Category Archives: seafood

Mussels & Clams Pastis

mussels pastis

BiRite Market opened up a location a short bike ride from my house, and I’ve made it an excuse to shop in smaller quantities and incorporate the exercise of going to the store as an excuse to make even fresher meals. These beautiful PEI mussels were filled to the edge of their shells with meat, the freshest I’ve seen in a long while and exceptionally tender.

When shopping for shellfish, always make sure your shells are not broken (throw the mussel out if it is!), that they close when you agitate them, are free of debris on the outside (scrub them with cold water), and that you toss any that don’t open after cooking (though a small crack open is perfectly fine!).

In case you have not cleaned or bought bivalves before, here’s what I do to clean them up and inspect them:

How to Clean Mussels and Clams

1) Bring them home immediately, and if you aren’t using them in the next hour, open up their bag and put them in the refrigerator so they can breathe, or set them on ice and leave them out, as they do in the store. Always buy them the same day you intend to cook them.

2) 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking, place them in very cold fresh water and leave them unagitated for at least 10 minutes. They will relax, open up, and use the fresh water, thus rinsing out any sediment, sand, etc from the inside of their shells.

3) Before removing them from the water, inspect each mussel or clam for any missing chunks, major cracks, etc. If it has an imperfection, throw it out. If it does not close when you handle it, throw it out. Even when buying from a quality fishmonger, you’ll likely have 1-2 that get thrown out before cooking.

4) Next, if especially dirty, replace the cleaning water and recover in very cold water. Remove any “beards” or seaweed looking bits that are hanging out the side of the mussels shells. Do this with a quick jerking action down towards the thickest side of the mussel. It will take a little effort, especially if they are very fresh. Strain them and cook them within 20 minutes or so!

Mussels & Clams Pastis Recipe

Serves 2

1.5-2lb of mussels and clams
2 T olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C white wine
1 C Pernod or other anise liquor
2 T fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt & pepper

In a large pan that will fit all of the mussels and clams, add the olive oil and heat to medium. Add the garlic and shallot, cooking until nearly translucent or beginning to be translucent, but not caramelized or browned. Add some salt, the white wine and pernod, and reduce slightly, raising heat immediately to high or medium high.

Add the mussels and/or clams and cover, cooking about 2 minutes before checking. Cover again if they are not all or mostly opened. When all are opened, remove lid and stir well, adding fresh cracked pepper. Remove the mussels and clams and set aside in a warm spot or in a heated bowl (or place into heated individual serving bowls). Change heat to high and reduce liquid by 1/2, then add the parsley and serve over the mussels and clams.

Serve with french fries or bread with butter.

Thanksgiving: Cooking Live Crab with Fennel and Celery Salad

Stack of Steamed Fresh Live Crabs

We had planned to visit Captain Barry’s Fresh to pick up some crab on Thanksgiving morning as a project and tasty dinner, but also to have a bit of Thanksgiving fare with the crew; there had been an accident the night before and while Thanksgiving was cancelled, we hope all will be well soon. They were still selling crab this morning, so we decided it would be a great, light departure from the gut-stuffing realities of turkey day. We loaded up the dog and headed down to the dock.

butter cubes

Red Dutch Cast Iron Enamel Sautee Pan with Melting Butter

We brought home three lively critters, about 2 lbs each, and got our pots boiling. Being a total sissy, I didn’t want to kill and clean them raw, so we dunked them right into the boiling water for 15 minutes each (since they were so large). Afterwards, I cleaned them using this method, and stacked them up on our table with some melted butter, a fresh fennel-celery salad, and a bottle of champagne.

Fennel and Celery Salad

Fresh Fennel and Celery Salad Recipe

Serves 2-4

1 small or 1/2 large head fennel, sliced thinly on a mandolin
2-3 stalks celery, sliced thinly on a mandolin
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together and serve. This holds up very well over night, but is best dressed freshly for maximum crunch.

 

Stack of Fresh Cleaned Dungeness Crab Legs

How to Cook Live Crab

Prepare large pots of boiling water; when boiling, add the live crab. Cover most of the way and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the crab and let it cool a bit, then use this crab cleaning method to prepare for the table. Serve with drawn butter; use a cast iron based pan (in my case, a vintage dutch enameled pan) to keep the butter warm for longer, tableside.

A Whole Roasted Trout Recipe

 

Whole Roasted Trout from McFarland Farms

A few weeks ago, Peter served up a delicious, and, to my shock, farmed whole trout. He stuffed it with prosciutto and vegetables, preceded it with a baby beet salad with seasoned ricotta, and a great meal was had by all. This afternoon I braved the Thanksgiving crowds and visited Bi-Rite to get myself a trout and try it out myself.

