Archive for the ‘seafood’ Category

i’ve been making this seafood stew for over twenty years, and it’s still a favorite.
it’s similar to an italian cioppinno, or a spanish suquet de peix. you can use any seafood;
i use a combination shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, fish, crab, and calamari.
most important is that you choose ingredients that are fresh and in season.

the broth itself is used to steam and poach fish and shellfish, but it also contains small potatoes and pearl onions that should be cooked separately then added.

cut the root end off of pearl onions. drop onions into boiling water for about a minute, drain, and push the onions out of their outer skin. boil small redskin potatoes in salted water until tender. drain and set aside. if using clams and mussels, put them in a bowl of cold water with cornmeal in the bottom, hours ahead of time. the clams and mussels will eat the cornmeal and expel sand. clean them of any debris or vegetation that is growing on them.

in a heavy- bottomed soup pot, chop fine and saute a couple of shallots and a clove of garlic in a couple of tablespoons of butter. you need some seafood shells to create a broth; i shell the shrimp ahead of time and use the shells. you can also go to your local fish shop and buy seafood stock, or buy a small crab and use that for stock. whatever you decide to use, wrap shells in a single or double layer of cheesecloth along with some parsley stems, a couple peppercorns and a bay leaf. tie with a string into a little bundle.
i use a large steel tea ball and saute shells in a little olive oil in a separate pan and then put them in the ball.

take seafood bundle and saute it in the pan with the shallots. keep moving it around so that the shells get heated to increase their flavor. add 1 T of paprika and a little cayenne pepper if you like. add 4 cups of water, or a mixture of water and stock [seafood or light chicken], 2 cups of white wine, a little dry vermouth, and simmer for at least 30 minutes. remove the bundle of shells, squeezing any liquid into the pot.

add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste. adjust flavor by adding more stock, wine, or vermouth until it’s a flavor you like. add cooked onions and potatoes and a half a jalapeño, seeds removed. let simmer until the potatoes are heated through and remove jalapeño. put clams and mussels in the bottom of the pot [reject ones that are not closed tightly, as they are dead]. put shrimp, scallops, calamari and fish on top. essentially you want to put the heartier ingredients at the bottom where the liquid is the most hot, and the items that take less time to cook on the top. if you are using larger pieces of fish or whole crab or lobster, poach them in the liquid first, then add other ingredients. put a lid on the pot and allow seafood to cook until just done. don’t overcook.

serve by distributing seafood in a shallow bowls, then add liquid by ladling it over the seafood. serve with chopped itialian flat leaf parsley or cilantro, chopped avocado, lime wedges, and slices of japapeño for those who want more fire. serve with garlic bread; toast some good bread, brush with olive oil and rub with a raw clove of garlic.


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after feasting new year’s eve on two huge lobsters, we had a lot of lobster meat leftover, and an ample amount of lobster shells to make a great stock.

as i have discussed before, i don’t use recipes unless i am cooking something that depends on a predictable result. if i used recipes for everything i would be bored out of my mind; i like the challenge of cooking, and the joy in finding something that works on my own. so, it had been a long time since i had made lobster bisque, and i have to admit, this was not my best effort. i rushed it, and in the end came away with two things that are essential for a successful bisque: very reduced, concentrated stock, and cream. the lobsters were so huge that i underestimated the strength of the stock, and i often am afraid of using so much cream, as i am sure that someday one huge serving of rich food will send me into cardiac arrest. so, i used half and half and cream and the bisque, in the end, was not as rich as it could have been, and therefore not as good. the recipe that follows is still good, if the aforementioned issues are corrected.

in a large pot, heat the lobster shells in olive oil, to enhance the flavor. i use a large pot because the larger surface area helps to reduce the stock faster. scootch the shells aside, and add one large, minced shallot. after the shallot begins to turn a bit translucent add a carrot, cut in a few chunks, and a couple outside leaves from a fennel bulb. i add fennel instead of celery because the flavor is better with the delicate lobster flavor, and i leave them in large pieces because i like to remove them before making the soup, so they flavor the stock, but don’t over- power it. chicken and beef can stand up better to the strong celery flavor and overwhelming sweetness of the carrot, but lobster i think demands a lighter hand. i also add a bosc pear, quartered; it adds a sweetness that i like better than the carrot.

to the shallots add some cayenne pepper and paprika, then fill the pot with the water originally used to steam the lobster [i just threw the lobster remains into the water the night before and put the pot on the back porch overnight]. fill the pot to the top to cover the lobster contents. you can use about 1/4 to 1/3 parts chicken stock if you like; it adds richness and body, but you have to be willing to accept a little of the chicken flavor.
i used just the water. add a bay leaf [two if you are making a lot of stock] and a few peppercorns and let the pot simmer well until the stock is very reduced, to about 1/3 the volume of liquid. this is where i made my mistake, i really should have let the stock reduce further, but my child was getting a bit sulky, as i was spending what she thought was an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen.

while the stock is simmering away, take a few small tomatoes and drop them in the stock for a minute, then peel off the skins with a sharp knife. plunging tomatoes in boiling water for about 45 seconds is a great trick for peeling tomatoes, but since you have the stock simmering anyway… i like the heirloom tomatoes, not just for their superior flavor, but because i like the darker, meaty color.

after the stock has properly reduced, strain it through a coarse colander into a pot, mushing the flesh of the pear through the colander, but expelling the stem and seeds. this pot you will just use for heating the stock, so unless you want to transfer it again, don’t strain it into the pot of which you wish the final soup to reside. many people use cheesecloth at this point, but i like the little bits of lobster stuff that’s in the stock. you could even just strain the bigger stuff out with a slotted spoon, just make sure you retrieve the pieces of carrot, peppercorns, fennel, bay leaves, and shells.

in a pot large enough to hold the final bisque [the amount of stock plus cream] make a roux from equal parts flour and butter. i used the leftover butter from dipping the lobster the night before. stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until toasted, but not burned. whisk in the hot stock, a little at first, then bring to a simmer. i do this just to give the soup a little body, not to make it really thick. after the stock has come to a simmer, add the cream. how much cream you want to add is up to you; add some once it is seasoned, try it, add some more if you want. the stronger the stock is, the less cream you can get away with, but it’s just not lobster bisque without the cream.

at this point, i take a hand blender to the pot and make it somewhat smooth. you can also do it in small batches in the blender, but cool the soup a bit first, do it in small batches, and have the plug in the lid out. hot liquid tends to explode in a blender, and can cause serious burns. this is why i prefer to use a hand blender; plus i like the control. after the soup is a consistency you like, add some sherry and the tomatoes [chopped into small pieces] and season with salt, pepper, and if you like, a bit more of the cayenne pepper [don’t make it spicy, a little just enhances the flavor]. you can add the tomatoes before you blend it if you like, but i like the bits of tiny sweetness and the different texture.

chop the lobster meat into small pieces and add to the soup. i garnish it with just a tiny bit of chopped italian parsley or chives, but not much. i don’t like too much interfering with the subtle lobster flavor.

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