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Seven Seafood Sensations for Lent


Jalapeño Fried Catfish Sandwich at Big Bob's Burgers.

By Bonnie Walker and John Griffin

If you’re looking to give up red meat during Lent, here are several suggestions of seafood dishes in area restaurants that are guaranteed to keep you satisfied.

Jalapeño Fried Catfish Sandwich, Big Bob’s Burgers, 447 W. Hildebrand Ave. — “Big Bob” Riddle once featured a similar item at the now-defunct Podna’s, where it was a big hit. The fish is marinated in jalapeños and garlic before being breaded in cornmeal and fried. This sandwich builds on the fried fish with pickles, onions, tomato and lettuce with some soothing mayonnaise.

Haw-Mok, Tong’s Thai, 1146 Austin Hwy. — Several Thai restaurants in town serve versions of Haw-Mok, but no one’s quite matches the version here. Assorted types of seafood, including squid, shrimp, mussels and scallops, are cooked inside a foil pouch filled with vegetables, red curry and coconut milk. The pouch is opened at the table, so that the steam inside can escape in an often dramatic billow, leaving you with nothing but tongue-tingly flavors.

The Crab and Portobello Appetizer at Antlers.

Crab and Portobello, Antlers, Hyatt Hill Country, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive — Antlers’ menu features a number of seafood dishes including a pan-seared Gulf red fish, but don’t miss the crab and portobello appetizer, a tower of lump crab meat and strips of mushroom are presented with roasted pepper tapenade, tomato and silky slices of avocado.

Georges Bank Skate Wing, the Sandbar at the Pearl, 200 E. Grayson St. — The menu is filled with more seafood treasures than you can imagine including an array of oysters that is pure sensory overload. But the skate wing, no matter how chef Chris Carlson prepares it, has always been one of those culinary experiences that calls you back for more.

Diablo Fish Fillet, Bourbon Street Seafood Kitchen, 24165 I-10 W.; 2815 N. Loop 1604 E. — As the name implies, the restaurant is a haven of seafood favorites. This one features grilled white with a topping of crab meat and crawfish swimming in a creamy butter sauce filled with garlic and tomatoes. The devil in the name comes from the addition of serrano peppers to give each bite an extra kick.

Mussels menu at La Frite.

Moules (mussels) with Frites, La Frite Belgian Bistro, 728 S. Alamo St. — On South Alamo, La Frite does a thriving business, not the least of which involves bowls full of mussels, steamed to perfection in their shiny, dark shells and offered in a variety of flavors. We are currently working our way through the list. Most recently it was the Basque and Spanish flavors of chorizo, smoked paprika (pimentón) and wine that  tempted both by aromatics and flavors. The bowl of Moules Provençal came with sprigs of fresh herbs. For a little bit more moulah, order your moules with frites, excellent, crunchy french fries. Add a cool glass of white wine and a slice or two of bread and this is one of the most gratifying meals in town.

Broiled Fish with Nopalitos and Cheese, La Playa, 3201 W. Poplar St.; 3343 West Ave.; 4411 I-10 E. — This casual Mexican and Salvadoran restaurant obviously specializes in seafood. We’ve enjoyed most everything we’ve eaten at the location on West Poplar Street. A favorite quick snack, for example, is the black beans, Salvadoran crema and fried plantain. For more substance, try the foil-wrapped fish, mildly seasoned, topped with cheese and sliced fresh nopalitos (cactus paddle). While you don’t always think of topping firm, white fish with cheese, it really does work in this dish. You can get fries with this dish, but we recommend La Playa’s excellent rice.

 

 

 

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Smoked Trout Pâté Comes Together Quickly


Smoked Trout Pâté

If you want an easy appetizer or a light summertime salad topper, try this Smoked Trout Pâté, which goes together easily. But don’t get too hung up on the type of fish you use.

“You can make this pâté with any smoked oily fish,” Kate McDonough writes in “The City Cook” (Simon and Schuster, $20). “Trout is usually the easiest to find, but if you can find smoked bluefish, use that instead of the trout because its strong flavor combines well with the other ingredients. For those not familiar with prepared horseradish, it’s sold in refrigerated jars, often near a grocer’s dairy case; if you have a choice between red horseradish, which is tinted with beet juice, or plain white, choose the white.” Also, look for prepared horseradish without sugar. Sweetness is not what this dish is about.

“This spread is nice on small squares of toasted bread, crackers, croutons or thin slices of seedless English cucumber,” McDonough writes.

