Oyster Stew

My first experience making oyster stew was not a pretty one. I remember trying to follow some snooty recipe by scalding milk in a paper-thin tin pan over a temperamental electric burner while a certain persnickety relative told me how I was doing it wrong. It came out fine, but no fun was had that evening.

Since then I’ve learned a few things:

  • Good gear matters – it doesn’t have to be fancy, high-end stuff, but heavy pans and sharp knives make a world of difference,
  • Scalding milk is a waste of time.
  • Recipes are good starting places but nothing is written in stone. Feel free to experiment.
  • Cook with people or for people but don’t let anyone tell you how to cook.
  • Just like there is only one captain on a ship, there is only one chef in the kitchen.

Oyster Stew
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup clam juice
1 pint oysters and their liquor
1 medium leek, finely chopped
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the juice has reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Add the cream, milk, celery salt, Bay seasoning, hot sauce, and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the oysters and parsley and simmer until the oysters start to curl, about 3 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and more hot sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I don’t know why I don’t make this more often. It’s rich, elegant, tasty, and comes together in a flash. I’ve tried a lot of different aromatics in this dish and I really like the way leeks bring a sweet and subtle flavor to the dish without overwhelming the oysters.

Grilled Lemon Tarragon Tuna

Tuna is the perfect fish for grilling – firm and lean with a meaty flavor that goes with just about anything.  Here I’ve bumped up the taste a little bit with an herby marinade.

1 1/2 pounds yellowfin tuna steak
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled (pickled, in this case)
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 cup olive oil

Make the marinade by combining the lemon juice, honey, peppers, salt, garlic, herbs, and olive oil in a food processor and giving it a whirl until everything is well-blended and has started to thicken, kind of like a thin mayonnaise.

Put the tuna in a lidded container, cover with the marinade, and turn to coat. Stash in the fridge while you get the grill set up.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F) heat.

Grilled Tuna Steak

I treat tuna steaks like beef steaks – grill them hot and fast to just medium-rare. Grill the tuna steak for about a minute per side, checking for doneness often. The tuna should yield gently when you press on it with the tongs. Not too firm, or you’re headed toward cat food territory. It’s best to pull the steak off the heat just before it’s done and let the carry-over heat finish cooking it.

Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Tuna is a nice change of pace from steaks and chops and a great fresh and light taste for summer.

Fire-Roasted Scallops Piccata

If you’ve already got the grill set up for something hot and fast like steak, then this is a quick and impressive appetizer to throw on first.

1 pound sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 slice bacon
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium high (400°F) heat.

Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put a large, heavy skillet on the grill and let it heat up for a minute. Add the bacon and fry until nice and crispy. Remove bacon and set aside to cool.

Remove the pan from the grate and drain off all but a teaspoon of the bacon grease, then and add olive oil. Turn pan to coat it evenly and then return it to the grill until the oil begins to ripple, but not smoke.

Arrange the scallops in a single layer and sear about 2 minutes on one side. Don’t overcook. The scallops should have a nice crust on one side while still being translucent on the other side.

Remove the pan from the grill and add the butter, wine, and lemon juice. Flip scallops over to the uncooked side. Crumble in the bacon, add the garlic and capers then return the pan to the grill.

Cook until the garlic and butter have browned and the scallops are medium-rare (130°F internal temp or when the sides have firmed up but the center is still is translucent), about 3 to 5 minutes depending on how much the lemon and wine cooled off the pan.

Scallops

Serve right off the grill with any sauce left in the pan spooned over them and some crusty (gluten-free) bread to soak up the rest.

The Verdict: ?????
Tangy and sweet meets rich and salty – it’s a match that works really well together in this dish.

The 4 stars are because I can’t seem to find decent dry sea scallops. These were wet scallops that had been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate to plump them up. They tasted fine, but are almost impossible to sear so that they had a good crust on them.

Oyster Stew

Oyster Stew

It wouldn’t be the holidays without oyster stew. When I was a kid this was always a thin soup that had more oyster crackers in it than actual oysters. These days I like to make it as thick and creamy as possible.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 pint oysters and liquor
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 stalks celery,  finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-ish heat. Add the celery and onion and sweat the veggies until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook the mixture, stirring often, until the roux just starts to darken, about 5 minutes.

Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring constantly. Add the celery salt, Chesapeake Bay seasoning, hot sauce, and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Bring the soup almost to a simmer. Almost being the key word, as bringing the soup to a boil will cause the cream to separate. Cook over very low heat for 15 minutes until the soup is thick and creamy and the veggies are very soft.

Add the oysters and their liquor and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the edges of the oysters start to curl.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with more hot sauce on the side and some crusty bread for dipping.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This turned out downright decadent.  The roux is so simple, but makes a lot of difference in how creamy and rich the stew is.

Sweet Heat Buffalo Shrimp

Buffalo Shrimp

More fun with shrimp on the grill. This time it’s a sweet and spicy version.

