Seafood Stuffing

You’ll find seafood stuffing recipes similar to this one throughout the coastal South. It’s used with fish, shrimp, and in south Florida, lobster. Seafood stuffing is marketed in frozen 1-quart bags, and crab shells filled with stuffing were once a staple in fish shacks throughout the region. Seafood stuffing can serve as a stand-alone buffet dish with the addition of more crabmeat and/or shrimp. This recipe makes about six cups. It freezes beautifully.

Mix two cups cornbread crumbs with 2 cups coarse bread crumbs, add a half cup grated Parmesan, and set aside. Dice a white onion, a bell pepper, and enough celery for make 2 cups. Sauté in a stick of butter with couple of cloves of minced garlic until soft. Add to bread crumbs with a cup of white wine. Mix thoroughly with a pound of clean lump crabmeat; a cup of finely-diced cooked shrimp adds color. You may have to add some stock and melted butter to firm it up. Stir in two or three tablespoons of Creole or horseradish mustard, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add chopped parsley and lemon juice before use.

Scampi

In the life of any given classic recipe, you will find instances where it becomes caught in a backwater eddy and becomes a poor, grotesque thing far removed from its heyday, rather much like a fading star of stage and screen who can only find an audience where their celebrity is no more than their name (think Citizen Kane). Many recipes fall subject to this farce simply because their name on a menu is a draw: a pasta prima vera with frozen vegetables, for instance or a  steak Diane with canned cream of mushroom soup. In capable hands classic recipes made with fresh, quality ingredients can be magical, but I’m here to tell you somebody’s bound to fuck up just about anything with alarming frequency.

I worked in a restaurant where the house recipe for scampi was particularly wretched. The sauce consisted of garlic powder, a commercial oil product (Whirl) and the remnants of whatever open bottle of wine the bartender on duty had available. That’s it. This concoction was poured over a dozen medium-sized shrimp arranged in a small circular metal dish and placed in a salamander. More often than not, the results were dry and chewy. Had our customers been more sophisticated, no doubt they would have complained with vigor and frequency, but the very fact that they didn’t led to the recipe becoming entrenched on our menu and likely defining this trash as scampi for many people.

To make proper scampi, sauté or broil the best shrimp available in a really good butter with plenty of fresh, finely-minced garlic, a fruity white wine, salt and white pepper. Before serving, add a jolt of lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley. Some thicken the sauce with starch,  add scallions, or even chopped drained tomatoes, which I consider rather excessive. Scampi can be served as an appetizer or over pasta as an entree.

Shrimp Pesto

Cook the shrimp separately from the sauce and pasta. This offers more options for presentation, and an opportunity to give the shrimp a more distinct–in my case, more piquant–flavor to offset the olive and basil.  Rotini carries the sauce well; add spinach to the pesto for balance.

Creole Shrimp and Beans

You’ll find dishes with beans and seafood across the globe, and while this recipe is styled “Creole” a very similar Italian recipe uses diced tomatoes. You can use tomatoes in this as well, simply add them with the shrimp.

Put a pound of dried white beans (Navy, northern, or baby limas) in a heavy saucepan, add three cups of water, cover, and place in a 300 oven for about two hours, until cooked through A bay leaf or two is a nice touch. Sauté a large white onion, a cup of diced celery, and a diced ripe sweet pepper with a couple of minced cloves of garlic in olive oil. When the vegetables are soft, add a pound of peeled, medium-count shrimp and cook over medium heat until firm. Combine the shrimp and vegetables with the beans. Add the diced tomatoes, if you like. Season with dried basil and thyme, ground black pepper, chopped fresh parsley, and salt to taste. You can make this as soupy as you like by adding weak stock. Some people add diced smoked sausage or ham, and the dish is usually served over rice.