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All About Braising: Seafood Recipe Reviews

October 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of seafood recipes from Molly Stevens' All About Braising here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. If this is a recipe you've done many times before but aren't cooking currently, consider adding a note to the All About Braising: Previous Picks and Pans thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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  1. Vietnamese Braised Scallops
    Well, since no one has yet dived into the seafood section of Molly’s braising book, decided that should be me. I chose this for a weeknight ‘cause it’s quick (I really wanted to do the squid and shrimp braise, but perhaps another night-- will someone join me?). I found some good-looking dry scallops at the supermarket, picked up some fresh scallions and I was ready.

    You start by making caramel in a saute pan – which looks like a very odd science project going on on your stovetop. Sugar and water (I didn’t think ahead to buy Chinese brown sugar, and Molly has a substitution for regular granulated sugar) into a pan, heat and watch in wonder (will I ruin one of my favorite pans??) as it boils away with eerie large dark bubbles. Weird. Then you add fish sauce mixed with water, and shallots. Molly says you can do this part weeks ahead.

    Add crushed red pepper, the white part of some scallions, the scallops, cover and simmer 5 minutes, turn and cook 3-5 minutes more. Remove and garnish w/ scallion greens. That’s it. Served w/ jasmine rice and braised baby bok choi (my own improv).

    Just as Molly says, even with all the sugar it doesn’t taste sugary, but spicy and salty. It was good. (It doesn't have the soul-satisfying quality of long-braised meat, but hey, it's quick-cooked seafood!)
    I might try again with cod (or monkfish or halibut) as Molly suggests. To be honest, I think I prefer more lightly-sauced scallops, but it was okay for a change, and a fun technique to try (once again earning my respect and appreciation for Molly’s kind guidance to the home cook).

    3 Replies
    1. re: NYchowcook

      I'm so glad you tried this dish, NYchowcook. I think the photo in the book of this recipe is one of the most tantalizing in the book and was hoping someone would try it. Haven't seen any good looking dry scallops here, but if I do, I might join you!

      1. re: NYchowcook

        Thanks for posting this. I have marked this recipe and have some frozen Japanese scallops that I think should work ok. I like how fast this braise is! Will report back...

        1. re: Carb Lover

          I made the Viet scallops the other night w/ the TJ's frozen Japanese scallops and it was just ok. I should've known that those frozen scallops would be subpar, but I went ahead anyhow. Regardless of the quality of the scallops, I wasn't crazy about the sauce for this recipe. I found it overwhelming for delicate scallops, and somehow the intensity of it made it taste like there was some soy sauce in it even though there wasn't. It was very nice w/ the suggested vinegared cucumbers though. I prefer to use the Viet "kho" method w/ more assertive protein such as catfish, pork spareribs or shoulder, or chicken thighs.

      2. Monkfish Braised with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil (pg. 104)

        Another winner and another quick and easy recipe. I made the variation by tossing the fish with pasta, for a one dish meal. I served it with a side salad.

        I sauteed pancetta with evoo. The recipe called for 2 thick slices of pancetta (about 2 oz) but DH brough home 4 oz of thinly sliced pancetta. No biggie, I halved, chopped and sauteed. Next time, I will probably use all the pancetta because who can't have piggy goodness with their meal?

        Anyway, I set the pancetta to drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, I readied the skillet. Using the pancetta fat, I added a cup of chopped fennel, SP, and red pepper flakes. Added a bit of water and braised for about 7 minutes. Added a T of evoo and tossed in a pint of grape tomatoes, stirring constantly until about half the tomatoes burst. I began to scrape the stuff off the bottom of the pan, tossed in a couple of T of H20 and the pancetta and simmered the mixture.

        The monkfish - admittedly, I didn't do a great job getting the grey membrane off the fish. Next time, I would make more of an effort. But, it did hold the fish together better.

        I browned (4 minutes per side) the monkfish fillets (@1.5 lbs) in a separate skillet then transferred it back to the tomato skillet. Last step was to simmer the fillets and tomatoes for 8 minutes (flipping the fish half way). I added a couple of tablespoons of chopped basil in with the sauce.

        Picture of fish in skillet:


        I saved a cup of the pasta water. Chunked up the monkfish and tossed the spaghetti with the tomato sauce and drizzled evoo over it.

