The days are longer and warmer—ideal for any kind of outdoor gathering. My usual choice for such an event is a seafood party, which can include boiled crawfish, crabs and shrimp all cooked with small red potatoes, corn-on-the-cob (and anything else you might want to add to the pot). And speaking of pots, we have that as well as all the seasoning mixes youâ€™ll need in which to boil your seafood.
Spread the outdoor tables with old newspapers, whip up some dipping sauce, put on some music (try our Rockinâ€™ Zydeco Party CD to get you in the mood), and lay out the seafood. The aroma of all that cooking will certainly tickle the noses and taste buds. Oh, and donâ€™t forget Louisiana brewed Abita beer (Abita Amber is my choice) or their delicious root beer. The kiddies will enjoy a root beer float â€“ put a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream in a tall glass and fill it up with root beer. Make yourself one as well for a refreshing beverage.
When and if (fat chance) you tire of boiled seafood, you can always have a fish and/or shrimp fry. Hey, if you want oysters, add those to your fried seafood menu as well.
Again, youâ€™ll need a dipping sauce. I tried Cochonâ€™s Abita Beer Whole Grain mustard recently and what a fabulous flavor. Mix it with your favorite mayonnaise and pop it up with a little hot sauce (again your choice) and a squeeze of lemon juice, and youâ€™ll experience real Louisiana flavors—ideal for boiled or fried seafood as well as cruditÃ©s (thatâ€™s a fancy word for fresh vegetable sticks). Hey, I even spread that stuff on a hamburger!
And another idea for a late afternoon or early evening meal is a leisurely outdoor picnic. Our stuffed breads are absolutely perfect for this—heat them up, put them on a tray and ta-da, you have an easy, quick repast. Toss up a big garden-fresh salad and dress it with La Martinque True French Vinaigrette to serve with the stuffed breads. Or, make this wonderful marinated vegetable salad, which can be made ahead of time and stored in the â€˜fridge until you are ready to serve.
STUFFED EGGPLANT BECHAMEL
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Blend in the flour and milk and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick and smooth. Set aside.
- 2 eggplants, each about 1 pound
- 1 cup of the bÃ©chamel sauce
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 cups coarse dried breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- White or black pepper to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 pound shrimp, boiled, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Place the whole eggplants in a shallow pan and bake at 350 degrees until soft, 45 minutes to one hour. Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut off the stem ends. Cut each in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out the pulp, leaving about 1/4 inch of the flesh with the shells. Chop the pulp finely, then measure out two cups.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Add the eggplant pulp, seasonings and the bechamel sauce. Mix well. Add the shrimp and crabmeat and gently stir. Fill the eggplant shells with the mixture. Sprinkle generously with the Parmesan cheese.
Set the stuffed eggplants in a shallow baking pan and bake at 375 degrees until hot, bubbly, and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
SEARED YELLOWFIN TUNA
This is a recipe you can experiment with to determine your personal taste. Simply rub the sashimi grade tuna with olive oil, then dredge in coarsely-ground black pepper and kosher salt.
Heat a large heavy dry skillet over high heat until very hot and smoking, for about 4 minutes. Add the tuna and sear for 3 minutes on one side, 3 minutes on the opposite side, the 2 minutes each on the remaining sides. Remove the tuna from the skillet and cool to room temperature. Then, thinly slice the tuna and sprinkle it with soy sauce. I usually serve the tuna with wasabi mayonnaise (you can buy this or make it yourself by combining good-quality mayonnaise with wasabi paste to taste.)
BUTTER-POACHED LOBSTER TAILS
Allow one lobster tail (shell removed) per person. Youâ€™ll need unsalted butter, cut into small chunks. You can determine how much butter youâ€™ll need by placing the lobster tails, side by side and in one layer, in a baking dish. Add just enough water to cover. Remove the lobster tails and pat dry. Set aside. Measure the water in the pan and that will give you the amount of butter to use to cover and poach the tails.
To make the Beurre Monte: Definition of Beurre Monte: Butter is an emulsification of 80% milk fat, 18% water, and 2% milk solids. Heating butter above 160 degrees will cause it to “break” or separate into its different composition parts. A Beuree Monte is a technique of keeping melted butter in an emulsified state between 180 degrees and 190 degrees, which is sufficient to poach meats or vegetables.
In a saucepan, bring the 1 tablespoon of water to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low and begin adding the chunks of butter (a little at a time) whisking to emulsify. Once the emulsion is started, more butter may be whisked in faster. Hold the temperature of the Beurre Monte between 160 and 190 degrees for poaching. DO NOT BOIL OR THE MIXTURE WILL BREAK! The mixture should have the consistency of a very thick butter sauce. NOTE: Beurre Monte can be set aside on the stove after being prepared. You should use the beurre monte within an hour after you make it.
When ready to poach the lobster tails, use a thermometer and bring the beurre monte up to at least 160Â° degrees, but not over 190Â° degrees. Depending on how large and how many lobster tails you are preparing, will determine how long to poach them; it usually takes from 5 to 7 minutes. They should not be rubbery but of a soft consistency (almost as if not completely cooked). The lobster should be white and not very opaque in color. When done, remove them from the Beurre Monte and serve.