Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Feast of the Seven Fishes

This year, J. and I stayed in the New Jersey for Christmas.  Since J. is part Sicilian, it was his idea to prepare a Feast of the Seven Fishes.  I had my reservations about it, since seven seems like a lot of fishes.  But it turned out to be a lot of fun.  I got to cook some fishes that I had never made before, like lobster, and clams, and calamari. This may become our own little tradition.

Here's a rundown of last night's menu:

1) Steamed Lobster Tails

This was by far was the best item on the the menu, and the easiest to cook! I have my trepidations about cooking  live lobster.  Something about dropping a live moving creature into a boiling bath of water freaks me out. And what if it tries to fight back?  One day, I will get over this fear, but until then, I am sticking to lobster tails.  Which were delicious steamed and dipped in lemon butter.

2) Shrimp and Scallop Scampi
To make my life easier, I combined two of the fishes and used this recipe.  Tried and true, scampi is always a crowd pleaser. I used fresh scallops purchased the same day from Whole Foods and frozen shrimp that we had in the freezer from Trader Joes.  Next time, I will make it with fresh shrimp as well.

3) Baked Stuffed Clams from Simply Recipes
This was the first time I had ever cooked clams (which are also live, so I realize that should negate my fear of cooking live lobsters... but clams do not move and do not have claws).  I used local cherrystone clams from Whole Foods, which worked quite well.  And it was kinda neat to see the clams open up.  Though, one note about the recipe, it calls for traditional breadcrumbs, and I used panko crumbs because I had run out of traditional.  The panko bread crumbs made the stuffing a bit crumbly, so I would stick to the traditional.

4) Salmon Cakes
I got to use my own recipe here!  This time, I made them into mini salmon cakes, so they would be more cocktail appetizer size.

5) Crispy Baked Calamari by Robyn Miller
This was also a new item for me, since I have never cooked calamari before.  I bought the cleaned calamari from Whole Foods, which I had to cut into rings.  A few notes about the recipe - I chose it because it was healthier than traditional fried calamari. I liked the idea of using ground up tortilla chips in the breading.  I used Xochitl brand, which is my favorite brand, because it is low in sodium.  But in this recipe, it didn't work so well because it made the breading bland, since I omitted the ranch dressing seasoning.  (Robyn Miller says you can omit the ranch dressing seasoning, I suggest if you are going to do that, either use a saltier tortilla chip, or add some additional salt to the crumb mixture). The recipe also calls for buttermilk, which I couldn't find in the store, but substituting a cup of milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar works fine. And we used regular jarred marinara sauce.

6) Seared Ahi Tuna from Simply Recipes
I chose this recipe since I wanted at least one item to have an Asian flair to it, as a nod to my own heritage. I made this before and really enjoyed it when I made it as the main course for a meal.  But since I used frozen ahi tuna steaks, this time, it seemed a bit lackluster compared to the crisp and bright flavors of fresh seafood.  Next time, I will use fresh fish.

A few notes on methodology and timing:

This took a bit of planning ahead. I started by making the marinade for the tuna and letting it marinate in the fridge. Then I made the stuffed clams, and once those were in the oven, I made the salmon cakes.  Once the clams and the salmon cakes were done, I set them aside, loosely covered with foil to keep warm.  I then made the calamari.  (J. helped with dredging them in buttermilk and breading, and putting them in the oven).  While he was doing that, I started boiling water for the pasta and prepping the shrimp and scallop scampi.  Once that was done. I lowered the oven to 200 degrees to reheat the clams and salmon cakes for a few minutes while I seared the tuna and steamed the lobster tails.  The whole process took about three hours, and only involved two trips for J. to run out and buy more lemons and milk.

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