McFarland Farms Whole Roasted Trout Meat

Whole Roasted Trout Stuffed with Prosciutto & Fennel Recipe

Serves 3-4

1 whole trout, 1.5-2 lbs (this is a rainbow trout)
4 pieces freshly sliced prosciutto di parma
1/2 head fennel, sliced thinly and sauteed until nearly caramelized in butter
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt

Ensure the trout is gutted fully and clean; season with salt inside and line the cavity with the prosciutto slices. Toss the cooked fennel with the lemon zest; between the sides of flesh, stuff the fennel into the fish. If you have twine or something edible to tie the fish together, do so now. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-25 minutes depending on the weight of your fish, on a foil lined pan, without cover.

When serving, gently remove the skin from the top half of the fish and push the meat off the bones. When the spine is exposed, lift it up or turn the fish over to remove the rest of the meat. Remove the prosciutto sack and cut it into slices to serve along the fish.

Shrimp Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce

A new favorite, this can be prepared ahead and cooked on a weeknight, it’s healthy and chock-full of vegetables and lean protein. I clearly was lazy in peeling my peppers, but we didn’t mind a bit of charred skin here and there.

Shrimp Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce Recipe
Serves two for main course

The Peppers & Filling
4 poblano peppers, charred over a flame and peeled or cooked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and peeled
3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and chopped roughly
2 cloves garlic, minced finely or mashed
2 T fresh cilantro and/or basil, chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped finely
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all but the peppers in a bowl, and stuff the peppers with the mixture, closing them again as best you can. Bake in oven at 350 for 8-11 minutes, depending on size of the peppers. Shrimp will be completely white and pink when done.

For the Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce
1 large red bell pepper, roasted at 400 degrees, peeled, seeds removed and tossed into a blender
2 ripe, never refrigerated roma tomatoes or one small can peeled roma tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp chili flakes or equivilent
4 small-medium shallots, chopped finely
2 tsp coconut oil or other cooking oil

In a sauce pan, warm the coconut oil and add the shallots and chili flakes, cooking until shallots begin to go limp. Add the garlic and chili flakes, followed immediately by the tomatoes–slice thinly the tomatoes and add to the pan, cooking at medium heat until they are falling apart, about 20 minutes. Add it all to the blender with the roasted pepper and puree. It will likely be thicker than soup; you can thin it with vegetable or chicken stock, or serve it thick under the cooked peppers.

Tilapia with Lemon Verbena Cream Sauce on Arugula & Potatoes

tilapia with lemon verbena cream sauce

new potatoes and arugula

lemon verbena cream sauce

I recently changed CSA’s from Farm Fresh to You (which I did for nearly 3 years) to Eatwell Farms–I’ve only received one shipment, but was 100% delighted with the first one which included strawberries, red and white spring onions, huge arugula, fava beans, lettuces, braising greens and best of all–fresh lemon verbena. Normally I don’t like my food to smell like bath products I use or my bath products to smell like food, but in this case, it was a new challenge–I’ve never cooked with the stuff. I almost decided to start making home made face products alla Lush cosmetics, but thought better of it and remembered my growling stomach.

Recipe: Tilapia with Lemon Verbena Cream Sauce on Arugula & New Potatoes
For Two

2 filets tilapia*
4-6 cups fresh arugula, chopped coarsly
6 small new (red) potatoes, sliced in 1/2 inch chunks
4 T creme fraiche
2 C fresh lemon verbena leaves**
1/2 small/medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 C wine
4 T olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
4 T butter, divided
salt & fresh cracked pepper

For the sauce
Combine the onion, wine, and a generous few cranks of pepper in a sauce pan, and cook until almost translucent at medium heat. In a blender or food processor, add the lemon verbena leaves, white wine vinegar, olive oil and the slightly cooled onion mixture. Blend very well until evenly textured. Set aside and let cool. Just before serving, add creme fraiche and blend briefly to incorporate. Can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days. Flavor will mellow, however, and is most fragrant at room temperature, but most creamy/thick cool.

For the fish and potatoes
Using half the butter (2T), heat a large skillet to high heat and fry the potatoes until golden. If using a cast iron, turn off the heat and add the arugula, stirring to wilt. If using other pan, reduce heat to low and stir until arugula is wilted. Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat another skillet with other 2T of butter, and lightly salt/pepper the tilapia filets. Once butter is at medium high heat, add filets, turning when mostly cooked.

Serve fish on top of potatoes and arugula, topping at last moment with fresh sauce.

Great with a dry white wine like pinot blanc or pinot grigio from the north of Italy (Alto Adige region).

* You can substitute halibut, basa, or other mild fish of your choice.
** Fresh lemon verbena is not that easy to come by and dries out very quickly once picked. You can substitute cilantro, but it will produce a very different but equally delicious sauce.