Alabama cooks make magic with good things from the sea

Alabama cooks make magic with good things from the sea
A lot of complementary flavors are combined in these Louisiana Crab Cakes. Alabama has direct access to a variety of fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. (The Buttered Home)

Alabamians are lucky to live in a state where the bounty of available fresh seafood is the envy of chefs and home cooks alike. “There are roughly 23 types of Alabama seafood available to consumers in our state, from oysters, shrimp and crab to fin fish of all shapes and sizes,” says Tommy Cauthen, marketing director for Alabama Gulf Seafood.

Although the group hasn’t done any scientific polling, his opinion is that shrimp would likely be the favorite of that group. “Nearly every restaurant has a shrimp po’boy,” Cauthen says. “I always try to make sure they are Gulf shrimp.”

Alabama seafood is revered by commercial and home chefs simply because it’s harvested from waters off the state’s coast, “which means it’s a fresher product than other seafood options that might be available,” he says. “Fresher naturally tastes better. It is harvested in a sustainable manner and inspected for safety. The variety is such that everyone can find a favorite.”

Many types of seafood are great candidates for cooking on the grill, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Among them are amberjack, bluefish, catfish, cobia, mahi mahi, drum, grouper, king mackerel, rainbow trout, shark, snapper, Spanish mackerel, striped bass, swordfish, triggerfish and tuna. Clams, mussels, oysters and scallops can also be grilled, as can softshell crabs, lobster tails and shrimp.

When cooking seafood at home, the Extension System recommends purchasing fish the day it’s going to be used. When that’s not possible, take care to appropriately refrigerate or freeze seafood until it’s ready to be cooked. Another key point to remember is not to overcook seafood, because when cooked properly, fish should be moist and flavorful.

Find more recipes at and recipes, cooking and freezing tips at

Louisiana Crab Cakes


1 pound lump crab meat (can be imitation)

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

½ cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon dried parsley

½ cup chopped bell pepper, any color

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried dill

½ teaspoon thyme

2 eggs, beaten

10 crushed butter crackers

4 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper


1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon chili powder


In a large skillet, cook onion, celery and bell pepper at medium heat in 2 tablespoons of butter until tender. Add minced garlic, parsley, Creole seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, basil, salt, pepper, dill and thyme. Cook just until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Cool and place mixture in a large bowl. Stir in beaten eggs. Gently fold in crabmeat, flour and crushed crackers. Mix just until combined.

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for sauce and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat canola oil in the same skillet at low to medium heat. Form cakes out of the crab mixture and place in pan or mold in pan to keep them together. Cook 3-5 minutes per side until done. Remove and drain to cool. Serve with sauce and enjoy.

The Buttered Home


Becky Chappelle’s Crab Quiche recipe is a winner, with crabmeat, Swiss cheese and a dash of hot sauce among the ingredients. (Brooke Echols / Alabama Living)

Crab Quiche


1 deep dish pie shell

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons green onion, minced

¼ cup pimento, minced

½ teaspoon parsley, minced

1 6-ounce can white crabmeat

1 tablespoon flour

1½ cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided

4 large eggs

Dash of hot sauce

1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted

½ teaspoon each salt and pepper


Bake crust at 400 degrees until barely tan on edges of crust, usually 10-12 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees. Remove crust and line with 3/4 cup shredded cheese. Over medium heat, melt butter and sauté onions for about 2 minutes until tender. In medium bowl combine flour, crabmeat, pimento, green onions, parsley, salt and pepper. Beat eggs with milk until combined; add a dash of hot sauce. Add to crabmeat mixture and pour into crust. Top with rest of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until brown on top. Serves 6.

