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Fresh From the Gulf

4 summer seafood dishes

Crab Salad

eugenia uhl photograph

If you like seafood as much as I do, you never tire of it. Graced as we are with an abundant supply fresh from the Gulf, we’re in an enviable position compared to landlocked areas where supplies are limited, at best. I can’t help remembering that when I went to graduate school in a small Midwestern town, the only seafood available was frozen ocean perch from the supermarket. Talk about culture shock.

These days we have a lot of competition from other parts of the country where consumers also love our seafood and are willing to pay for it. Talk to anyone in the business and they will tell you that prices are driven-up by demand from the East Coast. The price for crabmeat has been sky-high this year, in part because of Maryland’s appetite for crabs, which used to be satisfied by the Chesapeake Bay, but overfishing and pollution have greatly reduced the catch.

Anecdotally, I know this from personal experience. While visiting Baltimore some years ago, we feasted on gorgeous freshwater crabs as big as a frisbee, the kind you rarely can find here in Louisiana. I complimented the restaurant owner on the crabs and asked where they came from. “Lake Pontchartrain,” was his reply. Oh well. There’s nothing like traveling a thousand miles to eat seafood from your own backyard.

With seafood as fresh as we can get it here, I favor very simple preparations – sautéing, broiling, grilling, frying, baking – with, at most, a simple seasoning or sauce. Elaborate preparations are best left to restaurant chefs. I prefer whole fish to fillets, but unless you catch them yourself, whole fish are hard to come by in many places. I recently tried to find whole flounder, to no avail. As a result, the fish recipes this month are all for fillets.

Red snapper and redfish are probably our two best-known varieties, but there are many more Gulf fishes that are delicious. Black drum is one that often got overlooked or thrown back in the past when supplies of snapper and redfish were more abundant, but it is an excellent fish that now frequently shows-up on restaurant menus. Other varieties of snapper, speckled trout, grouper, mackerel, swordfish, and tuna are some of the other species that flourish in the Gulf. And, of course, shrimp, crabs, and oysters are among our most treasured types of seafood. Talk about an abundance of riches. 


Recipes

Crab Salad

The mayonnaise you make in the first step may seem strong and too thick, but when combined with the crabmeat the flavor and consistency are just right.

2 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon snipped chives
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
Lettuce leaves
Paprika for garnish

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks, salt, and lemon juice with a wire whisk until pale yellow and creamy. Continue beating with whisk, while slowly adding oils, a drop at a time in the beginning. As the mixture emulsifies, increase slightly the amount of oil you are adding, while continuing to whisk, until all the oils have been added. Add lemon zest, chives, parsley and cayenne, and whisk to incorporate.

Add crabmeat and toss gently so as not to break-up lumps. Cover and refrigerate until cold. To serve, line plates with lettuce leaves, spoon over crab salad, and sprinkle with paprika.

Makes 4 servings.


Gulf Fish With Crabmeat

There’s not much that can top this preparation. Jumbo lump crabmeat is preferred, but price may dictate white crabmeat.

3 tablespoons butter
4 Gulf fish fillets, such as redfish
    or black drum
¼ cup dry white wine
Cajun/Creole seasoning
1 pound lump or white crabmeat
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed
    lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Lemon wedges

Preheat broiler. Butter a rimmed, heavy-duty baking sheet. Place fillets on baking sheet and pour over white wine. Season fillets with Cajun/Creole seasoning and divide butter among them. Broil until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Carefully tip baking sheet into a large, non-reactive skillet to drain liquid. Place skillet over high heat, and keep fish warm while preparing crabmeat and sauce. Boil liquid in skillet until it becomes syrupy. Add crabmeat and lemon juice and cook only until crabmeat is heated through. Divide fish fillets among warm serving plates; spoon over crabmeat and sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.


Pecan Crusted Trout

The rich nuttiness of butter and pecans offers a pleasing contrast to the trout.

4 speckled trout fillets
Coarse salt to taste
 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons melted butter
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a rimmed, heavy-duty baking sheet with some of the butter. Place fillets on baking sheet, season with salt, and divide chopped pecans among them, pressing pecans into the fillets. Drizzle melted butter over the fish and bake until they flake easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.


Gulf Fish With Parsley Sauce

Parsley is so often used only as a garnish that we take it for granted. It deserves more respect as a principal ingredient. The shallots called for in this recipe are the little brown bulbs, not the green onions that are frequently called shallots in Louisiana.

2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon minced shallots
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed
    lemon juice
teaspoon coarse salt
teaspoon freshly ground
    black pepper
1 tablespoon capers, drained
    and rinsed
4 Gulf fish fillets, such as redfish
    or black drum
Cajun/Creole seasoning
Olive oil to grease pan
    and coat fish
Lemon wedges

Preheat broiler. In a blender, combine parsley, shallots, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Process until thoroughly blended, then transfer to a bowl. Add capers.

Grease a rimmed, heavy-duty baking sheet and brush fillets with olive oil. Season fillets lightly with Cajun/Creole seasoning. Broil until fish flakes easily with a fork. Transfer fillets to warm plates and spoon sauce over them. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

 

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