Archive for the ‘seafood’ Category

What can I say? I was craving both dishes, so I combined them. I figured: if I love each one of them, I’d be crazy over both together!

 

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Pasta
1/4 lb. bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
18 small clams, washed and purged*
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Good quality olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

 

In a large pot, salt some water and bring it to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente.

In the bottom of another large pot on medium-high heat, fry the bacon until it’s crisp. Add the onions and saute them until they’re translucent. Add the clams, oregano and wine, and cover the pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium. The clams are cooked when they open. Discard any unopened clams.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil to medium. Add the chopped garlic and fry it until just crispy. Toss in the parsley and stir it to combine.

Place the pasta in a bowl or plate. Pour the clams and juice over the pasta. Pour the fried garlic and oil all over the clams.

 

*Purging clams: Clams can be pretty sandy and gritty, so it’s important not only to scrub the outside of the shell, but to purge them as well. Clams should be stored in a bowl in the fridge with a wet dish towel over them, never in water. Once you’re ready to use them, fill a bowl with water and add salt (think salty like ocean water) and a tablespoon of corn meal. Mix this around, then add the clams and let them sit in this solution in the fridge for a couple of hours. The clams will purge (clean themselves) out. Discard the liquid and rinse the clams before cooking.

I was having dinner the other night at The Boat House restaurant in Tiverton, RI, with my buddy, Lee, who lives in Maine half the year, and we started talking about what makes the perfect lobster roll.

Often, when you go to a restaurant and order one, they’ll first ask if you want it cold with mayonnaise or warm with butter. (A warm lobster roll with melted butter, we were told by our bartender, Cayce, is called “Connecticut style.”) The three of us discussed the mayonnaise-to-lobster ratio, and other significant factors. The final conclusion was that everyone likes their lobster roll a little differently.

It’s certainly easy to go to a clam shack or seafood restaurant to get one, but nothing beats making one yourself.

 

The lobster roll at The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts. Delicious and fresh. But it breaks one of my cardinal rules about lobster rolls. (Go to the bottom of the page.)

 

When I make my own lobster rolls, freshness is key. I always start with live lobsters. I get them from my lobster man buddy, Gary, just down the street at his dock in Tiverton, RI. Gary’s brother runs the Sakonnet Lobster Company on Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, RI.

 

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary's lobster boat, the Edna Mae

A view of the Sakonnet River from the back of Gary’s lobster boat, the Edna Mae

 

Once you’ve bought your live lobster, the next step is to cook it right. Some people steam and some people boil. I’ve always been a boiler myself. I fill a large pot half-way with water and add sea salt. I bring it to a rolling boil before the lobsters go in. And then I do the math…

I boil my lobsters for 10 minutes for the first pound. I add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. For example, a 2-pound lobster should boil for 13 minutes and a 1 1/2-pound lobster should boil for 11 1/2 minutes. And if I’m boiling more than one lobster, the same rule applies: 3 2-lb. lobsters = 6 pounds. So 10 minutes for the first pound, plus 3 minutes x 5 for each extra pound (that’s 15) for a total of 25 minutes. (These times are for hard shell lobsters. I reduce the boiling time by 3 minutes if I’m cooking soft-shell lobsters.)

Remember, you’re going by total weight of all the lobsters, because the more you have, the longer it takes the water to return to the boil once you put them in.

 

Lobster catch LTL

 

A larger lobster is not always better. My uncle used to buy the largest lobster he could find, and it was impressive when he placed at the center of the dinner table. But the meat was like rubber. And personally, I felt bad for the old lobster that made it that far in life. His last days should’ve been in the ocean, not on a plate.

My maximum lobster size is 2 lbs. But at 1 1/2 pounds, you have the perfect ratio of meat-to-shell…with lots of delicious meat that is still sweet and tender. It’s perfect.

