Seafood, although available at most local markets now, is traditionally a regional specialty. Whether you live near the ocean or enjoy a visit now and then, there’s nothing quite like dining pier-side on fresh catch of the day. Thankfully, you don’t have to take a trip to get a taste of the ocean. The following classic recipes capture the essence of seafood by combining fresh ingredients that enhance the unique flavors of fish and shellfish.
NEW ENGLAND–STYLE CLAM CHOWDER
Who can resist a piping-hot bowl of traditional clam chowder? This version is laced with smokey bacon and aromatics and finished with cream. Served with traditional oyster crackers, this chowder is comfort in a bowl.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 large yellow potatoes, cubed
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 cups vegetable broth or clam juice, enough liquid to just cover the potatoes
- 1 cup heavy cream (or more as desired)
- 2 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Dash Tabasco sauce (optional)
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Oyster crackers (optional)
In a large soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped bacon and cook until the bacon is soft and has begun to render some of its fat. You don’t want to brown the bacon. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Next, add the onions and celery to the pot and sauté until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes and then add the garlic, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir in the white wine and when it’s almost completely gone, stir in the vegetable broth or clam juice. Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.
Partly cover the soup pot and let it simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, stir in the heavy cream allowing some of the potatoes to break apart. This will create a lovely thick chowder without the extra heavy cream. Return the bacon to the pot and then stir in the chopped clams. Add additional heavy cream if needed.
Bring the chowder back to a simmer just until it’s heated through. Do not boil.
Season the chowder with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste, and then add a dash of Tabasco sauce if desired. Allow the chowder to sit off the heat for at least 20 minutes or longer. This will allow the flavors to deepen. Reheat over low heat before serving.
Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with oyster crackers.
INSALATA DI FRUTTI DI MARE (ITALIAN SEAFOOD SALAD)
This is one of the most exquisite and delicious seafood salads I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. Although the recipe looks long, it comes together easily and makes a lovely presentation on the dinner table.
Serves 6 to 8
For the octopus marinade:
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
For the poaching liquid:
- 1 bottle dry white wine
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 shallot, sliced
- Handful of fresh herbs (Italian parsley, oregano, thyme)
- Additional water for liquid if needed
For the salad:
- ½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, keeping the tails if you like
- ½ pound bay or diver scallops
- ½ pound firm white fish, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound mussels, cleaned
- ½ to 1 pound baby octopus or small octopus (optional)*
- 1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb, reserve fronds for garnish
- ¼ cup chopped fennel fronds or fresh dill
- ¼ cup sliced green onions
- ½ cup sliced green olives (optional)
- 1 cup mandarin orange slices (canned or fresh)
- Sea salt, fennel fronds, and chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
For the vinaigrette:
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 lemons, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
One day prior to serving, marinate the octopus. Whisk together the marinade ingredients, toss the marinade with the octopus, and then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the poaching liquid by adding the bottle of white wine to a large pot. Heat over medium heat and then add the whole cloves, cloves of garlic, sliced shallot, and a handful of fresh herbs. Once the liquid has come to a very gentle simmer, add the shrimp and scallops. Let them poach for a few minutes or until they are opaque and cooked through. (Add boiling water to the poaching liquid one cup at a time if needed.)
With a slotted spoon or small mesh strainer, remove the shrimp and scallops and transfer to a large nonreactive bowl.
Next add the white fish to the poaching liquid and let it cook for a few minutes. Gently transfer to the bowl with the shrimp and scallops. Repeat the process with the mussels.
The last to be poached is the octopus. Add additional water to the pot if needed. Bring the liquid to a slow simmer and then add the octopus along with the marinade to the pot of poaching liquid. Bring the liquid back to a slow simmer and let the octopus poach for about 45 minutes.
While the octopus is poaching, whisk together the vinaigrette and then gently toss with the cooked seafood and refrigerate.
When the octopus is done, toss it with the seafood in the vinaigrette and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until you are ready to prepare and serve the salad.
To assemble the salad, gently toss the seafood and vinaigrette with the fennel, green onions, olives (if using), and mandarin oranges. Pour the salad onto a platter and garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt, fennel fronds or fresh dill, and chopped Italian parsley.
Tip: You can hold the dressed seafood in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours prior to serving. Then toss with the additional ingredients and serve. The vinaigrette can be doubled if needed.
*Many markets stock baby octopus, but if you can’t find it or don’t want to use it, you can substitute calamari rings or squid. Most fish markets will special order octopus and squid. If you use whole squid or calamari rings, prepare it just as you would prepare the octopus. You can also omit the octopus and squid if you prefer. The salad will still be delicious.
Article by homebydesign.