2 pounds large, grill-cut shrimp (shell-on, butterflied)
1/3 cup hot sauce (Frank’s RedHot Original is traditional, but any Louisiana-style sauce works well. Feel free to experiment.)
1/3 cup raw or brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine the hot sauce, sugar, butter, Worcestershire, and garlic powder in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly (you want it just warm enough to keep the butter melted but not so hot that it cooks the shrimp).

Pour the hot sauce into a large bowl and keep it warm and close to the grill.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.

Grill the shrimp 2 minutes on one side. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Flip again and cook until just pink and curled – about another 2 minutes, or 6 minutes total.

Buffalo SHrimp

Move the shrimp to the bowl of hot sauce and toss to coat.

Buffalo SHrimp

Move to a serving platter and drizzle with remaining sauce before serving.

Buffalo Shrimp

The Verdict: ★★★★½
As much as I love wings, I have to say that I’d take these shrimp over buffalo wings any day. The sweeter sauce works really well on shrimp and plays nicely with the tang and heat from the Franks’. These were perfect as part of a meal but if I were doing these as appetizers I think I’d add some salt and a little more heat. Maybe a touch of Marie Sharp’s just to make things interesting.

Extra Colossal Grilled Shrimp

Extra Colossal Shrimp on the Grill

And you thought Jumbo Shrimp was an oxymoron – meet Extra Colossal Shrimp. Also know as U-10, they are shrimp so big that it takes less than 10 of them to make a pound. In this case, 5 of these bad boys weighted in at 16.75 ounces.

The only preparation worthy of shrimp like these was to season them lightly and toss them on the grill.

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
5 raw Extra Colossal Shrimp, grill-cut (shell on, but deveined and butterflied)

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and seasoning in a bowl. Mix to combine. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Stash in the fridge while you get the grill fired up.

Set the grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. Arrange the shrimp on the grate and grill until the shell is pink and the flesh opaque, about 4 minutes per side. These shrimp were big enough that I also grilled them for 2 minutes on edge with the tails up.

Extra Colossal Shrimp on the Grill

The Verdict: ★★★★★
So tasty even my never-had-a-shrimp-that-wasn’t-breaded niece liked them. The shell holds the juices in, so they end up sweet and tender with just a hint of smoke. They were the perfect appetizer.

The Nutrition:
Shrimp are practically free – 2 ounces  are just 1 Weight Watchers point and only  65 calories.

One year ago – Sous Vide Steak
Two years ago – The Manhattan

Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Bacon has had its day in the sun – bacon explosions, Baconnaise, bacon soda, etc… I get it. I love bacon too, but I also have a soft spot in my heart for its spicy Spanish cousin – chorizo.

Like bacon, Spanish chorizo is cured pork. Only in this case the meat is ground with garlic and smoky/spicy paprika, stuffed into sausage casings, and then smoked and/or air cured. The end result is a very earthy and complex mix of smoke, a hint of sweetness, and a nice tangy finish.

I can eat chorizo-laced snacks all day long. But, like bacon, chorizo is also good to add at the start of cooking so that its flavors can spread throughout a dish. This is a recipe that makes good use of that.

The Sauce
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, undrained
4 ounces chorizo, diced
3 cloves garlic
1-2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the garlic and salt in a food possessor and give it a whirl until the garlic is finely minced. Add the jar of red peppers (juice included) and puree until smooth.

In a medium skillet over low heat, add the chorizo and olive oil. Raise the heat until the chorizo starts to sweat out all of that lovely red fat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring ever once in a while, until the chorizo starts to crisp up a bit.

Add the pepper puree, stir to combine, and raise heat until it starts to bubble. Cook 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat, but keep warm.

The Scallops
2-3 pounds diver scallops
2 food-grade wooden planks (I used Maple), soaked for at least an hour
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
Drizzle of olive oil

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (450°F) heat.

Rinse and drain the scallops. Pat dry. Push them into a large bowl and drizzle them with oil. Toss to coast. Dust with seasoning and toss to coat again.

Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Arrange scallops on the planks, trying not to crowd them too much. Put the planks on the grill, close the lid, and cook until they just turn opaque and start to firm up – about 10-15 minutes. You want them about 130°F internal.

Planked Scallops with Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Remove the scallops from the grill and toss with the pepper sauce. Put the skillet over medium heat and just warm everything up for a bit. Do NOT overcook the scallops.

Plate and serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Loved the combination of the tender, meaty scallops with the warm and slightly spicy sauce. Every bite that had a bit of chorizo in it was remarkable and the whole dish had a great smoky undertone.

The Nutrition:
The scallops were about an ounce a piece, so 3 scallops with sauce are only 150 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – Grilled Sweet Corn in the Husk
Two years ago – Lemon Chicken Tagine

Pan-Fried Fish

Pan Fried Tilapia

It’s Lent, and the former altar boy in me is craving fish. Specifically – fried fish. More exactly – Filet-O-Fish. Since there aren’t really any gluten-free options at the golden arches, I adapted this Sandra Lee recipe to try and scratch my itch.

1/3 cup gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil

Pan Fried Tilapia

In a shallow baking dish (a 9×13 pan works great for this) combine flour, seasoning, salt and pepper. Pat the fish dry, add to the pan, and coat each side with the seasoned flour.

