With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is well underway. This is a time for Coasties and their families to gather with friends and loved ones for holiday meals. To celebrate the holiday season and the Coast Guard’s rich culinary tradition, MyCG asked five culinary specialists (CSs) to curate a holiday menu for MyCG readers consisting of an appetizer, entrée, two side dishes, and one dessert.
We will be publishing one recipe from each culinary specialist in the coming weeks. We begin with a delicious stew from Senior Chief Petty Officer Joshua McBride, culinary specialist by training and CG-821 program reviewer in the Office of Budget and Programs at Coast Guard Headquarters.
MyCG: Tell us about your background. How and why did you become a culinary specialist?
McBride: I was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, a beautiful coastal town in the south. I have served in the Coast Guard for over 21 years. I have always found joy in cooking. My mother has really been my inspiration, and most of my high school jobs were working in kitchens.
During my senior of high school, I started working in a fine dining restaurant. I started in the back operating the dish pit. The chef I worked with inspired me to start working in the pantry, and I rapidly worked through every position in the kitchen. I enjoyed the pace of the job and working with a team that is nonstop for hours to provide executive-level customer service.
College wasn’t panning out as I hoped, and I wanted to attend the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. My mom guided me towards the Coast Guard, and it has been the best decision I have ever made. I am blessed to be able to serve with the most amazing people throughout my career.
Oyster Stew with Leeks
- 3 medium leeks, halved thin sliced.
- 1 yellow onion (Vidalia onion is preferred)
- ¼ cup butter, (I am from the south, so I would probably use a at least ½ a cup)
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups half and half
- 4 (16 oz) cans oysters, drained (save the juice to adjust flavor at the end)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley, chives, favorite hot sauce and some oyster crackers to top it off
Sauté the leeks and onions in butter for 10 mins on med heat until tender. Add the milk, cream, oysters, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat until heated through (do not walk away as you don’t want to boil or scorch the milk). You can add the saved liquid from the oysters to your taste preference.
Pour in a bowl and garnish with parsley, chives, your favorite hot sauce and some oyster crackers.
MyCG: What is the story behind your recipe? Why did you choose it?
We grew up on the water, often eating what we would catch, whether it was fish we would fry right out of the river, freshly-caught crabs or catching enough shrimp for a low country boil. We grew up eating this stew on the holidays. My mother always made it for us, and it has been a staple for over 30 years. Now that we are older, one of the siblings will make this as something to munch on before the holiday dinner is ready.
This soup is such a comfort food and very often a beginning course for my family prior to the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. The flavor that pours out of this soup is incredible. Though it may not be appealing to the masses, any seafood lover will enjoy this recipe.
Did you ever cook this recipe on a cutter or elsewhere in the field?
I often cooked this soup when I was the food services officer (FSO) at Station Tybee in Tybee Island, GA. We would have a coffee break every day at 1000 and generally cook this once or twice a month. This recipe can be cooked on any platform. Still, I highly suggest a cutter that is looking to prepare it for their crew underway that it be VERY early in the deployment!
How did you learn to cook? Who is your favorite chef?
I had many influences that taught me how to cook. My mother is one. Though she may not have taught me directly, I learned through watching her love and her love for food. The last chef I worked for, Peg, the executive chef at the Magnolia Grill, helped push me to the next level and believed in my ability to be a good cook.
My favorite chef is Thomas Keller. His passion for food was highly influential throughout my career. His autobiography was one of the first books I read after becoming a food service specialist. Since that day, I have dreamed of eating at his signature restaurant, The French Laundry. I was able realize that dream a couple of years ago. All I can say is that was worth every penny and should be on anyone’s bucket list that truly appreciates excellent food.