Seafood


Last week, E, S, and I talked about the lack of peaches on our blog.  How could we live in the South and not have yet posted anything about peaches?!  So in honor of the peach, we decided to declare this week, Kitchen Confit Peach Week. In my mind, eating a sweet juicy peach is one of the glories of summer.  Then there is the intoxicating peach smell.  It really is hard to imagine anything better. Rarely do I think of a peach as anything but a sweet treat at the end of a summer meal.  So when we all decided to find a peach dish to make for Peach Week, I decided to seek out something savory.  That’s when I found a recipe for Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches in the July Bon Appetit.  It sounds like it would be a little sweet, a little spicy, and all around delcious.

The sauce was a mix of peanut butter, sugar, nectar, Chili sauce, rice vinegar, and soy sauce…really when you combine these ingredients does it get any better. Salty and Sweet.  The only thing I thought it might need was a little extra chili sauce, a thought I was glad I had. Everything was easily grilled and tasted good.  However, it just is not going to look good on a plate.  As a grilled summer salad, it was quite delicious and refreshing. I will say, the grilled bok choy was probably my favorite part of this entire meal.  I know I should be praising the peach, but I think I am just a tried and true Peach as dessert type eater.  If I do decide to try this recipe again, I think I will add a little more acid to the sauce…maybe a little fish sauce.  Also, while the heat came through in the bok choy and on the shrimp, it was barey noticable on the peaches.  Anyone ever have that happen?

Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches
Adapted from Bon Appetit from July 2008 Serves 4

Sauce
6 Tbsp Smooth Natural Peanut Butter
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar (I only had light brown sugar on had, but Bon Appetit recommends Dark Brown Sugar)
3 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Hot Chili Sauce like sriracha
5 Tbsp Peach Nectar

3 Peaches, each cut into 6 wedges
16 raw large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 head Baby Bok Choy, halved lengthwise
4 Bamboo Skewers, soaked in water

Fire up your grill!

Combine the ingredients for the sauce and mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Skewer the Shrimp on bamboo skewers. Brush the peaches, bok choy, and shrimp first with nectar then with a little of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

We grilled each item individually, so first the peaches, then the bok choy, and finally the shrimp. The peaches should be charred, shrimp just opaque, and the bok choy tender.

Once removed from the grill, arrange the bok choy, peaches, and shrimp on a platter and drizzle with a little more sauce. Serve with remaining sauce.

As far back as I can remember eating, I have been eating grits.  I know it sounds strange for a born and raised Californian to say she has been eating grits her entire life, but I take it as a sign that I was destined to spend a part of my life living in the South.  Grits in my house growing up were almost always prepared simply (just boiled in water) and then served with lots of butter.  Occasionally my grandmother would bake them, or fry them, but the majority of the time, I would just smother my grits in butter and devour them.  Of course, I never realized that I was missing out one of the more fabulous ways to eat grits…with Shrimp.


Had I known this when I was younger, I would have made a point of eating shrimp and grits at every meal.  I guess in the long run, it was a good thing I had to wait to learn of the glories of Shrimp and Grits.  You know, good things come to those who wait.  Boy did it last week when we had shrimp and grits with Crawfish and Pork Andouille Sausage!

One might call it excessive.  One might call it gratuitious.  I call it the perfect early Saturday morning breakfast.  A pound of leftover shrimp, a half pound of sausage, leftover diced onion from the previous nights dinner, a green pepper, a little shredded cheese, a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, and of course GRITS!  Now if you are not sausage fan, you can always substitute a couple slices of bacon.  It was just what I needed to get the morning off to the right start.

Shrimp and Grits
Serves 6

1 Cup Stone Ground Grits
4 Cups Water
3 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 pound of Andouille Sausage split in half, then sliced
1 pound of Shrimp, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 of a large Vidalia Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

1. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the grits. Return the grits to a boil and then reduced the heat to simmer. Stir frequently until they reach your desired consistency. I usually cook them until the water is absorbed and they are thickened. Add 3 Tbsp of butter and stir to combine.

