Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

Our annual BOYZ weekend at my house is over, and it was a huge success. No small factor in that success was the food we all brought to the table. I made my lobster rolls, and got thumbs-up from all who tried them.

Last year, I was having dinner 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 or other fine finishing salt.

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!

When I started a new diet last year, one of the major changes in my eating habits was to incorporate more seafood and less meat into my meals. Seafood has a lot more protein and fewer calories. In fact, shrimp, lobster and oysters are some of the most delicious low-calorie foods you can enjoy, running about 1 calorie per gram. It’s what you add to them–oils, melted butter, batter–that makes them high in calories.

I’ve always loved sushi, but again, on a diet, I need to limit my intake of unnecessary calories, and rice is big on that list. I’ve found that I can use a lot less rice, or maybe none at all, when I make poke…and I get all the satisfaction of sushi or sashimi.

My two favorite fishes to eat raw are ahi tuna and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, like sockeye. There are many great purveyors of this super-high quality seafood online, and I usually buy a decent amount of fish at one time–hermetically sealed and frozen in 4-ounce packages–to last me a long time. (The price is often much better when you buy in quantity, because they have to be shipped frozen overnight.)

Yes, please.

There are many ways to prepare poke, and the only limitations are what’s in your fridge. The first recipe, using salmon, is closer to a traditional poke recipe you’d find in a restaurant.

6.5 ounces wild-caught Alaskan salmon, in the refrigerator (thawed, if previously frozen)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped raw cashews
1 scallion, green and white parts finely chopped
Keep the thawed salmon in the refrigerator. Remove the salmon from the fridge, and remove the skin if it is still on the fish. Cut the fish into half-inch cubes. I like to place the salmon cubes on a clean paper towel to absorb excess moisture from thawing. Then I place the salmon cubes in a bowl and put it back in the fridge while I combine the other ingredients.
In another bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lemon juice. Whisk them together.
Chop the cashews and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Cut the root ends off the scallions, chop the green and white parts finely, and add them to the bowl, mixing them in.
Add the salmon to the bowl, mixing gently, so that you don’t damage the fish.
Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, if you can wait that long, and then: eat!
My tuna poke recipes have also used similar ingredients…
More recently, I mixed up a batch of what I call my “Asian Mix,” a blend of five Asian flavors that really work well together: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. I let my tuna or salmon marinate in this mix for about ten minutes before adding the other ingredients and feasting.

Tuna poke with lettuce, onion, pine nuts, black and white sesame seeds, rice and my “Asian Mix.”

But my proudest achievement was taking my favorite sandwich from my home town of New York, and making it into a bowl. The sandwich is an everything bagel with salmon and cream cheese, and my poke version uses just a bit of the bagel, yet you still get the flavor without all the calories. The secret is a seasoning you can buy already prepared.
3 oz. wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, cubed
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 small Vidalia or sweet onion, sliced very thin
1/2 tomato, seeds removed, sliced thin
1/4 of a toasted plain bagel
1 tablespoon cream cheese
2 teaspoons Everything Bagel seasoning
1 chopped hard boiled egg
Cut the salmon into small 1/2″ cubes and place it in a bowl. Add the tablespoon of capers (including some of the brine), chopped onion and tomato. Mix gently.
Toast the bagel and use only 1/4 of it (I use that little for the sake of calories. But you can use more, if you like!) Spread the tablespoon of cream cheese on the toasted bagel, then carefully chop it up into small cubes. Add this to the bowl. Sprinkle in the Everything Bagel seasoning and the chopped hard-boiled egg, and give it all one last gentle toss.
Then take a forkful, close your eyes, and imagine you’re in your favorite New York deli!

Great fried shrimp is like sea candy…you just can’t get enough. This recipe is easy and really delicious. I never use anything but wild-caught American shrimp!

 

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1 lb. wild-caught USA shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
2 tablespoons Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 raw egg, scrambled
avocado oil for frying

 

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Combine the flour, corn meal, Prudhomme seasoning (see below) and salt in a bowl. Set it aside.

Scramble the egg in another bowl and set it aside.

Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Remove the entire shell, or leave the tip of the tail, depending on your preference.

Heat a pan with an inch of the oil. When it reaches 325 degrees, it’s ready for frying.

Dip the shrimp in the egg, and shake off any excess. Then toss the shrimp in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Carefully place the shrimp in the pan of oil.

Cook the shrimp for about 45 seconds, flip them over, and cook for another 45 seconds, until they’re golden brown. Don’t crowd the pan and never over-cook shrimp!

Drain them on paper towels and serve immediately!

 

 

The shrimp are delicious by themselves, but here’s an easy remoulade to make along with them…

1 cup mayo (I like Hellman’s)
1/4 cup Gulden’s mustard
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Combine the ingredients and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

 

It’s a bit of a cheat, but I find the Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning has great flavor and works really well for this. I also use it on fish: simply pan sauté a filet in butter, and sprinkle on the seasoning. I originally started with the small jar found in most supermarkets, but then quickly graduated to the jumbo size can found online!

 

 

If you want to make your own seafood seasoning, a combination of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cayenne will get you a result that’s pretty close to the Prudhomme seasoning.

 

 

As the warmer weather slowly makes its way to New England, I start dreaming about the opening day of one of my favorite seasonal seafood restaurants: The Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts.

One of their best-selling appetizers is deviled eggs. Years ago, they would top those deviled eggs with raw tuna, and I ordered it every time I dined there.

But when they took that dish off the menu, I had to take matters into my own hands.

My version has none of the finesse of their original dish, but it has a lot more tuna and all the flavor…which works for me!

