"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, June 3, 2011

Recipes: Szechuan Noodles with Scallops, Cajun Shrimp, and Southern-style Catfish with Homemade Tartar Sauce

These are all spicy and good and like most of the recipes I post on this blog relatively simple to cook, and like most of my recipes, these are for two people.  Doubling is always tricky, and I am not sure why the taste is not duplicated; but once you have made this for two and perfect the taste, you can double it, tasting to adjust.

Szechuan Noodles with Sea Scallops

* 1 lb. sea scallops

* 6 strips bacon

* 1/2 cup toasted almonds

* 5 shakes hot pepper flakes

* 1 Tbsp. soy sauce

* 1/4 tsp. sesame oil

* 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

* 1/4 red onion, chopped

* 3-4 Tbsp. olive oil

* 1/2 lb. spaghetti

- Fry bacon until very crisp in iron skillet, remove.  Leave about one-quarter of the bacon fat in the skillet.  You want enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but no more.  Your next step will be to brown the scallops and this is hard to do if you use too much fat

- Sautee the scallops over high heat in the bacon fat.  They should be well-browned on both sides, and rare in the middle.  This should be approximately 3-4 minutes per side.

-  Remove the scallops, let cool, then quarter them

- Cook the pasta, let cool.  After it has cooled to room temperature, put in the refrigerator until serving.  The noodles should be cold.  DO NOT rinse the pasta with cold water to cool.  This changes the consistency and should be avoided.

- Mix all the ingredients except the pasta in a large bowl; then add the pasta and toss well.  The spaghetti should be well coated but neither dry nor overly covered with sauce

- Add a few grindings of fresh black pepper

- Serve

Cajun Shrimp

This is an extremely simple recipe, and the only key is the quality of the shrimp.  You should buy them at a good fish market or fish counter at Whole Foods or other supermarket whose fish you trust.  Never frozen shrimp – very hard to find – are best, especially from the Gulf; and the giant size are particularly good for this dish where you simply sautee the shrimp, peel and eat.   I live near the Chesapeake, so Bay Spice is very common and available here.  I use it for the cornmeal mix I use to coat catfish before deep-frying; for vegetables, salads.  Wonderful spice.   I use a supermarket brand of Cajun Spice, Prud’homme’s Blackened Redfish Spice, but any other blends of this brand are fine.  For Curried Shrimp, a variation on this recipe, simply substitute 2 Tbsp. of curry powder for the Cajun and Bay spices.

* 1 1/2 lb. jumbo Gulf shrimp unpeeled, never frozen (as above, this might not be possible.  Any good, freshly caught and flash-frozen shrimp will be OK)

* 1 Tbsp. Prud’homme’s Cajun spice

* 1 Tbsp. Bay spice

* 1 Tbsp. olive oil

- Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl, pour in the spices and the olive oil and mix well

- Let sit for at least two hours, more is better

- Sautee the shrimp in a cast iron skillet over very high heat so that the shrimp are slightly browned, turning frequently until uniformly done

Southern-style Catfish

I know what many of you might think about catfish – bottom fish, very fishy and reedy, yukky, why make them when there are so many other varieties.  I felt the same until I had farm-raised catfish in Mississippi (Belzone MS is the self-proclaimed catfish capital of the world; although now more Vietnamese farm-raised catfish are in the marketplace) and learned how to deep-fry.  I had a worse prejudice against deep frying – greasy, limp pieces of whatever sodden with oil.  Wrong!  If you do it right – and the only trick is to get the oil extremely hot – the fish will turn out crispy on the outside and steaming and succulent on the inside.  The spiced cornmeal that you use to coat the fish is very important, and you can use pretty much what you want.  I like a Cajun-Bay spice mix; but have often used curry powder, and a few times used my own ground spices.  All are great.  Start with the Cajun-Bay spice mix.

* 1 1/2 lb. catfish filets (actually tilapia will substitute very well, not much difference between the fish)

* 1 cup corn meal – the medium-ground cornmeal is best, but sometimes hard to find; and the cornmeal flour will be an OK substitute

* 1 Tbsp. Bay Spice

* 1 Tbsp. Cajun spice

* 1 cup whole milk

* 1 bottle of canola high-heat oil – this oil is good because it is neutral in taste and will not smoke at high heat

- Place the catfish filets in the milk and let sit for about two hours (I learned this from a French cook friend of mine who always puts her skatewings in milk before sauteeing them, and I figured the technique would be good to soften and prepare the filets.  It also provides the wetness which will take up the cornmeal)

- Put the cornmeal and the spices in a large freezer bag and shake until mixed well.  Taste for spices.

- Put the filets one or two at a time in the cornmeal and shake until completely covered.  Remove and set aside

- Heat the oil in a large pot until it is just beginning to smoke

- Place half the filets into the hot oil, checking occasionally to be sure that they are browning nicely.  When they are a darkish brown, they will be done.  Remove, place on paper towels to drain the excess oil (surprisingly little!)

- Reheat the oil to the same high temperature and put in the remaining filets, browning until done, draining.

- Serve.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

This is a must and beats any gloppy stuff bought in the store!  I always serve my own coleslaw with this as well; and I have provided that recipe on a previous blog.

* 2 heaping Tbsp. mayonnaise

* 1 Tbsp. sour cream or whole milk yoghurt

* 1-2 tsp. Maille or other French hot mustard

* 1 heaping Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

* 2 tsp. capers

* 1/2 red pepper, finely chopped

* 1 medium bunch parsley, finely chopped

* 2 heaping Tbsp. finely chopped onion

- Mix well and taste for ingredients. 

- Serve with the catfish.

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