Seafood Specialties Recipes
Seafood Specialties Recipes

As the weather warms up, lighter fare grows more appealing, and fish dishes appear more frequently on the menu. Pairing seafood with seasonal vegetables and fresh herbs is perfect for this time of year.

Although today serving fish with vegetables does not seem like an unorthodox idea, many experts in classic cuisine considered the match downright heretical until the liberating influence of nouvelle cuisine in France.

It's hard to imagine that, until the late 1970s, fish was rarely cooked with or even served with vegetables in elegant Parisian restaurants. The main vegetable considered suitable to accompany fish on a classic menu was the potato. Fish with asparagus seems made for springtime, and yet asparagus was generally served as a first course, usually with melted butter or vinaigrette. Only with the new trend toward lighter, more creative menus featuring more fish and vegetables did chefs begin to present them together on the same plate.

Renowned French chefs Paul and Jean Michelli of Le Duc restaurant prepared such dishes as return-to-nature sole soup, made of sole fillets poached with baby carrots, leeks, fennel and small turnips in fish stock enriched with olive oil and flavored with garlic, shallots and Italian parsley; for seasoning, they recommended salt and sugar in equal amounts, as well as freshly ground pepper and cayenne.

Raymond Blanc, who wrote "Recipes from Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons," after his restaurant in Oxfordshire, England, cooked a seafood ragout with spring vegetables, including broccoli spears, zucchini, leeks, spinach and carrots. Enhanced with a touch of cream and butter, the dish was finished with fresh tarragon.

Those of us studying French cooking in Paris at the time found this new trend toward innovation exciting. We rushed to sample the celebrated salmon with sorrel sauce of the Troisgros brothers at their three-star restaurant in Roanne in central France. Most of all, we were thrilled to have superb chefs come to our school to teach their own creations. Our own chef, Fernand Chambrette, prepared his new version of blanquette, making it with shrimp instead of the traditional veal or lamb, and cooked the seafood with mushrooms, baby onions, fresh chervil and a light, creamy sauce. He baked monkfish steaks with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and garlic-basil olive oil. His salmon steaks were matched with artichoke hearts, his sole fillets with leeks and white wine butter sauce, and his turbot with spinach, pasta, basil and a touch of cream.

From our chefs we learned that different fish could be prepared using the same recipe and that you could substitute humble fish like whiting for pricy turbot. Thus, if you don't have the fish called for in a dish, or if you prefer to choose a more sustainable species, don't hesitate to replace it with another fish.

If you have an Asian market in your neighborhood, you are likely to find a good selection of fish there, including whole fish, treasured by aficionados, who maintain that fish is most flavorful when cooked whole on the bone. If you're experimenting with an unfamiliar fish, you can cook it following the usual guideline of baking it at 450 F and allowing 9 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness; if it's a fish on the bone, you can then remove the meat from the bones, and add it to any of the recipes below at the last minute.

If you feel like enjoying a seafood meal but are not in the mood to cook fish or shellfish, you still have plenty of options. You can buy cooked shrimp, lobster and crab at the market. Smoked salmon, trout or other smoked fish are also good additions to the soup or pasta dishes below. Add the cooked or smoked seafood to hot dishes at the last minute, just long enough to heat them through.

Fish stock gives a good flavor to festive fish sauces and soups, and is the easiest, fastest stock to prepare -- only 20 minutes compared to several hours for meat stocks. If you don't feel like making it, you can purchase it chilled or frozen at some fish markets, specialty stores and well-stocked supermarkets, or use vegetable broth instead. A popular substitute for fish stock is bottled clam juice, which is readily available; mix it with half its volume in water so the dish won't be too salty. Or take a tip from Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino cooks and use bottled fish sauce; stir just a tablespoon or two of this potent sauce into a cup of water, and taste before adding any more.

Red Trout & Asparagus with Lemon Parsley Sauce

This colorful entree is perfect for festive occasions in springtime. It is flavored with a light, Mediterranean dressing of fresh lemon juice, olive oil and an abundance of Italian parsley. The dish is quick and easy to prepare. Red trout fillets make this a beautiful dish but you can use any trout that is fresh at your market. The entree is also delicious with salmon fillets.

Makes 4 servings.

1 pound thin asparagus, thick bases removed

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds red trout fillets 1 inch thick

1 green onion, chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cayenne pepper to taste

Lemon wedges (for serving)

Cut each asparagus spear in 3 pieces. Rinse asparagus. Put asparagus pieces in a saucepan of boiling water. Boil 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a baking dish in which fish and asparagus can fit easily in one layer. Put fish in dish and sprinkle it with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped green onion. Add 2 tablespoons water to dish.

