Archive for the ‘seafood’ Category

Those of us that live in New England understand the magnificence that is a fresh lobster. Nothing beats a Maine lobster pulled right out of the water, placed in a pot of boiling water, and devoured moments later with nothing but melted butter on the side.

 

 

I live in Rhode Island. Our waters are a bit warmer than Maine’s, but my friends at Sakonnet Lobster in Little Compton, literally footsteps from our rental home, Saule (www.sauleri.com…go to Homeaway.com listing #4711871) have the freshest lobster around.

 

At a recent gathering at our house, I fired up my brand new 200,000 BTU burner and grabbed my 82-quart lobster pot to cook a dozen lobsters.

An 82-quart pot means business!

 

Many people will argue that steaming lobsters is better than boiling them. I don’t find that to be true, certainly from the perspective of ease of cooking or the taste of the final product. Baked stuffed lobsters are delicious, but that’s a subject for a different time.

 

Using the outdoor burner method has several advantages. First, all the mess and smell stays out of the kitchen. Clean-up is much easier. Second, when cooking lobsters for a lot of people, the burners on the kitchen stove just don’t have what it takes to boil the water. And third, this method requires no back-breaking lifting of heavy pots full of water.

My buddy, Lee, has a PhD in Chemistry, and has been a lobster lover all his life. With a home in Maine now, he knows a thing or two about cooking lobster. Here’s his fool-proof formula…

Bring the pot of water to a full vigorous boil.
Keeping the flame on high, add the lobsters, which will quench the boil for a few minutes.
Cook for 17 minutes for the first pound + 1 minute per each additional pound of lobsters added. (For example, cooking four 1.25 lb lobsters = 21 minutes.)
The water soon comes back to a full boil and you can reduce heat slightly to avoid boil over.

 

 

Experienced lobster boilers will tell you that this cooking formula is pretty accurate, but you do have to adjust the time if the water doesn’t come back to the boil as quickly as you’d like. The lobsters are still cooking even if the water isn’t boiling. If you’ve got an overcrowded pot, you might need to cook things a little longer. An emptier pot: a little less. Play it by ear.

 

To those that get queasy when it comes to cooking lobsters, there are several ways to kill a lobster before it goes into the pot: Some people put them in the freezer to numb them. Others use a sharp knife and cut down right between the eyes. Some do both. Although people constantly argue about whether lobsters can feel pain or not, my scientist friends assure me that a lobster’s nervous system is no more complicated than an insect’s. Dropping them head-first into a pot of boiling water is the fastest, most humane way of killing them. And they don’t “scream.” That’s just air escaping from the body cavity.

 

Good to remember: if you overcook the lobster a little, no harm done. But if you undercook it, it’s pretty nasty.

 

 

All I need on the side is some melted salted butter.

 

I’m not a big beer drinker, but I do like to cook with it. One of my favorite things in the world is beer-battered fish. And it doesn’t have to be greasy if you do it right. (Scroll down to the bottom to see how to make this gluten-free!)

When you fry at home, you can do things the right way: start with clean oil, heat it to the right temperature, and then throw it out when it’s done. When you go to a fast-food place, that oil has sat there all day (if not all week)…it’s been used hundreds of times…it absorbs the flavors of whatever was fried before your food got dropped in there…and quite frankly, it’s beat up.

What got me started with this whole beer-batter-at-home process was stumbling upon some fresh local cod at my neighborhood seafood store: Bridgeport Seafood in Tiverton, Rhode Island. My buddy, Dave, said that the cod came from just off Sakonnet Point that day. Good enough for me!

I always try to fry with healthy oils. For me, that means olive oil, avocado oil, or, pork lard from heritage breed pigs. But none of those choices are cheap. So I allow myself to “cheat” when deep-frying and I use peanut oil or vegetable oil. Using a thermometer, I heat it to 350 degrees. I always watch the temp of my oil…it can get too hot very quickly…and by the same token, the temp can drop quickly if I throw in a whole bunch of fish into the pot all at once. Using one of those deep fryers made for home use is also a good way of cooking and controlling temperature. I’m careful not to put too much oil in my pot (halfway up is fine) or it could spill over, since oil expands as it gets hotter.

Here’s all you need for great beer batter:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
12 oz. bottle of beer (Sam Adams Boston Lager works for me)
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 3 hours.

Cut your fish into pieces that aren’t too big and will fit in your pot easily. The thickness of the fish may vary and so may the cooking times of each piece. When the oil reaches 350, simply dip the fish into the batter and let as much batter drip off as you like before you carefully place the fish into the oil. Fry until golden brown.

 

beer batter

 

What good is fried fish without tartare sauce, right? Don’t tell me you’re using the stuff in a jar after frying the fish yourself!

1/2 cup mayo (I always use Hellmann’s)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Frank’s Red Hot cayenne sauce
Grinding of black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped capers
1 teaspoon lemon zest, using micro plane zester

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for an hour before using.

 

To make beer-batter gluten-free, substitute GF flour for the all-purpose flour. (I like Cup4Cup.) And now, you can get gluten-free beer that tastes pretty damn good. Use it instead of regular beer, and you’ve got a beer batter that’s gluten-free!

