In the middle of winter, nothing tastes better than a hearty, warming seafood dinner. So we asked Mike Price, executive chef at a popular New York City fish house, The Mermaid Inn, to visit The Early Show as this week's Chef on a Shoestring.
Chef Price grew up in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay, tending to his family's farm and cooking at a local crab house on the weekends. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he was asked to head the Mermaid Inn kitchen when it opened in 2003.
On a budget of $40, Price shows how to prepare a three-course seafood meal for four people.
On the menu: Skillet Roasted Mussels, Pan Seared Cod with New England Clam Chowder Sauce and Citrus Fruit Salad with Pomegranate and Mint.
Mussels: These mollusks have very thin shells and a slightly sweet meat that's tougher than the oyster or the clam. When buying, remember that smaller mussels tend to be more tender than large ones. Also, buy mussels with tightly-closed shells or those that snap shut when tapped. Otherwise they're not alive and fresh. Avoid those with broken shells, that feel heavy (meaning they're full of sand) or that feel light and loose when shaken (meaning the mussel is dead). Mussels don't take long to cook; you'll know they are done when the shells open up.
Chowder: The term can be used to describe any thick soup containing chunks of food (such as corn chowder), but most commonly refers to clam chowder. Although Chef Price is using his chowder as a sauce, you could eat it alone as a soup.
Hushpuppy: This Southern specialty is a small cornmeal dumpling, deep-fried and served hot, traditionally with fried catfish. The name is said to have come from the cooks' habit of tossing scraps of fried batter to hungry dogs to stop them from begging while dinner was being prepared. They would feed the dogs with the admonition "hush, puppy!"
Pomegranate: About the size of a large orange, this fruit is full of hundreds of seeds. Each tiny, edible seed is surrounded by a brilliant-red pulp that has a sweet-tart flavor. To eat, cut in half and then pry out the seeds.
Skillet Roasted Mussels with Drawn Butter
4 lbs. mussels (Prince Edward Island, Whitewater, etc., depending on availability)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. butter
1. Clean and debeard mussels.
2. Toss with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and place in heated cast iron skillet (other types of skillet are okay)
3. Cover the skillet and place in a 350 degree oven for 4 minutes. The mussels will be cooked when the shells open.
4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan.
5. Remove mussels from oven and season again with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with drawn butter.
Pan Seared Codfish with New England Clam Chowder Sauce
4 4-oz. cod fillets (skin on)
½ cup diced onions
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup diced leeks (optional)
2 medium-sized Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups clam juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. chopped thyme
1 tsp. chopped chives
1 tbsp. blended or Canola oil
12 Littleneck clams, cleaned
1. Melt half of the butter in a pan over medium heat and add onions, chopped thyme and celery (and leek if using). Saute until tender.
2. Season with salt and pepper and dust with flour, stir to combine.
3. Add clam juice, heavy cream, diced potatoes, and simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes. Halfway through the process add the cleaned Littleneck clams.
4. Once the clams have opened and the sauce is slightly thickened, finish with chopped chives.
5. Heat oil in a second pan. Season cod fillets with salt and pepper and place in pan, skin side down. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, until the fish is an even golden color. Add remaining butter and sauté the fish until butter melts.
6. Flip fillets over (so skin side is up) and then place pan in a 350 degree oven for 4-5 minutes so the fish can finish cooking.
7. Spoon clam chowder sauce into four large soup bowls and top each serving with a roasted cod fillet.
1 medium minced onion
1 1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
2. If you have a fryer, heat oil to 350 degrees and drop mixture by the tablespoon into the fryer, cooking until golden brown.
3. Or, if you don't have a fryer, heat about 1 and 1/2 cups of oil in a large pan. Drop mixture by the tablespoon into hot oil and allow hushpuppies to cook for about two minutes per side, until golden brown. Makes about two dozen hushpuppies.
Seasonal Citrus Salad with Pomegranate and Mint
2 blood oranges
1 pomegranate, seeded
4 sprigs of mint
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1. Peel tangerines, blood oranges, grapefruit and lime with a small pairing knife, making sure to remove all white outer skin.
2. Place a mesh strainer over a medium-sized mixing bowl and segment citrus fruits. Reserve the juice that falls into the mixing bowl.
3. Place reserved citrus juice in a small sauce pan. Add 1 ½ tbsp. of sugar and ½ of the reserved pomegranate seeds. Cook over medium heat and reduce until syrupy.
4. Place remaining pomegranate seeds in a medium mixing bowl along with the citrus segments, 1 ½ tbsp. of sugar and julienned mint, and lightly toss.
5. Divide citrus salad among small serving bowls and drizzle with reduced syrup. Garnish with more mint.