seafood

Weekend Oyster Bar

"Contentez-vous de peu et vous serez toujours heureux." My parents came to visit this week and so did my girlfriend's family. We all had a great time together, enjoying the scenery, the food and a few drinks. Since the weather has been so chill and the water so cold, we also went oystering and musseling. One afternoon we set out at low tide and returned a little later with no less than eighty oysters and sixty mussels, all of them wild, fresh, and mind-blowingly good. We ate the shellfish on the back deck, now also known as the Weekend Oyster Bar.

We slugged a couple of oysters with lemon and cold Canadian beer. The mussels I cooked with vermouth (as martinis were in demand), and my mother found seven tiny pearls in one of them.  Later on I served the rest of the oysters with shallots, garlic and tomatoes tossed over pasta. You'll find the recipe for that below.

On sunny Father's Day we went around the Cabot Trail, stopping every few kilometers to take in another dramatic view, explore a pebbly beach, or check out the local crafts. I'm so glad to live in an area that is not only beautiful and wild but also home to woodworkers, potters, leathersmiths, metal sculptors and glass blowers--in essence, home to artists and creative individuals. Here are a few of the shops whose wares I will be featuring on the blog.

Leather goods - Leather Works Cutting boards - Woodsmiths Studio Plates and more - Big Hill Pottery

Serves 4

Pasta with Oysters, Shallots, Garlic and Tomatoes

• 40 oysters, shucked + some juice • 2 cups tomatoes, diced with juice • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped • 3 shallots, finely chopped • small handful of flat-leaf parsley, cut in chiffonade • 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated • 1/2 lemon juice • olive oil • salt + ground black pepper

Cook your choice of pasta in boiling water. Set aside. In a large pan, cook the oysters in a bit of olive oil for about 1 minute. Add the shallots, garlic and parlsey. Cook on high heat for another minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer for a couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top the pasta with the sauce, some parmesan, parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Baked Trout with Chervil and Creamy Mustard Sauce

Another herb growing back from last year's garden is chervil. I use Chervil to give a dose of light liquorice flavor to poultry and fish. For this recipe, I paired it with trout and added another one of my favorite ingredients, mustard. I kept it simple. The sauce takes only a few minutes to throw together and the fish takes ten minutes to cook. A short note on overcooking salmon or trout: don't. Fish are much better on the medium-rare side. When overcooked they tend to dry out and lose a lot of flavor. The same rule applies to meats also. Less juice, less taste. I had steelhead trout, but rainbow or speckled will do just fine. For a side, I sautéed mustard greens to give the mustard back its leaves.

This recipe will serve 2-4 depending on how much trout you want to eat.

Ingredients

• 300-600g trout fillet(s) • 1/3 cup heavy cream • 1 shallot, finely chopped • 1 tablespoon butter • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard • 1 tablespoon maple syrup • 1 tablespoon chervil, chopped • juice of half a lemon • salt + ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place your trout on a oiled baking pan and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice on top of the fish. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. While the trout is in the oven, make the sauce. In a small pan melt the butter and sweat the shallot for 2 minutes. Whisk in the mustard and maple syrup. Then add the cream and the chervil, simmer for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve and garnish with chopped chervil.

Amber Ale and Herbs Mussels

 Mussels are probably my all-time favorite seafood. I like to eat them on their own, a bowlful, still steaming, with lots of broth. Cooking mussels is quick, easy, and best done outside in the sunshine, with a cold beer; in our case - Clancy's.

Ingredients

• 2 lbs mussels • 1/2 cup amber ale • 1/2 cup approx. mixed chopped herbs; parlsey, terragon, dill, chives • 1 shallot, finely chopped • salt

Wash and clean the mussels. Pour the beer in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the shallots, half of the herbs, and the mussels. Cover with lid, turn the heat down to medium, and shake the pot. Cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Discard unopened mussels. Season with salt and serve with ale broth. Top with remaining herbs.

Part 5 - Poor Man's Lobster Bisque

This started out as a four-part post, but lobsters just keep giving. So here's another classic - Lobster Bisque. Bisque is the best way to savour every last scrap of your fruits de mer. A lobster's casing is full of flavour. You know what they say - waste not, want not. Next time you prepare crustaceans, remember to put a bisque on the menu too.