Smoked Trout Pâté

8 ounces smoked trout or bluefish, skin removed and discarded
1 (8-ounce) package regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 to 4 drops Tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons tiny capers, drained

Break up the fish into pieces and place in a food processor equipped with a steel blade. Add the cream cheese and pulse until the fish and cream cheese are combined. Add the horseradish and lemon juice, and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice or horseradish if necessary. Add the Tabasco, if desired. Add the capers and pulse a few more times until they are mixed throughout.

Spread on crackers, pieces of toasted bread, or thin slices of seedless English cucumbers or use as a dip with crudités. The pâté can be made a day in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator. Just bring it to room temperature when you’re ready to serve so that it’s easy to spread.

Makes 2 cups or enough for about 40 cucumber rounds.

From “The City Cook” by Kate McDonough

 

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Ask A Foodie: Got a Good Paella Recipe?


Create your own paella with the flavors and ingredients you prefer.

Q. Looking for a good paella recipe to make this weekend. Do you know of any? Thanks.

—Terry

A. You can make paella a host of different ways, as the recent Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery demonstrated. You can use any cut of pork, Thai curry or crawfish, if you choose. Let your imagination run wild.

I prefer at least to build on a traditional recipe that reminds of when I first had paella. I was in Barcelona back in high school. It had a number of ingredients I don’t remember ever having had before, including squid, saffron, chorizo and artichokes. Rice was about all I recognized, but I loved the dish from the first bite.

I wish I had my host’s recipe, but the closest I’ve found is Janet Mendel’s Paella with Seafood from “Tapas and More Great Dishes from Spain,” a much-used cookbook I picked up in Spain on a subsequent visit. Her version is a good template that you can alter to suit your personal tastes. I would use chorizo, for example, and probably substitute more shrimp and scallops for the squid, simply because I’ve never cooked with squid. (Why, I don’t know.) I’d also use clams instead of mussels. I also like to garnish the dish with some fresh green herbs, such as cilantro or parsley.

That sounds like a lot of substitutions, but it is still built on a great base of rice with saffron and seafood stock, chicken, vegetables including peas and artichokes as well as green bell pepper and roasted red pepper.

Paella with Seafood (Paella con Mariscos)

1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and steamed open
1 pound large or jumbo, uncooked shrimp
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds chicken or rabbit, cut in small pieces
10 ounces squid, cleans and cut in rings
2 small green peppers, diced
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 ounces peas or broad beans or green beans or quartered artichokes (par-boil beans or artichokes)
6 1/2 cups water or stock
1 pound Spanish short-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon saffron (or more for a bright yellow color)
Crushed peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1 roasted red pepper, cut in strips
Lemon, for garnish

Discard the empty half shells of the mussels. Strain the liquid and reserve it. Cook 6-8 unpeeled shrimp in boiling water for 1 minute. Set them aside and add the liquid to the mussel liquid . Shell the remaining prawns.

Heat the oil in a paella pan or large frying pan (about 16 inches across). Fry the chicken pieces, adding next the green peppers, then the tomato, garlic and peas, beans or artichokes.  Combine the reserved liquid and stock or water to make 6 1/2 cups. Add all but 1 cupful of the liquid to the paella. Crush the saffron in a mortar or in a teacup using the butt-end of a knife. Dissolve it in a little water or white wine and stir into the paella with the pepper and salt. Add the peeled prawns. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the rice and continue to cook on a high heat for 6 to  8 minutes. Then reduce the heat and continue to cook until rice is just barely tender, adding the additional liquid as needed, about 8-10 minutes more. Don’t stir the rice, but shake the pan. Garnish the top with the reserved mussels, cooked prawns and strips of roasted red pepper. Let the paella rest for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Tapas and More Great Dishes from Spain” by Janet Mendel

If you have a question for Ask a Foodie, e-mail walker@savorsa.com or griffin@savorsa.com.

Photo courtesy Johnny Hernandez

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Scrod with Lemon-Garlic Bread Crumbs


Use lemon juice in this baked fish dish and serve it with lemon wedges.

If you prefer baked fish to fried, try this easy-to-assemble dish that features scrod. You could also use cod or haddock, if you prefer. What is scrod, you might ask?  This is young cod (0r haddock) weighing less than two-and-a-half pounds.

