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January 2012 COTM: Essential Pepin: Shellfish and Fish

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the chapter about shellfish and fish.

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  1. Lobster Couscous with Chive Sauce (half recipe) p. 174

    http://www.allfood.com/script/rec_d.p...

    I was drawn to this recipe because of the addition of tomalley to the couscous - a tomalley flavored couscous sounded incredible.

    Even though I only made half a recipe (one 2 pound lobster), I used the whole 3 quarts of water and mistakenly chose to use my dutch oven instead of the stock pot. Bring the water to a boil and add the lobster. Because I used the dutch oven the 3 quarts of water did not cover the lobster, so I added another quart. Cover and bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low and boil for 5 minutes. Off the heat, the lobster rests in the liquid for 20 minutes. I was nervous about the lobster. Would it be cooked through or overcooked? The lobster was easily extracted and not overcooked (whew!). Reduce the lobster stock to 2 c (this took a while since I started with 4 quarts of water).

    To make the couscous, saute chopped onions for a few minutes, add tomalley and roe (reserved after extracting meat from the shells), mixing and crushing the roe, add couscous, boiling water, salt and pepper. Remove from heat, cover and stand 10 minutes. I was disappointed that I could not taste the tomalley in the couscous and would save the tomalley for a little snack next time, but the flavor of the roe did come through. It reminded me of the Japanese use of tarako in recipes.

    Fluffed couscous is topped with lobster (gently reheated in the reduced lobster stock) and sauce (chives, olive oil, salt and pepper and reduced lobster stock). The lobster was sweet and tender and the chive sauce brought it all together. Overall, a nice dish, but not the stunner I was hoping for.

    1. Crab Cakes with Avocado Salsa, p. 165-166

      Made these for an intimate New Year's Eve supper last night. The recipe is quick and uncomplicated: lump crabmeat, mayo, and fresh bread crumbs are gently mixed with seasonings of s & p, dried thyme, Tabasco and fresh chopped chives. One-inch thick patties are then fried in oil over medium heat until both sides are nicely browned.

      Meanwhile, and it only takes a few minutes, a salsa is made by combining one chopped ripe avocado and a tomato together in a bowl; then a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, more oil, s & p, and 3 TBS of water are added and tossed together. To serve, the avocado salsa is spooned onto four individual plates, with more chopped chives sprinkled on top, and finally the finished crab cakes are placed on the whole. I couldn't resist sprinkling a few more chopped chives on top.

      Couldn't be much easier, and Mr. Goblin, a devotee of crab cakes, was enchanted with the delicacy and purity of the flavors. And not a hint of Old Bay Seasoning anywhere! ;-) The salsa is mild and suave---the only hint of heat comes from a discreet amount of Tabasco. The intro describes the recipe as "delicate to handle, elegant, and refined in taste," and this sums it up.

      I had no trouble with the cakes falling apart while shaping or cooking, but I did follow my usual practice which is to refrigerate the shaped cakes for 20-30 minutes before frying them. (You could make them ahead of time and refrigerate. ) I also substituted Canola oil for the recipe's suggested peanut oil because that's what I had. Finally, I did not find a suitable ripe tomato in the market so I substituted one from my frozen store of oven-roasted summer tomatoes.

      Bottom line: this version of crab cakes makes a chic and flavorful first course, with a hint of luxury (lump crabmeat and avocados!) "Refined and delicate" is what they are. It just "felt French."

      1 Reply
      1. re: Goblin

        Oh yes; here's the exact recipe for Crab Cakes with Avocado Salsa from the Essential Pepin site:

        http://blogs.kqed.org/essentialpepin/...

      2. Tuna Steaks with Peppercorns (page 199)

        This recipe intrigued me because of the peppercorn mix: 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon allspice berries. (This amount is given for four servings; I halved it for a single tuna steak and didn't have any left over.)

        I crushed the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. You brush the tuna with oil, then sprinkle it with salt and the crushed peppers. Cook in a very hot skillet for 1-1/2 minutes per side, let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, top with a pat of butter (I forgot the butter and didn't miss it), and serve.

        I liked this very much but I'm making a note to cook the tuna for just a bit less time. It wasn't quite as rare on the inside as I usually prefer it. The peppercorn mix was certainly interesting and I adore Szechuan pepper. Not all that sure about the allspice, though. Maybe it was just so unexpected. Anyway, even though I thought this was very good and I would make it again, I didn't like it as much as the Seared Tuna in Black Pepper Crust from ENYT--although that may have had as much to do with the accompanying spinach and cannellini beans as with the fish itself which was coated in just cracked black pepper.

         
        1. Crusty Salmon on the Skin (page 194)

          I continue to be in clean-out-the-fridge-and-freezer mode and had all ingredients on hand except the tomato. I was going to skip it, when I saw what looked as though they might be decent ones at TJs.

          Make croutons in a nonstick pan. Put seasoned salmon fillets skin-side down in the same pan with no additional oil and cook for two minutes. Cover pan and cook for another two minutes. Plate fillets, sprinkle with the croutons, chopped tomato, caper berries, and chives. Add butter to the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Stir in some red wine vinegar, pour over the fish, and serve.

