Category: seafood (Page 2 of 4)

When You Celebrate A Birthday At Joe’s Crab Shack

Photography Disclaimer: If you have a low tolerance for lousy phone food photography, avert your eyes after the section about Joseph’s Grill. This post is chock-full of bad phone photos. Pinky-orange crab, yellow-tinted whites, neon cocktails + a blurry, self-gratuitous selfie all bathed in the jarring lighting at Joe’s Crab Shack. I wanted to keep Martha Steward on her toes. Frankly, perfection bores me. If you feel the same way about food blogs, then this post is for you. 

How does one describe my mother-in-law?

Well, for one thing, she really likes themes. Like, really, really likes themes. Theme parties have become such a normal part of Jake’s existence, that he hardly bats an eye at her newest schemes. He smiles as he recollects a childhood of flower parties, color parties, first or last initial parties, and happy pumpkin parties.

On the other hand, my family didn’t give much thought to themes. They took it as far as asking me what I wanted on my birthday cake and possibly finding matching invitations, but no further. It’s no wonder that themes kind of frighten me.

We returned to the Twin Cities last weekend to celebrate Jake’s dad’s big 60th birthday and the theme was “Joe” since his hame is Joe. When I first caught wind of the themed weekend my mother-in-law hatched, I experienced a wave of anxiety. We were supposed to eat at three Twin Cities restaurants with the word “Joe” in their name, all on one day.

The restaurants chosen were Joseph’s Grill, Joe Senser’s, and Joe’s Crab Shack. Until this day, I had never visited any of these places.

We convened at Joseph’s Grill Saturday morning. Dreading two more Joe’s stops later that day, I kept it simple with poached eggs and a virgin Bloody Mary. Jake ordered the Greek Florentine Omelet filled with lamb, feta, tomato, onions, spinach and topped with tzatziki sauce. I’m sure it’s no surprise his entrée was more exciting than mine and, so I kept stealing bites of his lamb. If you go to Joseph’s, try something with lamb.

Joseph's grill collage border Collage

All in all, everyone was satisfied with their first Joe meals. Our server was friendly and served with finesse, portions were large and we were full.

My mother-in-law broached lunch at Joe Senser’s on the drive home and nobody bit. “What about if we just stop there for appetizers before dinner,” she asked? We groaned and arrived at the group consensus to strike on less “Joe restaurant” from the itinerary.

And then there was Joe’s Crab Shack. My first thought was that Joe’s Crab Shack looks like a space ship. Or at least, something can could be seen from space.

Joe's outside

The interior of the restaurant is as festive as the exterior. Bright lights, tropical stuff mounted on the walls and even an in-store gift shop.

Joe’s Crab Shack doesn’t waste time with napkins. Each table receives a big roll of paper towels. I was in the restroom when our server introduced himself and reacted with confusion when I noticed the roll. “Who the hell is Andrew and why is his name written on a paper towel?” I asked, before it dawned on me.

Paper Towels watermarked

Andrew did a great job taking care of our table. Joe’s is located near Northwestern College & Bethel. Many of the restaurants in this part of Roseville employ students from these colleges.

Because we were celebrating a special occasion, one of Jake’s brothers treated us to a variety of appetizers. My favorite items were the crispy hush puppies which arrived in a metal bucket along with ranch dressing. It can’t be hip to enjoy ranch as much as I do.

And then there were the drinks. A few people ordered the Category 5 Hurricane, a cocktail with a disclaimer. The menu states that each customer may only order two which is a good rule because the drink’s not only goblet sized, but strong. Plus, there’s no telling what might happen if a drunken brawl erupted at Joe’s. There are just too many mason jars and pointy marlin fish on the walls for anyone to be safe.

hurricane waternarjed

On the other hand, my margarita was weak. I know this to be true because I am the epitome of a lightweight and if I can’t feel a cocktail it’s weaksauce.

Those of us who ordered crab experienced a moment of surprise when servers approached our table to tie paper bibs around our necks. Mine said Hottest Legs Around. I could not complain because at least it wasn’t decorated with an STD joke. The rest of the bibs said things too ridiculous to mention here (nod to Marilyn Hagerty with my use of the word ridiculous).

“Help,” scream my eyes.

Bib watermarked

Of course Jake and I ordered crab at Joe’s Crab Shack. We split a Classic Steampot for two.

