Category Archives: Seafood

Grilled Razor Clams with Garlic and Parsley

couteauxpI love razor clams for their delicate taste, still recognisable in the presence of strong seasoning, and, most of all, for their texture: soft, but slightly al dente. For years, imagining they were tricky to prepare and/or clean, I was too scared to buy them and ruin the whole big bunch (they are sold in bunches here). Last weekend I finally dared cooking them for the first time and… they turned out to be the best razor clams of my life! I still cannot believe such a simple process yields such outstanding results. You can easily serve them as a starter, as a light main course with a salad or simply have them as a gourmet snack (which begs for a glass of chilled rosé!).

For this first experience with razor clams I didn’t use any particular recipe. I simply chose the most popular French way to serve this shellfish, i.e. grilled with a mixture of parsley, garlic and butter. Some recipes also add some breadcrumbs for an additional crunch, but I chose to skip them this time. There is also a choice between seasoning the clams before the grilling process and after. I preferred to add parsley butter before. As much as I didn’t search a precise recipe, I did look well for best ways to clean the clams. Luckily salt water soaking was cited everywhere as the best way to get rid of sand (the laziest seafood cleaning method I can imagine).

TIPS: You can use only olive oil in the parsley mixture and skip the butter.

Preparation: about 30 minutes + 1 hour soaking

Ingredients (serves two as a main course or four as a starter):

500 – 600 g razor clams

several tablespoons salt

extra virgin olive oil

(freshly ground pepper)

Parsley and garlic butter:

2 tablespoons softened butter

about two handfuls of roughly chopped parsley leaves

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

Place the razor clams into a big bowl filled with cold salted water (count at least two tablespoons per litre) and leave them for one hour. This way they will get rid of their sand (hopefully!).

In the meantime prepare the parsley butter, mixing the garlic, the butter, the salt and the parsley leaves in a food processor.

Wash the razor clams in cold water and rinse well.

Place them in an empty pan at medium heat and warm until all of them open up (you can put a lid to accelerate the process, but usually it takes about 3 minutes).

Do this in several batches, so that you don’t overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. (Don’t worry if some of them fall completely out of their shells, you will put them back into their homes afterwards).

Remove the upper shell’s part (it’s not necessary, but this part is completely useless and takes space on a baking tray). Place the open razor clams in a baking dish/tray on their shell’s lower part and brush with garlicky butter.

Heat the oven grill/broiler and grill them until the garlic bits start becoming golden (this should take about ten minutes). Make sure the garlic doesn’t brown too much; it will become bitter.

You can also grill them in a normal grill and spread the garlic butter juste before serving.

Sprinkle them with olive oil while they are still hot and serve them simply with good quality bread or baguette (you can also season them with ground pepper).

 

Anchovy Vinaigrette, or Anchovy Salad Dressing

anchovy_vin_A big part of my summer meals consist of bowlfuls of salad leaves, topped with tomato, sometimes other raw vegetables, and proteins, such as cheese, egg, ham, bacon, canned tuna…. I often change both the toppings and the vinaigrettes, but none of the dressings I have tasted produces the effect comparable to this anchovy vinaigrette: it has this irresistible je-ne-sais-quoi characteristic of umami-packed food.

Canned or salted anchovy is hated by many people, but if mixed and used in correct amounts, it improves flavours in a very discreet way and thus can be enjoyed by all. I am a big fan of anchovies on their own (anchovy pizza is the only one I’ve been ordering for years!), so I’d like to propose also an “anchovy lovers” option. The latter, apart from mixed anchovy, has an additional amount of chopped anchovy added to the sauce  for a double anchovy taste (this is the one you see at the photograph above).

As for the source – or rather inspiration – of my recipe, I once saw an anchovy vinaigrette mentioned on a British tv cooking program, but don’t remember where exactly and didn’t write down the recipe. A couple of weeks ago I simply added anchovies to oil, vinegar and garlic and… it worked!

If you are an anchovy fan, you might also like this Spanish salad:

Egg, Pepper and Anchovy Salad

Egg, Pepper and Anchovy Salad

TIPS: This dressing is perfect for both salad as a full meal or as a side-dish (only leaves and maybe tomatoes). If you want to try the above salad version, I’ve put there a boiled egg, capers, mini tomatoes, dill and ground pepper. The tomatoes are dark because it’s the black Crimean variety.

