Tag Archives: seafood

Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli

 

 

It usually takes me a week or so after Thanksgiving passes (an intermission), before I am ready to start hearing Christmas music on the radio, and get into the spirit of the season. I need the time to transition from pumpkins to holly.

I can’t just jump right in. What I can do though, is start thinking about what I want to cook during the holiday season. Menu planning is something that comes naturally for me, and it’s the getting together with family and friends over food and wine part of the season that really gets me excited about celebrating, so today I will share a recipe that I recently served as part of one of my cooking class menus. The ingredients have some Spanish influence, making them a nice addition to a tapas menu, but they also have that special holiday feel to them so sharing some of these with friends would be a very good idea.

The mussels are steamed in a wine broth,  then pulled from their shells, chopped and added to the rest of the filling ingredients: sauteed serrano ham, spinach, and béchamel sauce. Some prep work on the front end, yes. But you are able to assemble the stuffed mussels and refrigerate up to one day ahead before they are topped with garlic aioli and popped under the broiler until golden brown and bubbly.

Even the people in cooking class who thought they didn’t like mussels fell in love with these.

So as you think about inviting friends over to share a glass of wine during the weeks ahead,  I hope you will consider making these go along with your holiday cheer.

Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • Aioli:
  • 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Mussels:
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 6 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 36 mussels (3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced ham (serrano, prosciutto, or black forest)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. For Aioli: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place garlic cloves in a very small baking dish. Cover garlic with oil (add enough to completely cover garlic), cover dish with foil, and bake until garlic is soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove garlic cloves with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish to cool. Place cooled garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar in the base of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Reserve.
  2. For mussels: Bring the white wine, half of the onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and mussels to a boil in a large covered saucepan over high heat. Once mussels have been cooking 3 minutes, check to see if they have begun to open. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon as they open and transfer to a platter. Cool the mussels. Reduce the cooking liquid down to 2 tablespoons. Strain and reserve the liquid. Remove the mussels from their shells and save ⅔ of their shells. Separate each of the reserved shells into 2 halves. Chop the mussels coarsely and place in a large bowl.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook the remaining onion until soft, 7 minutes. Add the spinach and ham to pan with onions, stirring until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove mixture from pan and add to bowl with chopped mussels.
  4. Preheat the broiler. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and cook; stirring 2 minutes. Add the milk and reserved cooking liquid and cook until smooth and very thick. Add to the mussels and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stuff the shells with the mussel mixture. Spread the aioli on top of the mussels and place on a baking sheet. Broil until golden, 10-20 seconds. Serve immediately.
  6. servings

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Lowcountry Cuisine and a Recipe for Shrimp and Grits with Chipotle White Cheddar

There’s a whole world of flavor packed into the 80 mile stretch of coastal South Carolina and Georgia that runs from the Savannah River in Georgia north to Pawley’s Island.

Lowcountry (notice I use one word), is a picturesque   area marked by  flat expanses of salt water marsh grass and  live oak trees, with their long, arching limbs draped with silvery clumps of  Spanish moss.  There is  a pungent, slightly salty smell that permeates the air of the Lowcountry. Its source is the area’s pluff mud: the dark marsh soil left behind after the tide recedes. That smell—and term—is one of the Lowcountry’s many distinctive qualities. Tidal marshes, rivers, estuaries, and the Atlantic Ocean all play a part in the cuisine this low elevation area is known for, which also goes by the same name.

 

The Lowcountry teems with aquatic life, and for centuries local cooks have turned to the water for culinary inspiration. Crabs, shrimp, fish, and oysters form the basis of any traditional menu, along with rice, grits, and local produce.

You’ll find African, French, Spanish, and Caribbean influences of the Gullah, a group of descendants of former slaves who live on the barrier islands in lowcountry cooking, where the names of the native dishes are almost as colorful as the fresh local ingredients that go into them: she-crab soup, Frogmore stew, and hoppin’ John, for instance.

Before my parents retired to Pawleys Island,  I was unfamiliar with the whole lowcountry thing. I can tell you it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the diverse beauty of the area, and it definitely didn’t take me long to embrace the unique flavors that go along with lowcountry cuisine.

