Boiled Peanuts with the Lee Brothers

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Matt & Ted Lee are The Lee Brothers. They visited with us last year to tell us about their fabulous boiled peanuts. Now they have written The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners. In recipes, photos--and plenty of tales, too—they show how the beautifully resourceful Southern food culture they grew up with continues to inspire them.

The Lee Brothers famous Boiled Peanut Recipe

(or just buy them here)
1 1/2 cups salt, plus more to taste
4 gallons water, plus more as needed
2 pounds raw peanuts in the shell

1. In a 3 gallon stockpot, dissolve 1/2 cup of the salt in 2 gallons of water and add the peanuts (the peanuts will float, but you can keep most of them submerged by using a dinner plate as a cap). Allow the peanuts to soak for 8 hours or overnight.

2. Discard the soaking water and fill the pot with 2 gallons of fresh water and the remaining 1 cup salt.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook at a low boil, covered, for 5 to 8 hours.  Keep the water in the pot at roughly the same level with hourly additions of 2 cups water until the peanuts are soft.

3. When the peanuts have boiled for 3 hours, sample them to check for texture and saltiness.  Allow a peanut to cool, then crack open the shell to get at the kernels inside.  If you find them too salty, remove some brine with a ladle or small pot and replace it with an equal amount of fresh water. If the peanuts are not salty enough, add salt in 1/4 cup increments, turn off the heat, and let them soak for an hour to absorb the salt.  If the peanuts are too crunchy for your taste, boil on. It can take as long as 12 hours if you prefer them mushroom-soft. Sample them every hour.

 4. When the peanuts are cooked to your satisfaction, turn off the heat and cool for 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, drain and eat immediately or store (in the shell) in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer. Boiled peanuts will keep for 7 days in the refrigerator, several months in the freezer.

Makes 4 pounds

Fish Stew Man’s Red Fish Stew

For 6 people
Time 1 1/2 hours

1/4 slab bacon, cut into small dice, or 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice
2 serrano, Thai, or other dried red chiles, stems trimmed, slit down their sides, seeded and flattened
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick half-moons
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 large onions)
1 1/2 cups Rich Fish Broth (see below)
1 cup full-bodied white wine, such as Chardonnay, Riesling, or Viognier
3 bay leaves
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons mustard seeds, pounded with a mortar and pestle to a fine powder
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds, toasted and pounded with a mortar and pestle to a fine powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 pounds flaky white fish such as spottail bass, sheepshead, wreckfish, hake, catfish, cod, or whiting, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 2 ears)

1. Scatter the diced bacon in a 6 quart stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  With a slotted spoon, move the pieces around until the bacon is firm and just golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the bacon to a small bowl with the slotted spoon.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.  Add the chiles and gently toast until they discolor and release some of their fragrance, about 30 seconds per side.  Remove with the spoon and reserve in the bowl with the bacon.

2. Add the potatoes and sauté in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep them from sticking.  Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the broth, wine, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.  Continue to simmer vigorously until the liquid is reduced by one quarter, about 6 minutes.  Add the tomatoes one by one, lightly crushing each as you add it, followed by the tomato juice.  When the stew returns to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer vigorously for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are not quite tender.

3. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, coriander, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup and simmer for 10 minutes more, covered, until the potatoes are completely tender when pierced with a fork.

4. Add the fish to the pot. Return to a simmer and continue to simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to break the fish into flakes.  Add the half and half and the corn and simmer very gently for 5 minutes more, until the corn has softened slightly but still has some bite.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

5. Serve over hot white rice or with wedges of corn bread, garnished with the reserved bacon.

Rich Fish Broth

Makes 3-4 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/2 cup finely diced celery (about 1 large stalk)
3 large bay leaves
1 1/2 pounds fish bones and trimmings or whole small, non-oily fish, such as snapper, bass, or whiting
1/2 cup crisp dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
6 cups cold water
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Melt the butter in a medium stockpot over medium-high heat until frothy.  Add the onion, celery, and bay leaves and sauté until the vegetables have softened and the onions are completely translucent, about 6 minutes.  Add the fish bones and trimmings and the wine and bring to a simmer.  Simmer vigorously until the wine is reduced by one half, about 6 minutes more.

2. Add the water and bring to a vigorous simmer over high heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

3. Strain the broth into a bowl through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard the solids.  Measure the amount of broth you’re left with.  Taste the broth; if you don’t plan to reduce it further, season it gently with salt and pepper (start with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper per 1 cup broth).

4. Pour the broth into a container with a tight fitting lid.  If you plan to use it within 2 days, seal it and store it in the refrigerator.  If you don’t plan to use it within 2 days, place it in the freezer where the broth will keep for 1 month or more.