My son David and I had a kitchen throwdown last weekend.
Family was in town for my granddaughter Rylin’s christening, and I wanted to serve something that would appeal to the crowd we anticipated for dinner on Saturday night.
Cooking, especially for family gatherings, has become one of my great loves as a Baby Boomer empty nester.
It’s feeding the nest again, but not as a full-time gig, plus I can get some help, as was the case for this family dinner.
I needed to double the recipe, which, as listed feeds four. So I bought double the ingredients, and invited my son, who is quite accomplished in the kitchen (per his Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts), to cook one pot of the stew while I cooked the other..
The rules of the throwdown were pretty simple: We had to follow the recipe except for one ingredient that he or I could throw into the pot.
He chose Old Bay Seasoning.
I chose red pepper flakes.
There are some strong flavors in this stew, which I originally picked up from an Associated Press story. Unlike a normal stew, doesn’t really take that long to cook.
The Marsala wine needs to come through, as does the balsamic vinegar.
My use of red pepper flakes was meant to add a bit of a back bite to the dish, but not overpower the Marsala and vinegar. It didn’t quite work out that way, and it’s probably because I don’t think I used enough flake. The back bite was barely discernable.
The Old Bay, on the other hand, complemented the Marsala and vinegar.
The seasoning is best known as an important ingredient for crab cakes, but it can be used to help flavor all kinds of recipes from fish to chicken to potatoes. I use Old Bay sometimes when I make roasted potatoes or my own Sweet Potato Fries.
Both pots of stew were cleaned out, but David’s version was clearly the crowd favorite. As it was with me, too.