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Monday, March 30, 2009

Seafood Delight!!!

Inspired by a story from someone about being in the Caribbean and having shish kababs right on the beach I decided to follow suit. He said that basically the guy glazed the kababs with butter/garlic sauce and indirected the seafood for a few minutes and then finished them over the heat with a BBQ sauce glaze. I basically followed this method without the BBQ sauce because to me with seafood, butter is all I need.

This is such a simple recipe that anyone can do it. And with Lent here it might be the perfect meal for Friday night the next couple of weeks...

Near my office in St. Louis there is an area that is as close to a China Town that St. Louis will ever have. I took a trip down Olive in University City and stepped into 3 seafood markets and one seafood restaurant. I didn't realize it was a seafood restaurant until I stepped inside.

I wound up getting the seafood for this dish at two different places. At one place I got the Shrimp, scallops and conch (this was an experiment). At another I got mahi mahi and grouper. I had planned on doing monk fish but with none to be found I went with the mahi and grouper as it looked the best.

The first place had incredible deals on shell fish including 2 pound lobsters for $14 each. That's each, not per pound!?!?! We will be doing those very soon so stay tuned. But their fish was not the freshest. It was hard to find any Grouper or Snapper that did not have their eyes clouded over which is a sure sign of the fish not being fresh. So I picked up some black tiger shrimps, U20-30 scallops (pound and a half of each or about 40 each) and 1 conch. Then I went down the street and got some wild caught gulf grouper and mahi mahi (a pound of each) . Oh, this may seem like a lot of food but I was feeding six.

To go along with the seafood I picked up two yellow peppers, a whole pineapple, and a pound of yellow squash. Yes, it's a yellow theme. Now you can use canned pineapple but fresh is so much better and so easy. Lop of the top and bottom. Slice down the sides to remove the tough exterior. Turn on it's side and cut into one inch thick slices. Cut the tough center out and chunk up. It's a little more work than opening a can, but the extra effort is well worth it.

I know people have asked me to be more quantitative with my posts with detailed recipes and cooking times, but there really is not recipe for this. Pick whatever ingredients you want. I originally wanted monk fish but couldn't find any so I went with what was available. You can do these with chicken, beef, pork, sweet onion, whole water chestnuts, zucchini, other seafood/fish, red/green/orange peppers, mushrooms, just whatever you want. Avoid potatoes (take too long to cook) and fish that is flaky like roughy. Mahi is ideal for this. The grouper started falling apart a bit as it cooked through. Swordfish, shark, monkfish are all good candidates. Just as the fish monger what s/he recommends for kababs.

Ingredients for the kababs:

1.5 pounds of shrimps
1.5 pounds of scallops
1 pound of grouper
1 pound of mahi mahi
1 pound of yellow squash
2 yellow peppers
1 whole pineapple

Feeds 6

Ingredients for the garlic butter sauce:

6 sticks of salted butter
2 large tablespoons of garlic

For braising the kababs and for dunking during the meal

Here we have some of the mahi mahi:

The scallops, fish (mahi up high in the dish and grouper down low) and black tiger shrimps. Outside of a royal reds, black tigers are pretty much the best tasting shrimp out there, but any shrimp can be used. Also remember to pull the tough muscle off the side of the scallops as demonstrated here:

And here we have the yellows - yellow squash, yellow pepper and yellow pineapple:

Here is everything together starting from the left and going clockwise - Pineapple, squash, scallops, mahi, grouper, shrimps, and yellow pepper. And don't forget the Now and Zen Wasabi White that dad brought over. Amazing wine and only $10:

Make sure to soak your skewers ahead of time or you risk them burning up on the grill. These soaked for maybe 3 hours, but an hour is about all they need:

At first I went with kababs that were a variety of all the different ingredients as seen below:

Dad pointed something out. The items on the skewer are going to cook at different rates. The veggies will take much longer than the seafood. So I took a new approach. Skewers of the same ingredient. So a few skewers of just pineapple, a few of just shrimps, etc.

An another tip from dad. Instead of going with just one skewer per kabob he recommended doing two per kabab to make it easier to flip them over. If it's just one skewer and you flip it over some pieces may rotate on the skewer so the side that was just over the heat is back over the heat again. Here is a pic of some scallop kabobs on the grill done with two skewers:

While the coals were getting going in my chimney outside I prepped the garlic butter sauce inside. I simply melted 4 sticks of butter in a pot and tossed in a couple heaping table spoons of minced garlic after the butter had boiled. I would up using another two sticks of butter after this pic was taken. I know that sounds like a lot, but a great deal of it was lost when I brushed it on the kababs. And I wanted some at the end for people to dunk their food in during the meal:

My wife made her amazing cheesy biscuits for the event. Here they are awaiting a 450 degree oven (sorry but no after pics):

I did two zone cooking for this in my large offset smoker which was used just as a regular grill here. I started off with the veggies on first indirect with lots of butter glazed on and the conch on the upper rack to the left directly over the heat. This was an experiment to see if it's any good. Didn't want to serve my guests something without knowing if it sucked or not:

The reviews were mixed on the conch. A couple of the pieces were tough. The flavor is reminiscent of lobster but it would seem that one side of the conch is tougher than the other side. The pieces cut from the upper right of this chunk below were tender, but the pieces cut from the lower left were tough. I don't know if I bought a tough one as I have never bought conch before or if they are all that way. Either way, I will revisit this again as the tender pieces were pretty good:

BTW, just to give you a little idea as to the conditions for the grilling - that blizzard that hit Denver was on its way and we were grilling on my front porch in the rain at about 35 degrees. Overnight we got 2 inches of snow on March 28th:

After about 30 minutes of indirecting the veggies and the three skewers that I did the hodgepodge of ingredients I put the kababs over the direct heat to finish them up. The peppers went first and are on the upper rack on the right in the pic below to make room for the squash. I liberally applied the butter/garlic sauce every time I opened the lid to every kabab. I also had to add charcoal a couple of times to keep the temp up so keep that in mind:

Another little treat for the chefs. Pineapple on the grill is absolutely incredible. The last slice of pineapple I left whole so it could be grilled for dad and I to have a snack (we call this a chefs prerogative. Other good candidates for this are rib tips, chunks of a smoking bologna chub, and any pork product used to braise meat like bacon, salami or pepperoni):

The three kababs with the hodgepodge of ingredients were sent inside as an appetizer and the veggies to a baking dish covered with some tinfoil. Since the biscuits were in the oven, I had to rewarm the veggies right before dinner by placing the baking dish right over the fire for about 3 minutes.

Now on to the main event - the seafood as well as the pineapple. I indirected the seafood for just a few minutes (maybe 5) and then put them right over the heat. While the seafood was indirecting I had the pineapple on the upper rack directly over the heat. Here we have a shot of the seafood right after I put it over the heat:

I doesn't take long for seafood of this size (namely chunked up fish) to cook. For the fish, once the grouper started to flake off a bit the fish was done. When the shrimps turns orange and firms up they are done. Another feature of black tiger shrimp is they turn much brighter orange than any other shrimp. And when the shrimp are done, small U20-30 scallops are done as well. Just look for them to firm up a bit. Scallops really only need about 2 minutes per side over medium high heat to be done depending on the size. And remember that it is perfectly acceptable to serve scallops medium rare and over cooking them makes them rubbery so make sure to lean towards undercooking when dealing with scallops.

Here we have a closeup of the those beautiful shrimps:

And here we have the seafood on a platter ready to be passed to the people at the table:

In the end we had some veggies and pineapple left but no seafood whatsoever. Kababs are a bit of work but so worth it.

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