Sunday, October 23, 2011

CRAB AND SHRIMP CASSEROLE


Often, back in the days when I was a college student, I would come home from class and throw together a quick dinner made of rice, frozen vegetables, and cans of tuna and cream of mushroom soup.  I liked it.  It was easy to make and satisfying to eat.  It was also healthier than the usual student fare of pizza and diet soda.  The recipe for my "tuna casserole," had come from a magazine advertisement for a famous brand of canned tuna fish.  It's been a long while since I've cooked it.  Just recently, I decided to revamp the recipe by throwing out the canned ingredients and replacing them with fresh ones.  The result was really good.  My recipe contains long grain rice and crunchy wild rice cooked in chicken broth, some sauteed vegetables, crab and shrimp, and a delicious homemade bechamel sauce that holds all the ingredients together. It's topped by panko bread crumbs and then it goes into the oven.  It comes out hot and bubbly, crunchy and delicious.  I am glad I revisited and revamped this recipe.  It took two tries.  Version one needed further tweaking, version two was spot on.  You'll see that I did not use any salt, and that's because I thought that the seafood and the broth were already salty enough to flavor the whole dish.  Here then is my recipe for shrimp and crab casserole:

Ingredients & Directions:



For the seafood:

1 pound of cooked crab meat
1 pound of medium shrimp, cooked until they just turn pink (If the shrimp looks kind of large, cut it in half)
Juice of one medium lemon

  • Peel the shrimp and place it in a bowl along with the crab.  Sprinkle the lemon juice over the seafood and set aside. 


For the rice:

3/4 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
2 & 1/2 to 3 cups of chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
dash of black pepper
1 tablespoon butter

  • In a medium sized pot bring the broth to a boil and add the long grain and the wild rice, the chopped parsley, the pepper and the butter.  Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and let the rice cook until all the liquid is absorbed, but the rice is still moist.  Set aside.



For the Vegetables:

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup frozen succotash (corn and Lima beans)
1 medium or 1/2 of a large red sweet pepper, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 mushrooms, chopped

  • Cook the succotash according to package directions, drain, and set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add all the rest of the vegetables and cook  until they are soft.   


For the Bechamel Sauce:


2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 tablespoons flour (how much flour to use depending on how thick you like the bechamel - for a really thick sauce use four tablespoons)
2 cups of lukewarm milk

  • In a saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. 
  • Lower the heat and add the flour, mixing it with the butter.
  • Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly.
  • Keep whisking after the milk is added.  Whisk well, until the sauce thickens and is ready to use.  The sauce starts to thicken from the bottom of the pot where the heat is more intense, so make sure that you stir the thickened sauce from bottom to top in order to incorporate it well.
Now preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To assemble:

1 cup of panko bread crumbs (I used Italian flavored panko)
1 or 2 tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces
a few dashes of paprika
black pepper

  • In a baking dish large enough to hold all the ingredients fold everything together:  The rice and the seafood,

  • the vegetables and the bechamel sauce.  Season with black pepper.

  • Smooth the top,

  •  and sprinkle the panko bread crumbs over it. 
  • Sprinkle some paprika over the breadcrumbs and dot with butter.

Place in the oven and cook for half an hour to forty minutes until the top turns golden brown.



Serve right away, while the bread crumbs are crunchy and the dish is piping hot.  We had left overs, and the flavor was still great the next day.  Enjoy!

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