Shrimp Is Having Its 15 Minutes

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 4.34.02 PMShrimp is now the most popular seafood in America, and there is no wrong way to eat it. Wild shrimp from the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico is a treat if you can find it. Fresh local shrimp from Maine or the Carolinas is an even rarer gem. (These are all preferable from a sustainability perspective.) A vast majority, of course, is farmed and frozen, but you might as well buy it frozen and thaw it yourself to get the freshest shrimp possible. If you buy it ‘‘individually quick frozen’’ in resealable bags, you can take out only as many as you want and thaw them by leaving the shrimp in the fridge for 24 hours or running them under cool water for an hour or less.

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Posted in Seafood

Rescuing Tartare From the Stuffy, Old Power-Lunchers

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 10.04.11 AMIn the go-go ’80s, “tartare” pretty much meant a pile of raw, well-seasoned chopped beef topped with a raw egg yolk. It was seen as food for the carnivorous power-lunch crowd — tartare even had a cameo as a status symbol in “Wall Street”— and for old-fashioned people who ate at old-fashioned restaurants.

I’m not sure what the first nonbeef tartare was, but I do remember getting a chuckle when my friend and co-author Jean-Georges Vongerichten introduced me to beet tartare sometime around 1990. In any case, tuna tartare has far surpassed beef in popularity, lamb tartare is fashionable and carrot tartare is expensive. In short, the field is wide open, and it’s time for home cooks to forge ahead.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

A Dozen Simple Ways to Serve the Perfect Scallop

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 9.17.27 AMCreamy, sweet, briny and meaty at the same time, scallops are the most user-friendly of mollusks, and the recipes here won’t unnecessarily complicate things. Half call for grilling, the remainder leave the scallops raw.

Much more difficult than cooking scallops is buying scallops. As with most seafood these days, unless you’re on the boat yourself — or have a trustworthy source — it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting. Because scallops are often soaked in a phosphate solution that plumps them up with water (therefore making added water part of the selling price), it’s important to look for scallops that are labeled “dry” or “dry-packed.” A waterlogged scallop doesn’t sear well, and a phosphate-marinated scallop may taste like soap, especially when it’s raw, so make sure to ask for dry.

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Posted in Seafood

Spring, Loaded

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 10.09.17 AMWhen you think of spring rolls, you probably envision the kind that are served as an appetizer at nearly every Thai restaurant in this country, a tangle of sometimes-identifiable vegetables rolled in a thin wrapper, deep-fried and served with a sweet dipping sauce.

But spring rolls go far beyond that. They’re found all across Asia, with wrappers, fillings and cooking techniques that differ from one country to the next. Fresh spring rolls, sometimes called summer rolls, are a staple in Vietnam. Most typically, they’re made of rice paper filled with rice vermicelli, cooked meat or shrimp, raw vegetables, basil, cilantro and mint. They’re wonderful, a rare combination of substance and light.

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Posted in Produce, Seafood, Thai, Vietnamese

Surf and Turf Revisited

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Even the best foods can become tiresome, which is the only reason you would ever do anything with oysters other than opening and swallowing them. For something almost as primitive, the people of western France, where some of the world’s best oysters are produced, perfected the idea of teaming them with sausage.

I was introduced to this combination in Brittany years ago. It happened before dinner, as an appetizer, and came just a few hours after a lunch that consisted of four dozen of the region’s finest.

Oysters go down easy, so I didn’t see this as a problem. If I was puzzled by this incongruous-looking duo, that lasted only until I started eating. The combination of crisp, hot, spicy sausage and cold, creamy oysters may have been unpredictable, but it was as sensible as waffles and ice cream.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here.

Posted in Seafood

Steamed Fish with Leeks

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By Alaina Sullivan

Steaming fish with vegetables is a foolproof way to serve up a main and a side dish in a single pan. The recipe for steamed fish in The Basics features a classic summertime cast of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, but I opted to go with a more seasonal variation featuring leeks. Simply sautéed in garlic and sauced with a little white wine, the leeks become a fresh-yet-buttery steaming machine.

