Tidewater Kitchen - April 2010

 

Fish and Shellfish
by
Pamela Meredith-Doyle

Fish and shellfish have become an essential part of the American diet. Flash-frozen fish are as close as your nearest quality supermarket. Many fish and shellfish types are expensive, and all are highly perishable, so they must be treated with care. Keep it refrigerated until you are ready to prepare it. Plan to use it within a day or two of purchase, and be attentive when cooking as fish cooks fast – you can overcook it in the blink of an eye.
I love to serve fish to my family because of all its health benefits. Fish and shellfish are low in calories, fat and sodium, and are high in vitamins A, B and D as well as protein. They are also high in potassium and iron, and some are high in a group of fatty acids called omega3, which has been proven to help lower bad cholesterol levels.
Fresh from the sea, lake or river is obviously best, but flash-frozen fish is far superior to fish that has been sitting around for a bit. Whole fish should be glossy with clear eyes and bright red gills.
Smell is by far the best way to determine freshness. Fresh fish should have a slight sea smell or no odor at all. Any “off” odor or an ammonia smell is a sure sign of age or poor handling. Do not take chances. If it doesn’t smell right - get rid of it!
When cooking your fish, remember that fish cooks very quickly. Be sure to wait until everyone is seated to begin cooking the fish. In most cases your fish will be done in a matter of minutes.

COOKING METHODS FOR FISH
Moist-Heat Cooking: For poaching, steaming or stewing, choose lean fish such as cod, flounder, perch, red snapper or sole.
Dry-Heat Methods: You can use lean fish when baking as long as you baste frequently to keep the fish from drying out. For methods like baking, broiling and grilling you should use a moderate- to high-fat fish such as bluefish, butterfish, catfish, salmon, striped bass, swordfish or trout.
Fat-Based Cooking Methods: For sauteing, pan frying and deep frying, lean to moderate-fat fish are the best choice, but lean fish can also be used. High-fat fish are too rich to fry.

BOILED SHRIMP
(Not Exactly)
To serve perfectly cooked tender shrimp, do not boil them. Drop them into a pot of boiling water, then bring the water back to a boil. Cover and remove the pot from the heat and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the size of the shrimp) or until the shrimp turn pink.
Overcooked shrimp are tough and rubbery, so be sure to time them correctly. If you are serving the shrimp hot, drain and transfer to a serving dish. If you want them cold, drain and place them in a zip-lock freezer bag and surround the shrimp with ice. If you rinse the shrimp you will wash away the seasonings.
My favorite seasoning is Old Bay because of its spicy heat and onion and celery flavors. You may substitute beer or vinegar for some of the water.
More Shrimp Tips:
Shrimp with the heads on are more perishable than those without. Keep them iced and use soon after purchase. Remove heads and then cook them as directed.
Buy only as much shrimp as you need. Rinse raw shrimp under cold running water and drain. Store in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator for 2 days. If you have cooked the shrimp, they will keep for 3 days.
Freeze shrimp in a zip-lock freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw them under cold running water or in the refrigerator overnight.
One pound of shrimp in the shell serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer. Without the shells, one pound serves 2 to 3 as a main course or 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

LOWCOUNTRY BOIL
Serves 12
Taking advantage of the bounty the sea offers, as well as an excuse to have a party – no dish exemplifies this as well as Lowcountry Boil, Frogmore Stew or Beaufort Stew. It was originally created 40 years ago by a National Guardsman in Beaufort, S.C., using leftovers to feed his fellow guardsmen. The recipe began to spread and became the official dish of the Lowcountry. It is the perfect meal to prepare outside on a warm summer’s day.

4 lbs. shrimp (6-7 lbs. if headed)
12 ears corn (break in half)
2 lbs. kobasi sausage
6 T. Old Bay seasoning
16 potatoes (quartered)
4 Vidalia onions (quartered)
2 lemons (cut in half and squeezed)

Fill a 10-gallon pot halfway with water and add 6 to 8 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning. Bring the pot to a boil. Add the 2 lemons, cut and squeezed. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add the corn, sausage and onion and return to a boil for 10 minutes. Finally, add the shrimp and cook for another 5 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.
Pour off the water and serve.

SHRIMP RIGATONI with GARLIC and WINE
Serves 4
This is one of my sister’s favorite dishes.

