Archive for the 'Seafood' Category

Fried Oysters

Fried Oysters

In honor of health care reform passing last night, I thought we should eat some fried foods.  That may be the best form of socializing risks that I know of.

In reality, I had bought some shucked oysters at the farmer’s market and had already been planning to fry them.  We’ve been lucky that a seafood vendor has been attending the farmer’s market.  Initially, they had only agreed to attend during the winter.  Given the quality of their products (particularly, the rock fish), to encourage them to continue attending as well as to eat more seafood, I decided to try and buy at least one thing from them every week.  Last week was clam chowder. This week, at Angela’s encouragement, was fried oysters.

Despite being from and currently living in the Chesapeake Bay area, I’ve had little experience with oysters.  My parents don’t like them (or at least think they don’t), so I never ate them growing up.  My first experience with them was at a local restaurant; from there, I was hooked. Angela’s obsession started after eating a fried oyster topped burger in Boston.

I also must admit that the recipe I use for frying oysters comes from a New Englander. In my defense, my lack of Chesapeake Bay cookbooks not withstanding, it’s really quite good. It’s also said to be a “southern style” fry mix. And while most Marylanders would probably put Old Bay on the oysters, it would probably overpower the mild taste of the sweet oysters I’ve been buying.

I like to serve fried oysters with french fries.  If I’m taking the time to start deep frying, I might as well make some french fries while I’m at it.  Plus, it makes a convenient “one pot” meal.  If you want to make french fries, I’d suggest cooking them before the oysters.  The oysters cook very quickly and can add odd flavors to the french fries.

For the dredge, don’t use a very coarse cornmeal (i.e. polenta); it will make the oysters too gritty.  However, I would recommend a stone-ground cornmeal if at all possible.

For the frying, I like to setup two half-sheet pans, each with a cooling rack on top.  One sheet pan gets the dredged but uncooked oysters.  The other sheet pan can be used to rest the cooked oysters.

Homemade French Fries

Fried Oysters
Adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food

1 half-pint shucked oysters
2 cups buttermilk
4-6 cups peanut oil or enough to deep fry

Dredge:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt

  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven to 360°F.
  2. In a bowl, put the buttermilk.  In another bowl, mix together the dredge ingredients.  Dredge each oyster, first through the buttermilk, then through the dry ingredients.  Set aside.
  3. Deep fry the oysters at 360°F until they are lightly browned and cooked through.  Initially, the oil will boil very heavily, when the oil subsides and boils lightly, the oysters are done (the change is distinct).
  4. Remove from the oysters from the deep fryer and allow to drain for a minute.  Season the oysters with salt.
  5. Serve immediately with cocktail sauce.

Serves 2-3.

Cocktail Sauce
Adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food

12 oz. Heinz chili sauce
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt

  1. Mix all ingredients well.

Camarones a la Vinagreta (Shrimp with Lime Dressing)

Camarones a la Vinagreta (Shrimp with Lime Dressing)
Last Saturday, we had a party where we served Mexican food.  I even invested in a tortilla press and tried my hand at making fresh tortillas.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to prepare in advance, I was too busy and too tired to take pictures to generate a blog post.

But armed with a new tortilla maker and some left over ingredients, I wanted to try to make more Mexican food.  I haven’t made a lot of Mexican food previously.  When we lived in California, Mexican food was omnipresent.  They even served passable tacos at the corporate cafeteria.  In northern Virginia, good tacos are few and far between.

Given that there were shrimp in the freezer, shrimp tacos seemed a wise choice.  These tacos are very easy to make.  The cooking of the shrimp is somewhat unconventional but it does work.  Given the flavoring of the tacos, they would be just as good, if not better, served either at room temperature or chilled on a hot day.