After the lobsters have been removed from the pot and have cooled for a few minutes, I get to work: cracking the claws and tail and removing every bit of beautiful meat I can find. Lobster lovers will tell you that the legs have some meat in them and that the tomalley (the green liver and pancreas) and roe (eggs) are delicacies not to be missed. For the purpose of making lobster salad, I don’t use these parts. But I do save the tomalley and roe for a separate treat…and I save all the legs and cleaned empty shells for lobster stock.

Cleaning lobster legs is easy: simply remove all the legs from the body and place them flat on a cutting board. Grab a rolling pin, and one at a time, roll the pin over the lobster legs, starting at the claw end and working your way up. Like a tube of toothpaste, the meat will squeeze right out of the leg!

 

Lobster roll LTL

 

Now for the important stuff. What goes in a lobster roll, and more importantly, what doesn’t… I have very strong opinions in this matter.

First, there should NEVER be anything green in a lobster roll! No celery, no pickle, and it certainly shouldn’t be sitting on a bed of lettuce! Nothing should be crunchy in a lobster roll! The magic is in the texture of the perfectly cooked lobster meat. Don’t mess with it!

NO paprika or Old Bay seasoning!

A pinch of celery salt? Yes!

Mayonnaise? Only Hellman’s!

White pepper, not black, and just a touch.

Salt? A pinch of Fleur de Sel.

And the secret weapon to bring out all the flavors: the tiniest squeeze of fresh lemon juice…not enough to give it lemon flavor…just to brighten the taste.

As for the roll, you can’t go wrong with Martin’s potato long rolls: soft and squishy straight out of the bag, or to take a page from the Connecticut-style lobster roll lovers: lightly grill the rolls and brush them with a little melted butter!

 

Though it may sound Japanese, the word “saganaki” refers to a small frying pan used in Greek cooking. The most famous of these dishes, simply called saganaki, is a fried cheese, often flamed at the end with a little ouzo.

Shrimp saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, and it usually involves cooking shrimp in a tomato-based sauce with plenty of feta cheese sprinkled in. It’s simple yet fantastic if the ingredients are fresh. Doesn’t hurt to be sitting in a taverna on the beautiful island of Santorini while eating it, either!

 

You can find Graviera cheese in most supermarkets.

 

I found a slab of Graviera cheese at a local supermarket, and decided to recreate shrimp saganaki using that instead of feta. It was pretty darn amazing.

I like using peeled and deveined 24–30 shrimp, because larger shrimp don’t always cook through. These smaller shrimp will be bite-sized and delicious.

 

Melty, gooey, delicious!

Melty, gooey, delicious!

 

200g package (7 oz.) grated Graviera cheese
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 lb. (about 24) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through a press
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo
salt and pepper

 

Peel and devein the shrimp (or you can buy them that way already.) Place them in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of  1/2 of a lemon on to the shrimp and toss. Set them aside.

In a large pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Crush or puree the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Add the red pepper flakes, dill and oregano, and salt and pepper. Add the Ouzo.

Let this sauce cook down for a bit until all the flavors have blended together.

Pour a layer of the sauce on the bottom of a metal broiler-proof pan. Lay the raw shrimp in a single layer into the sauce. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the grated Graviera on top.

Place the pan in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly and the shrimp have cooked through. I like to finish it under the broiler for a few minutes to get the cheese brown and melty.

 

shrimp saganaki

 

 

A few years ago, we were invited to a very cool retro summer party: cocktails and appetizers from the 60’s, and everyone contributed to the music by bringing in their favorite songs on vinyl. (I brought in a copy of the First Edition’s “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)” featuring a very young Kenny Rogers. Very trippy.

We were also asked to contribute to the apps, so I brought waffle chips with clam dip.

 

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2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
3 6-oz. cans of chopped clams, drained, liquid reserved from one can
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all the ingredients, except the clam liquid, in a bowl and mix them well with a fork.

Add 1 tablespoon of the clam liquid and mix well. Keep adding the clam liquid until the dip reaches a consistency you like.

