Island Cooking

Gifts from the Sea

• by Leah Mojer •

For the last few weeks, all I can think about is fishing. I have been blessed with some very patient fishing friends who have taken me under their wing and very patiently shown me the ropes, (ahem lines and lures) and even their most precious fish spots. I have gone 9 times this season with nothing to show for it but a couple missing lures and a bruised ego. That will change I’m just sure of it!

Luckily, we live in a place where the fruits of the sea are bountiful whether you catch, dig, rake them up, or buy them from one of our many awesome fish markets. Nothing is closer to seeing god than slurping a quivering pearlescent oyster, still pulsing with life. The clean mineral flavors complimented with fresh brine just has no contender. Here’s a few fun and unique ways to prepare some of Neptune’s finest.

Oysters with Bourbon Brown Sugar Chili Butter

I know I said freshly quivering is best, but Southerners have long been on to something with roasted oysters. This version is crazy good.

  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/4 canned chipotle chile in adobo, finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 dozen oysters (such as Blue Point, Well Fleet, or Malpeque),freshly shucked, on the half shell, with liquor
  1. Mix garlic, chile, butter, bourbon, and brown sugar in a small bowl until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat broiler. Spread a layer of kosher salt on a rimmed baking sheet (about 2 cups) and arrange oysters on top (the salt will prevent them from tipping over). Place about 1/2 tsp. butter mixture on each oyster.
  3. Broil oysters until butter is melted and sugar is beginning to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Note: Butter can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Thai Style Steamers with Lime and Cilantro

  •  1 C unsalted clam juice
  • 1 C loosely packed Thai or regular fresh basil leaves
  • 1 2-inch piece lemongrass, coarsely chopped
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T Asian fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 pounds steamers (littlenecks or cherrystones can be used instead), scrubbed
  • 3 limes, cut in wedges, for garnish
  1. Combine 2 cups water, clam juice, basil, lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, and salt in a stockpot; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until well flavored, about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine cilantro and butter in food processor; mix until cilantro is in tiny flecks. Set aside in a small saucepan.
  3. Pass liquid in stockpot through cheesecloth-lined strainer. Return to stockpot over medium-high heat. Add clams (use a bamboo steamer if desired); cover pan. Cook until clams open, 10 to 12 minutes; discard unopened ones. Melt the cilantro butter. Transfer the clams to a serving bowl, and strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
  4. Serve clams with lime wedges, broth for rinsing off sand, and butter.

I love using the grill with shellfish. The high heat ensures quick cooking and minimizes flavor and moisture loss. This couldn’t be easier or more fun to prepare plus it is a real show stopper when the steaming packages are opened. Prepare for some serious ooohs and ahhs!

Cherrystones “En Papillote” with Pancetta and Sun Gold Tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/8 inch thick and cut into 1/8-inch pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, julienned
  • 6 cloves garlic, shaved
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 C dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 pounds Cherrystones, scrubbed
  • 12 ripe Sungold or cherry tomatoes, halved
  1. Preheat grill to medium hot
  2. Heat oil and pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until pancetta begins to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add bell peppers, garlic, and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Stir in parsley and remove from heat; let cool completely.
  3. Place six 12-inch squares of heavy-duty foil on a large work surface. Fold up the edges of each foil square to form a shallow bowl. Divide clams and pancetta mixture, with its liquid, evenly between foil bowls. Top each with 4 tomato halves. Bring the 4 corners of each foil packet up over the clams like a hobo sack; twist ends together and crimp edges to enclose.
  4. Place foil packets on grill. Listen for the juices to begin bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue cooking 4 minutes more. Transfer packets to a large platter and serve immediately, taking care to keep your face away from the steam when opening.

I can’t over state how much I love the flavor of fennel with fish. The pair is such a great match, and the addition of orange is over the top delicious.

Cod Fillets with Potatoes and Fennel

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (reserve fronds for garnish)
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 3 strips orange zest, 1/2-inch-wide
  • Coarse salt
  • 4 boneless cod fillets, (6 ounces each)
  1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until onion is soft, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste; stirring to combine. Add fennel, potatoes, chicken broth or water, and orange zest; season with salt and pepper; stirring to combine. Cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Season fish with salt and pepper. Place on top of vegetables in skillet; reduce heat. Cover; simmer until fish is opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with chopped reserved fennel fronds.

Okay, so this next recipe is not fishy, but the addition of sea salt makes the chocolate and cherry combo really pop. Plus seafood is so low in fat that dessert is well deserved after!

Chocolate-Cherry Blondies with Sea Salt

  • 2-2/3 C all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 C semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 C dried tart cherries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and both sugars on high until pale and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and cherries.
  2. Press mixture into a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan. Sprinkle with Sea Salt. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Yield: Makes 24. Store, covered, at room temperature, up to 5 days.

Articles by Date from 2012