Seared, Rare Yellowfin Tuna on a Rice Cracker with Sesame Seaweed and “Hot” Wasabi Sauce

1 pound center-cut tuna loin, ask for number 1 sushi quality
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon sea salt, if available, or substitute Kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
32 rice crackers

Season the tuna loin with the cracked pepper and salt. In a very hot cast iron skillet or sauté pan, place the olive oil. Let the oil settle in the pan. Lower the heat to a medium setting and place the tuna loin in the hot oil. The oil will sear the loin. Rotate the loin around so all sides are seared. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2 cups rinsed, cleaned and hand-dried seaweed
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sesame oil

In a saucepan place the seaweed and rice wine vinegar. Cook the seaweed over a medium-low heat until the seaweed has absorbed the vinegar and is limp in texture. Remove from heat and add the sesame seeds and oil and mix thoroughly. Set aside until time to “Plate Up”.

1 tablespoon dried or paste Wasabi horseradish
1 teaspoon Colman’s dry English mustard
1 tablespoon sour cream

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Taste, if it is not too hot, add more sour cream. To assemble, take the seared tuna and cut against the grain into very thin cracker sized slices. Place the thinly sliced tuna on a rice cracker. Top with the sesame seaweed and the wasabi sauce. Serve and enjoy!

Almond and Saltine-Crusted Shrimp

2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon almond extract or almond liquor
2 cups half-and-half cream
½ pound saltine crackers (2 sleeves of the elf’s favorite), divided
½ cup sliced blanched almonds, crushed in small pieces
2 cups of flour
24 shrimp, 16 count, shell removed, butterflied and deveined
1 quart solid shortening (Crisco)

In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg, almond extract and half-and-half cream. Whip until thoroughly combined. This is called an egg wash. In a food processor, place three quarters of the saltines and grind until smooth. Put the finely ground saltines into a casserole dish. Crush by hand the remaining quarter of the crackers and mix with the finely ground cracker crumbs. To complete the crusting, add the crushed almonds to the saltine mixture and mix thoroughly. The third element for the breading stations is a container for the flour.

The breading stations are now in place. First, take the butterflied shrimp by the tail and dredge through the flour. Try to keep the tail clean through all the stages of the breading process. Dip the floured shrimp into the egg wash mixture and then into the ground saltine-almond breading. Coat the entire shrimp with the almond crusting and set aside. Continue this process until all the shrimp are crusted.

In a fry-daddy or a large saucepan, place the shortening, no more than half, and bring to a medium-high heat. When the oil reaches 360 degrees F, lower the heat to medium. If the oil becomes sluggish during frying return the heat to medium-high. Place the shrimp in the hot oil, a few at a time, keep separated and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Use a spoon to remove the shrimp from the hot oil onto a paper-lined platter. The paper will absorb any excess oil. Continue this process until all the shrimp are fried. After removing the shrimp from the hot oil, sprinkle with some additional almonds or salt, depending upon your preference. Serve the shrimp with a cocktail or rémoulade sauce.

Measuring spoons and cups, mixing bowl, wire whip, large saucepan or fry daddy, slotted spoon and food processor.

Fresh Oyster and Surry Bacon Stew

1 quart half-and-half cream
2 clam, seafood, or chicken bouillon cubes
7 tablespoons butter, divided
5 tablespoons flour
½ pound bacon, fine diced
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
½ cup peeled and finely diced celery
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup heavy cream
24 to 32 freshly shucked oysters1 teaspoon Tobasco sauce or favorite “hot” sauce

In a saucepan, heat the half-and-half cream with the bouillon cube until just under a boil. In a separate saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour to make the roux. Continue to heat and stir the roux until it is smooth and returns to a boil. Then remove the roux from heat, add to the hot cream and whip constantly until the sauce begins to thicken. At first sign of boil, remove the thickened sauce from heat and transfer to a clean saucepan and set aside.

In a skillet or sauté pan, render the bacon until crispy, making sure the bacon is fully cooked before adding any other ingredients. When the bacon is crispy, keep all the bacon fat in the pan and add the onion, celery, and white pepper. Cook the onions and celery until tender and add all the rendered ingredients to the cream sauce. Get every bit of bacon fat, scraps, and goodies from the skillet. Stir the sauce until thoroughly combined and fold in the last tablespoon of butter and the heavy cream. This finishes the sauce.