Serve with the potato chips.

 

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Before you can have great shrimp cocktail, you have to do 2 things: buy the right shrimp and cook the shrimp the right way. The right shrimp is nothing less than wild-caught American shrimp. If you’re buying shrimp from Asia, your supporting a system that uses slave labor, where shrimp are fed chemical pellets and swim in feces. If it doesn’t say wild-caught American shrimp on the package or at your local seafood store, it’s crap. Give your store owner hell for selling it.

Cooking shrimp the right way is something I learned living in the South. My wonderful friends and neighbors taught me many things about food, and the right way to cook shrimp is near the top of the list.

Shrimp was never meant to be cooked to death. It doesn’t matter if you start with fresh shrimp, store-bought shrimp, or even frozen shrimp…the same rules apply: 1) Season your water. 2) Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it get happy for 10 minutes. 3) Drop in the shrimp and raise the heat. 4) Remove the shrimp AS SOON AS the water returns to a boil.

The seasoning for the water, commonly called shrimp boil, makes or breaks the flavor of your shrimp. For years, I used Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil in a bag. And it was good. But at some point, I realized I had to get serious and make my own boil.

2 quarts water
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lemon, squeezed, then drop the lemon in
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon brown mustard seed
1 teaspoon dry thyme

Combine all the ingredients in a 4–6 quart pot. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, put a lid on the pot, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and pour in your shrimp. (I prefer unpeeled.) Stir well, bring the heat back up to high, and remove the shrimp AS SOON AS it returns to a boil! The shrimp are cooked! Done!

Strain the shrimp and place them in a bowl with crushed ice on the bottom. Add more crushed ice on top of the shrimp, and place the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

 

Freshly shucked oysters and clams, or in this case, beautiful boiled wild-caught American shrimp, all call for an equally amazing cocktail sauce…and this sauce kicks butt! And it features a key ingredient that you might not expect: vodka. The small amount of vodka in the mix makes the cocktail sauce easy to scoop even when stored in the freezer. Just scoop out what you need, let it thaw, and put the rest back in the freezer until next time.

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2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

 

Here in New England, oysters are plentiful. We don’t just slurp ’em down: we go out and dig our own…we have our favorite buck-an-oyster bar for any given day of the week…and we debate over the best variety, from east coast to west, north to south.

 

oysters

Fresh oysters deserve an amazing cocktail sauce, and my recipe kicks butt: lots of horseradish, lots of flavor, and a secret ingredient: vodka. Not only does it give it a kick, it keeps it from freezing solid, so I can keep the cocktail sauce in the freezer until I need it.

2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

 

Fresh shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

Freshly shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

 

When I’m in Portland, Maine, I visit one of the best oyster bars in the country: Eventide. Besides some wickedly creative dishes, they consistently have a fantastic variety of fresh oysters to choose from. And they offer a variety of “accoutrements” to go with them: anything from a red wine mignonette to kimchee ice. My favorite is the pickled red onion ice. All you need is a shot glass with a freshly shucked oyster inside, a half-shot of chilled vodka on top, and some pickled red onion ice, and you’ve got the best oyster shooter on planet Earth. I even suggested the shooter to the manager at Eventide. It has yet to make it to the menu. (But I remain hopeful!)

 

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion shaved ice. Bottoms up!

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion ice. Bottoms up!

 

I’ve managed to come up with a pretty good version of the pickled red onion ice at home, and I serve it alongside my cocktail sauce.

2 large red onions
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

 

Peel and quarter the onions. Drop them in a medium-sized pot and cover with about a quart of water. Bring it to a boil and cook it down until it has reduced to a cup of concentrated onion water after straining.

Bring the strained onion water back to the stove, and on medium heat, add the sugar and vinegar, stirring. When the sugar dissolves, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before pouring it into a container and placing it in the freezer.