Bake fish uncovered for 7 minutes. Add asparagus to baking dish around fish. Cover lightly with foil and bake 5 minutes or until fish changes color throughout and asparagus is tender. Cover fish to keep it warm.

In a small bowl, combine remaining lemon juice, olive oil and parsley and whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne. Spoon sauce over fish. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Salmon with Noodles & Leeks

Chicken with noodles is a popular pair, but fish with noodles can be just as good. I love salmon and noodles tossed in a creamy leek and dill sauce. To make it easy, I cook the salmon right in the sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

3 medium leeks, split, rinsed thoroughly

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/4 pounds salmon fillet

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fish stock (see note below)

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons butter

8 ounces medium noodles

2 tablespoons snipped dill

Use white and light green parts of leeks; reserve dark green part for making stock. Cut leeks in thin slices. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add leeks, 1 tablespoon water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until tender but not brown.

Remove skin and any bones from salmon fillet. Cut fish into small dice.

Add wine, fish stock and cream to leeks and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add fish and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and thyme. Cook uncovered, stirring often, about 3 minutes or until color of fish becomes lighter. Remove from heat.

Cut butter in pieces and put in a large heated bowl. Cook noodles uncovered in a large pot of water over high heat for about 5 minutes or until tender but firm to the bite. Drain well, transfer to bowl and toss with butter.

Reheat sauce if necessary. Stir in dill. Pour over noodles and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

Light And Creamy Seafood Soup With Green Vegetables

This seafood recipe can serve as a formula for all sorts of fish. Make it with fish steaks or fillets of salmon, cod, halibut, sea bass or sole. All will give delicious results. For an especially festive version, stir in some cooked lobster or crabmeat shortly before serving.

You can use all sorts of vegetables, according to what you find at the market. Leeks, broccoli, artichoke hearts, baby carrots and mushrooms are good additions.

You can prepare the soup base ahead and refrigerate it. Reheat the soup and add the fish when you need it.

Makes 4 servings.

2 1/2 cups Quick Fish Stock (see recipe below)

1/2 cup dry white wine

8 jumbo shrimp (about 9 ounces), preferably with heads, shelled and deveined, shells reserved

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 pound Swiss chard, leaves only, rinsed thoroughly (optional)

6 to 8 ounces green beans, sugar snap peas or snow peas

1 zucchini, cut in strips

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter or additional oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 pound salmon fillet, skinned, cut in bite-size cubes

1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives or chopped green onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves (optional)

1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

Bring stock, wine and shrimp shells, and heads if available, to boil in medium saucepan. Simmer uncovered over low heat 15 minutes. Strain stock.

Pile chard leaves, halve them lengthwise and cut them crosswise in 1/2-inch-wide strips. Cook chard uncovered in large saucepan of boiling salted water over high heat until just tender, about 3 minutes. Rinse under cold water, drain well and press gently to remove excess liquid.

If using green beans, remove ends and halve beans; if using sugar snap or snow peas, remove ends and pull off strings. Cook beans, sugar snap peas or snow peas uncovered in a saucepan of boiling salted water to cover over high heat until crisp-tender; green beans take 5 or 6 minutes, sugar snap peas about 2 minutes and snow peas 1 minute; add zucchini strips for last 1 minute of cooking. Rinse cooked vegetables under cold water and drain well.

Heat oil and butter in a heavy medium saucepan. Add onion and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 7 minutes or until onion is soft but not brown. Sprinkle with flour. Cook over low heat, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups stock and bring to a simmer, whisking often. Add remaining stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking, until soup thickens and comes to boil.

A short time before serving, bring soup to a simmer, stirring. Add shrimp and bring just to a boil. Add cream and return to a boil, stirring. Add fish cubes and cook uncovered over medium-low heat for 4 minutes or until fish is just cooked through; its color should change from translucent to opaque. Add cooked vegetables and heat through. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Serve sprinkled with chives, tarragon and parsley.

Quick Fish Stock Recipe

The fish frames of halibut or sole are perfect for stock, but you can use the heads, tails and bones of salmon too, or any fish except strong-flavored ones like tuna and mackerel. You can also use fish trimmings or fish pieces for chowder, which are available at some markets.

Makes about 5 cups.

1 1/2 pounds fish tails, heads and bones, rinsed thoroughly

Green tops of 1 leek (optional)

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme

5 parsley sprigs

7 cups water

Rinse fish bones under cool running water for 5 minutes and put in a saucepan.

Add leek tops, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and water to cover and bring to a boil; skim off foam. Simmer uncovered over low heat, skimming occasionally, 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.


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