Fresh Fish

After spending the better part of the last month on or near the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the streams of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Ample Bites has an even greater appreciation for the value of quality, fresh fish. All three venues yielded fish that was caught the same day I prepared them or when they were prepared by a local restaurant.

If you are not catching your own fresh fish avoid the big grocery stores and find a local fish house. In Pass-A-Grille, Florida friends introduced us to Schaner’s Land & Sea Market where, as the store name implies, they have a huge selection of fish as well as meats and poultry. Schaner’s did not disappoint the shrimp we purchased from this local store were the star of a gumbo I prepared. In Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina we purchased fresh and prepared shrimp, fresh grouper, crab spread, shrimp spread, and shucked raw oysters from a couple of local fish stores including Seven Seas on very north end of Business 17.

Making Shrimp Gumbo with large, sweet, fresh shrimp was a particular favorite of Ample Bites. See my previous post for the recipe. If you can’t get fresh shrimp where you are you can have them shipped from Cajun Grocer where they are flash frozen and shipped on dry ice.

Here in the Midwest, there is nothing quite like catching, filleting and cooking fish caught from the chilly waters of the Northwoods. Our bounty included mostly Northern Pike.

If you only have access to frozen white fish, like tilapia, halibut or catfish, try the following recipe which will summon a few of the aromas of a seaside barbecue.

Baja Fish Tacos with Grilled Napa Cabbage Slaw
(Courtesy of “The Gardener & The Grill”, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, 2012)

Serves 4

Slaw
1 large head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
Canola oil, for brushing
1 cup assorted baby greens, such as spinach or Boston lettuce
8 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
¼ cup tarragon vinegar
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt

Fish
1 ½ pounds mahi mahi, catfish, halibut, tilapia, or other mild white fish
¼ cup Red Hot Blackened Seasoning (see recipe below)
8 flour tortillas, for serving
8 lemon wedges, for serving
1 ½ cups salsa of your choice, for serving

Preheat grill to high heat. Reduce to medium high before grilling.

Brush the cut sides of the Napa cabbage with oil. Coat the fish fillets with Blackened Seasoning.

Grill the cabbage, cut side down, directly over the heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage has grill marks. Remove from the grill.

Grill the fish directly over the heat, flesh side down first, for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or 10 minutes per in of thickness, Turn only once to grill the skin side, halfway through grilling.

Slice the grilled cabbage and place in a large bowl. Stir in the greens and green onions. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sour cream, lemon juice, and salt to make a dressing. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to blend.

Place some of the grilled fish on each tortilla. Top with about 1/3 cup of the slaw and roll up, soft taco style. Serve with a lemon wedge and a small ramekin of salsa.

Red Hot Blackened Seasoning:

In a glass jar, combine ¼ cup paprika, 1 ½ tablespoons garlic salt, 1 tablespoon granulated onion, 1 ½ teaspoons each dried oregano, dried basil and cayenne pepper, ¾ teaspoon dried thyme, 2 ¼ teaspoons each of black and white pepper. Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to blend.

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Shrimp Gumbo

While in St. Petersburg, Florida Ample Bites was able to buy some fresh, large Gulf shrimp. Inspired by this bounty, I adapted a recipe from a friend who has been making gumbo since he was a young man growing up in Louisiana. My adaptation used the fresh shrimp and some smoked turkey sausage. The keys to a good shrimp gumbo are the roux and fresh shrimp stock. Enjoy!

Shrimp Gumbo
(Adapted from Tebo’s Seafood Gumbo)

Serves 10

2 ½ to 3 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ lbs of smoked turkey sausage, sliced ½” thick
2 large onions, chopped
1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes with liquid
1 medium bell pepper
1 bunch green onions, green and white parts finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
4 cups sliced okra (optional)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp liquid crab boil
½ cup canola oil
5/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ quarts of Shrimp Stock
4 bay leaves

After peeling shrimp, save the shells and heads for the Shrimp Stock. Prepare the Shrimp Stock by boiling them in 3 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon of the crab boil for about 15 minutes, set aside and allow the stock to cool. Strain the stock before using.

Place the onions and garlic in one container, place tomatoes, bell pepper and green onion in a second container, and place okra in a third container. Mix seasonings (salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and the remaining crab boil) and set aside.

Make roux by heating oil in a heavy Dutch oven. Add flour slowly, stirring constantly until the roux is very dark brown. Be careful not to burn the roux. Alternatively, the roux can be made in a microwave by thoroughly mixing the oil and flour in an ovenproof container. Heat on HIGH in the microwave for 3 minutes. Remove the roux and stir it thoroughly. Repeat the process in one-minute intervals until the desire color of roux is reached.

In a heavy Dutch oven, add the onions and garlic to the roux. Heat on high, stirring constantly, until the onions are caramelized, about 12 minutes. Again, be careful not to burn the roux. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and green onions. Add the shrimp stock, okra, seasonings and bay leaves and stir thoroughly. Bring the gumbo to a boil.