Pan Fried Tilapia

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in small batches, shake any excess flour off of the filets and arrange them in the skillet. Brown the filets on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add more oil if needed in between batches.

Pan Fried Tilapia

Serve with this killer tarter sauce from Kitchen Konfidence and some creamy coleslaw.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Definitely not McFishparts and it took care of my craving. I used tilapia and thought it was a little muddy tasting. I’d use cod next time.

The Nutrition:
A 4-ounce serving is 5 Weight Watchers points and 125 calories. Take it easy on the tarter sauce and it’s pretty healthy.

One year ago – Sweet Chili Barbecued Pork
Two years ago – Reuben Dip

Planked Salmon Nicoise

I had enough salmon left over from my last batch of Planked Salmon that I sealed some of it off in a FoodSaver bag and froze it for later. Then we hit a deal on fresh green beans, new potatoes, and real tomatoes at the farmer’s market and I knew it was time to make a salmon version of my Tuna Nicoise.

The Dressing
2 anchovies, or 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste, or 1 to 2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

Make the dressing first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until they are minced. Add the anchovies, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, and herb blend and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin to thicken and form an emulsion, kind of like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The Salad
1 cooked salmon filet, about a pound
1 head Romain lettuce, chopped
1/2 pound new red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Combine the potato slices, butter, and parsley in a microwave-safe container. Nuke for a couple of minutes until the butter melts. Stir to coat and then cook another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Blanch the green beans by bringing 2 quarts of salted water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the green beans and let boil for at least 3 minutes. Check for doneness. Immediately drain the green beans in a colander and plunge them into ice cold water to bring the temperature down. Drain the beans.

This is a composed (versus tossed) salad, so lay all the goodies out on the table and let folks put together their own plates.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This was a great dish to beat the summer heat. No real cooking involved and everything came together in a flash. The farm-fresh veggies pair well with the tangy vinaigrette. I halved the oil in the dressing, so it was plenty tasty, but not nearly as rich, making it a nice match for the salmon as well.

The Nutrition:
Serves 4. Go easy on the dressing and this meal is only 480 calories and 7 Weight Watchers points per serving.

ONE YEAR AGO – Cucumber Margarita

TWO YEARS AGO – Meat on a Stick

 

Grilled Garlic Shrimp with Spinach & Melon Salad

One of my favorite dishes to order along the Mexican Caribbean is Camarones Al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp) – big, sweet, freshly-caught shrimp simply sautéed in butter and garlic. When my dear wife found a deal on large grill-cut shrimp (deveined and butterflied with the legs trimmed off), I knew I had to come up with a version of this for the grill.

Because I knew my rendition could end up on the decadent side, I paired it with a light salad that makes good use of the tasty melons that are in season now.

Brine
2 pounds large, grill-cut shrimp
8 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Chesapeake Bay Seasoning
4 cups ice

Combine the hot water, salt, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, and Bay seasoning in a large bowl and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the ice and stir to cool the brine. Add the shrimp, stir, and move the whole works to the fridge for an hour.

While the shrimp are brining, put the sauce and salad together.

Spinach & Melon Salad
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
2 cups melon, cubed or balled (honeydew in this case)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk together the honey, vinegar, oil, and juices in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stash in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

To serve, toss the spinach, melon, and onion together in a large bowl. Toss with three-quarters of the dressing and serve with the remainder for drizzling.

Garlic Butter Sauce
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh herbs, minced (take your pick – thyme, chives, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary are all good here)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook until it stops foaming, about 2 minutes.

Add the olive oil, garlic, salt, herbs, and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes until you can really start to smell the garlic. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice.

Stash someplace warm while you heat up the grill and fish the shrimp out of the brine.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.

Drain the shrimp into a colander. Make sure the garlic sauce is just barely warm enough to be liquid, but not hot enough to cook the shrimp. One by one, grab the shrimp by their tails and dip them in the sauce. Lay the dipped shrimp out on a cookie sheet just like you’re making chocolate-dipped strawberries.

If you are feeling extra naughty, toss the shrimp back in the fridge for 20 minutes and dip them again. If not, save what’s left of the garlic sauce for serving at the table and move the shrimp to the grill.

Place the shrimp on the grate, close the lid to avoid flare-ups from the butter, and grill for 2 minutes. Try to flip the shrimp – as they cook they curl and become more three-sided than 2-sided (I ended up using a spatula to scoop them up and move them around) – and cook for another 2 minutes. Flip/toss/move again and cook until just pink and curled – about another 2 minutes.

Remove from the grill and drizzle with remaining sauce before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
OMG these were good! We hit them so hard that there was quickly nothing left but shells and buttery grins. The brine plumped up the shrimp and made then extra sweet and tender, and the butter sauce added a ton of flavor while not covering anything up. Grilling them in their shells helped not only hold more fo the sauce, but kept the shrimp moist.

The salad was a great match for the shrimp – light and sweet with similar citrus flavors.

The Nutrition:
Not even going there with this dish.

ONE YEAR AGO – Not so Black, Plenty of Bleu, Redux

TWO YEARS AGO – Happy Holiday! – No Crust Coconut Pie