Scrod with Lemon-Garlic Bread Crumbs

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 2 slices bread)
4 pieces scrod, cod or haddock fillets (about 6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In 10-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic; cook until golden. Add bread crumbs, and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. Remove skillet from heat.

With tweezers; remove any bones from scrod. In 9-by-13-inch baking dish, arrange fillets in single layer; sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Press bread crumb mixture onto fillets. Bake until fish is just opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes.

Sprinkle scrod with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Approximate nutritional value: 231 calories, 32 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat,, 89 mg cholesterol, 517 mg sodium.

From “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook”

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Firewater Grille Opens Near North U.S. 281


Firewater Grille has opened at 26108 Overlook Pkwy. off U.S. 281 North.

The menu specializes in American favorites, such as the appetizer array of a slider sampler plate, Maryland crab cakes, Hot Firewater Wings, fried pickles and Shiner Bock-battered onion rings.

Entrées range from Lemon Basil Shrimp and Herb Mahi Mahi to Peppercorn Rib-eye and Flat Iron Steak Diane. There are also burgers and sandwiches, such as the Monte Cristo and Thanksgiving, a layering of turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing and gravy on a roll with cranberry marmalade on the side.

The restaurant has a full bar with house cocktail list as well as five TV screens in the bar area. Live music on the patio begins at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. Call 210-481-7645 or click here for more information.

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Pesca on the River Becomes Ostra


Lobster in several forms is on the menu at the new Ostra.

Ostra opens today in the space once known as Pesca on the River. The restaurant is part of the Mokara, once known as the Watermark Hotel & Spa. The address is all that hasn’t changed: It is 212 W. Crockett St.

Ostra’s menu still emphasizes seafood. But chef John Brand’s approach is a bit different from its previous incarnation. There’s now a list of build-your-own entrées, such as Iceland Arctic char, Australian barramundi and grass-fed beef tenderloin, which you can top with your choice of sauces: béarnaise, veal jus, beurre rouge, lemon caper, sweet chili and horseradish cream.

Signature dishes include penne with Anaheim pepper and Parmesan; scallops with coconut, chili garlic, and Napa slaw; Texas redfish with Lamb’s Grist Mill Polenta; Hawaiian tuna with shiitake mushroom salsa; and grilled lobster bouillabaisse.

Plenty of local products are on the menu, in addition to the aforementioned Lamb’s Grist Mill Polenta. They include Bluebonnet Farms lettuces, Texas-raised chicken and seafood, and local heirloom tomatoes.

The oyster bar is still in place, but diners can have their choice presented bow-torched with tobikko aioli on top. Other starters include barbecued shrimp in a Shiner Bock sauce and tacos filled with your choice of blackened redfish, braised beef or lobster.

Dessert options include lemon chantilly cake, an apple tart with almond cream, cookies and milk, and “fancy chocolate mousse.”

The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information, call 210-396-5800 or click here.

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Great Eats Await Along W.W. White Road


Fried tilapia, shrimp and oysters at La Playa Seafood

Let’s face it, we like our dining to fall into easy choices along well-trodden paths. But when we rely too often on what’s safe, we risk boring our taste buds.

So, it was exciting recently to discover a whole new world of flavors mingled in with a few old friends along the same stretch of road. I’m referring to W.W. White Road, which has been long known as the home of Big Lou’s Pizza, Mr. and Mrs. G’s Home Cooking and Ma Harper’s Creole Kitchen. When I found Ed’s Smok-N-Q, mesquite-smoked meat at its finest, I began to wonder what other riches were to be found on the north and south ends of the street.

Plenty, as it turned out. While I didn’t visit every last restaurant on the road, I ate in enough of them to realize that W.W. White boasts a unique collection of restaurants worth investigating. The prices are reasonable, with the majority being under $10 an entree. Many of the places are open for breakfast or lunch only; a few like Mr. and Mrs. G’s close early in the evening, so you should pay attention to hours before setting out on your own culinary journey.

There are so many restaurants to choose from that this overview of W.W. White will take place in two parts and will be limited to those places my colleague and photographer, Nick Mistry, and I visited.

In the first part, we take a look at three of the restaurants on the northern end:

Review: Radicke's Bluebonnet Cafe

Review: El Jacalito Restaurant

Review: La Playa Seafood

Next week: A sampling of South W.W. White Road

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La Playa Offers Seafood, Salvadoran Specialties


Fried tilapia, shrimp and oysters

OK, this restaurant is technically not on W.W. White Road, but the entrance is – and my love of the sister La Playa on West Popular Street drew me in.