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 20 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.

image

 

 

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.

Nothing says summer here in New England like a lobster roll. But I don’t go to a clam shack to get one. The prices are ridiculous, the meat can be overcooked, and they often add ingredients I don’t want.

I start with fresh lobster. I get it 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. It’s just steps away from Saule, our rental property. (Check it out at http://www.sauleri.com)

 

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-to-2/3’s 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 per pound, for the first pound. Then 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. These times are for hard shell lobsters, if cooking new shell (soft shell lobsters) reduce the boiling time by three minutes.

 

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 be in the ocean, not on a plate.

My maximum lobster size is 2 lbs. At that weight, 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 lettuce leaf!

No paprika or Old Bay seasoning. A pinch of celery salt? Sure. 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 a lemon flavor…just to brighten the taste.

As for the roll, I prefer those long Martin’s potato rolls: soft and squishy straight out of the bag or for extra decadence: lightly grilled with a little melted butter brushed on.

 

In the past, when I reached for the smoker, it was always for a slab of meat: brisket, pork shoulder, ribs. I’m surprised it took me this long to finally smoke some fish. What have I been waiting for?

Brining and smoking fish, in this case a hunk of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, is really not difficult to do at all: you brine the fish in a simple salt, pepper and sugar solution for a few hours, let the hunk of fish dry, then throw it in a smoker for a couple of hours. It’s really that easy. This method is called hot smoking, not the cold smoking you often see described on packages of store-bought salmon. Cold smoking is a process that takes days and requires equipment that most homeowners don’t have, and don’t need.

About the fish: I’m not a fan of traditionally cooked or poached salmon. I like it raw or I like it smoked. I never buy Atlantic salmon or any other farm-raised salmon because of the way they raise them: in large pens out in the ocean, fed food pellets and antibiotics, over-crowded and diseased, polluting the waters around them with waste.

Wild-caught fish are just that: they eat their natural food sources. They are not crowded so they don’t need antibiotics. And you can tell the difference when you look at the beautiful bright orange flesh. Does the good stuff cost more? Of course. Worth every bit.

Though I try to make sure all the small bones have been removed from my fish, I like to keep the skin on the filet, because it helps hold it together in the smoker. I always keep the fish cold in the fridge until it is ready to be brined.

 

salmon

 

For the brine:

1 gallon water
1 cup Kosher salt
1 cup organic raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a large pitcher made of glass or plastic and refrigerate until very cold.

When the brine is cold, remove the fish from the fridge and place it skin down in a glass or plastic container that will hold the filet without folding it over. Carefully pour the brine over the fish and make sure the fish is covered completely with the brine. If the fish filet starts to float, place a dish on it to push it down and then put the lid over the container. Place the container back in the fridge and brine for anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. (I always go for less than more. I’d rather have less salty than too salty.)

Once the fish has been brined, remove it from the container and rinse it well under fresh water. Pat it dry with paper towels and place it where it will get air circulating all around it. I use a small rack that stands an inch over a sheet pan. If you leave the fish out at room temp, do it for no more than an hour. Otherwise, it can stay in the fridge for up to 3 hours.

As the fish dries, it will form a shiny coat on the surface called a pellicle. This will actually help the smoke molecules adhere to the fish.

Start up your smoker. I use a digital smoker that runs on electricity, so I pre-heat to 220 degrees. When the fish has dried, I place it in the middle of the smoker and then add hickory chips to the smoker. I smoke the fish for about 2 hours, until the internal temperature of the fish is about 140.

Once it is smoked, I let the fish cool to room temp before I wrap it tightly and place it in the fridge for storage. Eat it within a few days…that should not be a problem!

A while 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 we brought waffle chips with clam dip. Clam dip is a classic, and it’s really easy to make. And the bowl was practically licked clean by our party-going friends!

image

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 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 potato chips.

image

Shrimp with an orange sauce is something you see on every Chinese restaurant menu. I didn’t have oranges, but wanted a citrus kick to my sweet and spicy sauce. I went with grapefruit and I never looked back!

Although I call this recipe “Asian shrimp,” I never buy my shrimp from Asia! Only wild-caught American shrimp will ever do. When you realize just how nasty Asian shrimp can be (farmed in over-crowded conditions, swimming in their own filth and fed chemical food pellets) you’ll never eat it again.

Green beans are now growing in my garden, so I used them, but feel free to substitute with broccoli, asparagus, or any other veggies you like.

Chili garlic sauce and hoisin sauce can be found in most supermarkets, in the international foods section.

As long as you use gluten-free soy sauce and hoisin sauce, this dish is gluten-free!

 

image

 

For the rice:

1 cup basmati rice (I use Texmati brown rice)
2 cups seafood stock (I use homemade shrimp and fish stock)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, finely chopped
splash of peanut oil

 

For the veggies:

1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and cut into 1/4′ pieces
1 teaspoon soy sauce
splash of peanut oil

 

For the shrimp:

2 dozen thawed, peeled and de-veined wild caught USA shrimp
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
juice and zest of 1 grapefruit
splash of peanut oil

 

Making your own seafood stock is easy: just peel the shrimp you’re going to use in this recipe, and place the shells in a saucepan full of water. Let it boil until you’ve reduced it to 2 cups. Strain out the shells and discard them. Then use the stock to cook your rice, according to the package directions. Once the rice is cooked, toss in the chopped scallions, mix well, and set the rice aside.