Obviously you can use here both canned and salt-preserved anchovies. I never see the salted ones, so cannot tell you what difference in taste they make. If you are not a huge fan of anchovies and simply curious about the taste of this vinaigrette, start with half of the anchovy amount I wrote.

You can replace a part of olive oil with the oil from anchovies (if you use anchovies in oil), but don’t skip olive oil.

Preparation: 5 minutes

Ingredients (serves two): 

2 slightly heaped tablespoons of finely chopped drained canned anchovy (+1 more if you want the “anchovy lovers” version)

4 tablespoons olive oil (or a part of olive oil and canned anchovies’ oil)

1 big clove garlic, squashed or grated

6 (or more) tablespoons wine vinegar

Mix everything in a food processor (a baby food processor is very useful here) or mash well the anchovies with a fork, then mix well with the remaining ingredients. (Afterwards, add the chopped tablespoon of anchovies, if making the strong-flavoured version.) Taste and add more oil/vinegar, if needed.

This vinaigrette will keep for at least a week in the fridge, so it’s a good idea to make a bigger amount.

Korean Style Monkfish with Smoked Bacon and Indian Spices

 

monk_baconpI recently saw on tv a French chef preparing the relatively popular monkfish wrapped in bacon. I buy monkfish as often as I can (i.e. whenever the price is reasonable) because I love it for its subtle taste but also for its firm flesh and versatility. This smokey fish reminded me of the Korean squid with bacon and Indian spices, discovered at the excellent Beyond Kimchee blog and replacing, since then, the ex-favourite, more traditional Spicy Korean Squid. Since I prepare Korean style monkfish quite often (see the recipe here), I decided to spice it up in a similar way, adding of course the smoked bacon. It worked just perfectly! At the end, just before serving, I put on top another delightful product: chopped Korean Pickled Garlic (the dark brown pieces in the middle of the bowl) and it was one of the best fish meals I’d had for years.

Monkfish in Korean-Style Gochujang Sauce

Monkfish in Korean-Style Gochujang Sauce

Korean Squid with Smoked Bacon and an Indian Touch (my slightly modified version)

Korean Squid with Smoked Bacon and an Indian Touch (my slightly modified version)

Pickled Korean Garlic (Manul Changachi)

Pickled Korean Garlic (Manul Changachi)

TIPS: Even if you buy a prepared, skinned monkfish fillets (or a whole skinned “tail”), you should make sure to remove all the traces of grey and pinkish thin “film” because it will shrink during the cooking process and somehow degrade the texture. You can try peeling it off with fish bone tweezers.

Of course, you can use any firm-flesh fish you like instead of the monkfish.

Gochujang, the Korean chilli paste is unique and impossible to replace. If you don’t have any Korean grocery shop nearby, gochujang is sold widely on internet, almost all around the world, so most of you should be able to buy it (check your local Amazon). Look for it also in Japanese shops and other Asian grocery shops. If you cannot find gochujang, do not try to replace it with other chilli pastes. It is not similar to any chilli product I have ever tasted and is an extremely important ingredient in the Korean cuisine (and it has a rather complex taste, hence the difficulty with a replacement). It keeps for ages, after opening, in the fridge, so it’s a good investment (in case you are wondering, what to do with it, check this link).

The below ratio of the sauce ingredients should be treated as approximate. Adjust the level of heat, sweetness or saltiness to your taste. Don’t exaggerate with turmeric: you can make your sauce bitter.

Preparation: about 30-40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

400-500 g monkfish “tail”, cleaned (see the TIPS) and cut into bite-sized chunks

3 stripes (thin) of smoked streaky bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces

(a small handful of soybean or mungo bean sprouts)

salt

4 tablespoons sake

2-3 tablespoons oil

white part of two green onions, sliced

Sauce:

2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

2 heaped tablespoons gochujang (see the TIPS)

2 tablespoons sake

1 tablespoon Korean chilli powder (or other medium hot chilli powder)

1 tablespoon honey or syrup or sugar

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

10 tablespoons (or more) of stock (chicken/vegetable/dashi/Korean fish stock….whatever you like) or water

1 tablespoon chopped green onions or chives

(2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil)

Sprinkle some salt on monkfish and 4 tablespoon of sake.

Put aside for 10 minutes.

Combine the sauce ingredients.

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan.

Fry the bacon and put it aside (don’t remove the fat from the pan).