Among my favorites has to be the ultimate comfort you’ll find in shrimp and grits. There are a million different ways to make this dish, but I have found that one of the requirements to make cooking it authentic, is the use of bacon drippings, or “drippins” as they are affectionately referred to in the south. I like the grits smooth, and creamy, and since I have a thing for chiles, I like to add a bit of smoke and heat. Chipotle white cheddar cheese goes into my grits, along with a pretty good amount of butter AND the bacon, along with some of the drippins. Not exactly a candidate for Cooking Light magazine, but you know, sometimes a little indulgence is okay. At least I think so anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shrimp and Grits with Chipotle White Cheddar

 

3 cups chicken broth

¾ cup quick grits

1 cup (4 ounces ) chipotle white cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¾ pound thick sliced bacon, cut into ¼-inch matchsticks

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

2 tablespoons chopped green onions

 

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Whisk in the grits and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and the grits are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese and butter, season with salt and pepper and whisk until the cheese is melted. Cover and remove from heat.

 

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the bacon and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is golden, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

 

Pour off all but 4 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the skillet. Add the shrimp and cook 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook 1 minute. Stir in the parsley, green onions,  and bacon; season with salt and pepper.

 

Spoon the grits on to each plate and top with shrimp mixture.

 

4 servings

 

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Wood Fired Salmon with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Confit


We recycle, bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store, and have replaced our regular light bulbs with energy saving fluorescent light bulbs.  “Organic”, “local”, and “free range” have become more than just buzz words;  people are starting to have a better understand of the importance of  purchasing chemical free produce and meat from farmers who practice  good animal husbandry. Awareness has grown, and our purchasing practices are changing.
But when it comes to fish; how they are caught, and what is left behind when they are taken from the water, do people really have an understanding of what sustainable means?
What does sustainable fish mean to you?
Here’s what Green Peace has to say: “In simple terms, a sustainable fishery is one whose practices can be maintained indefinitely without reducing the targeted species’ ability to maintain its population at healthy levels, and without adversely impacting on other species within the ecosystem – including humans – by removing their food source, accidentally killing them, or damaging their physical environment.”
I think that pretty much sums it up. As responsible humans on this planet, we have to be care takers, and start making decisions that have a positive impact on our planet. When we open our wallets to pay for the food we purchase, whether in a market, or in a restaurant, what we choose to buy affects the way things will continue. If we give our money to those who pole catch albacore, that’s where our fish will come from. If we say we aren’t going to give our money to those who ravish the oceans, maybe those practices will go away. It’s all about the power of our choice, and the effects those decisions have upon our environment.
What can we do to help save our oceans for generations to come?

Make ocean friendly seafood choices when you go to the market or to a restaurant.
So how do you know what kinds of fish to buy, and which fish to avoid?
There are several excellent resources out there:

Fish To Fork The campaigning restaurant guide for people who want to eat fish – sustainably.

Seafood Watch Pocket Guide providing valuable information on best choices, good alternatives, and fish to avoid.

For this month’s 5 Star Foodie challenge, Sustainable Fish I decided to feature  salmon, one of America’s most popular fishes,  for its flavor and its health benefits; rich in omega 3.

When it comes to purchasing salmon, the sustainable choice is to buy wild Alaskan salmon.  It’s caught from a healthy wild stock with sustainable methods, is free of contaminants, and avoids the problems with farmed salmon, which can not only pollute local waters near the farm but also be polluted themselves because of the fish meal they’re fed.

Wild caught salmon tastes incredible all on its own, but  here is  a recipe that gets you out using your grill, and enjoying the subtle hints of smoke from using cedar planks.

This dish makes an excellent entree for entertaining too. The peppery arugula pesto, and slow roasted tomatoes may be made ahead of time, which means you will have more time with your guests!

Happy cooking~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wood Fired Salmon with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Confit

Tomato Confit

3 pounds large plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed

4 large fresh thyme sprigs

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

 

Arugula Pesto:

4 cups fresh arugula

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

2 (1 1/2-2  pounds) salmon fillets

2 cedar planks

For tomato confit:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Oil large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange tomatoes on baking sheet. Scatter thyme sprigs and garlic cloves over. Drizzle with 1/2 cup olive oil, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake tomatoes 45 minutes. Turn tomatoes over; continue to bake until tomatoes shrink slightly but are still plump and moist, about 1 hour longer. Cool completely. Peel off skins. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

 

For pesto:

Combine arugula, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add pine nuts and Parmesan cheese to mixture and blend until incorporated.

Makes 2 cups

For salmon:

Begin soaking cedar planks (fully submerged) in water at least 2 hours before using. Set grill to to medium-high heat. Place salmon on each of the cedar planks. Spoon half of the arugula pesto over each salmon fillet, spreading evenly over fish.

Place the  cedar planks in the center of the hot grate.  Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature should read 135 degrees F.  Cut each salmon fillet into 4 portions. Using a spatula, separate the fish from the skin, lifting onto each plate. Top with tomato confit.

8 servings

 

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