I was delighted that our steampot contained two, separate, perfectly symmetrical mesh bags because it meant we wouldn’t have to fight over halfies. Each contained two queen crab leg clusters, a handful of shrimp, one ear of corn, halved red potatoes, and a sausage.

Crab Pot watermarked
Customers can choose from six different flavor options for steamed seafood, but we kept it simple with Old Bay. If you want drawn butter with your crab, you have to request it. Joe’s serves it in small plastic cups that cool quickly into solid masses. I did not let this slow me down.

Jake ate slowly and avoided the “filler” items, hoping I’d leave him some crab. He waited in vain as I ate every single thing in my bag.

Crab Remains photo

The crab legs weren’t particular meaty, but tasted fresh enough, unlike crab legs I’ve ordered at similar (and nicer) establishments that reeked of ammonia. I assumed the sausage would be a bland filler, but found it to have a pleasant snap and flavorful spicing.

And then my father-in-law turned into a bird.

Chain restaurant birthday rituals are their own strange bird. They always seem to involve things like balloons, marching in single file lines, clapping, and singing and this was no exception. Joe’s took the restaurant birthday thing one step further by dressing Joe up as a bird with a styrofoam beak and wings and encouraging him to flap around the dining room. I don’t know if my memory of this incidient is hazy from too many sips of Jake’s Hurricane or a possible retreat into my happy place, but I have this picture so it must have happened.

Bird watermarked

My father-in-law was a great sport.

Joe wasn’t the only birthday boy in the shack. Shortly after, staff led another birthday charge. While they didn’t give the next birthday boy the royal bird treatment, they showered him with a procession of singing and clapping. A birthday celebration at Joe’s Crab Shack is perfect for those who want everyone to know it’s their birthday or tolerate mild form of public humiliation. Everyone else will want to die.

At the end of the evening, Joe declared that this was his favorite birthday of all time. 

The zany restaurant crawl was not made in vain and we could feel confident our dirty-joke bibs were worn with honor. The weekend served its purpose to celebrate Joe and launch him into his 61st year surrounded by family. Someone else’s birthday is never really about us, anyway.

Is Joe’s Crab Shack for everyone? Probably not. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a darn good time.

Becoming The Grown-Up Assistant With Knife: Fish Sticks!

Earlier this summer I reunited with my first, three cookbooks.

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It took me some time and internet research to figure out their titles before I could locate them on Amazon.

I remember pouring over these books as a child. Most especially, the spiral-bound Kids Cooking: A Slightly Messy Manual that came with a plastic set of measuring spoons in primary colors. The books’ recipes aren’t anything mind-blowing for an adult who cooks a lot, but they are priceless for the memories.

Growing-up, my parents weren’t too keen on me experimenting in the kitchen, aside from baking projects. However, I do remember trying a few recipes from Kids Cooking such as the Alphabetter Soup and Frosted Chocolate Conecakes. I made mental checklists of recipes that I wanted to try someday when I had my own kitchen and, now, here I am!

One of these recipes was Home-Baked Fish Sticks from Kids Cooking.

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The legend goes that my mom choked on a fish bone when she was a child which led to her lifelong disdain of all things fish. Therefore, we never ever ate fish at home because the smell would make her feel ill. I grew up thinking I hated fish, too, even though I was fascinated by seafood. It was like a little hate crush.

Someone else’s family vacation snapped me out of my aversion to fish. I traveled with my friend’s family to Livingston, Montana in grade school and tried all kinds of new foods on our epic road trip west. I can still taste my first bone-in pork chop, chicken-fried steak, jumbo prawns sizzled in fondue oil, and crispy, fried shrimp nearly twenty years later.

After tasting that first bite of fried shrimp, I remember realizing, “Well, I guess I do like seafood,” and then I never turned back.

My first childhood cookbook meal was a smash.

Fish Meal Salad

I prepared cucumber-tomato-onion salad with “Snappy Dressing” from Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! to accompany my Home-Baked Fish Sticks and tartar sauce. Of course, I fiddled with the recipes.

For example, I added a step by dredging the fish in seasoned flour before dipping it in eggwash and bread crumbs. I may have added some garlic to Encyclopedia Brown’s snappy balsamic vinaigrette and chopped onion to the tartar sauce. Afterall, I am my own grown-up with a sharp knife now.

Kids Cooking Collage

Someday when Jake and I have children, I hope we can enjoy these cookbooks together. We’ll be ready to accept our new roles as their grown-up kitchen assistants.