When it’s time to eat oysters, remove the block of red onion ice from its container, and, using a fine metal grater, shave the ice over the top of the freshly shucked oysters and devour immediately!

 

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What did a girl from Michigan, with family in the Upper Peninsula, have in common with a guy who grew up on Long Island in a mostly Jewish community? Well…smoked whitefish, for one thing!

Growing up in NY, I was introduced to smoked whitefish, herring, and lox at an amazing deli just down the road from my parents’ house. My wife’s family from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, meanwhile, caught the whitefish, herring and salmon and smoked it themselves.

My Yooper father-in-law showed me how to properly remove the meat cleanly from the smoked whitefish, and then, when he wasn’t looking, I took his recipe for smoked whitefish salad and I tweaked it.

Smoked whitefish may be a bit hard to find, and it could get expensive if you buy it from your local deli. But sometimes big membership stores like BJ’s will sell whole smoked whitefish. (They also sell already-made whitefish salad, but don’t buy that…it’s all mayonnaise and fish leftovers.)

 

Remove every bit of meat. Double-check for bones!

Remove every bit of meat. Double-check for bones!

 

1/2 whole smoked whitefish, meat removed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped Vidalia onion
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of sea salt (I like Fleur de Sel)

 

Remove the meat from the smoked whitefish carefully, making sure all the small bones have been removed. Double-check to make sure you’ve done this really well. Place all the whitefish meat in a bowl.

Combine all the other ingredients with the fish, mixing thoroughly using a fork. (Try not to mush it up too much!)
Serve with crackers, or my favorite: a toasted everything bagel from New York!
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Here’s a shot of the real deal straight out of the smoker, at a fish store in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on the way to the in-laws’ house in the Upper Peninsula. Man, that was some good eatin’!
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Who says you have to only cook burgers and steaks on the grill? This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy clams…and without the clam knife! I always use hardwood charcoal.

 

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A couple of dozen (or more) little neck clams, washed and purged
1 stick (8 oz.) of unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

 

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The clams should be stored in the fridge until ready to use…not in water, not on ice. Place the clams in a bowl and cover it with a wet dish towel.

Before cooking, I like to purge my clams to remove as much grit as possible. I fill a large bowl with cold water, add sea salt and some corn meal to it, and mix it around. Then I add the clams to this bowl and let them sit in this liquid for at least an hour. They will suck up the corn meal and spit out sand and grit. After an hour, I pour off the water/salt/meal/grit mix, and thoroughly wash the clams. Now they’re ready to grill!

I start my hardwood charcoal grill and divide it in half: coals on one side, no coals on the other.

While the coals are heating up, I grab a disposable aluminum foil tray and place it on a burner on my kitchen stovetop over medium heat. I add the butter, olive oil, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic and salt, and stir it all to combine. Once the butter has melted and everything has blended, I bring the tray over to the charcoal grill and place on the side of the grill without coals. It will stay warm.

Once the coals are hot, just place the clams directly on the grill. (Use tongs, unless you want to remove all of your knuckle hair.) They’re done as soon as they open, but you can cook them as long as you like, from raw to more thoroughly cooked. As each one reaches its desired doneness, place it carefully in the aluminum tray, making sure you don’t lose any of that precious liquid inside the clam shell. Give it a swish in the butter and herb mix.

When all the clams have been cooked and are in the tray, serve them with that herby butter sauce on top of pasta…or simply eat them with a fresh baguette. A glass of great white wine is a must.

 

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Really easy and really delicious!

Quarantining now, of course, but whenever I used to serve these tuna tacos to friends, I always got requests for the recipe. It requires a bit of setting up, but you can put it together right before serving to your guests…or yourself.

I use sushi-grade tuna for this dish, which is easily found online. It comes in 4-ounce packages, which is the perfect size for a single recipe. I buy them in quantity (it’s cheaper that way), and keep them in the freezer. You can also find tuna in small frozen “bricks” at Whole Foods or similar higher-end supermarkets. They might even have some fresh, in season.