4 T. butter
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs large shrimp (21-25 per pound), peeled and rinsed
1/3 cup white wine
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup fresh basil, minced
Dash of red pepper flakes
Parmesan Reggianno
1 box rigatoni, cooked according to package directions

Heat butter and garlic in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until fragrant and pale gold, about 2 minutes.
Add shrimp, increase heat to medium and cook until shrimp starts to turn pink, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Take the shrimp out of the pan and add the wine, cream and red pepper flakes and simmer. Add the shrimp and basil and pour over the rigatoni noodles.
Serve and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

TILAPIA with PARSLEY and LIME
Serves 4
½ cup unsalted butter
3 6-oz. Tilapia fillets, 1 inch thick and halved crosswise
2 small lightly colored limes, one halved and the other cut into 12 thinly sliced rounds
½ cup freshly chopped Italian parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cover your work surface with heavy duty aluminum foil, about 1 foot long. Butter the center of the foil well and place the pieces of fish on top. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the fish. Top the pieces with a round of lime and a small piece of butter. Sprinkle with parsley. Bring the sides of the foil up and seal it to form a packet.
At this point you can prepare a barbecue at high heat or preheat your oven to 400°. Grill or bake the packet for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the fish.
The fish should feel firm. Open the packet carefully. Transfer the fish to the plates and remove the old limes. Garnish with fresh rounds of lime. Spoon the juices over the fish and finish with some chopped parsley.

SALMON with ROASTED GARLIC
Serves 8
2 large heads of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
½ cup olive oil
3 T. unsalted butter
8 6-oz. salmon fillets
4 t. lemon juice
4 t. fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°. Place the garlic in a small ceramic dish or ramekin. Pour enough olive oil over the garlic to cover it. Wrap the dish in a double-thick layer of aluminum foil. Bake until the garlic is tender, about 35 minutes. In a blender or food processor, puree the garlic and one tablespoon of the oil it was cooked in. Add the butter and puree. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the salmon on a baking sheet. Season with pepper and salt. Drizzle each fillet with ½ t. of lemon juice, then spread 1 T. of the garlic puree over each fillet. Up to this point this can be made a day ahead and chilled.
Bake the salmon uncovered until just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with rosemary and serve.

CORNMEAL CRUSTED CATFISH or TROUT
Serves 6
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
6 catfish or trout fillets
8 T. unsalted butter
1 T. vegetable oil
¾ cup hazelnuts, chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
lemon wedges

Combine the cornmeal and flour on a plate. Season the mixture with sea salt and pepper. Dip the tilapia fillets in milk and then coat in the dry mixture. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with ½ tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet. Add 4 pieces of catfish or trout and cook until just heated through, about 2 minutes per side. Place all pieces of fish on a platter. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with ½ tablespoon oil in the same skillet. Add the remaining trout or catfish, and cook until cooked through. Transfer to a platter.
Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet. Add the nuts and saute until brown. Add the wine and the lemon juice and boil until slightly thickened, scraping up any brown bits. Do this for about 1 minute, then add the fresh parsley. Season this with salt and pepper and pour over the fish. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley.

TUNA with an HERBED LEMON BUTTER
Serves 4
4 6-oz. tuna steaks, 1 inch thick
3 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 t. finely chopped chives or green onion
2 t. lemon zest
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. olive oil

Mix 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 teaspoons of rosemary, the chives and the grated lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. You can make this compound butter a day ahead.
Prepare the barbecue to medium heat or preheat the broiler. Combine the lemon juice, the oil and the remaining rosemary in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle the tuna on both sides with sea salt and pepper. Add the marinade, turning to coat. Let this stand for 20 minutes, turning at least twice.
Remove the tuna from the marinade. Grill or broil the tuna until just cooked through. This should only take about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the tuna to a plate and top with the rosemary butter.

ARTICHOKE and SEA SCALLOP CHOWDER
Serves 6
3 T. unsalted butter
1 cup white onion, chopped
2 T. fresh lemon juice
3 cups basic fish stock
3 cups heavy cream
1½ cups canned artichoke hearts
2½ lbs. sea scallops
¼ t. sea salt
¼ t. fresh ground white pepper
¼ t. Tabasco
1 T. fresh chives, snipped thin with scissors

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the lemon juice and simmer until evaporated. Add the stock, cream, artichokes and scallops.
Simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives.