Seafood recipes celebrate nautical heritage

October 11, 2019

Last weekend was a busy one in Lewes. The Historical Society hosted a Craft Show, the Second Street Merchants held their annual sidewalk sale, Boast the Coast celebrated Lewes’ nautical heritage and Coast Day entertained visitors at the University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies with educational talks, engaging displays of marine life and cooking demonstrations.

When Ed Hale first asked me to demonstrate a seafood recipe, I readily agreed. The more difficult part was finding a dish that wouldn’t be repetitious of the other events. I started with a crab dish that he quickly waved off, reminding me of the competitive crab cook-off featuring both celebrity and amateur chefs.

Then I offered crab bisque, which was also a bad idea because of the day-long seafood chowder challenge where visitors tasted the various offerings and voted on their favorite. I could hear the relief in his voice when I finally came up with a shrimp sauté. I elaborated with a description of a one-pot dish of shrimp and fresh vegetables. We were set.

I arrived about 20 minutes before the demo started to arrange my ingredients and tools on the table at the front of the room. With a few extra minutes available before people arrived, I began to prep my vegetables. That turned out to be a bit of a commotion, as people in the hallway started to worry aloud that I’d already started the actual demo, but it did help fill the seats.

When Ed introduced me to the audience, he described his busy day. As it happened, the person who was going to demonstrate a mango avocado shrimp salad couldn’t make it, leaving Ed to handle all the prep work for the last-minute volunteer who’d agreed to assemble the salad. He expressed his appreciation for the planning, cutting and chopping necessary to build a dish.

I handed out my recipe in advance, because it always helps me when the audience knows what I’m supposed to be doing, in case I skip a step or an ingredient. I described the flavors of the different components of the Asian-influenced sauce as I whisked them together in a measuring cup. 

Soy sauce would bring a slightly bitter, salty flavor, the sesame oil offered a nutty essence and the hoisin sauce added a rich sweetness. The final additions were broth, white pepper and cornstarch. As the cornstarch dissolved and thickened the mixture it created a slight sheen, commonly seen in many Asian sauces.

My next step was to heat some olive oil in a large skillet and toss in sliced onions and red bell pepper. This gave me the opportunity to explain that the reason green bell peppers taste sharp and biting is because they’re not ripe. Yellow, orange and red bell peppers have reached their ripened colors and slightly sweet flavors.

Broccoli florets were next into the skillet, as they didn’t need as much time to soften, we wanted them to stay intact, not turn to mush. I added the shrimp along with the garlic and grated ginger and cooked them just until they started to turn pink. Next came the sauce and everything simmered for just a few moments before we started to share samples.

If I was offering the dish as a main course (instead of individual tiny tastes) I would have remembered to scatter sliced green onion and sesame seeds as garnish. Two of the people in the audience helped hand out sample plates and forks, making sure I had a bit of everything on each dish.

There were no complaints about the missing garnish and everyone agreed the hoisin sauce added just enough sweetness. Of course, there was one gentleman who wanted more salt (if he’d been there, that would have been my father who salted his food before even tasting it). I explained a little extra soy sauce would do the trick.

I finished my demo describing some of the many substitutions possible, from adding chopped asparagus or thinly shaved carrot to replacing the shrimp with chicken or beef. I think things went well - there were no leftovers to bring home. Here are the two shrimp ecipes from this year’s demos. And, if you’ve never gone to Coast Day, be sure to put it on your calendar for next year, the first Sunday in October.  

Mango Avocado Shrimp Salad

3 T fresh lime juice
2 T grapeseed oil
1 T sugar
2 medium firm-ripe avocados
2 large firm-ripe mangoes
1 lb peeled, deveined cooked shrimp
1 T minced fresh chili*
2/3 C thinly sliced green onion
2/3 C shopped cilantro

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves; set aside. Peel and dice the avocados and mangoes; add to the bowl.

Add shrimp, green onion and cilantro; toss gently to combine. Cover and chill for 1 hour before serving. *Note: substitute 1/2 t dried red chili flakes

Shrimp Sauté

1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t white pepper
1/2 C vegetable broth
2 T olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 C broccoli florets
2 minced garlic cloves
1 t grated ginger
1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp
2 sliced green onion
sesame seeds for garnish

Whisk together sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin, cornstarch, white pepper and vegetable broth; set aside. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add vegetables, garlic and ginger; cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp; cook until barely done and only slightly pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in sauce and cook until heated through, about a minute. Serve over steamed rice, garnished with sesame seeds and sliced green onion.

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