I was contemplating what to make for a special holiday dinner this year and decided to have the dinner guests weigh in on the matter. A prime rib roast? Lobster? A spiral ham? Another turkey? The possibilities are endless.
The majority decided they wanted some kind of seafood. What was more difficult to get out of everyone was what kind of seafood they wanted. (Wouldn’t everyone be surprised if I set a platter of octopus out for a special dinner? After all, that’s seafood, too.)
Since I couldn’t get more specifics on what kind of seafood everyone wanted, I decided to make a seafood casserole with some top-shelf selections such as giant sea scallops, lobster, haddock, fresh lump crabmeat and shrimp.
I sautéed everything and made a creamy sauce, then spooned it into a casserole dish and topped everything off with some crushed Ritz crackers toasted in butter with a little bit of brown sugar.
The casserole was decadent and delicious.
I served it with some crispy polenta cakes finished with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese. The texture and flavors were remarkable with the seafood spooned over the top.
To round out the meal, I put together a winter citrus salad. The salad was made with watercress, diced seedless cucumber, grapefruit sections, mandarin oranges and pomegranate seeds.
I made a simple dressing with juice from the grapefruit, a little sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper and some olive oil. Since the watercress has a peppery bite, the sweet grapefruit and orange sections are excellent companions.
A sprinkle of black sesame seeds pulls the salad together; the presentation is as beautiful as the bright flavors.
1 lb fresh salmon, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lobster, steamed, shelled and cut into pieces
1 lb fresh white fish, such as haddock, but into 1-inch chunks
1 lb large sea scallops cut in half
1 cup lump crabmeat
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup Vidalia onion, chopped
1 stick butter, halved
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp flour
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Add half of the stick of butter to a deep sauté pan over medium high heat. When the butter is melted, add the garlic, shallot, celery and onion and sauté until the vegetables have softened.
Add the salmon, white fish, scallops, shrimp, crabmeat and lemon juice and cook for about 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked throughout.
Sprinkle the flour over the top, then stir in the milk, heavy cream and white wine. Add the Old Bay seasoning, salt, pepper, and peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer to a casserole dish.
Add the remaining butter to a skillet set over medium heat. When the butter is melted, crush the Ritz crackers and add them to the butter. Add the parsley flakes and brown sugar and stir; cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cracker crumbs are golden brown.
Spoon the cracker crumbs over the seafood in an even layer, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and set in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and the top is golden brown.
Crispy Garlic Polenta
18 oz tube polenta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp flour
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
3 tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, for garnish
Remove the polenta from the package and slice into 1/2 inch pieces.
Add the olive oil to a deep skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is warmed, add the garlic.
Add the flour, salt and pepper to a shallow bowl and stir.
Dredge the polenta in the flour mixture then place in the skillet with the olive oil. Cook for about 3 minutes, then turn the polenta over and the other side for about 3 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from pan and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with Parmesan, if desired.
Citrus Watercress Salad
4 oz package watercress
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup mandarin oranges
1/2 cup seedless cucumber, diced
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp black sesame seeds for garnish, if desired
Cut the grapefruit in half. Using a citrus reamer, extract the juice from one half of the grapefruit and transfer the juice to a small bowl.
Run a paring knife along the edge of the remaining grapefruit then score the sections so you can scoop out triangle shaped pieces that have no skin or peel on them. Set the grapefruit sections aside.
Add the olive oil to the grapefruit juice, then add the sugar, salt and pepper and whisk together.
Add the watercress and cucumber to a large bowl and pour the olive oil and grapefruit juice over the watercress and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Cut the pomegranate in half, remove the seeds and set over the watercress. Top the watercress with the grapefruit sections and mandarin oranges, then garnish with black sesame seeds, if desired.