Archive for the ‘fish’ Category

Lobster is a nice, sweet meat
(July 2012)
“What about this one?” I say, holding up a not-quite-wide-open shell, soot-black and glossy with curried cream. “Dead before the pot? Or after?”
We’re seated on the second story balcony of a downtown Charlottetown pub. Jazz notes are rising from street musicians on the street below. The air is comfortably cool. And I’ve just ordered my first ever bowl of mussels (to share).
When it comes to a love of seafood, I’m a late bloomer.
Having grown up on mostly landfood, I went from farmer’s granddaughter and butcher’s stepdaughter, to spending my teenage years on the other side of my family tree, as a Seventh Day Adventist vegetarian. If I did eat seafood, Levitical-type attention was paid to whether, in life, the fish had swum with fins and scales.
Therefore, my longstanding aversion to bi-valves and crustaceans has deep and twisty roots.
Now, as I stick a slender fork between two halves of shell and finagle an orange oval of flesh from its once home, I swallow an upwelling of panic and open wide.
“P.E.I. mussels are renowned for having the highest meat counts in the world,” a reader will later tell me.
Because I’d put off trying West Coast mussels every chance I’d ever had, I have nothing with which to compare. But these mussels are sweet and pleasing to the bite. They are meaty, yes, and I conclude that I rather like them.
Given the right setting, I could even see myself acquiring a hankering. Maybe.
But more importantly, this shellfish novice suddenly feels ready to move on from the safer waters of haddock and ahi that started off our week in the Maritimes, and consider other things.
Having eaten mussels, maybe raw Malpeque oysters from Raspberry Point will be next. Perhaps even something with an exoskeleton and pincers and alien-like eyes suspended on waving sticks. Like the lobsters that seem to follow us everywhere we go.
And I do mean everywhere. Including, we’ll later discover, the Departures area of the Halifax airport, where one can have a live lobster packed up to take home in a cardboard carrier that is essentially a pet caddy packed with ice.
For now, however, as we drive towards our next meal, a sign under a set of golden arches makes pull a U-turn.
“McLobster is Back!” the sign proclaims.
And while this certainly is not will not be where I will encounter lobster for the first time! we stop, click, and post photographic evidence on Facebook for all of our friends in the West.
Later, it’s in a salt box of a seaside restaurant in Cavendish P.E.I. where I finally work up an appetite for something the Maritimes is famous for: a lobster roll.
Mounded on a soft pretzel bun, the crustacean meat is tossed in a light mayonnaise dressing, and is firm and sweet and everything (I imagined) it should be.
A perfect lunch in a perfect place. So that, before we board our flight home later in the week, I’ll take a good long look in that tank in the Halifax airport, considering whether I want to travel with a giant sea bug by my feet. And whether, once I get it home, I’ll be able to dispatch it into a pot.
I’ll look at Chefhusband, who will fix me with an are-you-kidding look that lets me know he’s not interested in a lobster pet. And when we take off, we’ll already be planning when to come back, and what to eat when we do.
P.E.I. Lobster Rolls
1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat (4-1.5 pound lobsters)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
flaked kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper
4 pretzel rolls (or other soft artisan buns), split and lightly toasted
melted butter for brushing
Extract meat from lobsters; discard shells or use for stock. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces.
In a bowl, gently toss lobster with mayo, lemon juice and celery. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes, allowing flavours to develop.
Brush cut sides of pretzel rolls with melted butter. Stuff with lobster salad and serve.


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(July 2012)
An Ahi Moment 
In historic Lunnenberg we catch up with tall ships at anchor and fling open the doors to our senses.
There’s a chorus of gulls. Salt in the sea-moistened air. Dense clusters of clammed-up mussels anchored by their whiskers to wooden docks at low tide.
And there is colour.
Along a shore that rises into a gently-sloped amphitheater over the Atlantic, a prism of houses and shops seem to be the creation of a master pastry chef. A fairytale town created from painted sugar cookies, where a kitchen store called Cilantro is green to go with its name. Where a trattoria seems to take its inspiration from nectarines and cream, and an optometrist’s clinic is wild with the colour of strawberries.
For every blue and purple, for every yellow, red, green or aquamarine, there is a natural reference that comes from beach pebbles, wildflowers, sea ice, and sand-washed shards of sea glass. From tree, vine, and cane fruits. From fish scales and heron feathers. Leafy green sprigs and red red mud.
Back at home, our house is a dove-soft grey, and colour sprouts from seasonal planters, taken down in winter. A subtle backdrop that, until now, I was certain I preferred.
Until now, I’ve never supposed I might want to live in a purple house. Although suddenly, I can see myself through the kitchen window of a grape-juice sided two storey, stirring batter to go with wild raspberries that seem to grow along every path-side thicket in Nova Scotia.
I take a hundred pictures. I take a hundred more.
Then, on the docks of this iconic town, we stop for a patio lunch of battered haddock and chips, intended to ease my way into an intention of turning a lifelong seafood aversion into a passion.
This week I plan to work my way all the way up to staring down a lobster.
After scooping flakes of fish out of a heavy cocoon of batter, however, I’m no farther along. And when we farewell what is surely the most picture perfect town in the entire world, I leave it wondering whether the trattoria might have been the better choice.
In Halifax the following morning, we board a boat and set off to watch for whales that do not, this day, decide to watch back.
We know they’re there, however. And somehow just being on the surface of their world helps us better value the depths beneath.
After watching comes a late lunch, and having so far failed to have a seafood moment, we walk up and down the docks and finally choose another ocean-view patio. We order crab cakes, smoked Atlantic salmon and seared-rare ahi tuna encrusted with cracked black pepper and fragrant spices, sliced thin and served on a tomato bun.
With one bite, as the flesh yields to the soft pressure of my tongue, I have what I can only describe as a conversion experience.
If seared rare ahi tuna were my last meal, I would leave this world wanting nothing else to eat.
On the seafood adventurist’s scale, it’s not yet lobster, I know. Or even mussels or raw oysters, which are also on my list.
But for now, as we dip our forks into the ocean, there is nothing but time ahead of us. A week’s worth of diving deeper into the ocean of food that surrounds us.
Seared-Rare Ahi Tuna
1 1/2 pound center-cut Ahi tuna fillet (line-caught)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon coarse black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Combine spices and spread out on a plate. Roll fillet in spices, pressing gently.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sear tuna on all sides and remove from heat. Let rest 5 minutes.
To serve, slice thinly using a very sharp slicing or sushi knife. Serve as an appetizer with slices of baguette, or pile slices onto tomato buns (or other artisan rolls), with mayonnaise, sliced ripe tomatoes and baby lettuce.

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1 cup flour
1 1/3 cup beer
2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
generous pinch sea salt
freshly ground pepper (several turns of a pepper mill)
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 (9 ounce/250 gram) fillets haddock (or cod)


Whisk together flour and seasonings. Whisk in beer, then fold in egg whites.

Heat oil to 370F. Dip fish in batter. Lower into oil. Fry for a few minutes, turning over, until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Season with sea salt.

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(serves 4)
4 5-ounce fillets of arctic char
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Calamondin Balsam (see notes)
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
1 tbs “Perseus” olive oil (see notes)
Trim and remove any bones from fish. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Place, skin side down, on a large plate. Season lightly with salt and pepper (a pinch each for each fillet).
Whisk together extra virgin olive oil and Calamondin Balsam. Brush onto fillets and let marinate for 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer arctic char onto this. Bake in a 350F oven until barely opaque in centre.
Remove from oven. Let rest three minutes. Plate and drizzle with Perseus olive oil to finish.
Serve with favourite vegetables.
Notes: The specialty vinegar and oil are from Crescendo (www.crescendocanada.com for store locations and mail orders). Calamondin is a citrus, also known as a Panama orange. The Balsam (vinegar) is bright and only a very little bit is needed to add a high note to a delicate fish like arctic char.

