Recipes from the Scientific Stars


Editor's note: Good food is almost as important to science as lab space and adequate funding. (Notice that we said "almost.") Good food and drink keep the body fueled, the spirits high, and the ideas flowing, but that's not the end of it. Good food and drink also help lubricate science's social fabric--what better way to secure matching funds from your department chair, investment from a technology-oriented venture capitalist, or a promotion from the head of the personnel committee than to serve them the beverage of their choice along with Marian and Skip Johnson-Thompson's "Skip Dip" with Fritos, Milton Hernandez's chili con carne, or an order of Eugene Chang's whole blue crabs?

We realize this introduction is short (and not terribly funny), but to be perfectly honest, it's almost lunchtime, and it's hard to be witty and have good ideas when you're hungry. So we'll keep it short and sweet and move on to the recipes.

Eugene Chang's Whole Blue Crab Recipe

Eugene Chang, the founder of U.S. Genomics, was profiled by Next Wave earlier in December. Chang describes his fascination with culinary crustaceans.

"I have been an avid lobster fan for as long as I can remember and have recently discovered whole blue crabs. I have always thought of crabs as challenging to eat and less meaty than lobster. As I have learned, it is quite the contrary. With good practice, good company, and fine wine, they are unparalleled in flavor, subtle complexity, and gastronomic satisfaction. Recommended for good long scientific conversations about genomics, origins of species, and DNA."

  • 1/2 cup of seafood seasoning

  • 1/2 cup of salt

  • 2 table spoons of sugar

  • 3 cups of white vinegar

  • 3 cups of water (or beer)

  • 3 dozen live (and lively) blue crabs

Mix seasoning, vinegar, and beer (or water) well. Place one-half crabs in very large pot with rack and TIGHT fitting lid. Pour one-half of seasoning mixture over top. Add remaining crabs and rest of the seasoning mix. Steam, covered, until crabs turn bright red in color, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold. Makes about 3 to 4 servings, depending upon size of crabs and other food served.


Milton Hernandez's Chili Con Carne

Milton Hernandez, director of the Office of Special Populations and Research Training at the National Institutes of Health, described his path into science administration in August.

  • 2 cups of dried pinto or red kidney beans

  • 6 to 10 cups of water, approximately (salt to taste)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 pork skin or 1 small smoked ham hock

  • 2 pounds of round steak in one piece

  • 5 tablespoons of peanut, vegetable, or corn oil

  • freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 1 teaspoon or more of ground cumin

  • 2 tablespoons of finely minced garlic

  • 6 to 8 dried ancho peppers (see note)

  • 2 guajillo peppers (see note)

  • 2 New Mexico peppers

  • 2 to 12 chilis de arbol, depending on hotness desired (see note)

  • 1 whole clove garlic

  • fresh cerrano peppers, optional

  • Put the beans in a kettle and add 6 cups of water, salt, bay leaves, and pork skin. Bring to boil and let simmer slowly for 1 or 2 hours or until tender, but not mushy. If necessary, add up to one more cup of water to the beans as they cook.


  • Meanwhile, cut the meat into half-inch cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small casserole and cook the meat, stirring occasionally, until it loses its raw look, 5 to 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic.


  • Add enough water to barely cover the meat. Let simmer until meat is tender, about 30 or 40 minutes.


  • Meanwhile, rinse the ancho, guajillo, and New Mexico peppers. Split them in half and cut away and discard the stems. Discard the seeds. Break the peppers into pieces and add them to an electric blender or food processor. Add the chilis de arbol, 1 1/2 cups of water and the garlic clove. Blend briefly and let stand about 5 minutes. Blend once more and let stand 5 minutes. Blend to a uniform purée.


  • Heat the three remaining tablespoons of oil in a kettle and add the chili purée. Cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes.


  • Discard the pork skin and bay leaves from the beans. Drain the beans but reserve the cooking liquid. Add all of the beans or as many as you would like. Add the reserved liquid in which the beans cooked and the meat in its cooking liquid. Let simmer to the proper consistency. Serve cerrano peppers on the side if desired.

  • Yield: 6 to 10 servings.


    Benjamin Cuker's Cabbage and Onion Delight

    Benjamin Cuker is a professor at Hampton University and the creator of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Minorities Program. Cuker was profiled by MiSciNet in August.

    • 1/3 head of cabbage

    • 1 large onion

    • Favorite seasonings (curry and dill & oregano are two of my favorites)

    • Low-lipid protein (I usually choose one of these: cup of tofu or 1/2 cup of Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas)

    • 1/4 cup of nuts

    • 1/2 cup of fish or other seafood

    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

    Slice and dice cabbage and onion, add the other ingredients, stir to mix. Cook in the microwave for 12 minutes on high, or in a pressure cooker at 15 pounds for 5 minutes.

    Eat with chopsticks.


    Marian and Skip Johnson-Thompson's "Skip Dip"

    Molecular virologist Marian Johnson-Thompson is director of Education and Biomedical Research Development at the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences and chair of the NIEHS Institutional Review Board. Her husband Charles "Skip" Thompson Jr. is a mortgage banker and a jazz enthusiast. "Skip Dip" has, we hear, become quite the thing at certain stops along North Carolina's Research Triangle party circuit. Marian describes her husband's concoction this way:

    "My husband, Skip, kind of copied this recipe from someone else, years ago. We've modified it and call it "Skip Dip." Every time I serve it, folks always want to know how to make it. It has spread like wildfire. It's delicious, simple to make, and quick, and I've never heard anyone say that they didn't like it. It goes like this:"

    • 6 oz of cream cheese

    • 8 oz jar of salsa (can use mild or hot depending upon preference)

    • 8 oz package of shredded mozzarella cheese

    • Bag of Fritos Scoops chips (must be Scoops)

    Layer bottom of pie plate with cream cheese. Spread salsa on evenly. Disperse mozzarella on top. Heat in 350°F oven until bubbly (microwave does not work).

    Remove and serve hot. Each person uses Fritos Scoops to load dip. Enjoy!


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