Seafood Feast

I feel like a caterer–not for other people, but for our own piglet selves and our friends. It has taken me about 20 years to figure out how to plan, prepare and prep for a feast. The last thing I want to do on a peaceful Saturday in the country is drive thirty minutes to the nearest town and walk the aisles of HEB, looking for anatto paste. But, inevitably, this is what I have found myself doing. For decades.

I suffer from kitchen schizophrenia: did I replenish our flour supply here or there? I left the wasabi powder in the pantry in Jackson County…how much is left in the can? Is there enough butter in the fridge?

When we plan our weekends at Chicolette, I have finally learned how to get everything ready ahead of time so I don’t have to be slaving away in the kitchen. It’s way more fun to be sipping cocktails with friends than pouting at the stove, stirring and chopping, left out of happy hour’s juicy conversation.

When we have company, Billy starts asking me what we are going to eat that weekend around Tuesday, and I am a last minute person, so I never have any answers for him that early. He is a planner, so this drives him crazy, but he waits patiently until inspiration strikes.  I don’t let the details catch me up. It doesn’t matter if the grapefruit is white. I used up the pink ones I already had. The salad called for “saba” which I didn’t know about or have, so I used balsamic.

Here is what I cooked this weekend. Each of these recipes serve 8.

Appetizer: Tuna Tartare

Salad: Tricolore Salad

Entrée: BBQ Shrimp

Side: Lemony Artichoke au Gratin

Tuna Tartare, adapted from Barefoot Contessa

2 lbs. sushi grade tuna (Central Market sells the best sushi grade tuna and if they don’t have it fresh, they have frozen pieces of the tuna “heart”—that means the center part of the filet, without gristle–in the cooler that’s across from the steaks)

zest from 3 limes

¾ c. olive oil

½ freshly squeeze lime juice

1 ½ t. wasabi powder

1 ½ T. tamari or soy sauce

1 T. hot red pepper sauce (I found the best sauce at Groomer’s, it’s called Weak Knees Gochujang Sriracha)

1 T. sea salt

1 T. freshly ground Tellicherry pepper

¾ c. minced scallions

2 T. minced jalapenos, seeded

2 large avocadoes

1 T. toasted black sesame seeds

Dice tuna into 1/4-inch pieces and place in a large chilled bowl. In another bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, hot red pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. Pour over the tuna, add the scallions and jalapeno, and toss this mixture together.

Dice avocados into 1/4-inch pieces. Be careful to add the avocado gently or it looks like a yucky green paste. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Leave in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend.

I served these on bagel crisps and these great 3 seed toast crisps from Central Market’s bakery.

Tricolore Salad, adapted from Saveur

2 bunches fresh arugula (the bunched kind is so much better than the boxed one), washed and sliced thin

1 head raddichio, sliced thin

1 fennel bulb, sliced thin

1 grapefruit, segmented with the membrane removed

2 T. grapefruit juice

½ c. olive oil

3 T. balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic

1 shallot, finely diced

1 c. finely grated pecorino

Grind garlic into paste with a little salt in a mortar. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, garlic, shallot, grapefruit juice, salt, and pepper. Add grapefruit segments, arugula, radicchio, fennel, and pecorino and toss.

BBQ Shrimp, Adapted from Garden & Gun

Vegetable oil

3 lb. shrimp

6 rosemary sprigs

3 garlic cloves, sliced

Grated zest of 2 lemons

3 tsp. kosher salt

2 tbsp. freshly ground black Tellicherry pepper

½ cup shrimp stock (I use water if I don’t have any seafood stock)

6 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Juice of 3 lemons

2 sticks butter, cubed

Enough sourdough bread for everyone to dip into the sauce

I buy the shrimp from Groomer’s and shell them ahead of time. This time they had “boat run” shrimp, which I learned means that they aren’t sorted, so they sell you a combination of small, medium and large.

I grind up the Tellicherry peppercorns in our coffee grinder—it doubles as a spice grinder. The Tellicherry pepper is grown in India on the Malabar Coast. It is a night and day difference between the kind Billy gets at the store—the already ground up McCormick’s. I don’t think I even knew what pepper really tasted like until some friends gave us a bag for Christmas one year.

Heat skillet over high heat, add just enough oil to coat the entire skillet. Add the shrimp and spread evenly. Then add the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.

Pour in the water or stock, Worcestershire, and lemon juice, turn shrimp and cook just enough for them to be done (this depends on the size). Remove shrimp and set aside on a platter. Then simmer the liquid to reduce by two-thirds. Add the cubed butter, bit by bit, cooking until the sauce is shiny and thick, about 4 minutes.

Add shrimp back into the sauce, and serve with a ladle so that everyone gets the sauce that they can dip their bread in—that’s the best part.

Artichokes au Gratin, adapted from Pastry Queen Parties

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

4 12 oz. jars of quartered artichoke hearts, drained

2 sticks of melted butter

1 c. chopped scallions

¼ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 t. Old Bay (or any Cajun seasoning)

½ t. red pepper flakes

½ t. freshly ground Tellicherry pepper

Tabasco to taste

1 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese

3 c. grated Parmigianino-Reggiano

1 ½ c. panko

Coat a gratin or casserole dish with melted butter and spread the artichoke hearts in an even layer. Sprinkle scallions on top. Mix together remaining ingredients and spread on top. Cook 20-30 minutes until golden and toasty.

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