MidLife Crisis Enterprises Cooking Page


    Cynthia and I have been crabbing here for years, but in the last couple of years, our very good friend Coffee Miklos and I have been doing a good deal of “oystering” as well.  Coffee and I have come up with a recipe that you might like to try on oysters (clams, crabs, shrimp & ?? too). 

    The first recipe is about smoking oysters (we gather ours locally), then there is a recipe and instructions on making Ciabatta Bread, buns and pizza.  Then how about a way to make TERRIFIC Pastrami right on your stove top (if you have a good fan) or in your smoker!!  And GREAT homemade garlic mayonnaise.  Also a recipe of making Focaccia bread. More such goodies will be posted here as I/we find items of interest...

John's Super Crab Boil

also GREAT with shrimp, clams and oysters!

We use 2 heaping tablespoons of the mix, plus 2 cups of salt in a pot big enough to hold 10 or 12 crabs at a time (3-4 gallons I would say).  Get salted water to a boil, add the crab boil, add crabs, lid, cook 15 to 20 minutes, starting timing once it all comes back to a boil.  Also it's GREAT for shrimp (you will have to figure out how much boil flavor you like for what ever amount of shrimp you have).   We also use it for clams and as you can see, for pre cooking the smoked oysters in the next recipe.  If I had um, I would give the boil a try on crayfish too.




36 LARGE                             SEQUIM BAY OYSTERS, SHUCKED (or oysters of your choice)


8 CUPS                                   WATER


1/2 CUP                                  KOSHER OR SEA SALT


1 CUP                                     BROWN SUGAR


2  TABLESPOONS              JOHN’S CRAB BOIL (order John’s Crab Boil above)



Drain and rinse the shucked oysters with plenty of running water.  Clean any debris out of them.   I wash enough times, so there is no longer any debris in the rinse water, washing them over a pan/pot under running water.  I am getting the job done in 3 rinses.  Then main areas of "dirt" are in the "ruffles" on the one edge of the oyster and shell sticking onto the bivalve muscle (the muscle holding the shell closed.) This may seem like over kill but like egg shell in an omelet…gritty stuff in an oyster is startling and unpleasant, especially to the “new comer”.  Mix the water, salt, sugar and crab boil mix in a pot and bring to a boil.  Gently add the clean oysters and stir and separate any that are sticking together.    I cook them for 8 minutes (I start timing when the water comes back to a boil) then start removing the small oysters first, working up to the biggest ones putting them into a bowl or kettle, pour out any boil water, drizzle some olive oil over them and mix a bit to coat them with the oil. Then I put them on the rack and get them into the smoker.  With the above recipe, I have to cook 2 batches to fill the smoker (a Luhr Jensen Little Chief - I have a couple of them).

I use a mix of apple, peach, pear and cherry wood in the smoker, collected pruning s from our small orchard cut into 3-4 inch lengths.  We do not spray our trees so I am not worried about any spray residues on the wood.   Larger diameter pruning s are cut into 2-3 inch lengths and then split into smaller pieces.  Grape pruning s make a great smoking wood as does citrus.  Different woods do make different tasting finished products. 

My smoker runs at about 150 deg F and I smoke the oysters for at least 2-3 hours (to taste more than anything as they are already cooked).  When they finished, I lightly re-oil them and get them chilled in the refrigerator in baggies.   They will keep for a week or 10 days but they never last that long here.


John’s Ciabatta Dough Mix

for bread, buns, hotdog buns and anything else you want to make with it!!!!

This recipe was re written on 17 December 2011 after my wife “tried” making the dough and had “problems”.  I hope you find the instructions

clear(er), but if you have any thoughts or additions to what I have here, PLEASE let me know!!  Other want-to-be bread makers as well as myself, would be most grateful, I am sure.

    This is a recipe for Ciabatta dough, which is a very wet dough. It should be like a very thick pancake batter. This dough can be “formed” into burger or wiener buns, loafs or any other type/ shape/“use form” you want to make it into. Yes,,,,, even pizza!!!  If using it this dough for Pizza,  you need to form the pizza crust and pre cook it before making the pizza on it.  This dough is traditionally baked without a “pan”, it is free formed on a flat surface.  I am going to try it in a loaf pan and I will post the results when I have tried it.

    The biggest “problem” first time users of this dough have, is figuring out how to handle it,, to form it to your wishes without getting all covered in this “wet” bread dough.  So, after the first rise, I make a “bed” of flour and put about 1/3 or 1/2 of the batch of dough on the bed of flour, leaving the balance of dough in the mixing bowl.  Once I have used/formed this first part of the dough I put the next part on the bed of flour and work/form it until I have used up all of the dough.   I use LOTS of flour, dusting my hands/fingers to keep it from sticking to me, dusting the dough piece currently being worked, keeping the dough on a “bed” of flour while I am shaping the current piece, etc.  I bake all items (to date) on parchment paper, on steel pans, in a pre heated oven (for me 450-475). 