2. In a separate pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and green peppers and saute for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. In another pan add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and saute the sausage for 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Reserve some of the grease from the sausage

4. Using some of the reserved grease, saute the shrimp until pink.

5. To assemble, fill the bowls with Grits, then onions and peppers, shrimp, and sausage. If you so choose (and I always do) top with Tony’s and shredded cheese.

As an inexperienced cook, I am often overly ambitious when I plan a dinner party.  Of course, I see it as my opportunity to try out a new dish I have found, which is great, but it also means I spend too much time in the kitchen and not enough time hanging out with my friends.  The Barefoot Contessa talks about this in her book, Barefoot Contessa Parties!  Her first party was an omelet party, which sounds great in theory, but in practice means very little time with those you have invited over.

A few weeks ago, I talked about my love of oysters and the fun H and I had roasting oysters over a fire pit on our vacation.  That same night, H and I were responsible for planning all of dinner.  A couple days before we left on our trip, I got my Splendid Table newsletter, “Weeknight Kitchen.”  It contained a fantastic fish taco recipe.  (If you are not signed up for this newsletter, you should be.  The recipes are great!) Seeing as we would be at the beach, H and I thought it would be great for our dinner night.  The best part was that it could be made in pieces, so I told myself, we could do some of the prep ahead of time, so we did not spend an entire evening in the kitchen.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening and there are H and I furiously whipping together our meal.  I should have also remembered that on a beach vacation, my motivation drops to nil and all I want to do is sit by water and sip on margaritas.  So we got started later than we planned and the timing was a little off.  The nice thing about sharing a house with 10 other people is that you are never lacking for an extra pair of hands.  Everyone had a hand in doing this meal.

Enter the Oysters…yes, they provided us with a great distraction, thus lots of prep time.  While H built the fire for the oysters, I made the coleslaw and the marinade.  Then while the oysters roasted on the fire pit, the fish and chicken had a little time to soak in the marinade.  After we ate some oysters, the table had to be cleaned, so while our helpful crew cleaned and reset the table, H cooked the fish and chicken on the extra grill, and I heated the tortillas over the fire pit.  (Thank goodness this house was equipped with multiple grills)

In the end, these were the most flavorful fish tacos I have ever had.  Even a day later when I ate them as leftovers at lunch, they were fantastic.  We served the tacos with some black beans that H made.  I did heed a little of Ina’s advice and purchased guacamole and fresh pico de gallo.  In the end, H and I sat down surrounded by 9 of our friends and ate delicious fish tacos and sipped on homemade margaritas.  Just the kind of feast you need at the beach.

Grilled Fish Tacos with Cilantro and Lime Coleslaw
Adapted from Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s Weeknight Kitchen on Jun 25, 2008. Excerpted from Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden by Jeanne Kelley (Running Press Books, April 2008). Copyright 2008 by Jeanne Kelley.
Serves 10-12

Coleslaw:
2 small head cabbage (about 1-1/4 pounds each) – I used one green and one red
1 1/3 cup light sour cream
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons ground cumin
3 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cup diced white onion
1 cup chopped cilantro

Fish:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 chiles from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo
3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 pounds red snapper fillets
1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
50 corn tortillas
Guacamole (Homemade is best, but good store-bought will save time)
Fresh Pico de Gallo or other Fresh Salsa

Coleslaw:
1. Thinly slice the cabbage. You will most likely want to quarter it and core it before slicing. I kept slicing until my bowl was full.
2. Mix together the sour cream, lime juice, cumin, garlic, and salt together in a bowl
3. Combine the cabbage, onion, and cilantro, with the dressing and place in the refrigerator.
(According to Lynn Rosetto Kasper, the coleslaw can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead.)