Becky Chappelle

Shrimp and Grits


4 strips of bacon

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Sea salt

Black pepper

1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)

½ cup all-purpose flour, divided

1 tablespoon garlic powder

¼ cup canola oil

1 cup hot water

2 cups quick-cooking grits

Water to boil grits

½ cup green onion, diced


In cast iron skillet, cook bacon until crisp; set aside bacon and drippings. Add onion to pan and cook until tender. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with ¼ cup flour, garlic powder and seafood seasoning, toss well and set aside. Meanwhile bring water to a boil, seasoning water with salt. Add grits, stirring constantly; reduce heat. After 5 minutes, cover and let simmer until thickened. Turn skillet up to medium high and add canola oil. When skillet is hot, add ¼ cup of the flour along with onions; brown. Add shrimp and crumbled bacon. Slowly whisk in water (I sometimes add a little milk). Let come to rolling boil; stir well until gravy turns thick and brown. Serve over grits; garnish with green onions. I sometimes add other veggies such as bell peppers or celery.

Angela Bradley

Southern Seafood Gumbo


1 rotisserie chicken

1 8-ounce package frozen crawfish tails

1 8-ounce package frozen raw shrimp (no tail, no head and shelled)

1 package of at least 6 links Conecuh sausage

1 8-ounce package frozen cut okra

1 green bell pepper

1 medium onion

3 8-ounce cans diced tomatoes

6 8-ounce cans chicken broth

Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning

2 whole bay leaves


1 cup vegetable oil

¼ cup plain flour


Skin and debone rotisserie chicken. Set white and dark meat aside in a bowl and discard the rest. Open frozen shrimp, cut shrimp in half and set aside in a bowl. Open frozen crawfish tails and set aside in a bowl. Dice Conecuh sausage. Set aside. Dice bell pepper and set aside. Dice onion and set aside. Bring chicken broth to a boil and lower heat to medium. Add chicken, sausage, crawfish tail, frozen okra, bell pepper, onion, tomatoes and bay leaves to broth and stir. Simmer and stir for 30 minutes. In the meantime, make your roux. Pour vegetable oil in skillet and heat on medium until it sizzles. Add flour a tablespoon at a time and whisk it around in the hot grease. Whisk and stir until the concoction resembles a caramel-colored thin gravy. Remove roux from heat. Add shrimp to gumbo and simmer until shrimp is pink. Add hot roux to gumbo and stir until the gumbo thickens. Add Cajun seasoning to taste and stir. Serve on a big scoop of yellow or white rice.

Sharon Smith

Shrimp Deluxe


6 ounces cream cheese

1 ounce blue cheese

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

6-8 drops Tabasco

3 tablespoons (or more) milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 pound cleaned, cooked or steamed shrimp

Lemon wedges for garnish (optional)


Combine all ingredients except shrimp and blend until smooth. Pour over shrimp and toss lightly to coat shrimp evenly. Divide into individual casseroles. Bake 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Garnish with lemon wedges if desired.

Allison Law

Hickory Smoked Seared Scallops


1 pound large scallops

¼ cup white wine

½ stick butter

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 lemon




In a charcoal grill, build a fire with hickory wood. Let it burn down to white hot ash. In a large iron skillet add white wine, butter, parsley and garlic. Place skillet directly on the white ash base. Once skillet is hot, add scallops and sear 3 minutes a side. Remove scallops and plate them, topping with squeezed lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Kirk Vantrease

Shrimp, clam, bacon, potatoes and cream make Leigh Ann Purvis’ Shrimp and Clam Chowder a hearty, satisfying choice on a cold winter day. (Brooke Echols / Alabama Living)

Shrimp and Clam Chowder


1 pound bacon

1 onion, chopped

4 cups potatoes, chopped

2 cups heavy cream

4 bottles Bumblebee brand clam juice

4 cans Bumblebee brand chopped clams, with juice

2 bags small frozen, uncooked shrimp

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

Salt and pepper to taste


Cook chowder in a stock pot. Fry bacon, crumble into pieces and set aside. Save bacon drippings. Chop onion, then sauté in drippings. Add clam juice and chopped potatoes to pot. Simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add clams with their juice and heavy cream to pot. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and flour until smooth as possible, adding to pot after. Stir slowly until it starts to thicken. Add bacon crumbles and shrimp last (still frozen) and stir the pot until the shrimp turn pink, then serve.

Leigh Ann Purvis

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.

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