An easy mussel dish that can be served on pasta. And it isn’t bad with just some good bread. This recipe comes from an interesting region of France – Brittany.
Rinse the mussels. Pull off beards and discard any with opened or broken shells.
In a pot big enough to hold the mussels, sauté the chopped onion and chopped garlic in oil until it softens. Add the parsley and butter. Stir until butter melts. Add salt, black pepper and wine. Put the mussels in the pot and stir to coat them with the liquid.
Steam them until they open, (throw away any that don’t open) stir and serve.
Pesce Spada Alla Siciliana (Sicilian-Style Swordfish)
This recipe is perfect for swordfish but works for any other thick fish steak.
In a pan large enough to hold the steak, heat oil and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is lightly browned. Remove from heat – Add olives, water, capers, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir.
Season swordfish with salt and pepper and place it on top of onion olive mixture. Return the pan to medium-high heat, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes. Turn swordfish, cover and continue to cook until fish is cooked through, 3-5 minutes more.
Christmas Eve dinner is sometimes known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. If you’re aiming for seven this will get you almost half way there. It doesn’t have to actually be fish. It could be anything that lives in the sea. Every year, either my daughter Kristina or my sister Nicki’s son Stephen make it. It’s served with the antipasto along with lots of other things. When I was growing up I never heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. My mother and aunt just cooked and didn’t count. I’m sure their total was always more than seven.
This is the family recipe as recorded by Nicki –
Calamari – Cut the cleaned calamari (not lengthwise) into 1/2” circles. If you did not buy cleaned calamari you must clean the calamari under cold running water. Pull the head out of the body, making sure to get the clear “bone” out. Squeeze the body from the tail to the opening to get out any residue. Then peel the thin skin off the body. Snip off the eyes and make sure you get the small beak out. (Go for the extra buck and buy cleaned calamari). Boil the calamari in rapidly boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. They should be tender not rubbery. Drain and set aside.
Scungilli – Fresh scungilli can be purchased at an Italian fish market. If you choose to use the fresh you should buy more than a pound because there is a lot of waste when you clean it. Rinse the fresh scungilli thoroughly under cold running water. Boil the whole scungilli in rapidly boiling salted water for about 7 – 10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Slice each piece thinly, discarding the “tail” section and any hard pieces along the edges. There is really quite a bit of waste cleaning scungilli. Canned scungilli saves time, makes your life easier and is very good. I have found that La Monica is the best-canned brand and I have been using the canned for the past few years.
Octopus – Rinse under cold running water before submerging the whole octopus into salted boiling water. Boil for 30 minutes or more until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut off the octopus’ head and cut to separate each tentacle. With a kitchen scissor nip the dark purple skin and run your fingers along the “suckers” to release any loose particles. Cut each tentacle into small rounds.
Put the calamari, scungilli and octopus in a large bowl with the celery and garlic. Add the parsley, oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. This salad can be made the day before and refrigerated.
This is a take on a Croatian recipe – na buzaru means stew. It’s typically made with langoustines in their shells. I found them difficult to eat so I used shelled shrimp instead.
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in pan over medium heat and toast the bread crumbs. Remove the bread crumbs and in the same pan heat the remaining oil over medium heat and sauté the onion. When the onion is translucent add the tomato paste, and mix until the onion is coated.
Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes but don’t brown the garlic. Add the wine and tomatoes. Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the shrimp and simmer, covered until done – about 5 minutes. Stir in the toasted bread crumbs, the parsley, and give it a good squeeze of lemon. Serve with pasta, rice or bread.
I have some problems with Shrimp Scampi. First, there’s the name. Is scampi a method of preparation or the name of what you’re eating? Is a scampi a shrimp or is it a langoustine, crayfish, a prawn or maybe even a Norwegian lobster? If it is a shrimp then when you say the name of the dish, Shrimp Scampi, you’re really saying “Shrimp Shrimp.”
