Monday, March 15, 2010

Beach House Seafood

So, let’s say you go on vacation. Let’s say you go to a little island in the Gulf of Mexico where you get accommodations that include a kitchen with three pans, a dull knife, and a cookie sheet. Let’s say that on this island, all the good restaurants are expensive and all the cheap restaurants are crap. And let’s say that you have access to either a fish market or a fishing pole.

Wouldn’t you rather just be your own restaurant?

I would rather, yes, I would. With a few staple items at the overpriced grocery store, I can cook various sea creatures using different techniques to highlight their unique flavors and textures.

The groceries:
Get as many of these as are available, convenient, or attractive to you.
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • A lemon
  • Parsley
  • Other herbs, i.e. bay or thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Shallot
  • A big bottle of dry white wine
  • Cocktail sauce

The sea creatures:
Ideally, you will buy/catch different ones every day. Get something shelly or bony the first night so you can make a nice stock that will only get more delicious the rest of the week.

  • Crustaceans (shrimp, crabs, lobster)
  • Mollusks (mussels, scallops, clams)
  • Fish

The cooking techniques:
Boil/steam: Throw some parsley stems, dried herbs, and shallot peels in some water, wine, or a combination of the two. Bring it to a rolling boil. Throw in your sea creatures. When the water returns to a rolling boil, shrimp and scallops are cooked. Mussels and clams should be boiled until they open.

I like to make a shrimp cocktail and then throw the shells back in the cooking liquid. Simmer this for a half hour and you have a lovely stock that can be used for more shrimp cocktail. Or use it to finish off sautéed fish. Or use it as the base for a sauce.

Grill/broil: This is easy. You just, um, broil things. Scallops need just a few minutes. Shrimps too. Fish can go as long as 7-10 minutes per inch of thickness depending on how done you like it.

Sautée: Heat butter, oil, or both in a pan. Toss in garlic and shallots and cook until translucent. Put in fish skin side up, or throw in crustaceans/shelled mollusks. Cook only a couple of minutes for crustaceans/mollusks. Cook 3-5 minutes per inch of fish, flip over, season the top, pour in a splash of wine or stock from your fabulous shrimp cocktail, cover, and cook the remaining 3-5 minutes per inch of fish.

Pasta: If you boil up a nice linguine or capellini while you’re cooking your sea creatures, everything can be done at once. You can toss the sea creatures with the pasta, as I did with these sautéed scallops. You can put the sea creatures on a serving plate; splash your pan with more stock; then reduce it for a nice little sauce to go on your pasta. Or you can just butter the noodles. Or maybe serve them with garlic and olive oil.

The possibilities are not endless, but they will see you nicely through a week at the beach.