          Before I get to the punch line, let’s talk about caper berries. The ones I have are about the size of a large grape. From what I’ve read, that’s pretty much standard. This recipe, and the few others I’ve made that call for caper berries, don’t call for them to be sliced or chopped. Are they really meant to be eaten whole? This recipes calls for 8 caper berries for four fish fillets. Since I was making only one fillet, I used two caper berries. Leaving them whole just didn’t seem right, so I chopped them up. What would you have done?

          The salmon skin was delightfully crispy. I loved the added crunch of the croutons. The tomato was surprisingly good for this time of year, but I think it could have been left out. And the butter/vinegar topping was inspired.

          I served this with Cucumbers with Tarragon (page 428).

          Would I run out to buy the ingredients for this dinner? Probably not. Would I make it again if I had the ingredients on hand? In a heartbeat. Would I hesitate to play with it and perhaps just make the salmon with the butter/vinegar sauce? For sure.

           
          3 Replies
          1. re: JoanN

            Wow, JoanN, you take great food-photos. Makes me determined to have this for dinner very soon! With the cucumbers!

            1. re: Goblin

              Thanks, Goblin. I mostly use just a little point-and-shoot camera. So much easier and faster than setting up my digital SLR with the 50mm lens, which I bought specifically because I wanted to learn to take better food photos. But I discovered that you really need a light setup, too, and I just can't be bothered with all that. Not when I'm ready to sit down and eat.

            2. re: JoanN

              A very lovely looking dish JoanN!
              Interesting question about the caperberries. I love to chomp down on a whole berry, but it's usually in the form of a garnish. (I've even used one in a martini, in a pinch.) But if they don't seem like a garnish I think you made the right call in chopping them up.

            3. Tuna Steaks with Tapenade Coating (half recipe) p. 200

              http://blogs.kqed.org/essentialpepin/... -starts at the 3 minute 7 second point

              Tuna steak is topped with a tapenade (oil-cured black olives, kalamata, garlic, capers, anchovy and olive oil) and seared tapenade side down (the other side of tuna is seasoned with salt and pepper). One is to cover and cook the tuna one and a half minutes per side and finish in a 160 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. In the video he does not turn the fish, nor does he put it in the oven.

              I did not read the recipe very closely and seared the tuna as I normally would to medium-rare (on the skillet, uncovered and did not put the fish in the oven). The tuna is served on a bed of arugula topped with any additional pan drippings (had I covered my fish there would have been a little more drippings). This is the first time I’ve cooked tapenade on top of the fish and surprisingly most of it was still on when I went to turn the tuna. The result was a good -maybe even a little smokier than the raw tapenade. I’m glad I included the arugula too, it helped bring it all together and made sure my taste buds were not overwhelmed by the tapenade.

              In spite of my changes, this was a nice dish. Easy to make and no shopping required since I had tuna in the freezer that I defrosted earlier that morning and the rest of the items were in my pantry. I liked the tapenade very much. It was a nice combination of meaty and smoky from the oil-cured olives and fruity and briny from the capers and kalamatas. I’ll remember this tapenade the next time I’m looking for a simple snack to eat with toasted bread. In the video Jacques seasons the tapenade with pepper and adds a little oil from the anchovies which I may add next time.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BigSal

                I like the sound of this better than the steamed cod over tapenade I made last night. It sounds like the flavors were brought together in cooking, unlike in the cod dish.

                1. re: BigSal

                  Tuna Steaks with Tapenade Coating (half recipe) p. 200

                  Very tasty, fairly easy, and relatively fast.

                  I didn't have kalamata olives so I subbed standard green olives w/pimentos. I didn't feel like dirtying the mini-food processor for this small amount, plus I wasn't convinced I could control the texture very well, so I just chopped everything on the cutting board, smearing the garlic to make sure it got well distributed. I forgot to add the olive oil to the tapenade mixture, but didn't miss it.

                  I tried a variant on the his cooking technique, with mixed success. I seared the tuna steaks as directed, tapenade side down in a low Creuset pan. Then I flipped them over and put the pan in the oven to finish, rather than transferring the fillets to a platter. I thought the heavy Creuset plus the mild oven heat would be enough to finish them. In fact, I worried that they might overcook. But they were barely warm inside (80 degrees) after 10 minutes. So I put the pan back on direct heat for about 3 minutes which did the trick.

                  I served them over a large bed of arugula and sprinkled steamed butternut squash cubes around the steaks, which was gorgeous. (I cut a small piece of squash in smallish 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes and steamed them in the microwave with a little water.) I'm sorry I didn't take a picture to show you. The sweet squash was a great counterpoint to the peppery arugula and briny tapenade.

                  I love the concept of cooking fish on low heat in the oven, but this is the second time I've tried it without success. I suspect that my oven doesn't maintain an even enough heat at that low temperature. I'm sure Jacques has a better oven, perhaps convection. If we ever remodel the kitchen and replace the oven, I'll give it a shot again. But for the basic ingredient combination, if not the cooking method, I'll call this recipe a winner.