    Steaming the oven:  Once the oven is up to temperature, I “throw” a “short 1/4 cup” of water onto the oven floor (steaming the oven) before putting the pans in and right after the pans go in I toss in another short 1/4 cup water onto the oven floor.  A 3rd short 1/4 cup of water goes in after the items are in the oven for 4-5 minutes.  The humidity thus created makes for a great, crunchy crust but if I don’t want this “tough” crust do not “steam the oven” with water, bake without the steam and the crust will be much softer.  I LOVE the crust so for most of my bread, I use the water. 

    You may have to make this bread a couple of times to figure out the water/flour mix for proper dough consistency, but while you are “experimenting”/learning about it, the bread you get will still be TERRIFIC.  What you are looking for is for the bough to slump off of the hook shaft slower than if it were pancake batter which levels out rather fast.  I will take a video shot of this and post it here in the near future, so if you are interested in seeing what the dough should look like, check back in a few weeks and hopefully I will have it up by then.  You are welcomed to call or write me if you want faster “help”.    So here we go with the “basic” recipe and the how too’s:


4 full cups of good BREAD (high gluten) flour

4 short cups of warm 100 deg F water

salt - I use about 2 teaspoons for this size batch and I use sea salt

Olive oil if you want, 1/4 cup or more, again your choice

about 2 Tablespoons of good bread yeast (dry is what I use)

**Update Oct. 2011

I was using SAF-INSTANT yeast (a Red Star product from our local farm/organic/commercially grown/owner grown beef/etc.) then saw Red Star Yeast at Costco for less $$ and more yeast.  When I made the above with the “new” yeast, the bread was a failure.  Tried it again with the Red Star yeast from Costco, and again a failure,,,, just did not rise, stay risen,,,, it did not work with this recipe.  Back to trying the SAF-INSTANT yeast and all is well.  I Called Red Star and talked with them a couple of times and I have/am doing some batches “exactly” the same but with different yeasts, writing down, in more detail than normal, what all is going on and taking pictures of the results.  I will try using the more available Fleischmann’s yeast ,that is available in most grocery stores (my Mom used to use it for bread making when I was a kid), and I will post the results here when I get time to do this experimenting.

Hope you are having good results with your Ciabatta makin’.

Put the warmish water, flour, salt and oil (if you are using it) into your heavy duty mixer bowl (I use a Heavy Duty Kitchen Aid mixer) and fit it with the paddle.  Mix this mixture for about 20 - 30 seconds on low to medium speed, and stop it.  Add the yeast and mix again for 20-30 seconds at a higher speed.  Take out the paddle and clean it into the bowl and let the mix sit for about 10 minutes.  Then put on the dough hook and mix this dough on high for 10 to 30 minutes, until the gluten “forms”, when the dough gets “slick” looking and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  You will get the idea as you make this a few times.  When you have a gelatinized batter, stop the machine, remove and clean off the hook and let the dough rise for what ever time it takes to double or triple in volume (this should take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or so, depending on the yeast activity, house temperature, weather and what ever else makes a difference).  Once the dough has gotten the rise, make a “bed” of flour on a hard, clean work area.  I work on our kitchen formica counter which I wash/clean off with soap and water, rinse it very well and dry it with a clean towel.  I recently bought a large, food grade 18X24 inch plastic work sheet and I now make the flour “bed” on the plastic sheet.  I put about 1/3 of the batter onto the flour “bed” at a time, work it into a long even form and cut the dough pieces to make the buns or what ever and place them on the parchment lined pan.  If I am making a loaf, I put the amount of batter I want to make the size of loaf I want onto the flour bed and just form the loaf on the flour then transfer it to the parchment paper lined pan. 

I bake bread on 2 shelves at a time, the lower shelf is about in the middle or just a bit lower and the top shelf above it enough to easily get the bread/buns off the lower shelf without hanging on the bottom of the upper shelf.  It is easier to set up the shelves before your turn on the oven.

Once the loafs, buns, pizzas* are formed and on the paper lined pans, let them rise so that they at least double in size, 3 times is about as much as you would want to let them go.  About 1/2 hour before the items are ready to bake, turn on the oven.  Mine (an electric which I wish was gas) is set between 450 and 475 deg F and pre heated at least 1/2 hour before I start to bake.  When all is ready, I toss in a scant 1/4 cup of water onto the oven floor, as I have explained above, put in the bread, toss in another scant 1/4 water and close the door.  After 3-5 minutes, toss in another scant 1/4 cup water and set the timer for 10 minutes.  When the timer goes off, reverse the pans (top pan down and lower pan up) and set the timer for another 8 minutes.  This time sequence works for my oven, you may need a bit more or less time with your oven.  If your baked item(s) are getting too brown before getting done inside, lower the temperature a bit.