A thick, mild-flavored white fish pairs particularly well in this case – hake was my pick, but cod or halibut would be great too. Set atop the bed of leeks, the fish cooks in the steam as the vegetables bubble beneath. Lid on, it takes just about ten minutes for the flesh to become perfectly opaque and flakey. The leeks finish cooking with the fish, and, brightened with Italian parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, are transformed into a delicious side. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

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By Alaina Sullivan

There’s no better way to celebrate Mardi Gras than with a Po’ Boy (a beer-battered one at that.) Not only does beer give the shrimp great flavor, but it is scientifically proven to make superior batter. As soon as the beer-battered shrimp hit the pan, CO2 bubbles begin to dance and foam up around the shrimp. A panko dredging assists the process, and, as a result, the shrimp are left trapped in a flavorful and lacy-light crust. Pile them high on bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato, and you’ll have a happy Fat Tuesday indeed. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

Heat oil for frying. In a bowl, mix together one can of beer; one and one-half cups cornmeal (or panko) and pinches of salt, pepper; and paprika. Dip shrimp into batter and fry in batches until golden, about three minutes (flip once). Serve on split crusty Italian or French loaves with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise; lemon juice and hot sauce are also great here.

Posted in American, Seafood

Seared Scallops with Romaine

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By Alaina Sullivan

When it comes to preparing scallops, less is often more: Salt, pepper and a quick butter sear is all it takes. Allow each side to caramelize for just a few minutes in a hot skillet – any longer and you run the risk of the scallops turning rubbery. Simple garnishes — a kiss of lemon juice and fresh parsley — add the perfect amount of brightness without overpowering the mild flavor of the scallops. Greens make a reliable companion, too. Here, the fresh crunch of romaine brings balance to the scallops’ soft flesh. Grilling the romaine adds even more character to the dish – its smoky flavor is an excellent foil to the sweet, buttery scallops. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Seared Scallops with Romaine*

Season scallops with salt and pepper; then sear the scallops for a few minutes in butter, turning once, until just browned on both sides. Drizzle a bunch of romaine lettuce with some olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the scallops with a bit more freshly squeezed lemon juice (some zest is nice here too) and some chopped parsley, and serve over the dressed lettuce with the pan juices.

*For grilled romaine: Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving the core intact,brush with the olive oil and some minced garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down until the lettuce begins to brown and get some grill marks, but remains crisp – 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, let it cool, and dress with the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Charred, Soy-Marinated Mackerel

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By Daniel Meyer

A good treatment for mackerel: dunk a few fillets in soy sauce, mirin (optional) and a little sesame or peanut oil (some garlic and ginger would be good, too.) Let the mackerel marinate while you heat a grill or broiler, the hotter the better. (For concentrated heat, I’ve started grilling directly over a chimney starter.) Grill or broil the fillets until nicely charred on both the flesh and skin side, and just cooked through, 2 or 3 minutes per side if your heat is really cranked up. Serve over rice with scallions and sesame seeds (kimchi and and an egg yolk are a treat, but by no means necessary.)

Posted in Recipes, Seafood

The Minimalist: Soy-Sauce-Poached Bass

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Poaching — cooking in simmering liquid — is a fairly forgiving way to cook fish, since it’s not likely to dry out. (It also virtually eliminates the likelihood of anything sticking to the bottom of the pan, which is often in the back of your mind when you sauté.) I love using this method with striped bass, which has the added bonus of being a local fish, but you can use any firm white fillets or steaks. It’s also a great way to cook mackerel or bluefish, other locals.

As the fish cooks, the soy sauce turns it a beautiful golden brown, almost verging on mahogany. Since the skillet is uncovered, the liquid reduces, intensifying in flavor and becoming thicker and thicker. In the end you want to be left with a kind of glaze that coats the fish and serves as a sauce for the rice that you should definitely eat with it. Use a minimal amount of liquid; if you start out with too much, the fish will cook through before the liquid reduces.

One unexpected treat in this recipe is the scallions. They drink up all the flavor of the poaching liquid and become tender, but they still hold on to a slight crunch. A whole skillet of those served over rice would almost make you not miss the fish.

(Watch the video and get the recipe here.)

Posted in Recipes, Seafood