 

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6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup + extra mayonnaise
8 oz. high quality raw tuna
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili oil
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
handful fresh spinach, or cucumbers (see below)

My favorite method of hard-boiling eggs is to put them in a pot of cold water. Turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. As soon as the water boils, take the pot off the heat, and cover it with a lid. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Perfect eggs every time. Remove the eggs from the water and cool them in the fridge, or in a bowl of ice water if you’re going to be serving this dish right away.

Here in Rhode Island, very often I can get fresh tuna right off the boat. Ideally, they say you should freeze all raw seafood before eating it. In general, killing parasites requires freezing and storing fish at a surrounding temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for seven days; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of -31 degrees or colder until the fish is solid and storing at the same temperature for 15 hours; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of -31 degrees until the fish is solid and storing at -4 degrees or below for 24 hours.

That’s way too much of a hassle.

I find that I can get high quality tuna already frozen into convenient bricks at Whole Foods or on-line at websites like Vital Choice, one of my favorites for extremely high quality, responsibly sourced seafood.

 

I always try to buy responsibly sourced, fair trade seafood, like this beautiful ahi tuna.

 

If the tuna is frozen, I let it thaw a little. If it’s fresh, I place it into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. That makes it easier to cube up. I slice the tuna carefully into the smallest cubes I can make. Once done, I place the tuna in a bowl and put it back in the fridge to continue its slow thawing until ready to use.

In a separate small bowl, I combine the soy sauce and the chili oil, and set it aside.

I finely chop the scallions, and set them aside.

Once the eggs have cooled, I peel them and cut them in half. I scoop out the yolks and place them in a bowl, starting with 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise, adding more if needed. I use a fork or whisk to get as many of the lumps out as possible. If I wanted to get serious, I could put them in a blender or food processor to make a creamy puree. An option is to place the puree in a piping bag and carefully squeeze it out into each egg half. I simply use a spoon.

Once all the egg halves are filled, I place them on a spinach leaf-covered dish and put them back in the fridge until ready to serve. Or, instead of the bed of spinach, I peel a cucumber and cut the ends off, then slice the cuke into 1/2″ thick slices. Using a melon baller, I carefully scoop out the seeds from the center to make a “cuke donut.” I use these as little stands to hold the eggs on the plate.

When it’s time to serve, I take the tuna out of the fridge, pouring the soy sauce/chili oil mix into the bowl with the tuna and I mix well. I let the tuna marinate for just 2 minutes, pouring off the excess marinade. I don’t want it to marinate too long, or it’ll get very salty.

I remove the plate of eggs from the fridge and carefully put a small spoonful of tuna on top of each one. I garnish with the sesame seeds and the chopped scallions and serve immediately.

 

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My dog, Fellow, stood by me in the kitchen while I created this dish. I decided to name it after him. It makes a great Thanksgiving appetizer.

The original Oysters Rockefeller recipe is a closely 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.

If you Google “Oysters Rockefeller,” you’ll find hundreds of recipes that claim to be the real thing, or close to it. But here’s the catch: most of them use spinach in the dish, and the folks at Antoine’s insist there was never any spinach used in the original recipe. So, before attempting my own version, I decided I would leave spinach out of my recipe…and I think it’s better because of that.

My version, my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow, is a cheesier, gooier version. I use large, meatie oysters like Wellfleets from Cape Cod or local Rhode Island oysters. And, as you’ll see below, you can make the cheese portion of this dish the day before, saving yourself a lot of time on the day you want to serve it.

So, if you’re doing this the day of…start here. If you’re doing it the day before, start with the cheese mix below, then come back to the oysters the next day.

24 oysters, washed to remove grit
2 cans beer (any extra beer you have is fine)

Scrub the oysters under cold water to get them clean.

In a large pot, pour in the beer along with enough cold water to fill the pot about halfway. Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil. Adding beer to the water imparts a little flavor to the oysters, and the hot water will further clean the outside of the shells.

The moment you reach a boil, turn the heat to medium and drop in 6 oysters, letting them bathe in the liquid for only 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to cool. If the oysters open, they’ve been in there too long! You want them to stay closed. Do the same with the rest of the oysters, 6 at a time. Once all the oysters have had their 30 seconds, move the oyster bowl to a cutting board. Discard the liquid in the pot.

Pour Kosher salt onto a large sheet pan lined with foil.

Once the oysters have cooled enough for you to handle, carefully remove the top shell off each one, discarding it, and lay the oysters on the bed of salt in the sheet pan, trying not to spill any of the precious oyster liquor inside. The salt holds the oysters in place.

Salt holds the oysters perfectly in place.

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 low-fat milk
salt and pepper
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh arugula, finely chopped, about a 5 oz. container
6 oz. mild cheddar cheese (the white one), grated
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
Fine bread crumbs (Using GF breadcrumbs will keep this dish gluten-free)

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: the cheddar and then the mozzarella.

Pour the gooey cheese mix into a lasagna pan, smooth it out with a spatula, and place it in the fridge to cool.

You can do this all the day before, because the cheese mix hardens and becomes easy to cut into cubes with a sharp knife.

Then simply place a cube of the cheese mix on each oyster…

…sprinkle a little bread crumb on top…

…and bake in the 425-degree oven for about 8–10 minutes until it’s golden and bubbly.

Whoever said that cheese and seafood don’t go together, never tried this!

I buy Udi’s gluten free frozen bread for my breadcrumbs. I take the loaf, toast the slices, then put them through the food processor. The taste is far better than buying pre-made GF breadcrumbs. Use regular breadcrumbs if you don’t need to worry about gluten.

If you’re really strict about gluten, you can use GF beer in the pot of water or simply eliminate the beer altogether.

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

 

 

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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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!