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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tales From Our Fishy Weekend

The best kinds of weekends are fishy ones.

With Granma and the junior brigade out on the town for the weekend, it was seafood, seafood and more seafood....ah, the beauty of fresh tuna, the crunch of crab rangoon, the snap of a lobster tail cracking open....it's what my dreams are made of.  The kids will eat seafood until the seacows come home, and that makes me happy. Granma, on the other fin, does not like fish, shellfish, or anything from the sea in any shape, fashion or form.

This means one thing.  We do not get to eat seafood very often. This does not make me happy. So we either eat seafood when she's not home for dinner, or she has a slab of prime rib in the fridge (nobody likes prime rib but her). Sigh. Needless to say, we do not get to eat lovely seafood as often as we'd like. She swears we can eat it whenever we like, but I feel somewhat guilty making her eat a hamburger or a salad when we have the food of the gods before us.

Now, this is no one's fault! Another big reason we don't eat it often is that some seafood is very pricey, and we simply can't afford to eat it very often. Just so happens the more pricey it is, the more we happen to like it. I could eat king crab 24/7. Swordfish or tuna comes a close second. We like the cheaper stuff too - clams, mussels, tilapia, etc., but we'd rather splurge and eat the stuff we really love when we can.

Papa Bear and I love tuna. We prefer it rare or barely seared, but will eat it any way we can get it.  If it's not rare, I simply wasn't paying enough attention! Our best loved way to eat it is tataki. This is one of our favorite dishes when we eat out (if it's available). Last Friday night, we decided to have Tuna Tataki with a shredded Daikon and Radish Salad. In keeping with the "theme", I decided to try making Crab Rangoon to serve alongside.

The very best Crab Rangoon we have ever, ever had was at a tiny Thai restaurant (could not recall the name if I tried) in Tampa right next door to the Tampa Theater.  We had gotten tickets for our friend Steven's birthday to see Eddie Izzard in concert there, so we decided to eat there before the show.  Papa Bear ordered the Crab Rangoon and it was truly amazing. It was fried to perfection, and the sweetness of the crab was accompanied not only by the creaminess of the cream cheese, but there was a slight yet strong hint of curry in those little pouches that was a very pleasant surprise.  We have not had rangoon that good since that night...

...until I decided to make Curry Crab Rangoon for the first time ever! <Cue Superhero Theme Music>

It was even more amazing! I honestly don't know what possessed me to attempt to make it...it just sounded good! I was so excited at how well it turned out, I just had to share.  I served it with hot mustard, but they were fantabulous just plain.

Saturday night was Steamer Pot night. Nothing beats a great steamer...and the ones at Joe's Crab Shack are pretty darned tasty!  They just aren't big enough...for me. I prefer my items steamed in a good, hearty ale, but I am not opposed to the beauty of a good steam in very dry white wine either.  I like a lot of variety in my pot, as I am not discriminatory at all in my contents (with the exception of sausage... I will never understand the inclusion of sausage in a steamer pot. Every time I see one, I feel like I am four years old watching Picture Pages with Bill Cosby asking me, "Which item does not belong in this picture, boys and girls?". I want to raise my hand and shout "I know! I know! It's the sausage!!"). It quite possibly could be because I am not a New Englander.

Our late night snack Saturday night was more rangoon that I smartly set aside for our anticipated seafood withdrawl I knew we would be going through knowing everyone would be home the next day...


For your enjoyment....please consume responsibly (and call me when dinner's ready!)

Tuna Tataki with Daikon & Radish Salad
 serves 2

2 tuna steaks, about 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick
Olive oil
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper
1 large daikon radish, peeled and shredded
12-15 red radishes, trimmed and shredded
2 tbsp mirin
Ponzu sauce (preferred) or soy sauce (both optional)
Wasabi paste (optional)
Pickled Ginger slices (optional)
Wasabi Peas (optional)

Spray a non-stick frying pan with cooking spray (like Pam). Turn heat up to medium high. Meanwhile, brush tuna steaks with a light smattering of olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and sesame seeds.

Sear tuna on both sides - For presentation, I sear on short sides as well. You may have to hold the steaks with tongs to so, depending on how thick the steaks are.

For rare, sear about 1 minute on each side.
For medium, sear about 2-3 minutes per side.
To cook all the way through (but why, oh why?) cook 4-6 minutes per side and don't blame me.