The only reason I'm calling this a poor man's version is because I don't put any of the meat back into the broth. It's all carcass and shells, veggies, a dash of cheap white wine, and home-smoked bacon. Part 1 - Cooking the Lobster Part 2 - Lobster Eggs Benedict Part 3 - Flatbread Lobster Roll Part 4 - Lobster Stuffed Shells

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

• shells and bodies of 4 lobsters, roughly chopped in pieces • 8 thick slices smoked bacon (optional) • 1 cup white wine • 2 medium onions, chopped • 2 medium carrots, chopped • 2 branches celery, chopped • 1 tablespoon tomato paste • 2 garlic cloves • 2 bay leaves • 2 sprigs of thyme • 1/2 cup butter • 1/2 cup flour

Directions

In a large pot, cook the bacon for 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Put the lobster shells in and just cover with water (or, for more flavour, cover with the liquid you used to cook the lobsters). Add bay leaves, thyme and tomato paste.

Simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain and discard the solids.

In the same pot, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Then add the liquid back to the pot a bit at a time. This will thicken the bisque. Season with salt and pepper.

Illustration by Kevin Sprouls.

Part 4 - Dinner: Lobster Stuffed Shells

This is one cheesy recipe, so try to use quality stuff; aged cheddar and a block of parmesan, not the pre-grated kinds. We usually make stuffed shells with spinach instead of lobster. It's one of those versatile dishes; you can always use the same recipe and just swap the lobster for something else: crab meat, beef, mushrooms, you name it. Serve the shells with a simple tomato sauce. Part 1 - Cooking the Lobster Part 2 - Breakfast: Lobster Eggs Benedict Part 3 - Lunch: Lobster Roll Part 5 - Lobster Bisque

Serves 4

Simple White Wine Tomato Sauce

• 500 ml canned crushed tomatoes • 1/2 cup white wine • 2 cloves garlic • 1 tablespoon tomato paste • 1 tablespoon olive oil • 1 tablespoon cream

On medium heat, sweat the garlic in olive oil. Add the white wine and let reduce for 1 minute. Add all the rest of the ingredients, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Lobster Stuffed Shells

• 24 giant pasta shells • 2 cups lobster meat (4 tails), finely chopped • 1 cup cottage cheese • 1 cup cheddar • 1/2 cup white wine • 1/2 cup cream • 1/2 cup parmesan • salt+ black pepper • chives (optional)

Cook the pasta in boiling water for about 15 minutes, or what the package indicates. They must still be al dente. Set aside.

In a pan reheat the lobster with a dash of olive oil. Add the wine and let it bubble away. Add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl mix the cottage cheese, cheddar and parmesan. Add the lobster mixture.

In a large deep oven pan pour half of the tomato sauce in the bottom. Stuff each shell with about a tablespoon of the filling and put them in the pan. Pour the rest of the sauce over the shells and top with a bit of parmesan and/or cheddar.

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes at 375F and finish with broil for a couple of minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and eat. Garnish with chopped chives.

Part 3 - Lunch: Flatbread Lobster Roll

I wanted to make a lobster roll that you could actually roll. I have nothing against the classic hot-dog bread buns, but I figured flatbreads are so easy to make, why not give those a whirl? My preferred way to eat lobster is straight up with a squeeze of lemon and soaked in garlic butter. Simple but effective. It's the same here, but rolled in a flatbread. Also check out: Part 1 - Cooking the Lobster Part 2 - Lobster Eggs Benedict Part 4 - Lobster Stuffed Shells Part 5 - Lobster Bisque

The flatbreads need a couple of hours to rise, so plan in advance. Don't worry about making too much, the dough keeps well in the fridge for up to a week and it's a triple purpose recipe; flatbreads, pizza dough, and small buns.

Yields 12 flatbreads

Flatbreads

• 3 cups white flour • 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water • 2 teaspoons yeast • 2 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl, mix the yeast and the water. Then, add the salt and flour and work with your hands until smooth. Add a bit of water if needed. Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in volume. If time is on your side, you can even let it rise overnight. At this point you can store it, covered, in the fridge.

