Smoked Bluefish Spread with Toasted Bread and Olive Oil
Serves 4 as an appetizer or snack
This recipe is a wonderful use of smoked bluefish, which can be strongly flavored. I tend to serve it at parties or enjoy it as an afternoon snack. If you cannot find smoked bluefish, try smoking it yourself, following the directions for hot smoking on page 254. Or you can substitute smoked trout or hot smoked salmon. The taste won't be the same, but it'll still be good.
8 ounces smoked bluefish
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 loaf crusty baguette, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Remove any skin from the bluefish and flake the fish into a bowl. Add the sour cream and whip with a whisk until the mixture forms a thick paste and the flakes have all broken down into a puree. Check for seasoning and adjust with a little salt if necessary. (This can be made up to a few days ahead of time; keep refrigerated until ready to serve.)
Brush the bread with olive oil and toast under the broiler (or in a toaster oven) until golden brown.
Serve the spread in a bowl with the toasted bread and lemon wedges surrounding it. Finish the spread with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, then serve.
Wild Striped Bass with Cilantro-Onion Salad and Yogurt-Avocado Puree
Wild striped bass has a clean and assertive taste that is great with the strong flavors of Southwestern cooking. In this dish I like the combination of the rich avocado puree with the fresh, bright tasting cilantro and onion. You have the option of purchasing farmed or wild-caught striped bass. While I prefer the flavor of the wild fish, the farmed fish is fine and is widely available.
1 ripe avocado
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Four 5-ounce portions skin-on striped bass fillet
Leaves from 1 bunch fresh cilantro about 3 cups loosely packed
1 small onion, very thinly sliced
Chipotle Tabasco sauce, optional
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
For the avocado puree, cut the avocado in half and discard the seed. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh (make sure to scrape the inside to get all the dark green stuff right next to the skin) into a small bowl; add half of the lime juice and the yogurt. Season to taste with salt and mash together to create a thick sauce. It should be about the consistency of tomato sauce.
For the fish, heat a large ovenproof saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place the fish, skin side down, in the pan. Cook over high heat until you see the sides of the skin begin to brown, then, without turning the fish, transfer the pan to the oven and cook 12 minutes per inch of thickness.
Meanwhile, for the salad, mix the cilantro and onion in a medium bowl and dress with the remaining lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season to taste with salt.
To serve, spoon a dollop of the avocado puree onto each plate and, using the back of the spoon, push it across the plate to create an attractive swoosh. Place a fish fillet on the sauce with the skin side up and garnish with the cilantro salad. If you like heat, I suggest a few drops of chipotle Tabasco sauce as an addition to the plate. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.
Bluefish with Creamed Corn and Herb Croutons
Fresh corn is one of the great treats of the summer. This interpretation of creamed corn has just a touch of sour cream and butter added to it to accentuate the natural sweet creaminess of the corn kernels.
2 tablespoons butter
4 slices brioche bread or potato rolls, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
8 ears corn, shucked
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sour cream
Four 5-ounce portions skin-on bluefish fillet
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Tabasco sauce, for serving
For the croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a medium ovenproof skillet and add the bread cubes. Toss to combine, then season to taste with salt. Place the skillet in the oven and toast the croutons until lightly brown and crunchy throughout. Remove from the oven and set aside. These can be made up to a few days ahead (store them in an airtight container), but their flavor is best the day they're made.
For the corn, take the ears one at a time and, using a paring knife, cut off all the kernels, letting them drop into a large bowl. Scrape the cob with the knife so that the juice and little bits of corn fall into the bowl too. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and cook the onion and garlic until soft, then add the corn. Saute for another minute, then add 1/4 cup of the water and season generously with salt. Allow to boil, as this will steam the corn and cook it. After a few minutes, combine the remaining 1/4 cup water with the cornstarch and add to the pan. This will thicken the juices immediately and create a creamy, rich sauce around the kernels. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream. Keep warm.
For the bluefish, prepare a grill according to the instructions on page 250. Cook the fillets, skin side down, on the hottest part of the grill for 3 minutes. Rotate the grate so the fillets are over the coolest part of the grill; cover the grill. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until the fillets are an even color throughout and the flesh is beginning to flake when gentle pressure is applied.
To serve, divide the corn among 4 bowls and top with a bluefish fillet. Scatter the croutons and parsley over the top and serve immediately. Serve with Tabasco sauce, if desired.
Grilled Clams with Lemon-Chive Butter
Makes 24 pieces as an appetizer or canape
I love cooking clams on the grill as an appetizer or canape while people wait for dinner. After the charcoal has been lit, you have about twenty minutes until it burns down to embers, so why not cook some clams? The shells protect the meat from the intense heat, and it is easy to melt the butter on the side of the grill in a small pan. When the clams pop open, just drizzle a little butter on and serve.
24 littleneck clams, washed thoroughly (discard any that won't close)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Prepare a grill according to the instructions on page 250. Set the clams on the hottest part of the grill and cook until the shells begin to pop open.
For the lemon butter, combine the butter, chives, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Season to taste with Tabasco and a little black pepper. Set the pan on a low-heat area of the grill to warm it, whisking constantly so that the butter remains creamy.
As the clams open, remove them from the grill and drizzle a little of the melted butter into each shell. Discard any clams that haven't opened after 7 minutes. Serve immediately.
Crab and Corn Toast
Serves 4 as an appetizer
Corn starts showing up around Washington, D.C., at midsummer, and, for me, it is one of the best times of the year. Driving around on the outskirts of town, one can find little roadside stands piled high with corn and melons, and the dewy scent of the husks fills your car as you drive away. This recipe is a tribute to mid-Atlantic cooking, where corn and crabs are just about the best things going. It is a take on the ever-popular crab dip, which I usually find to be too rich. Here the cream serves just to bind the dish and make it a little saucy.
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 bulb fennel, stalks trimmed and discarded, finely diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 ears corn, husked, kernels cut off, and cobs scraped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of Old Bay Seasoning
1 pound crab claw meat, picked through for cartilage
Soft baguette, sliced 1 inch thick
In a medium saucepan, saute the onion and fennel in the butter over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the corn and cook 2 minutes. Add the cream and Old Bay and season with salt. Bring to a boil and add the crabmeat. Cook until the cream is reduced to a thick coating, about 4 minutes.
Toast the bread until golden brown. Serve the crab and corn mixture as a dip with the bread alongside.
From For Cod & Country by Barton Seaver. Copyright 2011 by Barton Seaver. Excerpted by permission of Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.