Life's A Beach For Jasper White

When Boston chef Jasper White hit upon the idea for his first Summer Shack restaurant, the name alone conjured up happy memories for his Beantown clientele, most of whom grew up summering on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Maine and Rhode Island.

The idea of being able to eat in a casual clam shack in the middle of Cambridge in the middle of the winter was immediately embraced by Bostonians. There are now four Summer Shacks, including one at Boston's Logan Airport.

Much of White's previous experiences as a chef were in far more classic, formal hotel restaurants, including The Copley Plaza, The Parker House and The Bostonian Hotel. Along with his wife, Lydia, also a chef, they introduced their own, reworked American cuisine to the area. In 1983, they opened Jasper's on the Boston waterfront, which thrived there for 12 years, winning awards and accolades.

But faced with a harsh reality -- his restaurant was going to be in the middle of the now-infamous Big Dig construction site -- White chose to close Jasper's rather than move it elsewhere. After taking some time off to write cookbooks and ponder his next move, Summer Shack was born. White has now written "The Summer Shack Cookbook."

He's now undertaken the "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge, coming up with a delicious seafood menu for four people for under $40. And seeing as how it's already summer, no need to turn on the heating lamps and ceiling fans to simulate the weather.

Scallop and Bacon Hors D'Oeuvres

Here is a timeless combination that is always a crowd pleaser at cocktail parties. Given the short supply and high price of scallops in the past year, I think this is a great way to serve scallops without splurging for them as a main course. My version uses a pinch of fresh thyme, which tastes lovely with the sweet scallops and smoky bacon. I roll the scallop and bacon in crumbs before I bake them. The fat from the bacon adheres to the crumbs which adhere to the scallops, giving them a nice crunch and extra bacon flavor. For equipment you will need 20 wooden toothpicks, a pastry brush, a small mixing bowl and a baking sheet.

8 ounces medium size sea scallops (16-20 per pound),
kosher or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped (1 tablespoon)
5 slices thin-sliced bacon (about 1/4 pound), sliced
in half horizontally
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs or fine white bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Making Ahead

The scallops can be seasoned and wrapped hours before you cook them. They should be rolled in crumbs at the last minute.

1. Prepare the scallops by picking over them, removing the strap (muscle attached on the side). Place them in a bowl and season them with salt, pepper and thyme. Wrap a slice (1/2 slice) of bacon snugly around each scallop so it overlaps slightly and skewer a toothpick into the bacon overlap, through the center of each scallop and out the other side. At this point the can be cooked or kept refrigerated until ready to cook.
2. Adjust the oven racks to the middle positions and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and set it aside.
3. Put the Panko crumbs in a food processor and pulverize them until they are very fine. Place them in a shallow bowl. (You can substitute fine white breadcrumbs for the panko-either is fine.)
4. Brush each scallops lightly with olive oil and roll them in the crumbs. Press them into the crumbs gently so some of the crumbs adhere. Place them on the baking sheet as you go. Put the pan in the hot oven and bake for 5 to 6 minutes, until the bacon gets crisp and the crumbs turn golden brown. Place on a platter and serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 hors d'oeuvres.

Portuguese Fisherman's Stew

This is one of the most popular dishes served at my Summer Shack restaurants and it is a great dish to make at home. Robustly flavored with garlic, tomatoes, saffron, sea food and spicy sausage, this stew is very satisfying without being heavy. It is a perfect dish to utilize full flavored fish like bluefish or mackerel. In the Portuguese tradition, these fatty fish are balanced with an equal amount of lean fish like hake, cod or bass. The Portuguese community on the East Coast plays a major role in the fishing industry; it is no surprise that they are wonderful seafood cooks.

For equipment you will need a 6-to 8-quart Dutch oven or braising pot. A heavy stock pot will work but it won't look good at the table. You will also need a wooden spoon, slotted spoon, tongs and a ladle. Serve this dish with a side of plain white or brown rice.

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 small bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped (1 tablespoon)
1 medium (5-ounce) yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium (6-ounce) red or green bell pepper, halved,
seeds removed and thinly sliced (julienne)

1 teaspoon saffron threads, chopped
1 14-ounce can tomatoes in juice, drained, juice
reserved and tomatoes cut into strips

1 cup dry white wine
2 cups fish stock, clam juice, chicken broth or water
1/4 pound chouriço or linguiça sausage, casing peeled off and sliced ½ -inch thick

8 ounces fatty fish fillets (bluefish or mackerel),blood-line removed and cut into 4 pieces

8 ounces lean fish fillets (hake, cod, halibut or striped bass), cut into 4 pieces

1-1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
6 ounces clean squid with tentacles, bodies cut into 1/2-inch thick rings

freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Making Ahead
The stew itself may be made completely to the point where the shellfish and fish go in, chilled quickly in a sink of ice water, covered and refrigerated. To finish, bring the stew base up to a boil over medium heat, add the clams and proceed with the recipe.

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a 6 to 8 quart pot. Add the bay leaves and red pepper flakes and sauté until they sizzle and the bay leaves begin to turn brown. Add the garlic, thyme, onion, and bell pepper and sauté, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the saffron and sauté one minute more.

2. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the white wine, and the fish stock, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice.

3. Stir in the chourico and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add both kinds of fish and stir to submerge while still raw. Simmer slowly for 5 minutes (reduce the heat if the stew is boiling too fast). Add the mussels and squid, leaving them on top of the stew without trying to submerge them (the steam will cook them) and simmer for 3 minutes more. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the stew to sit for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

4. Distribute the fish and shellfish evenly among 4 soup plates, using tongs. Return the broth to the stove, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in parsley and cilantro. Ladle the broth over each bowl of fish. If you have a nice large pot that would look good on the table, then serve this dish family style, stirring the parsley and cilantro into the stew, then ladling it from the pot to large soup plates. Also serve plain white rice on the side.

Serves 4 as an entrée.

Go to Page 2 for the Nectarine and Blueberry Shortcake recipe