Fish
1. Throw the olive oil, chipotles, lime juice, and cumin in a blender and puree.
2. Place the chicken and fish into a shallow baking dish.
3. Pour the mixture over the fish and chicken, coating the pieces thoroughly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. (At this point, Lynn Rosetto Kasper says you can be prepared to this point up to 8 hours ahead.)
4. Preheat the grill. Right before you place the fish on the grill, soak a paper towel with a little oil and carefully with your tongs, run the paper towel over the grill.
5. Carefully put the fish fillets and chicken on the grill and cook until just cooked through. The chicken will take much longer to cook than the fish. Once thoroughly cooked, transfer the fish and chicken to separate platters.
6. Meanwhile, heat the tortillas over a fire pit. Wrap them in foil to keep warm.
7. Using two forks, break up the fish into large pieces. The chicken can be sliced at an angle. Serve the fish and chicken, with warm tortillas, guacamole, coleslaw, and salsa, let everyone make their own tacos.

Ava Maria Grotto - Cullman, AL

Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL - stop here before you eat your way through Birmingham

If anyone had asked me ten years ago where I would go to celebrate my one year wedding anniversary, I can assure you I would never had said Birmingham, AL. Granted 10 years ago I probably didn’t think I’d end up married to a southerner and living in Nashville, TN, so there’s that too. When you grow up in the north, whatever you hear about Alabama is never very good. Alabama is images of grainy news reels of church bombings and Bull Connor. But C had visited Birmingham a year ago to watch a friend in a cooking contest, and came home raving about a different city. He waxed poetic about the Civil Rights Institute and the 5 Points neighborhood, and most of all he came home talking up the food. And after a year of raving about the city he wore me down and we set of for a long weekend in Birmingham to celebrate one year of marriage.

While this post will be mainly about the food, I will say that Alabama has several non-gastronomic sites that should not be missed. If you enjoy folk art, the intricately-designed miniature sculptures at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL is a sight to behold. The Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham is one of the more powerful museums I’ve ever attended – and if the museum is offering walking tours of the adjacent Kelly Ingram Park and the surrounding neighborhood – take it. The walking tour follows the steps of the Civil Rights movement in the city and offers no sugar coating of the events that happened there. Also, the Birmingham Art Museum is a good municipal art museum that had several engaging exhibits.

But If I’m honest, one of the main reasons C was able to convince me to make this trip was Frank Stitt. Arguably one of the most famous chefs in the south, Mr. Stitt has several restaurants in Birmingham. We had Saturday night reservations at the Highlands Bar and Grill – the restaurant that focuses on combing fresh, local southern cuisine with classical techniques. We had heard amazing things and Highlands truly lived up to the hype. The fried oysters were succulent, the fish tender and flaky and the beef rich and flavorful. C had fried squash blossoms filled with goat cheese that he hasn’t stopped talking about since – it has lead to his current fruitless quest for fresh squash blossoms – all so I can try to recreate the dish at home. We also ate another amazing meal at the Hot and Hot Fish Club – we basically returned home stuffed and happy (see the pictures above, which are plates we ate at both restaurants).

Given that the traditional first anniversary gift is supposed to be paper, C had surreptitiously bought me a copy of Mr. Stitt’s cookbook Southern Table which he presented to me back in Nashville. Given how much C had loved Mr. Stitt’s food this may seem a bit self serving, but I must say we both enjoy the dishes from it. The recipes themselves are not hard – they just demand good fresh ingredients. And when I saw fresh Red Snapper at the grocery store I knew that I needed to try a en Papillote recipe from the cookbook. The recipe actually calls for Pompano – but Mr. Stitt identifies Red Snapper as a fine substitute. By cooking the fish with aromatics in parchment, the fish gets steamed perfectly and it saves me (or C) from having to clean up fishy-smelling pans. The fish tasted delicate and delicious and was the perfect reminder of our wonderful weekend away.