If you’re worried about parasites in raw fish, sure, there’s always a chance something like that could happen. I’m willing to roll the dice when I eat raw meat when I make beef tartare, or use raw eggs in my Caesar salad dressing. To me, it’s worth the gamble. You have to decide what’s right for you.

It’s important you know where your tuna comes from, and if it was handled properly. If you go to a reputable seafood market, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The best way to get rid of parasites is by cooking or freezing. Cooking is not the answer for this particular recipe. But if you buy the frozen bricks, they’ve been in the deep-freeze long enough to kill any parasites. Also, when it comes to mercury, the smaller the fish, the better. So if this is a concern, opt for ahi (also called yellowfin) tuna.

 

 

The topping…
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

 

The marinade…
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
Other Ingredients…
½ lb. sushi grade raw tuna, chopped into ¼-inch cubes
Tortilla chips, regular or the little bowls
Finely chopped scallions

Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl, and place it in the fridge.

Mix the marinade ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.

Chop the tuna into ¼-inch cubes, and if it looks wet, place it on some paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. (It can release quite a bit of moisture if it was frozen…you don’t want it watery before you marinate it.)

Marinate the tuna in the soy/chili garlic mix for just 10 minutes, then pour off the excess. (It will be really salty if you let marinate any longer.) Keep it in the fridge as well.

Finely chop the scallions.

Just before serving, take a tortilla chip or little bowl, place 1 tablespoon of the tuna on top, top this with ½ teaspoon of the sour cream mixture, and then garnish it with the finely chopped scallions.

 

 

Serve them immediately, and eat these quickly, before the tuna makes the tortilla soggy!

 

 

As much as I want to support my local restaurants, quarantining has kept me away more than usual. There are some dishes I crave more than others, and Chinese shrimp and broccoli is one of them. But it’s really quite easy to make it at home, and it’s surprisingly low in calories if you’re really careful with the amount of oil you use. Oil is the biggest culprit when it comes to calories in Chinese cooking.

Second on the list of calorie culprits is rice. It looks innocent enough, but a cup of rice has 170 calories, and if you’re limiting yourself to a daily calorie count of 1500, like I am, that becomes pretty significant.

The good news is that shrimp is actually one of the lowest calorie foods you can buy, checking in at only 1 calorie per gram. Broccoli is also low in calories, so if you skip the rice, you can really eat your fill of this delicious dish.

 

 

I’ve come up with what I call my “Asian Mix,” which is a combination of five ingredients commonly found in the supermarket in the Asian food section. Add these to your shrimp and broccoli, and you will never need to leave home for really good Chinese food!

Asian Mix…
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

Combine these ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Set aside.

 

 

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 or 2 large heads broccoli, chopped into smaller, similar-sized pieces
1 lb. wild-caught American shrimp, peeled and deveined
Asian Mix, as listed above
peanut oil

I prefer peanut oil when cooking Asian dishes.

Heat a nonstick pan and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to it. Add the chopped onion, and cook until translucent.

Add the chopped garlic and stir for about 10 seconds.

Add the chopped broccoli and cook until the broccoli turns bright green but stays crunchy.

Empty the pan out into a bowl and, without wiping the pan down, add the shrimp to the pan (no more oil!), returning it to the heat. Let the shrimp heat in the hot pan for 30–60 seconds on one side, then flip the shrimp over and let them heat through for 30–60 seconds on the other side.That’s all you need to cook them, unless they’re really large. Just keep flipping them until they’re pink and firm, but don’t overcook them.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add a tablespoon of the Asian Mix to the shrimp, tossing them around to coat them with it. Don’t let them burn!

Now bring back the onions, garlic, and broccoli to the shrimp in the pan, tossing everything together, and adding more of the Asian Mix until everything is nicely coated.

 

 

 

Serve immediately…over rice or not!