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1 1/4 pounds ling cod, cut into 1-inch fingers

1/2 cup flour seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon salt

For batter:

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

355ml can beer

Vegetable oil for frying

kosher salt

8 small flour tortillas

2 cups shredded cabbage

tartar sauce or chipotle mayo

Valentina hot sauce


2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 finely chopped jalapeno

4 sprigs cilantro, chopped

juice of 1/2 lime

2 tbs olive oil

kosher salt to taste

Toss together ingredients for salsa fresca. Set aside.

Dust fish with first amount of flour, seasoned with the paprika.
For the batter, whisk together remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder and beer.
Heat two inches of oil to 375F in a deep pot. Dredge fish into batter and slowly release into oil, a few pieces at a time. Fry until cooked through and golden, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Warm tortillas. Spread with tartar sauce or chipotle mayo. Stuff with fish, cabbage and salsa. Drizzle with hot sauce.

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For the tomato confit:
9 oz heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 medium-large shallot, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
2 tsp capers
2 anchovy fillets
Add tomatoes, shallot and garlic into a small cast iron pan. Season lightly. Add olive oil until tomatoes are half covered. Place in a 325F oven for 40 minutes to cook slowly. Remove from oven. Add capers and anchovies. Set aside.
For the halibut:
4 skinless halibut fillets, 5-6oz each
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
canola oil
Add 1/4-inch oil to a medium skillet, heat over high. Pat dry and season both sides of fish. Add to oil, reduce heat to medium, cook until bottom side is golden and fish is cooked 3/4 of the way up. Remove fillets to a plate, upside-down. They will “carry-over cook” the rest of the way.
Serve with tomatoes and a little of the olive oil. Use or save remaining oil as a bread dip or drizzle.

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3 slightly under-ripe peaches
1 poblano pepper
1/4 yellow onion
5 green onions, green parts only
juice from 1/4 lemon
1 1/2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Pit and quarter peaches and peel onion. Place on hot outdoor grill along with whole poblano pepper. Cook, turning items over, until pepper skin is charred; about 5 minutes. Remove. Let cool slightly.
Remove skin from peaches and pepper. Remove stem and seeds from pepper.
Finely dice pepper and onion, and dice peaches a little larger.
In a medium bowl, toss grilled ingredients together with green onions, lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste.
Let sit for at least 1/2 hour to allow flavours to develop.
Serve over any grilled fish, including salmon, trout or tuna.
A note on Albacore: We chose Albacore tuna to go with the salsa. Albacore is a sustainable fishery. The tuna loin can be grilled whole, as one would a beef or pork loin, and can be cooked to the same levels of doneness (medium well, medium, medium rare).

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8 oz centre-cut wild sockeye salmon, skinned, trimmed & pinbones removed
1 tbs brandy
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4  tbs butter, softened (plus more for sealing)
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tbs creme fraiche (or use sour cream)
4 oz chilled smoked salmon, 1/4-inch dice
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 egg yolk
Place fresh salmon in a shallow dish and sprinkle on both sides with brandy, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour, turning over after 30 minutes.
Bring water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer. Place salmon in steamer basket and cover with lid. Gently steam for about 8 minutes, until medium-rare.
Melt 2 tsp butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add shallots. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with a pinch of salt and cook for 3-4 more minutes, until translucent.
In a small bowl, beat remaining butter until it’s very smooth. Stir in creme fraiche and set aside.
In a large bowl, break up cooked salmon into chunks. Stir in smoked salmon, shallots, lemon juice, olive oil and egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in butter mixture. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Transfer mixture to small ceramic crocks, leaving 1/2-inch of room at the tops. Smooth the salmon mixture and wipe the insides of the rims clean. Refrigerate an hour, until cold.
Cover tops with 1/4-inch thick layer of clarified butter and refrigerate for a day to let flavours develop. Store up to a week in the fridge. Use within two days after butter seal is broken.
To serve, remove butter seal. Let stand to warm for 10-15 minutes (to reach spreading consistency). Spread salmon on slices of fresh baguette or crackers.

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