Red Snapper en Papilote

Red Snapper en Papillote

Pompano (or Red Snapper) en Papillote

Taken from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

Ingredients:

5 T. butter – plus more butter for the parchment at room temperature

2 Spring onion or 1 large sweet onion, finally sliced

Fresh ground white pepper

8 thin lemon slices

2 shallots, thinly sliced

Kosher salt

1/4 cup chopped chives and parsley, and chevil, basil or dill

4 6 ounce pompano fillets (Red Snapper and Flounder are also acceptable)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees

Melt 1 T. of butter in a saute pan over medium heat and add the onion and pepper and saute until softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cut four 16 by 20 inch sheets of parchment. Rub a bit of butter on each parchment where the fish will lie and place 2 slices of lemon on each one. Top will sliced shallot and sauteed onion. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of the herbs then top with the fish. Seaon each fillet with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the remaining herbs over the fish. Dot each fillet with 1 T. of butter. Fold up the parchment packet so that the edged are sealed.

Place packages on a baking sheet on the top shelf of the oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to serving plates and open the packages with a knife or scissors. Inhale and enjoy.

Oysters…in most people they ellicit one of two responses, love them or ick!  I fell madly in love with my first Oyster in Charleston, SC at a restaurant called Bowen’s Island, where all-you-can-eat steamed oysters are served by the shovelful.  If you’re in Charleston, the directions are easy: drive towards Folly Beach and turn right on the road right after the Boat. (Now if you have ever driven from downtown Charleston to Folly Beach, you know about the boat perched on the side of the road.)  After turning right, you follow the road to the end where you will find a low wooden building surrounded by huge piles of oyster shells.

Of course, now that we live in Nashville our opportunities for fresh oysters to throw on a grill are a little more slim.  So imagine our delight when we found a fire pit in the backyard of a rental house in Florida.  A few weeks ago, H and I joined nine other friends for a week of beach bumming and general relaxation in Florida.  We rented a house about a block from the beach with a pool in the backyard…and of course, the previously mentioned fire pit.  Within seconds of stepping into the backyard, H and I both noticed the fire pit and with that we both started strategizing how we were going to replicate the Bowen’s Island oysters on our assigned dinner night.  The fire pit demanded oysters and we happily planned to oblige.

Of course, roasting the oysters would not be the hard part, but seeing as it was July, we were both a little worried about finding fresh, local oysters in the shell.   At Bowen’s Island, the degree to which the oysters were cooked varied greatly.  Some were smokey and well done, while others were practically raw.  I love them either way, but since it was not oyster time of year, I was a little worried about someone getting sick.  (Many believe that oysters should only be consumed raw in months with an R, so basically anytime except between May and August.)  The last thing I wanted on the third night of our trip was to give people food poisoning.

As Tuesday night rolled around, H and I went to pick up the fish for our fish tacos (I promise to post on these soon because they were off the charts!).  At Goatfeathers Seafood Market in Blue Mountain Beach, we asked about the oysters, were they local?…yes. how fresh are they?…caught this morning. if given the option, would you eat them raw right now?…yes. With that said, H and I picked up a 22 pound box of Apalachicola oysters, 2 bags of Charcoal, and an oyster knife.

Apalachicola oysters come from Apalachicola Bay in Florida.  According to a June 2002 article in the New York Times, Chefs tend to prefer them because of their larger size and more “mellow” flavor. I have to agree, they are not terribly salty and they are almost always quite large in size.  Once home, H built a large fire and poured the box out onto the grate.  He then spend the next 20 minutes stirring the oysters in the hopes of evenly cooking them.  After a careful removal process, we sat down to an oyster feast.  All 22 pounds were gone within 20 minutes.  While some slathered their treasures in cocktail sauce,  I just popped mine in my mouth and savored one of the glories of coastal living.

Roasted Oysters

2 bags Charcoal or enough to cover the areas with hot coals
22 pounds of Oysters
dish cloths and oyster knives for each person

Get a nice hot set of coals and pour oysters onto a grate right above them.  Try to evenly distribute the oysters so they cook fairly evenly.  Let cook until they start popping open.   Pour onto a table and enjoy.

