Chef Jess Wallen caters to diners’ appetite for shrimp and crab
From the June 2021 issue
Cooking along the Culinary Coast has forced Jessica Wallen to up her seafood game. Since becoming the opening chef at Grain on the Rocks in Lewes, she’s been creating menu items to please vacationers craving for fish and shellfish. Consider her shrimp-and-crab noodle bowl with green curry broth.
Wallen is adept at crafting new recipes. She was just 11 when she began wowing friends with breakfast sandwiches. The Delaware County, Pa., native comes by her talent naturally. Her dad is Bill Wallen, who oversees the kitchens in four of Grain’s restaurants. (Three are in Delaware.)
“From as early as I can remember, I would watch my dad in the kitchen,” she says. “He was my inspiration, and he’s definitely my mentor. I went to the Culinary School of Wallen.”
The budding chef was 16 when she became the “salad queen” at a Philadelphia-area restaurant. Gigs at other restaurants, a country club and a college followed. In 2015, she joined her dad at Grain Craft Bar & Kitchen in Newark. She moved to Grain on the Rocks in March 2020.
To satisfy customer demand, the Lewes location’s menu leans more toward seafood than do those of its siblings. Wallen, who has been dabbling with Asian flavors, gives a nod to local trends by combining crab, shrimp and curry in a noodle bowl for a soup that eats like a meal.
“It’s a labor of love,” she says of creating the dish. “The broth is the star.” The green curry paste gives it the signature flavor. Use too little and you’ll miss the mark.
SHRIMP-AND-CRAB NOODLE BOWL WITH GREEN CURRY BROTH
4 tablespoons of green curry paste
3 14-ounce cans of unsweetened coconut milk
6 large, fresh shrimp, tail and shell removed
2 ounces of fresh, cooked lump crabmeat
1 ounce of shredded carrots
2 ounces of scallions, chopped (green part only)
3 ounces of cooked pasta (angel hair works well)
STEP 1 Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
STEP 2 Blend the curry paste and coconut milk in a medium-size stockpot.
STEP 3 Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.
STEP 4 Coat a saute pan with some oil. Add the shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes.
STEP 5 Place the pasta in the center of each bowl.
STEP 6 Add carrots and scallions.
STEP 7 Place the seafood on top.
STEP 8 Pour the hot curry broth over the top and fill to your liking.