Camarones a la Vinagreta (Shrimp with Lime Dressing)
Adapted from Authentic Mexican 20th Anniversary Ed: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico

For the shrimp:
1 quart water
1 lime, halved
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
3 bay leaves
12 oz. shell-on shrimp

For the dressing:

1/2 small red onion, coarsely diced
1 medium tomato, cored and diced
1 1/2 tbsp dice cilantro
2 1/2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt

  1. In a sauce pan, combine the water, black pepper, allspice, and bay leaves.  Squeeze the limes and add them to the sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Uncover the sauce pan, turn the heat to high, add the shrimp, cover, and bring to a boil.
  3. Remove the sauce pan from the heat and drain off the liquid.  Keep the pan covered and set aside for 15 minutes.
  4. Peel the shrimp and cut them into 1/2″ pieces.
  5. Combine the red onion, tomato, and cilantro in a bow with the shrimp.
  6. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and vegetable oil.  Pour over the shrimp mixture.
  7. Serve the shrimp mixture in tortillas.

Serves 2-3.

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

It has been raining on and off since Friday.  Yesterday, when I went to the farmer’s market, it was more on than off.  As I was driving there and the rain started to let up, I was hopeful that my shopping would end up being dry; I was wrong.  With the raining come down as I stood half covered by the awning of the seafood vendor, I decided that the only appropriate option would be clam chowder.

I’m not from New England.  I’ve only been there a handful of times and I’ve never eaten clam chowder there.  Previously, clam chowder was a bland, generic milky soup that either came out of a can or was served at a generic restaurant.

Despite all the bad versions I’ve had, the Platonic ideal of New England clam chowder has always appealed to me.  Somewhere, there was a creamy but flavorful soup that actually tasted of clams.

This may not be the form of the perfect clam chowder but it’s still quite good.  I’ve made this recipe a few times now and it’s always worked out for me.  The original doesn’t include any cayenne pepper or Tabasco but they both help to cut through the brinyness of the clams while not overpowering the flavor of the clams.

On this rainy, chilly night, clam chowder matched the mood.  With a sliced baguette to sop up the  broth, it was nearly perfect.

New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food

1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 or 4 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
12 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and diced, divided
1 bay leaf
salt
1 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 pint of shucked clams, drained, juice reserved
12 fluid oz. clam juice
1.5 cups heavy cream
black pepper
cayenne pepper
Tabasco

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large dutch oven.  Add the bacon and cook until well browned and the fat rendered from the bacon.  Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, half the thyme, and celery to the dutch oven.  Season with a pinch of salt and book until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the reserved clam juice and bottled clam juice. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
  5. Add the clams and simmer for one minute more.
  6. Add the heavy cream and simmer until the cream thickens slightly.
  7. Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and Tabasco to taste.
  8. Add the remaining thyme and the bacon, stir well, and serve immediately with bread.

Serves 2-3.

Tacos de Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (Shrimp Tacos)

Shrimp Tacos

This recipe comes as a bit of a request. I felt a bit strange making it as we have a good and cheap taqueria nearby but at least they don’t serve shrimp tacos.  I did have some mediocre shrimp tacos the other day so I really wasn’t expecting much from this recipe.

And how wrong I was.  This may have been the best shrimp I’ve ever had (I’m debating whether or not it’s better than Gamberi alla Cannavota).  The shrimp were well browned and took on the flavorings of the aromatics perfectly.

Cooking Shrimp for Tacos

I’m going to segue here a bit and do a product anti-endorsement: whatever you do, don’t buy Whole Food’s Organic Corn Tortillas.  We tried to use them to make tacos and they were nearly inedible.  They were some of the worst corn tortillas I’ve ever eaten.

On the plus side, the shrimp were good enough to eat without a tortilla wrapper.  In fact, the shrimp in this recipe would be good enough served over rice of some sort.

The only modification to the recipe I made was to add a step to brine the shrimp.  It means that it takes slightly longer for the whole recipe (which is already very short) but it really helps with the flavor and texture of the shrimp.

This has to be one of the best bang-for-your effort recipes I’ve seen in awhile.  The shrimp are excellent and there’s very little work needed to make this.  It’s also rather fast.  It does create a bit of smoke however.