        This was delicious. The interesting thing was that it was difficult to cut the fish with the fork. I think the grey membrane had something to do with this. But, the fish itself, to the bite, was extremely tender and flavorful. Next time, I would use more pancetta and more hot pepper flakes. And, I would make more of an effort to get the membrane off. I think the pasta will be even better today. All the juices have been absorbed into the pasta itself. When I packed the leftovers, the pasta had a nice pinkish tint to it (unapparent in the picture itself).

        Picture of Fish and Pasta:


        1 Reply
        1. re: beetlebug

          Monkfish Braised with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil, Pg. 104

          We made this dish last night but subbed pollock for the monkfish. And, like Beetlebug we loved it. Easy, tasty and satisfying. I kept thinking, though, that sauteed mushrooms would an interesting addition. I served it with brown rice and plain steamed broccoli, each component sopping up the sauce.

        2. I tried the braised tuna with radicchio and chick peas.

          It's a pretty straightforward recipe--infuse olive oil with garlic, red pepper and rosemary; add the sliced radicchio and braise; add chick peas, broth, lemon and salt and braise; add the tuna steaks and braise.

          Firstly, I used a 10-inch skillet, which JUST fit everything; if you're going with any bigger than her recipe, use a much bigger skillet.

          I followed the recipe very closely, checking frequently, but I was a bit disappointed with the results. The chick pea-radicchio braise was delicious--bitter and creamy, salt and savory, with freshness from the lemon and parsley. The tuna, however, turned out dry and chalky--obviously a surprising result for a low-temp braise.

          However, I did NOT use the best tuna I could get--I hoped I could get away with using supermarket albacore instead of fish market top-shelf fish. So I can't say if it was the recipe or the fish--and I suspect it was the fish.

          I look forward to trying this again with better fish.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MuppetGrrl

            (Tuna Steaks) Braised (with) Radicchio (Chickpeas & Rosemary), Pg. 222

            For me it was all about the vegetable... I omitted the tuna and chickpeas!

            Radicchio is one of my favorite veggies. I usually either grill it or shred it into a salad. We bought a lovely large head of radicchio on Wednesday and this time I wanted to use it in a different way. The only recipe in the book to feature this bitter yet tantalizing vegetable is the braised tuna. So I performed major surgery on the recipe and braised the radicchio only. I'm happy to report the surgery was successful and the veggie lived to satisfy my taste for bitter veggies.

            Here's what I did:
            1. Infuse EVOO...
            1/4 c oil, 2 slivered garlic cloves, 1/2 t red pepper flakes are added to a skillet, covered and heated over low heat for about 5 minutes. I included 2 small, minced carrots. Take off heat and set aside.

            2. The radicchio...
            Slice in half, take out core, shred into 1/2" wide pieces. Put sliced radicchio into the infused oil and saute till the radicchio has completely wilted. Sprinkle some chopped parsley and sea salt, squeeze a half lemon over and serve. That's it.

            Grilled pork chops and a simple baked potato completed the meal. The marvelously jiucy chops enhanced the flavor of the radicchio. For a small moment I had thought of adding the chickpeas into the mix but those chops and the radicchio were so beautiful I cancelled the idea.

          2. Braised Halibut Steaks with Creamy Leeks

            I adore Halibut, but it's hard to think of new ways to make it. So when I saw this recipe, I HAD to try it...


            The thing was, the only thing I know about Leeks is that they are dirty and SO uses them to make soup.... I enlisted his help in doing this dish, mainly the leek part...

            He washed them for me per the recipe above and I am SO glad he did. We got the leeks at the Farmer's Market and they were SO dirty... so WASH your leeks... you won't regret it...

            He followed the directions to sweat them a bit on the stove top and then placed them in the oven. When I expressed a bit of worry over the 45 minute braise time for these leeks, he just smiled and said, just wait a see...

            When I went to go check on my leeks, this is what I saw...


            They were BEAUTIFUL.... So I went to go prepare my Halibut Steaks... They were a bit smaller than what the recipe called for (because of the $20/lb price tag!!) And just salt and peppered them and then poured over a bit of cream


            The fish cooked up right in time and the leeks continued to hold together. Along with the Cauliflower, it looked quite pretty on a plate! :)


            As for the taste, I admit, I found the Halibut a bit bland. I had to sprikle it with Lemon and eatit along with the leeks. The Leeks were VERY mild. I expected a stronger flavor. SO stated that if Molly HADN'T gotten rid of the leek tops perhaps it would have a more flavor.