Add peanut oil to a hot pan and saute the onions until translucent. Add the green beans and cook them until al dente. Add the soy sauce, stir, and then pour the contents of the pan into the rice. Mix well.

Using the same pan, add a little more peanut oil and sear the shrimp on both sides. Don’t overcook them! Push the shrimp to the sides of the pan so that a circle remains in the middle. Add the chili garlic sauce and hoysin sauce and stir them together, then blending in the shrimp until the shrimp are covered with the sauce. Add the grapefruit zest and juice and stir until everything is combined and the sauce has thickened just a bit.

Pour the contents of the pan into the rice mix and combine. Add more soy sauce to the rice, to taste.

Whenever I serve these tuna tacos to friends, I always get 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 in small frozen “bricks” at Whole Foods or similar stores.

 

The marinade…
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil

The topping…

¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

Other Ingredients…

½ lb. sushi grade raw tuna, chopped into ¼-inch cubes
Tortilla chips
Finely chopped scallions

Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl, and place it in the fridge. Mix the marinade ingredients in a separate bowl. Chop the tuna into ¼-inch cubes, and marinate it in the soy/oil mix for just 10 minutes, then drain. (It will be really salty if you let marinate any longer.) Keep it cold!

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

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

 

One of the most incredible dishes I’ve had on the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, is lobster with pasta. It’s one of those dishes that takes time to prepare, because the pasta lobster sauce they make is a labor of love…time consuming, but so spectacular.

Cooked lobster LTL

I often have friends over for dinner, but when I prepared this dish for them recently, it was the first time they all licked their plates clean!

To try to copy that lobster sauce we had in Santorini, I started with a kick-ass lobster stock. It’s simple but flavorful:

 

clean, empty claws, tails and bodies from two 1-1/2 lb. lobsters (use the legs, too)
12 cups water
1/2 onion
3 celery stalks
1 carrot

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and set it on high heat. Crush the lobster shells (I use a potato masher!) Cook until the stock is reduced by half.

Strain the stock, discarding the lobster shells and veggies. Bring the stock back to the heat and reduce it until all you have left is 1 cup of intense stock.

 

 

Pasta with lobster sauce

Now that you have the stock, you can make the sauce!

 

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
pinch of Italian red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon parsley
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lobster stock
1/4 cup San Marzano tomato sauce (see below)
splash of white wine (I use Alice white Chardonnay)
salt and pepper
1/2 lb. cooked pasta

Add some olive oil to a pan and saute the onions until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley.

Add 1/4 cup of the lobster stock and let it cook, reducing by half. Add the other 1/4 cup of lobster stock and then the tomato sauce. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the white wine. Cook for a few minutes more.

Cook the pasta and drain it even before it reaches the al dente stage. Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce, heating and coating it thoroughly. Serve immediately, with or without the lobster meat.

 

For the San Marzano tomato sauce: I pour a can of San Marzano tomatoes  into a food processor or Vita-Mix and blend until I get sauce. Pour into a pan and reduce over medium heat by half, until sauce has thickened.

Fellow is my dog, and he was by my side as I created this dish. I thought it was only fair to name it after him.

The original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closet guarded secret, created in 1899 at the famous New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s. Jules Alciatore, the son of founder Antoine Alciatore, developed the dish when they had a shortage of escargot, substituting locally available oysters. Antoine’s is still the only place in the world where you can be served the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe.

Search on line for Oysters Rockefeller, and you’ll find hundreds of recipes that claim to be the real thing. Most of them use spinach in the dish, which Antoine’s has said was not in the original recipe.

My version, Oysters Rock-a-Fellow, is a cheesier, gooier version than the original, which is heavy on the greens, but I think it’s one you will enjoy. I use larger, meatier oysters like Wellfleets from Cape Cod or local Rhode Island oysters, but use what you like.

24 oysters
1 bottle (12 oz.) beer (I like Sam Adams Boston lager)
5 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves

Scrub the oysters under cold water to get them clean.

Place all the oysters in a large pot. Add the beer, peppercorns, salt, and garlic cloves, along with enough cold water to cover the oysters. Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil.

The moment you reach a boil, turn the heat off and remove the oysters onto a plate to cool. You don’t want the oysters to open in the pot! Discard the liquid.

Once the oysters have cooled, remove the top shell off each one, carefully reserving the oyster liquor inside if you can, and arrange them on a lined baking sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped
Fine bread crumbs

 

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the milk, season with salt and pepper, and then add the arugula a little at a time, letting it wilt before adding more. Use all the arugula.

Once all the arugula is in the saucepan, sprinkle the cheese in a bit at a time, letting it melt, until you’ve used all the cheese.

Spoon the cheese sauce carefully over each oyster on the baking sheet, just filling the shell. Top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs.

Bake in the 425-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and bubbly.