Ingedients for Shrimp Tacos

Tacos de Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (Shrimp Tacos)
Adapted from Dona Tomas: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
4 cups ice
1 1/2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and split lengthwise
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
1 jalapeño, sliced thinly
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
16 corn tortillas
1 lime (for serving)

  1. Bring the water, salt, and sugar to a boil over high heat.  Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.   Add the ice.
  2. When the ice has melted, add the shrimp and brine for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, remove the shrimp from the bowl and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  3. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat.  When the pan is hot, add the oil and the onions.  Stir the onions several times, then add the shrimp.
  4. Cook the shrimp for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until they start to turn red.
  5. Add the butter, jalapeño, and garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Remove from the heat.  Adjust the seasoning to taste and stir in the parsley.
  7. Place the tortillas in stacks of two on plates.  Divide the shrimp among the tortillas.
  8. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Fetuccini with Seared Scallops in a Lemon-Garlic Cream Sauce

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Every week at the farmer’s market, I see the fish vendor. I always stop and look at chalkboard list of products and prices. The line almost always stretches around the back of his truck. My usual thought is that I don’t have enough cash to buy anything and, anyway, Angela doesn’t like fish so it’s not really worth it.

Before we left for the market, Angela had asked if we could have shrimp for dinner. I had some frozen shrimp in the freezer but they wouldn’t easily defrost in time and I don’t particularly relish force defrosting shrimp (although it can be done). So, when I came to the farmer’s market this week, and saw that not only was the fish vendor selling jumbo shrimp but that also his line was relatively short (and I had extra cash), I had to get in line and buy some.

A patron in line ahead of me ordered some scallops. In fact, he thought he was buying all the scallops: he wanted about 12 and that’s how many the vendor thought were left. Instead, the fish vendor had mis-estimated how many were left. So I decided that this week they were also going to be mine.

When I presented my acquisitions to Angela, she decided that the shrimp would wait until the next day and she wanted them seared in a cream sauce. I had never made such a dish but it sounded good to me so I thought I’d give it a try.

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I usually cook from recipes. Occasionally, I’ll try and improvise. Unfortunately, it’s usually a bit disappointing when I do. So I have an aversion to improvisation. Particularly when it comes to expensive ingredients as I don’t want to waste the money.

With this recipe (I wanted to say today but I made this on Sunday), I may have finally broken the streak. To be fair, this isn’t particularly complicated or difficult recipe. But I am pleased with it.

Neither the garlic nor the lemon are overpowering. It didn’t hurt that we had high quality scallops (better than frozen at least). And the sauce went well with the pasta.

Angela would have liked her scallops a bit more seared but it may require a switch to clarified butter to actually make that happen.

The serving range is a bit large as the two of us ate all of the recipe but it could easily be served to four if they aren’t particularly hungry. But it’s good enough for two to eat the entirety.

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Fetuccini with Seared Scallops in a Lemon-Garlic Cream Sauce

1 lbs. large scallops
salt and pepper
3 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 cup heavy cream
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp diced Italian parsley
1 lbs. fresh fettuccini, preferably homemade

  1. Remove the small muscle attached to the scallop and discard. Dry the scallops in paper towels thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the scallops. Sear the scallops in the butter on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the scallops to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
  3. Reduce heat of the skillet to medium and add the garlic. Sauté the garlic until it is golden, about 1 minute.
  4. Deglaze the skillet with the vermouth or wine. Increase heat to high and boil down the vermouth until it is reduced by half.
  5. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Simmer the heavy cream until it is thickened. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until it is just undercooked.
  7. Return the scallops to the skillet and add the parsley. Toss the sauce with the scallops until they are well coated.
  8. Remove the pasta from the boiling water and add it to the skillet.
  9. Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 1 minute more.
  10. Serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

Izgara Orkinoz (Seared Tuna with Lemon Dressing)

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Despite medical recommendations to the contrary, we don’t eat a lot of fish. Angela doesn’t particularly like it (but she does like sushi, go figure) and, because we never have it, I’m not particularly good at cooking it. It’s particularly sad as there’s an excellent fish merchant at our local farmers’ market (there’s almost a line of at least 10 people).

Tuna is about the only cooked fish that she will eat so every once in awhile I’ll buy some frozen tuna steaks. I buy the frozen ones as I don’t have the confidence level to justify the purchase of fresh.

There have been some rather horrifying results in the past. I tried to sear tuna but it ended up cooked on the outside and cold on the inside (and that’s why you allow it to come up to room temperature before cooking it). A “blackened” tuna recipe that used a rub that was so spicy it had to be scraped off the tuna to make it edible (I made that recipe for my at-the-time-future in-laws).