I’ll let that go and deal with my real problem with this dish. It’s too garlicky and oily and not shrimpy and saucy enough. I’ve adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and with less oil, the addition of stock, poaching instead of frying and sliced instead of chopped garlic, it’s a lot better.
Start by heating 2 tbsps. olive oil in a pan. Add the shells and stir until they begin to color – about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for another 5 minutes. Strain out the shells and save the stock.
Wipe out the pan and add the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic, black and red pepper. Simmer the garlic slowly and on a low flame for a few minutes, then add the reserved stock. Add the shrimp, cover and simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat.
While it’s simmering, mix the lemon juice with the corn starch. Remove the shrimp from the pan. Add the lemon-corn starch mix and 4 tbsps. butter. Whisk until it’s smooth. If it’s too thick add a little water and continue to whisk.
Check for seasoning. Return the shrimp to the pan, add the parsley, stir and simmer for 5 minutes and serve.
Michele was the chef at the Fisherman’s Wharf, our family restaurant when we were kids (the drawing above was done by my sister Nicki). Shrimp & Rice was one of his specialties. I don’t have his recipe so I had to make a few guesstimates. What I came up with was pretty close.
Sauté onion and celery in oil with 1 anchovy (or a squeeze of anchovy paste) and Cajun spice When veggies are soft (not brown), add 3 cups of stockand ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce and stir. Check for seasoning. Sometimes stock can be salty and there are other salty ingredients so you may not need any additional salt. Bring it to a boil, add the rice and cook covered on low for 15 minutes.
Add the shrimp and the 4th and last cup of stockand complete cooking – 10 minutes on low heat covered.
If necessary, add some hot water to maintain a soupy consistency.
Fish stock involves fish heads, bones and shells. Make it if you like, but I prefer “Better Than Bouillon Fish Base.” One teaspoon mixed with one cup of hot water is all you need to do.
This is a very basic form of bouillabaisse. Just a few ingredients and there isn’t any shell fish or anis or fennel and the stock is made as it’s cooking. You can start with this recipe and add on to it but it’s really very good as simple as it.
-just a few simple ingredients-
Simmer the onions, garlic and tomatoes in oil with salt and black pepper on high heat, until they soften and release their liquid. There’s no need to peel or cut them too finely since they’ll be strained out before serving. Add the saffron and stir.
Lay the cleaned whole fish (any kind of white fleshed fish will do) on top of the vegetable mixture and cover them with boiling water. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 -15 minutes.
Remove the fish and place it in a platter and filet it. Return the bones to the broth and bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes then strain the liquid.
Place crusty bread in bowls and lay pieces of the fish on top of it, then some of the liquid and a sprinkle of chopped parsley if you like.
Coat the bottom of a baking pan with oil. Layer the onions then the baccala, celery, potatoes, olives and capers. Cover with the crushed tomatoes. Sprinkle the oregano over the top. Jiggle the pan so the tomatoes get to the bottom. Sprinkle with olive oil and add ½ cup of water. Cook in a 3500 over for 45 minutes, mixing every 15 minutes.
* Buy boneless baccala. Try to get frozen packaged rather than dried. It’s easier to desalt. Place the baccala in a bowl or pot and cover with cold water for 24 hours. Change the water 3 or 4 times.
Oyster Bread – a New Orleans recipe adapted by Nicki.
Mix the spices in a small bowl. Put the oysters with the liquid in a bowl. Stir half the spices into the oysters. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Drain the oysters. Put the flour and the rest of the spices in a bowl and mix well. Dredge the oysters in the flour mixture. Fry them in hot oil (the oil should be at least 2 inches high in the pan) until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Mayonnaise spread: Mix the mayonnaise, onions and Tabasco well.
Cut the Italian bread in half (DO NOT CUT THE BREAD AS YOU WOULD FOR A SANDWICH) and scoop out the inside doughy part down to the heel. Spread the mayonnaise mixture into the bread. Stuff the bread with the oysters. Slice the bread into one-inch pieces and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Oyster bread is an excellent appetizer.