My Take On Oven-Baked Fish Sticks
Kids Cooking’s method of drizzling melted butter over the panko-breaded fish sticks before baking produces a crispy, satisfying coating. While this is not fried fish, it definitely scratched my itch. 

Ingredients:
1 lb of white fish such as cod, halibut or tilapia
1/2 cup flour (or enough to lightly dredge the fish) seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 eggs, beaten into eggwash
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (add more if you run low or they become too mushy with eggwash)
1/4 cup butter, melted
Finishing salt

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400℉.
  2. Set up breading station by placing the seasoned flour, eggwash and panko in their own wide, shallow dishes.
  3. Cut fish fillets into manageable strips. I cut the tilapia fillets in half.
  4. Lightly dredge the fish in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
  5. Dip the dredged fish into the eggwash. Allow the excess to drip off.
  6. Coat the fish in bread crumbs. Turn and press the fillets until they are completely breaded.
  7. Place breaded fish in a single layer on a baking sheet that is lightly greased or covered in parchment paper.
  8. Drizzle each fillet with as much melted butter as you’d like.
  9. Optional: Sprinkle each fillet with a little sweet or smoked paprika for extra color and flavor.
  10. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked-through.
  11. Sprinkle with sea salt immediately after removing from oven.
  12. Serve with tartar sauce and fresh lemon wedges. I made my tartar sauce by mixing mayonnaise with lemon juice, minced dill pickle, minced onion, pickle juice, salt and sugar, to taste.

Baked Salmon With Creamy Mustard Sauce

I got over my fear of buying fish.

Earlier this year, I bought some fillets that tasted so horrible they put me off cooking fish at home of a while. I’m happy to say that I’m cooking fish again, even if the selection is not ideal. The fish available to us is either frozen or previously frozen, so I just do the best with what looks the most fresh. I’m also trying to remember to research what options are more sustainable before I buy.

My parents are enthusiastic Costco members and gave me the Enjoy Cooking the Costco Way book for Christmas which is also available online. The recipes tend to be brand-driven since they’re written by Costco food vendors and some recipes go overboard by listing a specific product for every ingredient. However, many others are much less markety. The book’s seafood recipes especially caught my eye.

Continue reading

Apparently, I’m Afraid Of Lobsters: Seafood Class Finale

Apparently, I’m afraid of lobsters.

On the last day of seafood class, our teacher ordered live Maine lobsters. She even ordered extras for the students who wanted to purchase them for home cooking. This was the only opportunity on which I passed to purchase food the school purchased for special demonstrations. Once the teacher handed the lobsters over to my care, I was afraid I’d feel responsible for their well-being. They would have been more likely to live in my bathtub than ever become food. It mostly came down to the thought of driving home with them in my car. I knew I’d freak out.
The lobster demonstration got off to a rough start. One of our teachers had snuck a slinky, wooden snake into the box before we reached the kitchen and when we opened the box, I screamed. Before I could make sense of the situation, I remember wondering why on earth the supplier would include a snake with the lobsters.

And you thought your last flight sitting in coach was rough. . . 

Our teacher gently removed the lobsters and examined each one for movement. 

We learned that active lobsters taste better. Those that barely move are known as sleepers and are close to death. They’re still edible but won’t taste as flavorful. Our instructor flipped a feisty lobster on its back and tickled its little pairs of legs, known as swimmeretes, to identify whether it was a male or a female. A female’s swimmeretes are soft, while a male’s are hard. This shouldn’t too hard to remember. . . The lucky students who bought the lobsters got to take home the females that were rich in roe.

Before she passed one around the class, she firmly stated the afternoon’s one and only ground rule: Do not, under any circumstance, remove a rubber band from a lobster’s claw. No one did.

Then, she piled the rest of the lobsters onto the demonstration table. Some of them may have been sleepers while others explored the table as they waved their long, delicate antennas. Our teacher had set out a container of hot water to rinse the lobsters after they been cooked and broken down. I noticed one lobster’s antenna wiggling dangerously close to the hot water and leaped to its rescue until it touched my hand. A kind classmate came to both of our rescue.

I noticed that I started feeling funny. My face flushed with heat and I broke out into a cold sweat. When the lightheadedness hit, I knew there was a distinct possibly that I might faint. I’ve prided myself on maintaining a (mostly) composed demeanor in the kitchen and trying to avoid giggly and squeamish gender stereotypes. This has also meant being willing to taste anything, handling raw meat like a champ, and throwing down in the dish room. I didn’t want to end this winning streak by being the girl who fainted at a lobster. Plus, I had laughed when I found out someone fainted when the Meats class broke down half a cow. Call it karma.