*For the pizza, put an amount of dough to make the size of pizza you want on the flour bed and form the pizza.  Once formed, get it on a parchment lined pan or you can put the dough into an oiled pan and form the dough there.   The pizza dough works better for pizza making if partially cooked at a lower temperature than bread (10-12 minutes at a 350 deg. F oven), as you do not want it to brown at this stage.  When cooking the “dressed” pizza (the sauce, cheese and other toppings), any exposed dough areas will brown while the cheese and other toppings are being cooked.

I love the buns for hamburgers, pastrami, corned beef, etc. heated and crust crunchy.  I split the bun (cut with a knife) put it back together, pass it quickly under running water to wet the whole outside crust, and put it in a 450 deg oven for about 10 minutes to get the crust really crunchy.  Then I open it up and put it back into the oven for 4-5 minutes to “dry” the inside a bit.  Then I make my sandwich.  Yum!!!!!!


John’s Home Made “Stovetop Smoked” Pastrami


So now that you have some terrific buns or bread, how about some terrific home smoked Pastrami??? 

If you have an exhaust fan on your kitchen stove top (YOU MUST HAVE AN EXHAUST FAN OR YOU WILL SMOKE UP THE HOUSE!!!), you can make some of the best Pastrami ever without leaving your kitchen, right on your stove OR you can smoke the meat in your smoker outside.  You use corn beef (in the plastic bag with spices included) from the market as the meat!!  Pre cook it like you are going to make corned beef (boiling it with the enclosed spices as per package instructions) and when done, rub on this great spice blend to cover meat (see above to order the pastrami spice blend). You then smoke it in a foil lined kettle on a rack inside the kettle (I finally went to the Goodwill Store and bought a “designated” pastrami smoking pot for about $5.00 and now I don’t use the foil “lining” when smoking).  Put 1/2 cup of brown sugar into the pot (we make our own brown sugar from white cane sugar by adding molasses to it and mixing it - 1/2 cup sugar and 1-2 table spoons of molasses), put in the rack, put the cooked and spice covered meat onto the rack, put on a lid, set on the burner that is set on lowBe sure to turn the exhaust fan on so you don’t smoke up the house.  Smoke for 2-3 hours and if you want, you can add more sugar if you feel the need.  You can also smoke the rub covered, cooked corned beef in your smoker if you like (my daughter and her husband like it this way best, but they “will” eat the stovetop smoked pastrami with no complaints).  If using your smoker, you only need to smoke the pastrami for 2 -3 hours as it is already cooked.  Cynthia and I like the sweet smoke flavor of the sugar smoke so it is up to  you which way to go.  Ahhhhh, isn’t having a choice great!!!!


         Homemade Garlic Mayonnaise

A great addition to the sandwich is garlic mayonnaise.  We do not care for the flavor of raw garlic in this mayo, so I “husk” what ever amount of garlic I am going to use (5-8 cloves), cook them a few minutes in a fry pan in olive oil to just brown a bit.  I put them into our blender and pulse  to get the garlic a bit cut up, then add a couple of cups of prepared mayo (we like Best Foods) and blend for a bit to mix and do a final chop of the garlic. 

We also make our own mayonnaise (you can find many recipes on the net) and add browned garlic to it.


John’s Focaccia Bread

We go to a number of events, parties and such, every year and we often take or are asked to bring some of our Focaccia Bread.  What follows is what I wrote 3 years ago, for folks who wanted to make their own Focaccia bread but since I have been making so much Ciabatta Bread (2011) and have made great Focaccia with the Ciabatta Bread dough, now I just use Ciabatta dough.  The Ciabatta recipe is easier and much faster but below is the more “traditional” recipe that I used to use, for those of you who would like to try it.  Toppings and cooking information are the same no matter which bread recipe you use.

The 2 “flavors” at 1st Friday were caramelized onion with rosemary and a bit of garlic powder (the last 2 items were mixed into the dough) and caramelized Fennel Root with cracked and whole fennel seed mixed into the dough.  Basil, dried tomato, olives or cut up olives, most any caramelized vegetable, bacon, ham, cheese, mushrooms, prosciutto, sausage, etc., what ever you like can be used as a flavoring or it can be left with just a bit of salt (but why??).  Traditional focaccia is a salted and sometimes lightly herb bread, but today, especially in the USA, it has become the base for the addition of many more flavors.

I usually do not measure much so the amounts are approximate, but even just close will be GREAT TASTING and a treat for those eating your creation.