NOTE:  The easiest way to open an oyster shell is to the insert the oyster knife at the hinge of the shell and pop it.  Once you pop the hinge, it is much easier and safer to get the oyster out.

I know. I have been on quite a seafood kick lately, but it is summer and I love grilled seafood, so bear with me. Beside all the delicious baking my fellow Kitchen Confit bloggers are doing, a little fish in the diet can’t hurt. Whenever I am in the store, I always drop by the fish counter to see what is fresh and what is affordable. Recently, I got a couple of really nice pieces of Sea Bass and had the miso leftover from my Chicken Soba Noodle Soup, so a Miso Glazed Sea Bass was on the menu for dinner.

H and I have been trying to cook enough at night to have leftovers to take for lunch in the morning. It has worked out well so far and it helps us control our portion sizes…well at least a little better than we used to. When I started to look for a recipe, I remember from an episode of Top Chef where the winner used Sea Bass a microwave cooking challenge, so I hoped it would work out well for me too.

Of course, as usual, I did not start to look for a recipe until I started to cook. Once I found one, I realized we did not have any sake in the house. So back to google to quickly look for a substitute for sake. A lot of the suggestions indicated rice vinegar would work, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

I was not sure how long to let it marinade, so I decided to let it sit while I washed and cooked some short grain white rice. It ended up being about 45 minutes. After letting the Sea Bass rest in the marinade for 45 minutes, it was ready for a quick trip under the broiler. I know I started out tempting you with thoughts of flame grilled fish, but of course, by the time JC was in bed, I found a recipe, realized I did not have sake, found a decent substitute, and started to cook, it was raining outside…so no grilled sea bass tonight. I placed the pieces into a small pan removing most of the marinade. While the fish broiled, I reduced the marinade in a saucepan until it was about half or so.

I served the sea bass with some green beans and rice. After a delicious dinner, there was plenty leftover for lunch. The next day after a minute in the microwave, it made a great lunch. H can’t wait for me to make it again.  The sea bass did in fact reheat in the microwave beautifully.

Miso Glazed Sea Bass

Adapted from Bon Appétit | January 2000 Makes 4 servings

1/3 cup Sake
1/3 cup Mirin
1/3 cup White Miso
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 1/2 pounds Sea Bass Fillets

Mix together the Sake, Mirin, Miso, Brown Sugar, Honey, and Soy Sauce. It works best to use a whisk to make sure the miso is well mixed. Pour the glaze over the sea bass and let it rest for 45 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat broiler. Remove fish from marinade. Place fish on rimmed baking sheet. With broiler door slightly open, broil fish 6 inches from heat source until just opaque in center, about 6 minutes. Transfer to plates.

While the fish is under the broiler, pour the marinade into a sauce pan, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the marinade until reaches your desired consistency. Drizzle over the fish. Serve with rice and vegetables.

Saturday morning, H, our friends Bentina, and I ventured off to one of our favorite restaurants, Hominy Grill. There are times when all I think about is a hot plate of shrimp and grits, and the shrimp and grits from hominy grill are about as close to perfection as you can get. The flavors are simple, Shrimp, Bacon, Green Onions, Mushrooms, Cheese Grits, and a spritz of lemon. Nothing is over sauced or too buttery. Just perfect comforting food…mmmmm!

Of course, a meal at Hominy Grill is not complete without some fried green tomatoes. Now, if you are not a shrimp and grits fanatic like me, the Fried Green Tomato BLT is my second favorite thing on the menu. I think fried green tomatoes are the greatest southern food discovery I ever made. I really love them, not just a lustful love, but more of a long lost soul mate love.

If you are in Charleston, stop by Hominy Grill for an amazing brunch destined to get your day started off right. Love on the food and let it make you whole.

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