            But overall, a very nice and pretty easy dish and I had lots of fun with this months book... can't wait for next month and POZOLE!! :)


            2 Replies
            1. re: Dommy

              It looked like a beautiful meal. I'm not hungry and am jet lagged. Halibut and leeks would hit the spot now though.

              1. re: Dommy

                I've done this recipe numerous times and it's very tasty. I will agree with Dommy though, the halibut is a bit bland, but it's halibut and that's how it tastes.

                I've actually made the recipe and made a beurre blanc (actually T Kellers from Bouchon--the Salmon leek recipe) and drizzled it...Great addition..

              2. We made the Salmon braised in Pinot Noir with Bacon and Mushrooms( p. 107) tonight.

                The recipe called for thick skin-on fillets...I used some wild Coho fillets I had in the freezer from Trader Joe's. I'm sure not as thick as the recipe called for.

                I had some creminis in the fridge so I used that for the mushrooms.

                The recipe went together easily and quickly. This would be an easy weekday meal, about 30 minutes start to finish.

                I didn't adjust the cooking time to account for the fact my fillets were probably thinner than what she had in mind....but it was still delicious. The fish didn't dry out because of the cooking method but was definitely cooked past the point we normally like it.

                We served it over some whole wheat couscous.

                Nice to have another quick and easy salmon recipe as we eat a lot of it and tire of our regular rotations. We'll definitely be making this one again...

                1. Mediterranean Squid and Shrimp Braise (pg. 120)

                  Wow and totally delicious. I always forget how much I LOVE this cookbook until I pull it out and cook from it. This recipe, at first, seemed labor intensive, but I broke the prep (chop here, clean there) out throughout the day and it seemed less onerous.

                  1. Chop up onions, carrot and celery.
                  2. Clean shrimp.
                  3. Clean and slice up squid.

                  I kept all of the above in separate containers in the fridge until I was ready to cook. Then I,

                  4. sliced up garlic.
                  5. juiced an orange and a lime and cut off big pieces of zest of both.
                  6. chopped the canned tomatoes.
                  7. chopped the parsley.

                  Saute the squid until it releases the liquid and add the garlic. Scoop the squid out and add the onions, carrots and celery to the liquid. Add white wine and the juices with zest and reduce the liquid. Stir in the tomatoes, crushed red pepper and parsley and simmer.

                  Add the squid back in and simmer for 30 minutes. Add fingerling potatoes, olives and capers and simmer some more. Lastly, add the shrimp until cooked and add a bit of butter to offset the acidity.

                  This was delicious. Next time though, I would omit the fingerling potatoes. But, I'm not fond of potatoes in my stew. I served this over pasta but it would also be great with a crusty bread. The squid was just perfect. It had that perfect texture of not overly chewy but enough give. And, I loved the capers and olives with it. Perfect for a snowy winter's day.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: beetlebug

                    Mediterranean Squid and Shrimp Braise (pg. 120)

                    Over all, I am satisfied with the result considering that I used the quality of froze seafood mix. Fresh seafood would make a big difference, I guess.

                    - I had a hard time to find a squid. Looked for a frozen, but all that I found was "import from China". So, I used a frozen seafood mix from Trader Joes.
                    - As squid is very small in the mix, I add back squid together with shrimp. Not adding back before potatoes. I was afraid if I would overcook squid if I would add it back before potatoes.
                    - I agree with beetlebug to skip fingerling potatoes. Or, next, time I used 1/2 diced potatoes so that the braising time gets shorter.
                    - Also agree with serving over the linguine or with a crusty bread, french baguett.

                    1. re: beetlebug

                      Made this for dinner last night. Agree the potatoes were totally unnecessary. Even as I was cutting the small white potatoes up so they would cook faster I was asking myself why I was bothering. I used shallots instead of onion because I had some chopped up already. I might well do that again. I didn't add the olives (didn't have any, and really didn't think I liked the idea of unpitted olives in a seafood stew) or the capers (didn't have any of those either), but now that I’ve read beetlebug’s report, I think I’ll add them next time even though it was pretty terrific without them. Next time I'd up the crushed red pepper a bit. And think I’d add more wine and perhaps even more juice—something to have a bit more sauce. Or maybe just cook it down less. Served it with a baguette and would have loved to have had more sauce to soak the bread in.

                      It is indeed a great book. And to think I wasn't going to buy it at first because who needs a book to tell you how to braise?

