This one is my Mom’s original recipes and I have adapted it with just a few small tweaks. I am looking at (as I type) at the original recipe, with side notes, as printed and distributed to the five kids and families in a collection of family recipes compiled into what we all affectionately call “The Red Book”. It’s been around, and heavily used for what I think is close to fifteen years, if not longer.
This one is a real keeper. It was made as the Christmas Eve dinner for many years and it’s the first thing that I ever made for Michele; it was on our first date, a few moons ago. It’s elegant and creamy, and the sherry addition just about puts it over the top. Mom used to trim the crusts from white bread slices, butter them on one side and sort of push them down into muffin/cupcake tins and slow bake them at about 275° F until they are golden brown on the points and warm and moist in the middle: toast cups! Frozen puff-pastry shells work real well, too!
Any combination of about three pounds of assorted seafood: Medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, fresh scallops (sea or bay), white fish, lobster meat, or lump crab meat
2 cups water
2 cups of white wine
1 jar of clam juice
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
1 TBSP fresh dill, chopped, or 1 tsp dry dill
A pinch of salt
4 TBSPS flour
4 TBSPS butter
½ pint of half-and-half, or heavy, cream
½ cup of cooking sherry
Fresh grated nutmeg, just a couple of pinches
Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
Toast cups, or puff-pastry shells
Make a stock with the water, wine, clam juice, onion, peppercorns, bay, dill, and salt in a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Bring just to a simmer, and poach your various seafoods according to the length of time it takes to cook each type. A general rule of thumb would be the firmer cooking first and the more tender-fleshed last. Shrimp take longer than fish, depending on the thickness of the cut of fish, and scallops cook really fast. They are usually tender cooked in about two minutes. The general idea, give or take a couple of minutes, is that you want all of your seafoods to be done at about the same time and you want to treat them all as gently as possible. When done, strain the stock to separate the fish from the liquid, leaving only the liquid. Reserve the stock liquid and pick the bay leaf, onion, and peppercorns from the fish. Cover the fish to keep it warm.
In another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium to low heat, being careful not to burn it. Sprinkle the flour into the melted butter and whisk together. Let the mixture foam and cook until it just begins to turn a light golden brown. Add the cream and the sherry, stirring after each addition to make sure there are no lumps. Slowly add some of the fish stock to your white sauce until it reaches a creamy, gravy-like, consistency. Season the sauce with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. (If you use black pepper here, the small black specks will show in your sauce, which can be visually misleading.) Add the seafood to the sauce and gently stir in to avoid breaking up the seafood into a whole mess of tiny fish flakes. Stir from the bottom of the pot, with a spatula, to fold the sauce into the seafood. Simmer for a few minutes more to make sure that it is heated through. Serve hot in toast cups or puff-pastry shells. Enjoy!