Pat-dry the monkfish pieces and quickly brown on two sides (at high heat) in the bacon fat.

Take them out of the pan.

Add the sauce ingredients to the same pan and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and put the monkfish pieces, as well as the white part of green onions into the sauce.

Add more water or stock if necessary (it depends also on how watery ou want your sauce to be) and simmer the monkfish until it’s soft but not dry.  Check often the texture with a fork because monkfish is easily overcooked.

At the end add the sprouts (if using) and fried/grilled bacon. Give the dish a stir just to warm those up.

Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, green onion and a splash of sesame oil.

If you have Korean pickled garlic, it’s excellent with this dish.

Korean Squid with Smoked Streaky Bacon and an Indian Touch

squid_porkpI grew up ignoring the taste of squid and clearly remember the first time I had it, as an adult. The “honey and garlic” squid was sweet, tender, crisp and I ordered it many times in a Thai restaurant which is now very far away. I fell in love instantly and the older I am, the more I am fond of this humble seafood representative. Several years ago I learnt how to make Korean-style squid with gochujang and it used to be my absolute number one until I made this dish for the first time. My kind friend C. – to whom I will always be extremely grateful  – told me about Spicy Pork and Squid Stir-Fry she saw at Beyond Kimchee blog. Barely looking at the name of the recipe I already knew I would like it. I will not bore you with my detailed impressions. I will only say – having cooked it at least five times in the past month – that while Korean squid alone is excellent, squid with smoked bacon is a truly magical invention.

Apart from the truly revolutionary – at least for me – combination of pork and squid, the presence of Indian spices and of caramel (!) slightly changes the typical Korean flavours, but instead of hiding them, it just adds an additional dimension of flavours. In short, it’s a unique dish for different reasons and an exciting new squid cooking option.

Before I pass to the details, I must warn you that, apart from usual slight modifications of ingredients (and changes making it a dish for one), I have used smoked streaky bacon instead of raw pork belly simply because I had lots of it… (but as a big fan of smoked meats, I loved the result). Moreover, since some time ago I had stopped using curry powder, I replaced it here with a mixture of Indian spices I use to roast chicken breast for example. Needless to say, I strongly encourage you to visit Beyond Kimchee not only to check the original of probably the most original Korean recipe I’ve ever read, but most of all to admire highly inspiring and beautifully photographed Korean dishes you will find there.

TIPS: If you have never cooked squid, but found it always unpleasantly tough and rubbery, there might be three reasons for that: either it was cooked a bit too long or not long enough (the cooking time for squid is either very short or very long, nothing in between!) or… it’s simply not your cup of tea. Many people dislike squid because of its texture – slightly chewy, even if perfectly cooked – but those who love it, usually appreciate it a lot (I do!). Here squid should be stir-fried very briefly, but if you are a beginner, check it every 5 seconds because the timing depends on the thickness or size of the squid as well as the temperature of your pan and it overcooks easily.

Some seasonal suggestions posted at the same time in previous years…

Okonomiyaki with Green Onions

Okonomiyaki with Green Onions

Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)

Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Chilli Jelly

Chilli Jelly

Teriyaki Pork Rolls with Shiso and Gochujang

Teriyaki Pork Rolls with Shiso and Gochujang

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1 big squid

1 small carrot, cut into quarters or thick matchsticks

2-3 thin strips of streaky smoked bacon/smoked pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small onion, sliced

Spicy sauce:

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon rice wine (I have used sake)

1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

toasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon Korean chilli powder (or another medium hot chilli powder)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 green onion, sliced or the equivalent in chives (this is what I’ve used in the photographed dish)

1 teaspoon sugar

oil

First prepare the squid.

Cut off the squid fins and put them aside.

Cut the squid tube lengthwise in order to obtain one flat sheet.

Check if there are any bones to be removed.

Score it diagonally into a criss-cross pattern (the interior side), then cut the whole sheet horizontally in two. Finally cut the two sheets you have obtained into 2 cm strips.

Do the same with the fins.

Cut the tentacles into bite-sized pieces (I usually cut them in half).

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl.
Fry the bacon pieces in a pan until crisp. Remove the excess fat (or not, if you don’t mind!).
Without washing the pan fry the squid pieces until they start curling.

 

Put them aside.

Wipe the pan (wash it, if needed), heat 1 teaspoon of oil and stir-fry the carrot and the onion.