                    2. Squid Roulades, p. 124

                      I've never made stuffed, long-cooked squid before, so this was an adventure. It was fun to make except for the fact that I was racing against time to get them to the point of simmering for an hour because I had a guest leaving for the airport after lunch. But it all worked out. Squeezing the filling into the squid bodies using a disposable pastry bag was surprisingly easy, as was closing the opening with toothpicks (which DH valiently did). After they were cooked and the toothpicks removed, the edges stayed sealed together, causing another guest to ask, "How did you staple the openings closed?!"

                      Despite copious amounts of chopped shrimp, squid tentacles, parsley, and garlic (subbed for shallots), the filling seemed a bit bland. I'd up the seasonings next time. The airport guest is allergic to onions/shallots and dairy, so I subbed garlic for the shallots and coconut creamer for the cream in the mousse, but if anything I would have thought the garlic woul have been stronger than the shallots. Guess I should have had a heavier hand with the salt & pepper, and maybe added some other herbs and spices (tarragon would have been nice).

                      I can't really comment on the sauce because I had to ring radical changes on it: shrimp broth for white wine, garlic for shallots, no tomatoes, though I used a tbsp of tomato paste. I meant to add a little rice wine vinegar to make up for losing the acidity of the wine, but forgot. So the lemon at the end really livened the sauce. I'm always leery of lemon because it can overpower, but in this case it really worked.

                      And yes, the long-simmered squid tubes were indeed tender as promised. Phwew.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                        Addendum: I will never make long-cooked squid again! The smell permeated the house and is still lurking in corners and closets 3 days later. Yuck. Even bread baking, chicken roasting, and simmering spices has failed to counter it.

                        On the unlikely chance that someone will make squid roulades despite my lackluster review, let me add a caution: be sure to wash the tentacles well. I washed them, but was in a hurry so I wasn't thorough enough, and there were occasional gritty bits in the stuffing.

                        1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                          I had a similar experience making a Bourride Setoise once that stunk up the kitchen for weeks. I'd still make it again though as it was delicious.

                          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                            I had the same experience with the shrimp paste from Malaysian month. PeeeeU. Stinky for days.

                            Thanks for telling us about the squid washing part. The whole thing makes me think it might be just a bit labor intensive for me. And I love squid.

                        2. Vietnamese Braised Scallops

                          I made these just before Christmas for us and a guest. We all thought they were good though I had misgivings as I was making the caramel. I followed the recipe very carefully, adding fish sauce, water, shallots, and just before serving, scallions, crushed red pepper, and scallops, cooking for about 3 min. per side. Garnished w/scallion tops, and served w/jasmine rice and asparagus.

                          Overall the dish was pretty good albeit not what one associates w/a "braised" dish; I might make this again as I'd like to try it w/lg. shrimp, but what I didn't like about this dish was the smell (from the sauce) that lurked in the kitchen for a few days. And to me, what some people consider kitchen "odor" is perfume. This one, not so much.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                            Vietnamese Braised Scallops, p. 117

                            Based on the reviews of this dish (including those at the beginning of this thread, I decided to make this dish last night as my first foray into All About Braising. LIke nomadchowwoman, I also followed the recipe carefully, including using Chinese Brown Sugar, which I happened to have on hand from my last Thai cooking frenzy ;-)

                            I and my guests liked this very much--we are all scallop lovers. The caramel/fish sauce combo sauteed with shallots, crushed red pepper, and scallions reduced down into a very savory, light braising sauce. With the addition of the liquid released by my scallops while braising (not too much, since they were fresh "dry" day-boat scallops) the resulting flavorful sauce was wonderful over the jasmine rice suggested in the recipe. The final dish was quite light yet flavorsome. I like the detailed directions for every step of the recipe, including cooking the scallops very carefully just until done. The children at the table ate the scallops alone; the adults scarfed up every drop of the braising sauce.

                            Caramelizing my sugar-water mixture took several minutes longer than the 3-4 minutes suggested to reach a deep red-brown. After that I managed to boil over the fish sauce-sugar water mixture while reducing it because it reached a bubbling boil quicker than I expected. Lost a little of the delicious liquid, but still had enough left for a satisfactory braise.

                            And nomadchowwoman is right--this morning when I walked into my kitchen, I did get a scent of Vietnamese/Thai cooking still lingering! I blamed it on the boil-over! ;-)