Archive for the ‘seafood’ Category

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!

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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 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.

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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!

 

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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.

 

Yes, you can. Wouldn’t make sense to write a blog about it otherwise, right?

They key ingredient in making a good fritter batter is beer. But up until recently, there weren’t many gluten-free beers to choose from…and the ones that were out there tasted like crap. All that has changed.

Now you can pretty much find a gluten-free craft beer in every state, and there are several regional gluten-free beers as well. Easy enough to find: just go to a good beer store and ask. They almost always carry a couple of brands.

Gluten-free beers can be divided into 2 types: truly gluten-free: brewed with gluten-free ingredients and safe for Celiacs to drink…and gluten-reduced: beers that are brewed with ingredients containing gluten, then had an enzyme added to reduce  the gluten. These are fine for those, like my wife, that have an intolerance to gluten, but are not Celiac. Read the labels!

 

The beer that I used for my recipe is a beer that they say  is “crafted to remove gluten,” meaning there’s still a small amount left in there.

Ultimately, if gluten is not an issue for you, follow the recipe at the bottom of this page. It’s my original, and not only uses a tasty lager full of gluten, but also a special fritter flour, which can be found in many stores.

However, if you have to “live the gluten-free live,” and you’ve told yourself you can never have another fritter, I have good news for you: you can…and they’re delicious! This is a large batch, so feel free to reduce it if needed.

 

In making this recipe, I tested 3 types of gluten-free flour: Cup4Cup all-purpose flour, Bob’s Red Mill GF Baking Flour, and a Canadian brand (not available here yet.) Cup4Cup (far left) was the clear winner for taste and texture of the fritter.

1 lb. all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like Cup4Cup)
2 lbs. frozen or fresh mussels
1/2 cup (or more) gluten-reduced lager beer (I use Omission)
oil for frying (I stay away from canola, but use what you like)

 

Pour an inch or two of water in the bottom of a pot, and place a strainer on top. Pour the mussels, fresh or frozen, onto the strainer and cover the pot. Set the heat on high and steam the mussels until they’re cooked, about 5 minutes. If you’re using fresh mussels, throw out any of the ones that didn’t open. Frozen mussel meats (without the shell) are also available in many areas. They work with this method, too.

 

Steamed New Zealand green-lipped mussels. Available frozen in many stores. Get the plain ones, not the ones that already come with sauce.

Remove the meats from the mussels, and toss them in a food processor. Give them a quick chop…not too fine, because you want to see and taste them in the fritter.

Save the “mussel juice,” the water in the bottom of the pot. It’s got lots of mussel flavor.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the chopped mussels. Add a 1/2 cup of the mussel juice and a 1/2 cup of the beer. Mix thoroughly, using a fork or your hands, until you get a batter that’s a bit gooey, but not really wet. You might need to keep adding small amount of broth, beer or flour to get just the right consistency. Once you’ve done that, let the batter rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Keep it at room temperature, and do not stir again! If you need to wait a while before frying, cover the bowl with a wet towel.

In a heavy pan or a fryer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.

 

Once the oil is hot, take small meatball-sized globs in your hands and gently drop them into the oil. Don’t fry too many at once or the oil temperature will drop too quickly. Fry them until they’re golden brown and cooked all the way through. Drain the fritters on paper towels, and season them immediately with salt and pepper.

The dipping sauce recipe I have listed at the bottom is not gluten-free. But most tartare-type sauces usually are, and are equally delicious.

Of course, you can make fritters with anything, from mussels to shrimp to lobster!

 

You’d never know they were gluten-free!

 

Here’s the original recipe, full of glorious gluten!

It was a fall afternoon in Newport, Rhode Island, at the now-defunct Newport Yachting Center’s annual Oyster Festival. We’re gorging on freshly shucked oysters and clams, boiled shrimp, and…what have we here? I never heard of a mussel fritter before, but once I took a bite, there was no turning back.

They couldn’t be easier to make, but it is crucial to have the right fritter batter. And that starts with a Rhode Island product called Drum Rock fritter mix. If you live in New England, you can find it in just about any seafood department at Whole Foods. If you live further away, you can check out their website (www.drumrockproducts.com) or try your luck with a local brand of fritter mix.

 

fritter ingredients

 

If you’re using fresh mussels, be sure to clean them well and remove the beards. Steam them in a pot over a small amount of water. As they open, they will release their flavorful juices and you want to save every drop of that broth for the fritters. Here in New England, frozen mussel meats are available in some seafood stores. All you need to do is thaw them, steam them saving the broth, and you’re ready to go.