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So I’ve taken to being much more cautious about fish. I need recipes that are simple and not particularly exotic. So it would seem to be counterintuitive for me to make a Turkish tuna recipe.

And, while according to the cookbook, it’s a traditional Turkish recipe (and we know how well that worked out for me before), it really could be Greek or Italian or Californian.

I liked the lemon and olive oil flavor from the dressing. Angela did not. I did remember to remove the tuna from the refrigerator in advance so the middle was warm but, unfortunately, I overcooked the tuna. I didn’t make sure the skillet was adequately hot before adding the tuna so it took longer to sear. But, it was still good.

In fact, I may splurge on some fresh tuna and make this again.

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Izgara Orkinoz (Seared Tuna with Lemon Dressing)
Adapted from Arabesque

juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp diced Italian parsley
2 tuna steaks

  1. Mix together the lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, the Italian parsley to form the dressing. Season it with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Remove the tuna steaks from the refrigerator at least 1/2 hour before cooking. Dry the tuna steaks on paper towels thoroughly. Season the tuna steaks with salt on both sides. Brush the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil on both sides of the tuna steaks.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat until hot. Sear the tuna steaks for about 1 minute per side.
  4. Serve the tuna steaks with the dressing.

Serves 2.

Dungeness Crab Bisque

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For my birthday, we got two live Dungeness crabs. Trying not to be wasteful, I put the crab shells in the freezer with the plan on doing something with them. It took me about two months, but I finally found the time and inclination to actually use them. So, I decided on crab bisque.

I did, however, have a little bit of a problem finding a recipe for it. Most recipes seem to think you’ve got some live or at least uncooked crabs that you’re planning to make into soup. To me, this is more than a bit wasteful. Why use rather expensive uncooked crabs when you can instead use left-overs (plus that’s what I had). A lot of the recipes (including Julia Child’s) were really for lobster bisque with brief instructions on how to modify it for crab or shrimp. Which really isn’t that big of a deal but it’s easier for me if I’m making the intended recipe (particularly for something I’ve never made before).

In defense of the internet, a quick Google search did lead me to an appropriate recipe. And the recipe worked out pretty well. I did need to cook the stock for a bit longer than the recipe specified; it was pretty weak when I tasted it after the proscribed cooking time. I may have also added too much cayenne pepper (or at least that’s what she-who-must-be-obeyed said).

Now, I had never had crab bisque before so it’s hard to compare it’s quality. It tasted pretty good to me but it would probably work better as a first course than as a whole meal (of course we opted for it as a meal as I’m too lazy to make more than one labor intensive thing at a time). The consistency was also a little different as I opted not to strain it so there were chunks of rice and shallots and whatnot in it. It still was pretty tasty.

And, in my defense, the soup looked like that in real life. How do you go about making pictures of crab bisque look appetizing?

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Dungeness Crab Bisque
Adapted from Simply Recipes (in turn adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews)

2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup diced shallots
1/2 cup dry vermouth
4 cups crab stock
1/4 cup white rice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup cooked crab meat, cleaned
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
salt
cayenne pepper

  1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the vermouth, crab stock, white rice, and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked. Remove from the heat.
  3. Add the crab meat to the soup. Working in batches, purée the soup to the desired consistency. Return the soup to the pot.
  4. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Cook until the soup has thickened slightly. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in a bowls.

Serves 2 to 4.

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Crab Stock
Adapted from Simply Recipes (in turn adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews).

4-6 cups crab shells, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into large chunks
a bouquet garni made up of several parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 12-15 peppercorns and 1 bay leaf
salt

  1. In a stock pot, place the crab shells and add water until it comes 1 inch above the top of the shells.
  2. Place the stock pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and maintain a slow simmer for 1 hour. Skim the surface of the stock to remove scum.
  3. After the stock stops to produce scum, add the vermouth, onion, carrot, celery, and boquet garni. Continue to simmer for 1 hour more.
  4. Drain the stock through a cheese-cloth lined strainer. Taste the stock for strength. If it’s not strong enough, boil the stock until it reaches the desired strength.
  5. Season the stock with salt to taste.

Makes 2-3 quarts of stock.