Sunday, February 20, 2011

Seafood-a-Palooza - Happy President's Day!

After yesterday’s awesome pork-fest, today I was feeling virtuous (read decadent) and took another ride to Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays. Bless Mondays off.  Like every other time I have set foot in this beyond compare seafood market, I over indulged. Yet the thing about pristine seafood is – you have to eat it now. And this is how my President’s Day Seafood Marathon was conceived.

So let the games begin. This has been a year for local bay scallops that I will never forget and I pray will continue forever. It is February and still they are available – for a price to be sure – but available. To my mind it is tragic to cook these beauties. Remove the muscle from one-half pound of local bay scallops (yes, it’s worth it). Slice each scallop in thirds and divide into two piles on two plates. If you pop every fifth scallop into the slicer’s mouth, this is not a chore. Being a nut, I have lovely Meyer lemons growing on my porch. Pick one. Halve the lemon and squeeze an equal amount over each pile of scallops. Drizzle olive oil over scallops. Now here is the time to brag. My sister, Dolores, and her family gave us the ultimate Christmas gift this year – olive oil from our own olive tree in Tuscany for a year – and this is the occasion to break it out. Thank you, Dolores! A couple of grinds of salt and pepper over the scallops (I use my incomparable saffron fennel salt and lavender fennel pepper but ordinary is more than fine). Here is the odd ingredient – halve a head of Romaine lettuce (or a mix of Romaine and Treviso) and slice horizontally. Pile the sliced Romaine and Treviso next to the scallops. The crispness of the lettuce makes this. If you have chervil growing on your window sill, pick a few leaves and scatter on the scallops. Eat, dragging the scallops, lemon juice and olive oil into the lettuce. Mmmmmmm. Seriously.

Okay, watched the original The Producers devouring scallops and ginger martinis – there is nothing like it (the Producers, that is, although the ginger martinis were pretty awesome –"No way out. No way out.") Time to prepare future courses. 

How could I have resisted the Maine shrimp? I know, they are tiny. A pain to shell. But the sweet meat, raw, lightly cooked, always wonderful. So today a little ceviche. Shell the shrimp. Don’t be a crybaby, every tenth shrimp you can pop in your mouth with a little salt and lemon squirt or lime zest and olive oil. Now the "ceviche" mix here is going to be used for two courses here: did I mention the oysters? Take the zest off one grapefruit – you are not going to need it all but stick some in vodka for a future beverage course.

Section the meat and juice of an awesome grapefruit into a bowl. Don’t worry about the amount unless it is a desiccated old grapefruit in which case don’t use it. Squeeze all the juice out into the bowl. Sliver the leaves from two sprigs of mint, about 20 leaves (you know you can grow mint inside during the winter? Just take the roots from some new growth in late fall and bring inside in a pot. Use often to keep leaves from mildew). Add 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns; a few grinds of salt (or need I say again the saffron fennel salt); ½ diced fennel bulb; 1 diced small shallot; ¼ good sized jalapeno, minced; ¼ orange pepper, minced; ¼ red pepper, minced; 3 tablespoons lovely green olive oil (thank you again, D). Halve the mixture and put half aside for the oysters. Mix remaining mixture with ½ pound of shelled shrimp, plus add a handful of minced cilantro. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, spoon the remaining mixture judiciously over two dozen shucked oysters, top with wasabi fish roe (again from Cor-J), squirt with additional Meyer Lemon juice. Slurp! Wow, the Vinho Verde is excellent with this. Just so you know, I am an oyster purist but sometimes you just have to play with it.

Okay, I am seriously going into decadentville here: Jonah crab claws with honey mustard scallion sauce. Cook crab claws for 15 minutes in salted water. Jonah crabs are similar to Florida Stone crabs but way cheaper if they are available. Luck was with me today! Cool the claws in the little bit of snow left. Immediately. When cool, crack with a hammer – no way around this step. Mix mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and honey in proportions that please you and sprinkle scallions throughout. Pick out meat and eat!

Watch another movie – I chose Summertime with Katherine Hepburn. No doubt about it - I would have stayed in Venice and ruined everything. Nevahtheless. Now it is time to pull those Maine Shrimp out of the fridge and serve as is, over slivered endive. If you have any leftover wasabi fish roe, now is the time to finish it  - and put a spoonful of the honey mustard mayo sauce on the side and drag it on into the juices.

By now one should be slumped on the couch. However, once Summertime is over, it’s Razor Clam Time. Never had them before. I have always seen the shells on the beach but never intact. So imagine my surprise when they were on sale at Cor-J the same week that Florence Fabricant at the New York Times wrote about them. I picked the Sweet and Spicy Razor Clam recipe from Mary’s Fish Camp. In truth, I was not crazy about the texture of the razor clam meat - may take some getting used to - but I could envision the sauce thinned with a little coconut milk and seafood stock having a future over a pound of mussels.

What a wonderful night – total bill at Cor-J for tonight’s extravaganza - $70. In the interests of full disclosure I also bought a piece of halibut to poach in carrot juice but that must await a weeknight. And there are still leftover bay scallops and shrimp for manana - thinking a prelude to Osso Buco with Lemons and Olives. Add the cost of my ginger martini and a bottle of Vinho Verde and its still not even $100 for a dinner I could never duplicate – even at my favorite restaurants. At least for that amount of money. Happy President’s Day!

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