Remove tuna from pan and let rest 5 minutes. Slice tuna very thin. You may get lucky and the tuna pieces will fall apart (flake) where they are naturally supposed to.  If not, that's why we invented the chef's knife! I like my tataki at room temperature, but some prefer it cold.

While tuna is napping, combine the shredded daikon and radish in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Add the mirin. Sometimes, depending on the strength of the daikon/radish intensity, I may cut it with a teaspoon of sugar - this is completely optional. I also like to serve this at room temperature.

To serve: Mound 1/4 to 3/4 cup of the radish salad on a plate. Fan or place slices of tuna across salad. Drizzle ponzu or soy sauce (lightly!) over tuna. Add wasabi, ginger, and/or wasabi peas to plate (optional) in any form you desire. If I had my way, the wasabi would be smeared over every inch...

Curry Crab Rangoon
 makes 40-50
For Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz crab meat (I like claw meat for this)
1 cap full worcestershire sauce
1 cap full soy sauce
1-2 tbsp curry powder (to your taste)
1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
2 finely minced scallions, whites and greens
1/4 of a large red onion, finely minced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 package wonton wrappers
1 egg plus 1 tsp water, beaten
Vegetable oil for frying

Combine the crab and the cream cheese in a large bowl. I use a hand mixer because it is not essential to keep the crab in large pieces. Mix in the remaining filling ingredients one at a time.

On a flat surface, lay out a few wonton wrappers in front of you so that it forms a diamond shape. Keep the remaining wrappers covered with a damp towl so they don't start to dry out while waiting to be used. Wet the edges of the wrappers with egg and water wash using your fingertip.

Add a heaping teaspoon of filling to the middle, and spread it out toward the left and right points of the diamond so that it forms a log or rectangular shape (otherwise the wrapper may break in the middle during deep-frying). Fold over the edges of the wrapper so that it forms a triangle shape. Press to seal the edges, adding more wash if needed.

Cover the completed Crab Rangoon with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out while preparing the rest.

Heat frying pan and add oil for deep-frying. Traditionally, these are deep fried, but we actually prefer to pan fry them. When oil is ready (the temperature should be between 360 - 375 degrees), carefully slide in the rangoon, taking care not to overcrowd. Fry until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, turning once.

Remove with a tongs and drain on paper towels.

You can serve these little beauties with a bottled Chinese hot mustard (like in the restaurants), wasabi mayo, sweet and sour sauce or just scarf 'em down plain. Betcha can't eat just one...

Garlic & Wine Steamer Pots
Makes 2-3 servings

I'm craving this just looking at the photo...

You'll need:
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (I always go heavy on the garlic in this one)
1 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 cups white wine (something you would drink)
12 littleneck clams, cleaned and scrubbed
1 pound mussels, cleaned and scrubbed, beards removed if still attached
1 pound raw shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined, tails on
2 lobster tails, meat removed from shell (save the shell for presentation or to use for making stock another time)
1/2 cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tbsps lemon zest
Lemon wedges
Loaf of crusty bread for dipping into the sauce

In a large, deep & heavy saucepan, cook onion and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes.

Add clams/mussels and steam covered, over moderately high heat 5 to 7 minutes, transferring them as they open with tongs to a serving bowl and reserving cooking liquid (Discard clams/mussels that are unopened after 7 minutes.) Keep warm. Add shrimp and lobster meat and steam in same liquid, turning as needed until shrimp is nice and pink! Lobster should be cooked in about the same amount of time. Transfer to bowl with clams and mussels.

Add parsley, butter, lemon zest and lemon juice to reserved cooking liquid and stir until smooth. You could also process in blender or use immersion blender in the pan, but I prefer it chunky. As soon as the butter is melted, remove pot from heat. Pour sauce over bowls.

Garnish with more fresh parsley if desired and serve with crusty Italian or French bread to sop up that superb sauce at the bottom of the bowl (that I could literally drink with a straw...who needs bread??!!)

Feel free to substitute 2 bottles of your favorite beer for the wine. We have used many a lager, but Rogue Dead Guy and Rogue Chipotle Ale are our favorites to use with this dish thus far. Of course, we will need to do some more tests....I think I may try this with a few bottles of Xingu Black next time. That is, if I can refrain from drinking it!

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