To finish the appetizer, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat the oysters and “hot sauce”. As the edges of the oysters begin to curl, add the sauce and reduce the heat to simmer, stirring constantly until hot and being careful not to overcook the oysters. Turn off the heat. Ladle the oysters evenly into six soup bowls then cover with remaining sauce. A garnish may simply be some additional crispy bacon or fresh chives.

Measuring cups and spoons, one-quart sauce pan, large sauté pan, cutting board, chef’s knife, wire whisk, and wooden spoon

Virginia Peanut and Country Ham Soup

6 cups of chicken stock
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup diced onion
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup shredded country ham (about ¼ pound)
1 tablespoon white pepper
½ cup whole milk

In a saucepan heat the chicken stock, celery and onions to a low boil. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and flour. Stir and cook over a low heat until the roux is smooth. Add the cooked roux to the low boiling chicken stock and increase the heat to medium-high. Stir the thickening stock until it reaches a low boil and turn heat off. Next, add the peanut butter, shredded ham, white pepper and milk. Stir until the peanut butter is dissolved and the ham is dispersed throughout the soup. Taste to see if enough salt and pepper has been added. Re-adjust if needed.

A great garnish is chopped peanuts. An accomplishment of ham biscuits and apple fritters is very Virginia.

Measuring spoons and cup, cutting board and chefs knife, two saucepans wire whisk and rubber spatula.

Fresh Virginia Rockfish served with Sweet Cream, Flash-Fried Oysters, Local Tomatoes and Green Onions

4 (6-7 ounce) boneless, skinless fresh rockfish fillets
2 tablespoons blended olive oil
1 tablespoons Montreal seasoning, divided
1 cup solid vegetable shortening (Cristco)
16 freshly shucked oysters, the largest are called “counts”
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fine ground cracker meal
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups Sweet Cream and Fresh Herb Sauce
1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely diced spring onions

Take the rockfish fillets and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of the fish fillets with about half of the Montreal seasoning. In a preheated 350-degree oven, place the rockfish fillets in a baking sheet lined with foil. Cook for about 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet. When the filet becomes completely white through the sides, it is ready. Please do not overcook this wonderful fish.

In a separate, raised-side skillet, place the solid vegetable shortening on a medium heat until melted and hot.
Before the shortening is melted and hot, take the shucked oysters and place in a bowl with the beaten eggs, milk and the rest of the Montreal seasoning. Let soak for a few minutes then roll the oysters in a raised-edge pan containing cracker meal.

The breading of oysters is a careful process. I tell people I judge the quality of a seafood restaurant on a few basic items, the breading of an oyster being one. The double breading of an oyster, meaning no flour, then egg wash, then heavy breading is sinful. The oyster should only be soaked in a seasoned egg wash then individually handled through the cracker meal, lightly patting the “yolk” or the raised center of the oyster before carefully placing on a piece of waxed paper and refrigerating. The oyster should be allowed to sit uncovered in a refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before frying so the crust does not come off. Another helpful hint with oysters is to never cover them in a refrigerator, even overnight; they will become soggy and dark when frying.
I guess I have made it clear how much respect I have for the beloved “Flash-Fried Oyster.” When the shortening is very hot, not smoking, but hot to a crackle if water is sprinkled in the pan, place the breaded oyster by hand in the hot oil as quickly as possible. As they begin to brown, turn the oysters over to crisp on both sides. When the oysters are finished frying, place on a paper-lined plate and sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper.
Now it is time to “Plate Up”. First on the dinner plate, place about two or three ounces of sweet cream and herb sauce. Next, take the baked piece of fresh rockfish fillet and place over the sweet cream. Arrange four fried oysters around the rockfish fillet and top with the fresh tomato and spring onion. A suitable accompaniment for this dish may be a variety of grilled vegetables; asparagus comes to mind first and I would not serve a starch with this dish.

New England Clam Chowder

4 oz. diced bacon
25 clams with liquid
1 cup diced onion
4 quarts water
1 cup diced celery
1 pound butter
½ cup diced carrots
1 pound flour
1 T. thyme leaves
1 quart milk
½ T. white pepper
2 cups diced potatoes

Sauté bacon, vegetables and spices in a pan until tender. Open clams and retain all the liquid. Chop clams into cubes. Add clams and water to vegetables and bring to a boil.

In a separate pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes until smooth, stirring constantly. When smooth, add to boiling stock and stir constantly until stock thickens.

In a separate pot, heat milk while bringing the stock back to a boil. Turn off heat and add warm milk to stock. Stir until chowder is hot.