While the gumbo is coming to a boil, brown the turkey sausage in a skillet with some canola oil. Drain the sausage on a paper towel-covered plate and add the sausage to the gumbo. Reduce the heat and simmer the gumbo, covered, for about 40 minutes.

Before serving bring the gumbo back to a boil and add the peeled shrimp. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes until the shrimp are pink. Let stand 15-30 minutes and remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve 8-10 ounces of gumbo with about 1/3 cup of rice. Add file and hot sauce to taste.

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Spicy Shrimp St. Louis

This is one of many shrimp recipes that I have found that I simply must make very soon.

Spicy Shrimp St. Louis
(Courtesy of Dale Pillow via Louisiana Cookin magazine)

Serves 4

2 pounds large Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
9 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp Creole seasoning
2 sticks unsalted butter
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp thyme
1/8 tsp dried rosemary
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 green onions, finely sliced
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ cups medium picante sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot cooked long grain rice, for serving
Flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and Creole seasoning in a large bowl, and chill.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and next 13 ingredients and adjust heat to low. Mix well to make sure all ingredients are incorporated into sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Cover Dutch oven and bake at 350F for 1 hour. Add picante sauce and reserved shrimp, mixing thoroughly. Lower oven temperature to 300F and cook until shrimp are opaque, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with rice topped with shrimp and sauce. Add fresh parsley for a garnish.

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Seafood Salad-stuffed Tomatoes

If you liked The Big Salad you will really enjoy this light summer meal that is perfect for either lunch or dinner.

These Seafood Salad-stuffed Tomatoes can be stuffed with any combination of seafood including tuna, flaked whitefish or chopped shellfish. The recipe I am sharing is for a crab and shrimp and the ingredients are similar to a crab cake, minus the bread crumbs. You can even top the stuffed tomatoes with a Remoulade sauce.

Seafood Salad-stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

1/4 pound cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped
1/4 pound jumbo lump crab meat
4 large tomatoes, cored and seeded
1/4 – 1/3 cup mayonaise (depending on desired consistency)
2 Tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbsp celery, finely chopped
2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp green onions, green parts only, finely chopped
1 medium avocado, pitted and sliced 1/4″ thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the seafood and season with salt and pepper. Add mayonnaise, red pepper, celery, and red onion and gently fold with the seafood. Re-season to taste.

Spoon equal amounts of the seafood salad into the cored tomatoes allowing remaining amount to sit atop each tomato. Garnish the green onions and serve immediately with Remoulade sauce on the side.

Remoulade Sauce

Emeril’s Remoulade

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Creole or whole-grained mustard
2 Tbsp ketchup
½ cup finely chopped green onions (green part only)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsp finely chopped celery
1 ½ tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, letchup, green onions, parsley, celery, garlic, paprika, and hot sauce. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Best when used within 24 hours.

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Cook’s Illustrated Has Great Tips and Classic Recipes

Ample Bites is a long-time reader and follower of Cook's Illustrated. This publication, which can also be followed on their Facebook fan page, offers a variety of recipes, cooking tips, information about ingredients, and reviews of cooking products and equipment.

Many of the CI recipes focus on best cooking practices for classic dishes like fried chicken, prime rib roast, lasagna, baked goods, and oven-roasted halibut, to name a few. CI’s recipes are well-written, easy to follow, and, from Ample Bites’ experience, yield outstanding results.

A regular feature in Cook’s Illustrated is a section called Quick Tips. These tips are provided by readers. Readers whose tips are published receive a complimentary 1-year subscription to the magazine.

My favorite from the current, April 2012 CI Quick Tips, was submitted by Peter Walker of Bellingham, Washington. He shares the use of parchment paper to wrap panini-style sandwiches before placing them on the panini press (or George Foreman-style sandwich grill). Wrapping the sandwich allows the heat of the press to cook the sandwich without the juices and cheese drippings leaking out. This technique makes the clean-up of the press virtually unnecessary.

Other Quick Tips used regularly in the Ample Bites kitchen are the placement of a folded dish towel under a cutting board to eliminate any rocking or sliding of the board and storing the remaining section of a tomato cut-side down on a piece of plastic wrap to preserve for use up to a day or two later.

The April 2012 Cook’s Illustrated also features an ingredient section titled Shrimp 101: How to buy, prep and cook juicy, tender shrimp. This two-page feature shares all of the basics of buying and preparation in easy to understand descriptions and illustrations.

The buy/prep page explains the sometimes confusing terms of count-per-pound (Jumbo 16/20, Extra-large 21/25, Large 26/30, Medium 41/50, Small 51/60) and recommends the 21/25 size for most applications. The other valuable topics discussed in this article are the sources of the shrimp (US Gulf of Mexico, Asia, and South America), as well as, the freezing and defrosting techniques including the importance of buying IQF, individually quick-frozen, shrimp. The basics of thawing and deveining are also explained very clearly.

The cooking page describes the four “foolproof” methods of pan searing, grilling, poaching and stir-frying. If you have a copy of this article it is one to clip and save for ready-reference any time you are cooking shrimp.

For valuable tips, reliable recipes and understandable information about food products and equipment, Ample Bites highly recommends Cook’s Illustrated.