Take a chunk of dough just a bit bigger than a golf ball, roll it on a floured surface to about 1/8". Roll as much as you need. Flour in between the rolled flatbreads to make sure they don't stick to each other. Heat up a pan. Drizzle a bit of oil and put the flatbread on. It should cook less than a minute on each side. Set it aside on a plate covered with tin foil so it stays hot. Repeat.

Garlic Butter

• 1/4 cup butter • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

In a small saucepan, on low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic, simmer for a minute, and remove from heat. If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt.

Roll it up

Put lobster meat on a flatbread (I used claws), drizzle with garlic butter, squeeze a lemon wedge, roll up and enjoy!

Part 2 - Breakfast: Lobster Eggs Benedict

You've probably had eggs benedict with ham, smoked salmon, or spinach. Now try it with lobster. Let's add a side of asparagus, which also goes well with hollandaise sauce.Breakfast time! For your lobster cooking need go to: Part 1 - Cooking the Lobster Part 3 - Flatbread Lobster Roll Part 4 - Lobster Stuffed Shells Part 5 - Lobster Bisque

Hollandaise Sauce

• 4 egg yolks • 1 cup unsalted butter • 1 tablespoon lemon juice • 1 tablespoon white wine • pinch of salt • pinch of cayenne

Melt the butter in a small pan and spoon off the white froth that appears on top.

In a medium saucepan, put the egg yolks, lemon juice, white wine, and salt. On very low heat, whisk until the yolks are creamy, for about two minutes, removing the pan from the heat if it gets too hot. You must be careful not to overcook because you'll wind up with scramble eggs. Remove from heat and add the butter in drizzles. Never stop whisking. It's like making a mayonnaise. Alternatively, you can put the yolk mixture in a blender and pour in some of the butter, then blend, pour a little more, blend again - you get it. Keep a little glass of very cold water, and add a teaspoon or so if you see that the mixture is breaking. Once it's thick and all the butter has been absorbed, taste and season to your liking with more lemon juice, cayenne, and/or salt.

Keep in a warm place near the stove.

Poached Eggs

Bring a pot of water with 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar to a boil. Break each egg into a small bowl or cup. Before poaching the eggs, bring down the water to a simmer Carefully drop in the water no more than four eggs at a time. Cook 3 minutes and take the eggs out with a slotted spoon. Put them on a plate and dry them with paper towel. Repeat if you need more than four eggs.

Lobster

In a medium pan, warm up some olive oil with chopped, cooked lobster meat. I used a mix of claw and tail meat.

Assembly

Toast english muffins. On each slice, put some lobster then one poached egg and pour hollandaise sauce over it.

Asparagus

Bring a pot of water to boil. Throw in a good pinch of salt. Blanch the asparagus for two minutes. Put them directly into very cold water. Heat them a little in the oven or in a pan.

Serve and eat.

Part 1 - Cooking the Lobster

I'm making a five-part miniseries for HBO on lobsters - okay, not really, but that would be fun. We came up to New Brunswick for the week, and I've been spending quality cooking time with my dad. Outside on the deck, fixing up lobsters in the almost-spring sunshine. Making a small piece of the mountain smell like a summer bay and drinking beer. This kind of living is hard to beat. The first part of this mini-series (bear with me) is about how to cook your lobsters. It's quite simple; all you need is salty water and lobsters. But to make them even more flavorful you can use a court-bouillon (water with aromatics and spices). A court-bouillon is like a stock but quicker to make. In mine I used onions, celery, carrots, lemon, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper. But if all you've got on hand are onions and bay leaves, it's all good. We want only to boost the lobster's natural flavor a bit.

Use your judgement here about how much you'll really need. Don't go making 20 gallons of court-bouillon if you only need to cook one lobster. You need enough liquid to cover the lobsters.

Court-Bouillon

  • 1-2 onions
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorn
  • a couple tablespoons salt (must taste like sea water)

Put everything in a pot and fill it with water. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Cooking the Lobster

Get your court-bouillon boiling and drop the lobsters in, headfirst. Let the water boil again and then bring it down to medium heat. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes per pound the lobster weight. Our lobsters were 2 1/2 pounds, so we cooked them 12 1/2 minutes.

Remove from water with tongs. Crack open. Dip in butter. Pow.