks
- Short grained rice
- 1 c Japanese green tea
- Wasabi paste
- Green onions, finely sliced
Cook rice (I hate to admit it but the rice cooker really does cook rice better than I can and sadly the rice cooker is a shore-power only thing.)
- Make recipe of unagi sauce
- Bake eel about 15 minutes at 350◦ F (170◦ )
- Broil 5 minutes to cook top
- Cut unagi into thin strips
- Place unagi, unagi sauce, and rice pot in center of table and set table with bowls at everyone’s place
- Get Ready
- Spoon rice into bowl
- Place strips of unagi on top
- Spoon unagi sauce
- Spoon rice into bowl
- Place strips of unagi over rice
- Sprinkle green onions on top
- Squeeze wasabi onto the creation
- Drizzle unagi sauce around
- Round 2 + green tea (The green tea is wonderful to help clean the sticky rice and unagi sauce out of the bowl and adds an interesting flavor)
- You can do it! Just a little deliciousness left to go…
When I’m in a new place I like to sample the local delicacies. For me trying new foods is half the fun of travel. What do they eat in this part of the world? How does the food reflect the culture?
One fabulous thing about sailing is that you have your galley with you so you can learn how to make the local foods you like, or at least your rendition of them. Freshly locally-grown produce and spices are always better than something shipped in from halfway around the world anyway. So take advantage of the opportunity. What better than adding new spices to your cupboard, bringing different flavors into your life, and expanding your culinary horizons?
Umineko was in Charleston, South Carolina. Sailing in I knew nothing about the Southern City, other than that there was a dance named after it. I quickly discovered Charleston was known for being a foodie’s town – the unsung culinary capital of the South. Not to mention being a being a beautiful place resplendent in southern charms. Street vendors sold boiled (pronounced balled) or deep-fried peanuts in front of elaborately-decorated southern mansions. The clip-clop of horse hooves from the numerous horse-drawn carriages gave the “low country” South Carolina city a special feel.
After eating at Husk, a restaurant lauded by the NY Times, I understood what everyone was talking about. I needed to pick up some Cajun seasoning and try my hand at making gumbo. After all, we had just bought some fresh shrimp from fisherman in Georgetown. What better way to use them?
At Marion Place farmer’s market, Charleston’s Saturday market, a delightful woman was running the Charleston Spice Company booth gave me some gumbo-making tips. For gumbo I clearly needed Cajun seasoning. She recommended her smoky Cajun seasoning and I was all for it.
She didn’t have a recipe because she didn’t make it, but her husband made the best gumbo she had ever tasted. Several years earlier she had put a few teaspoons of sassafras filé in the gumbo at the end. That was the missing ingredient. The gumbo was perfection. The filé helped thicken the gumbo and added a hint of flavor to the delicious mélange… that extra something she told me.
That afternoon I went back to Umineko to prepare the gumbo. I may not have made it before, but I had tasted a few gumbos in my life. Playing it by ear, and mixing in what we had on board a delectable seafood gumbo came into existence.
Now technically gumbo, like most stews, is better the following day. I did let it sit for several hours (and it was better the next day), but we sated ourselves on gumbo and rice that evening.
Sailing Seafood Gumbo
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 can green beans, drained
- 2 Tablespoon Veg. oil
- 2 Tablespoon Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 6 oz can Tomato paste
- 2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 t black pepper
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 T Smoky Cajun seasoning
- 1 t 7 chili seasoning
- 1 T Vegeta, vegetable soup stock powder (or bouillon cube)
- 1 lb shrimp
- 1 c small scallops
- 3 Cup Water
- 1 c cooked rice
- 2 t ground sassafras filé (to thicken it up and give it that special extra flavor)
- Sautee onions, garlic, and green pepper in oil
- Add tomatoes
- Stir in flour and mix well.
- Add spices, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes on med-low heat
- Remove bay leaf
- Add green beans, cooked rice, and seafood, cover, and cook 10 minutes
- Stir in sassafras filé
- Serve in soup bowls with cornbread on the side or over rice
Georgetown is beautiful, historic, a must-see if you are in South Carolina. Rice museums, tea shops, and of course the grand Southern mansions. I was surprised to learn that South Carolina’s “low country” was the US rice-growing capital and is still the only place in the US that grows its own tea. It is a very special place with a feel utterly its own.
That is if it hasn’t just burned down the week before you arrive. Well, the whole downtown hadn’t burned down. Just 9 or 10 buildings. Still, the blackened scar surrounded by construction marred the picturesque feel a smidge. But even the recent disaster didn’t stop the booming shrimping industry.
We were in the heart of shrimp country and I was delighted. The winged-shrimp boats looked like pirate ships of yore to my eyes. And these entrepreneurial fishermen even had a store where you could buy shrimp and seafood from the fishermen as soon as they unloaded their wares. It wasn’t quite as cheap or special as buying them off an actual fisherman, but it was close.
The hours-old shrimp still tasted spectacular in the shrimp alfredo I made that night.
Seafarer’s Shrimp Alfredo
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c cream
- 2 T butter
- 2 T freshly rosemary, finely chopped
- ½ c parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 t freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
- 2 t salt (or to taste)
- 1 lb shrimp
- ¼ lb scallops
- Dried cranberries for garnish
- 1 16 oz box of spaghetti or linguini
- Cook spaghetti (I like mine al dente)
- Fry garlic and onion in bottom of a saucepan in 1 T butter over medium heat until translucent (about 3 minutes)
- Add rosemary
- Stir in cream and cheese
- Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Sauté shrimp and scallops in 1 T butter until just cooked
- Add to cream sauce
- Add pasta to original pasta pot
- Pour in cream sauce and shrimp
- Scatter dried cranberries on top