Put them aside.

Heat the sugar in the same pan and as soon as it starts browning, add quickly all the ingredients you have put aside together with the sauce and green onion.

Heat everything at high heat, constantly stirring.

Serve.

 

Sakana no karaage (Deep Fried Whole Fish)

pagre3_I have deep-fried whitebait and fillets many times, but doing it with a big whole fish was a new surprising experience. In spite of its unappealing look, the result was utterly delicious. The flesh was soft, juicy and the lightly seasoned skin was a pure delight . (In case you are wondering, I did eat it with chopsticks; they are not for decoration only. One has to practice throughout the year to be a bit less ridiculous during future holidays in Japan…). 

If I hadn’t seen it in Japanese Soul Cooking, I’d have never dared even thinking about deep-frying a whole sea bream. I must say I was really happy I had stumbled upon this recipe. First of all, I realised that a big whole fish ended up less greasy than fillets or tiny fish. Apart from that, I think with this method makes overcooking more difficult (the tendency I have…). In short, if you don’t hate deep-frying, I strongly recommend trying this easy recipe!

The only problem was that the whole fish didn’t fit into my widest pan (and I didn’t want to fill half of my wok with oil!), so I had to cut its tail off…  (I did fry it separately though: I love crunchy fish tail and I would never throw it away). UPDATE: I have had deep-fried red sea bream again today and updated the photograph; this time I have fried it WITH the tail! (the fish was slightly smaller and I have found a simple trick… see the TIPS below).

As usually I have made slight changes to the original recipe, so I encourage you to read it in Japanese Soul Cooking, a highly inspiring cookery book.

The author advises to serve it with grated daikon (white radish), ponzu (citrusy Japanese sauce containing soy sauce; check how to make your own ponzu in Japanese Soul Cooking), green onion and red yuzu koshou (chilli and citrus zest condiment). I served it only with my Europeanised lime koshou, ponzu and lemon wedges and it was a fantastic addition.

I like sometimes to look back at my archives, so I thought maybe some of you might be also interested with what I posted more or less at the same time in previous years:

Deep-fried Tuna with Red Onion

Deep-fried Tuna with Red Onion

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Savoury Cake with Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes

Savoury Cake with Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

TIPS: If you don’t want to use lots of oil (it will have a fishy smell, so you will be able to reuse it only with seafood/fish), you can try shallow-frying.

If your fish is a bit too long to fit into your pan or wok, either cut the tail (you can fry it together, as I did, if you like crunchy tail, or throw it away) or, as I did the second time, first immerse the tail only in the hot oil; keep the fish tightly with tongs and make sure the tail is completely dry, only sprinkled with spices and flour. The tail fries very quickly, so as soon as it becomes golden, you can immerse the rest of the fish.

If you cannot get shichimi togarashi (7-ingredient Japanese dry spicy condiment), use medium hot chilli powder (though shichimi togarashi is easily found at Japanese grocery shops).

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two as a big main dish):

2 red sea breams (or any other fish you find/like) measuring about 15-20 cm, gutted and scaled

 shichimi togarashi (use only medium hot chilli powder if you cannot get it)

salt

1 tablespoon potato starch

oil for deep-frying

Side-dishes and condiments:

chopped chives or green onion

grated daikon

ponzu sauce

lemon wedges

yuzu koshou (I have served it with Europeanised lime koshou, see the recipe here)

Wash the fish, pat it dry.

Score it horizontally from the head to the tail (2 cuts) and then vertically, cutting slightly on an angle (4 cuts), until you feel the spine. Do it on both sides.

Pat the fish dry once more.

Season the fish with shichimi togarashi and salt, rubbing into the cuts.

Dust the fish generously on both sides with potato flour. Shake off the excess flour, but make sure the cuts are covered in flour too.

Heat the oil to 180°C (about 350°F) or until a small piece of bread stays on the surface and becomes golden without falling.

Fry each fish separately 5 minutes on each side. Then turn it and fry for 5 more minutes.

If you feel 5 minutes is not enough, add 5 more minutes just to make sure it’s fried. Everything depends on the amount of oil, the size of the deep-frying pan or wok and on the fish size.

Put the fried fish on paper towels to drain excess oil.

Serve with ponzu, grated daikon, yuzu koshou (or lime koshou), chopped green onion and lemon wedges.