For the fritters:
1 lb. fritter mix
2 cups cooked mussel meats
1/2 cup mussel broth (saved from steaming mussels)
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality beer (I use Sam Adams Boston Lager)
Oil for frying (I don’t use canola oil)

 

Steam the mussel meats until they’re just cooked. Remove the mussel meats, and reserve 1/2 cup of the broth. Pulse the mussel meats in a food processor, but leave ’em chunky…or chop by hand.

Put the fritter mix in a large bowl. Add the mussel meats, mussel broth, and beer. Stir gently until just mixed. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and do not stir again. (If you’ve got guests coming, you can prepare up to this part ahead of time, covering the bowl with a wet towel, and leaving it at room temperature.)

Using a thermometer, heat the oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees, and using a small spoon or scoop, drop the fritters in the hot oil, turning gently, cooking 3 to 4 minutes until golden.

Drain them on paper towels, and season with salt and pepper immediately. Serve right away!

 

IMG_3043

 

An easy, delicious dipping sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Ponzu sauce

The perfect dipping sauce for these mussel fritters is made from two ingredients: mayo and Ponzu sauce, a citrus-based soy sauce. Combine both ingredients in a bowl. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Calamari is the official appetizer of the state of Rhode Island. And for good reason. Squid means big business, and what we catch in Rhode Island accounts for up to 50% of the east coast’s quota every year! Squid have a lifespan of 12 to 18 months, reproduce twice a year, and can be caught year-round, with very few catch limitations, making it lucrative for fishermen.

Great fried calamari is an art form. It may seem like a simple dish, but to make it light and crispy, you need to be on your game. That’s why it can be a real hit-or-miss item on most restaurant menus. And there’s nothing worse than getting what would have been a great plate of calamari had the chef not decided to pour sauce all over it, turning the crispy cephalopod into mush.

What makes great fried calamari are three basic elements: it needs to be wild-caught in the US (preferably Rhode Island!)…properly cleaned…it needs to be fried at the right temperature for the right amount of time so that it’s perfectly cooked and not greasy…and the coating needs to be light and crispy.

calamari

 

1 lb. wild caught cleaned squid (thaw if frozen)
1 cup flour (I use gluten-free these days)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1  teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
1 large egg
oil, for frying (I use avocado oil)

Thaw the squid and slice them into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl, whisk the milk and the egg together. Toss in all the squid pieces into the bowl to coat. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In another bowl, combine the flour, oregano, paprika, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a large pan halfway with oil…or use a deep fryer if you have one. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Working in small batches, remove the squid from the milk and egg mixture, let some of it drip off, then place the squid in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off any excess flour and place immediately into the hot oil. Fry them until they’re golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately with tartare sauce, tomato sauce, hot peppers, whatever you like. (But keep the sauces on the side for dipping.)

About the oil: I cook almost exclusively with olive oil. But for hot frying like this recipe requires, I go with avocado oil, which can take higher temperatures.

Most everything’s better when you do it yourself, and smoked whitefish salad is no exception. Sure, I can get whitefish salad at my favorite deli when I go home to New York, and it’s pretty good. But they treat the whitefish like they do tuna: they mash the fish to the point where you can’t recognize what you’re eating. And then they add a ton of mayonnaise as filler.

fish1

On a recent visit home, I bought a nice whole smoked whitefish from my favorite supermarket on steroids: Fairway (one of my stops in New York for fish, meat, coffee, and cheese.) I took extra care to really go through all the meat a couple of times to make sure there weren’t any sharp bones left in it. And I left the whitefish meat in small pieces, much like I would with crab meat.

fish2

Interestingly, I didn’t learn how to make whitefish salad from my Jewish New York neighbors. I learned it from my father-in-law in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where smoked whitefish is a favorite treat, caught right in the waters of the Great Lakes.

Buying whitefish at one of many smoke shacks at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Buying whitefish at one of many smoke shacks at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

1 whole 1-lb. smoked whitefish meat, carefully de-boned
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dill pickle relish
2 teaspoons finely minced onion
pinch black pepper
tiny pinch sea salt

Real fish has real bones, so make sure you go through the meat a couple of times. Place the meat in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well, but gently to keep the meat from breaking apart.

Spoon onto crackers and enjoy!

fish3