I was hungry that day for some simple fried seafood, and the other La Playa restaurants have delivered the goods in the past. This visit was just as good.

Food: 3.5
Service: 4.5
Value: 4.0

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

We arrived during a lull in service. There may have been one other table occupied during our visit. Yet the women who were on duty worked the entire time we were there, which may explain why the place was virtually spotless that day. They were also attentive to any question we had or any extra dish we wanted to taste.

Before you make your mind up on what you’re going to have, take a moment to read the walls, which are covered with specials not on the menu.

I ordered a mix of fried tilapia, shrimp and oysters, which came with fries and bread. An awfully brown plate, to be sure, but full of clean flavors, especially from the sweet, firm shrimp. A side order of curtido, Salvadoran slaw, added the right tang to balance the seafood.

Best of all was the Salvadoran tamal with crema, the sweetness of corn and the cream sauce just melting together in perfect harmony. A michelada on the side, made with your choice of beers, added a nice, cooling touch to the meal.

Not too many on the staff are fluent in English, so, if that’s a problem for you, bring a translator. The seafood here is too good to miss, no matter the language.

Garlic Shrimp

Salvadoran tamal with crema

Curtido

La Playa Exterior

La Playa Seafood
4411 I-10 E. at W.W. White Road
210-337-4700
Lunch and dinner daily.

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Chefs’ Corner: Shrimp With Garlic and Vegetables


This shrimp dish from chef Michael H. Flores comes together quickly and requires only one pan, so cleanup is easy. Serve it as a main course or as an appetizer.

Shrimp With Garlic and Vegetables

1/2 cup olive oil
15 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon crushed red chile flakes
1 zucchini, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup fish stock or clam juice
1 pound raw Texas shrimp, peeled, tails off
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves, packed
2 teaspoons salt

In the olive oil, sauté the garlic and chile flakes for 5 minutes over low heat. Add the zucchini and bell pepper and continue sautéing for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 more minutes. Pour in the wine and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add the stock or clam juice and bring to a boil. Once it has boiled, add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Squeeze in the lime juice and add the cilantro and salt.

Serve immediately with crusty French bread for dipping.

Makes 6 entrée or at least 8 hearty appetizer servings.

From Michael H. Flores.

Photo and recipe supplied by Texas Department of Agriculture (www.GoTexan.org).

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Grilled Tuna Tacos a Meaty Treat


Are you looking for some fresh ideas to incorporate more seafood into your diet? Here’s one dish so tasty that you won’t believe you’re giving anything up for Lent. As Rick Moonen, creator of the recipe, says, “Can I tell you these things rock? Meaty tuna gives the tacos the kind of kick you’d expect from skirt steak.”

Grilled Tuna Tacos

Cabbage:
1/4 pound napa or savory cabbage, shredded
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
Coarse salt, to taste

Rub:
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 (5-ounce) pieces tuna, 3/4-inch thick
Coarse salt, to taste

Serving:
12 corn tortillas
Lime wedges
Ripe tomatoes, sliced into half-moons
Coarse salt, to taste
Guacamole
Mango salsa (optional)

For the cabbage: Combine the cabbage and lime juice in a mixing bowl. Salt it well and toss with your hands or a big spoon. Taste for salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you need it.

For the rub: Combine the chili powder, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds in a spice grinder. Process to a fine dust. Pour the rub out into a small bowl.

Heat up your indoor grill or heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.

Spoon the oil onto a plate and rub the fish in it, coating it on both sides. Season the fish on both sides with salt and the rub. Use all of the rub and work it into the fish.

[amazon-product]061853119X[/amazon-product]Cook the fish for 2 minutes in the indoor grill. If you’re using a grill pan, grill for 1 1/2 minutes per side. Put the fish on a carving board and let it rest while you toast the tortillas.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, or use the griddle you used for the tuna. Toast the tortillas until warmed through and browned in spots, about 30 second a side. Pile them in a cloth-lined basket as they’re toasted.

To serve, cut the tuna into fingers and arrange on a platter with the lime wedges. Pile the cabbage in the center of another platter and surround with the sliced tomatoes. Season the tomatoes with salt.

Set the table with guacamole and mango salsa, if desired; the basket of tortillas, the tuna and limes, and the cabbage and tomatoes, and let everyone dig in.

Makes 12 tacos.

From “Fish Without a Doubt” by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore

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