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Bread, On the Water, Shrimp, Travel

Harvest Moon Regatta, Voyage of the Booty-Ful

crew of the Booty Ful

Crew of the Booty-Ful , at the finish of the Harvest Moon Regatta,

I figured out long ago that if I volunteered to be the boat’s cook, I’d usually get invited back to sail again. This happened again, but it turned out to be one of those times that Mother Nature flexed her muscles and things did not work out as expected.

The Harvest Moon Regatta is about 24 hours of continuous racing off the Texas coast from Galveston to Port Aransas. We left the dock in Kemah at sunrise and motor-sailed to the starting line off Galveston for our 2pm start. It was a beautiful day. The winds were picking up a bit as the sun rose. Just perfect.

Leaving Booty-Ful's home port in Kehma TX at dawn to reach the startline near Galveston by 2pm

Leaving Booty-Ful’s home port in Kemah, TX at dawn to reach the starting line near Galveston

I wanted the pre-start lunch to be special so I made popovers stuffed with shrimp salad. A popover creates a perfect pocket for all sorts of stuffings – you can hold it in one hand and half of the stuffing doesn’t fall out onto the deck like it would with a regular sandwich. Perfect if you have to do things while you are eating.

shrimp salad_MG_8806.CR2

Shrimp Salad with a Popover

At 28′ Booty-Ful was the smallest boat in the racing fleet. The largest boat was 75′.  86 boats competed and 25 of those boats did not finish the race.  Because of the large number of boats, the fleet was divided into groups of six boats.  Each group was given a specific start time.  Our group hit the starting line at 2pm.

We managed to get a perfect start and away we sailed. Tom, our captain, chose to sail about a mile off shore. As evening approached we held a good direct line to the turning mark on a broad reach almost all the way to Port Aransas. At night, all boats turned on their running lights (a white light at the top of the mast with red and green lights lower down).  You could see the other boats’ lights which looked liked stars: a few sprinkled around us and more between our boat and the shore. We were ahead of all but one boat in our group and passed a few boats that started before us.

As the sun set the wind freshened (blew harder) and before we knew it we needed to put on foul weather gear. The wind increased and waves started to break over the bow sometimes. We were wearing our life lines, which are very strong bungie cord-like lines that attach our PFDs (life jackets) to the boat so no one goes overboard. The boat was pitching so much that you could not stay below standing up. I tried to make roast beef sandwiches and ended up not being able to stand up in the galley. At times when I grabbed the handrails near the ceiling, the floor was at such a crazy angle that I couldn’t get my feet on it! The pitching nauseated most of us who went below. I had planned meals that could be put together quickly with no cooking but the pitching made it too difficult to get to the cooler and put together  the simplest of meals.  On deck everyone was fine, if wet. Melissa, one of the boat owners, came up with a solution for the nausea – she had peppermint oil which we rubbed on the back of our necks. This cured the nausea in minutes!

With the wind blowing stink and wave heights reaching 8′ for a good part of the night, I tried to nap by the side stays, curling up on the walkway between the safety line and the cabin.  The waves would crash over the boat every few minutes so I only dozed a bit.  Several of us took turns at the helm.  I could only drive for about 30 minutes because of the strength needed to sail the proper course with the wind and waves.

Luckily Melissa had made the best banana bread I’ve ever eaten, which really saved us. Easy to eat and slightly sweet, it was perfect for delicate stomachs. Add in a few bags of chips for the salt, of course, and you had our bad weather menu.

Melissa’s Banana Bread


My dinner plans of rare roast beef and boursin in challah buns, with fruit and Nutella to be served in mugs for breakfast … all got eaten on the calm sail back to Booty-Ful’s home port north of Galveston.

As the unexpected storm blew in, quite a few boats turned back.  Although she was the smallest boat, Booty-Ful sailed straight and true, finishing well up in the middle of the pack. Small and Fierce we christened her. What a great crew and boat!

Fish, Shrimp

Brining Shrimp, Really?


Brining Shrimp

Everyone knows about brining turkey even if you don’t want to take the time nor have the space to do it.

How about quick brining shrimp or fish to make sure it comes out moist and succulent?  My husband asked the obvious question: don’t the shrimp grow up being brined? Yes – but try it: it’s worth it not to get a rubbery or dry shrimp. You only need to marinate shrimp and fish for 20 to 30 minutes to get the benefit of brining.

Brining Shrimp (large) or Whole Fish:

½ c     Morton’s Kosher Salt dissolved in
2 c       cold water

Marinade the shrimp or fish in the brine in the refrigerator for no more than 30 minutes.

Additional flavors to put in the brine:  sage, peppercorns, bay leaf, rosemary, dill, mint, lemon balm, lemon or lime zest…

Brining Fish Fillets:

½ c     Morton’s Kosher Salt dissolved in
2 c        cold water

You’ll find that brining shrimp or fish is worth the effort.


Quick Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole Dish

Quick Shrimp Creole

I just spent a week competing in a regatta on the Gulf Coast. A lot of the area around Bay St. Louis, site of the regatta, was wiped out during Katrina a decade ago. While there are still foundation slabs sitting derelict on patches of ground, the community is rebuilding and the bare slabs are now in the minority. If you have time, go down and see this thriving community. They sure know how to eat well and have fun.

The food was great and the old southern hospitality welcoming. I miss living in places like New Orleans and the Gulf Coast where every neighborhood joint has great food and where eating well was an important part of life before the foodie craze. Don’t get me wrong – it is wonderful that an interest in food – good food – is now a favorite pastime. But there is just something different about a place where sharing a meal is a way of life and not something done on the way to somewhere else.

I came home ready to make some of my Cajun and Creole favorites. I love to spend half a day making Shrimp Creole but that means we only have it now and again. Here is a riff on this Creole classic – Quick Shrimp Creole – that is easy enough for any evening’s dinner. I’ll share my “long version” in the future.

Quick Shrimp Creole


3T butter (or bacon grease for the added flavor)
2T all purpose flour
1 ½ c chicken or seafood stock
1 c diced onion
½ c green bell pepper, diced (or substitute red bell pepper)
½ c diced celery
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
½ c ketchup (yes, ketchup)
14oz can of diced tomatoes (or two medium tomatoes, seeded and diced)
½ t cayenne
½ t smoked paprika
salt and pepper
1t dried thyme (or 2t fresh thyme chopped)
1t dried basil (or 2t fresh basil chopped)
1t dried oregano (or 2t fresh oregano chopped)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined ( I use 26-30 count)


1 large sauté pan or skillet, 2c measuring cup, teaspoon

First you make a roux :- ) Melt 3T butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk until smooth and the mixture turns a medium caramel color. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent and the celery and bell pepper have softened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Next add the garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. You want to make sure the garlic is no longer raw. Clear a little space in the mixture and add the cayenne and paprika to this empty space. Within a minute or when you can smell the cayenne and paprika, stir in the ketchup, tomatoes, thyme, basil, oregano, bay leaf. Slowly add half of the stock and stir until thickened slightly. Add more stock until you get it to the desired thickness. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer on low heat till the shrimp turns pink. Taste again and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve with rice.

This quick shrimp creole freezes well.