Our teacher placed the lobsters into a brazier of boiling water and quickly covered the pot with a lid. No, the lobsters did not “scream” or make dramatic scratching noises as they tried to climb out from the pot, but for someone who’s never taken part in dispatching an animal, it still felt unsettling. A minute later, she lifted the lid and we all flinched when we saw they were still writhing in the hot water.

Somehow, I did not faint.

You can remove the rubberbands, now.

Phobia aside, the demonstration was worth the taste. During our last seafood demonstration featuring clams, mussels, and oysters, I was surprised when a quarter of my classmates left because they thought they were gross. To my dismay, everyone stuck around to taste lobster, but fortunately there was more than enough to go around.

We compared previously frozen warm and cold water lobster tails broiled in their shells to our freshly boiled Maine lobsters. It was hardly a contest, as the Maine lobsters’ texture was stunningly more delicate and silky than the other varieties. One lucky student took home the lobster shells to make a seafood caldo broth while I stuck around to suck the tiny shards of meat from the legs.

We wiped clarified butter from our faces and thus ended seafood class.

It’s summer break now. I took my last final and turned in my final project. Maybe by the fall I will have enough gall to reconsider the upcoming field trip to North Dakota State University’s slaughterhouse. So far, I’ve maintained that I’m just not going. If I almost fainted at a lobster, who knows what will happen?

Worst case scenario is that even if I do, in fact, faint, it’ll make a good story, right?

What The Ho Hey’s A Shamrock Shake?

It’s an official snow day. At least, as far as my school is concerned.

I got all of my errands done on Saturday morning. Then, my husband and I hunkered down at home. The snow began to fall Sunday morning and swirled late into the evening.

I felt drained over the past few weeks, so the quiet weekend was a good opportunity to recharge, although I felt a little stir-crazy. By Monday morning, I felt very stir-crazy and even bored enough to clean. I had to get out of the house.

Our parking lot was nicely plowed behind each spot. Armed with a tiny shovel and a scraper, I unearthed my car and redistributed the tiny mountain of snow behind it. The moment I pulled out of the crater I had painstakingly dug myself out of, someone rounded the corner and pulled into my spot. I cursed under my breath. In order to reach the city street, I had to literally gun my engine and hurl myself through another pile of snow. I quickly called off the rest of my errands and struggled across the street to McDonalds to answer one burning question.

What the hell’s a Shamrock Shake? 


I have never had a Shamrock Shake. I’ve never been in proximity to a Shamrock Shake. I haven’t seen anyone drink one in school or even in college. And, although my parents picked up fast food meals frequently enough, they never purchased a Shamrock Shake. During the past week, my friends’ odes to this shake on Facebook and Twitter fueled my curiosity.

My husband is also a fan of the Shamrock Shake’s release each spring. When I asked him if it tasted like mint, he replied, “No. Not exactly.” I kept wondering what on earth this meant. How does this green shake not exactly taste like mint?

Since I was already at McDonalds, I picked up a regular-sized order of their new Fish McBites. This new product is made of Alaskan Pollack, certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable. The Shamrock Shake and regular-sized Fish McBites cost about $6.30.

Unfortunately, my particular shake did not come with a straw so investigated with a spoon, cherry first. The thick, green liquid dribbled everywhere.

The shake did, in fact, taste faintly of mint. I couldn’t really discern any other flavors except sweet and tooty fruity. So that’s what Jake meant when he said “not exactly.”

So yeah. . . I just didn’t really like it. I shoved it in the freezer and left it for Jake.

I liked the Fish McBites better.

I threw out the nugget that looked like it was fried without half it’s breading. The fish was kind of gray and I thought that was gross.

The breading was crispy and course with cornmeal. Not very greasy. The fish didn’t taste that fishy and was moist inside the breading. I drenched the bites in fresh lemon juice and lightly dipped them into the tartar sauce. It was lighter than I expected and not too “mayonnaisey.” Better than I expected for being packaged.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to get more Fish McBites, but I also wouldn’t turn them down. I’ve had far worse fast food in remote joints between Minneapolis and Fargo. This is all coming from a girl who has never tried a Filet-O-Fish.

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