2 T     (table spoons) Bread Yeast

2 C    water (plus more later when making the dough)

1 C    (cup) Bread or all purpose flour (bread yeast has more gluten and I prefer it but either works fine)


“flavoring” and additions of your choice

Using a big bowl or pot (1-2 gallon capacity) pour in the (2 C) water, that is just skin temperature, mix in the 2T yeast and let the mixture activate for 5-15 minutes at which time it should be all foamy.  Add the 1C of flour and mix well.  This will give you a thin, bubbly mix that needs to sit, covered with a plate or lid, for an 1/2 hour or more or even over night, at room temperature or a warm area.  The large bowl or pan comes into potential use here, as this mixture will REALLY raise/expand and if the container is not big enough, over the edge it goes.

When you are ready to make the bread, divide the starter (the thin mix that we just let sit for an hour or more) into 2 relatively equal batches.  Keep the unused batch in the covered bowl/pot .  The other batch goes into another bowl and to this you add another cup of flour, 1-3 T olive oil (if you want it a bit richer but this is not essential) and what ever herbs, spices or ??? you want incorporated into the dough.  Mix and work this together with a heavy duty mixer (use the dough hook) or your hands.  It needs to be worked a good deal to get the gluten forming so the air (CO2) made by the yeast will form into the small bubbles that makes bread products “fluffy”. You want a mix that is rather moist but sticks together and can be handled “relatively” easily (a very moist bread dough). Add more water or flour as needed, this is where a bit of trial and error may come into effect until you know what constancy you are after for this dough.  Nothing will really be hurt if you have to add more flour or more water then more of the other, as long as your bowl/pot is big enough, and you can wait a bit longer for the dough to raise, and you can eat the extra Focaccia that you are going to be making (ridiculous last statement!!!).  Oil the outside of the dough and put in a covered pan/bowl to raise.  Be sure this pan/bowl is at least twice, better 3, times the volume of the dough.  Let it raise until it at least doubles in volume (30 minutes to 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of the room and the vitality of the yeast).  While this is going on, work up the other batch of starter into dough, the same way you just did for the first dough batch and flavor it however you choose.  Coat this dough with olive oil and return to what ever bowl bowl/pot you are going to use to let it rise and cover it.

If these 2 batches are going to make more Focaccia than you want, the second batch of the starter can be put into the refrigerator (oversized container, oiled and covered) and used in the next week or 10 days, but get it in fast and watch that it doesn’t flow all over the refrigerator if it runs out of “bowl space”..  When ready to use it, take out the bowl, let it all come to close to room temperature, then add the cup of flour, oil if wanted, incorporate herbs or ?? , oil it and let it rise like before in a oversized, covered container.

Pre heat the oven to 425 - 450 deg. F.

Once dough has risen to twice it’s original size, spread it out on an oiled cookie sheet or low edged cake pan (parchment paper can be used for a guaranteed easy removal of the finished Focaccia but it is not essential).  Stretch, pull and maneuver the dough to cover the sheet (this can be fun or frustrating, depending on how you approach it as the oiled dough doesn’t stay where you “put” it, so just keep on tugging and stretching.. giving it a 10 minute “rest” often helps).  Once you get it pulled, maneuvered, stretched to where you want it, let it rest a few minutes to raise a bit, then poke dents into the surface of the dough with your finger tips.  Now drizzle olive oil over the top of the Focaccia, a few tablespoons of oil, more if you really like olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, ideally a semi fine grind of sea salt but what ever you have.  Don’t go overboard with the salt but you do need a pretty good salting as there is none in the dough.  Now is the time to put what ever you are going to put on the top of the Focaccia.  The caramelized onions, cheese, meat, dried re hydrated tomatoes, what ever you have chosen and put any shredded cheese on if you are doing that.

Put into the oven then spritz the oven with water or “throw” in a couple of table spoons of water onto the oven floor and close the door.  In a couple of minutes, do the water thing again and if you want again in a couple of minutes more.  This helps get a crunchy crust on the Focaccia.  after 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 375-350 deg. F and the Focaccia should be done in about 15 to 20 minutes more (check the color, it should get a nice light brown on the top, like a loaf of bread).  When done, take it out of the oven and, if possible, remove from the pan to an elevated wire rack (to keep the bottom from getting un-crunchy) or if this is not possible, it can stay in the pan/cookie sheet for 15-30 minutes to cool.  Cut it or tear it up and........................ enjoy!

This dough can also be used for pizza dough.  Stretch/pull with the hands or make a drier dough (more flour) that you can roll out or toss it in the air to make your crust.  Brush the raw dough with olive oil before putting on any ingredients (the oil keeps the dough from getting mushy from any toppings that are moist),  then top with sauces, cheese, veggies, meat(s), etc. as to your liking.  Ideally cook on a preheated pizza stone but a cake pan or cookie sheet will work pretty well, it is just the bottom usually will not be as crunchy - but even here, pre oiling the pan before the dough goes on will help with a crispy bottom.  Cook at about 450 deg F until the edges are brown and crusty and the cheese is bubbly.  Adjust temp as necessary.  Write down what you are doing/did for future reference.