Friday, March 23, 2018

The Hawthornes Attend The Seafood Series At NC Aquarium.

Once again, the Hawthornes are back at the NC Aquarium
for their ongoing seafood series and cooking classes.

Today, Johanna and Justin Lachine of  Café Lachine 
are presenting the class.

 Lionfish, a non-indigenous species here,
is being featured again.
If you might recall,
Chef Andy Montero, of Montero's in Elizabeth City,
presented a class last November on lionfish.

The Aquarium's dive team went out to shipwrecks
off Hatteras Inlet and returned with their bounty - lionfish.
You can read all about the lionfish by clicking on the above link.

The lionfish are collected with pole spears
and then placed into sealed containers
to protect the divers from the venomous spines.

Here, Diver Shawn, displays a lionfish.
As I said, the lionfish is not native to Atlantic waters.
They are native to the Indo-Pacific area.

Lionfish in the Atlantic are voracious predators 
at the top of the food chain. 
They are an invasive species,
threatening native fish communities and fisheries resources,
disrupting the biodiversity of the reef and the marine ecosystem process.
The lionfish is a formidable, effective predator.
It is not a selective feeder,
meaning it will eat anything it can fit in its mouth,
including juvenile fish,
thus decimating many of the local populations.
By eating juvenile fish, 
the lionfish are diminishing populations of larger fish
who compete for the same prey.
Lionfish are also highly adaptable,
able to inhabit pretty much all marine habitat type.
They are found in coral reefs, mangroves, artificial reefs,
and grass sea beds.
They are also  able to survive at various depths
 by their great range of temperature tolerance.
The only known predators of the lionfish
are grouper and shark. 

Their breeding habits also affect the difficulty to control the population.
Lionfish have a 30-year life span and a high fecundity rate,
reproducing at an early age and producing
around 2 million babies a year.

There are no fishing regulations on size or limit.
The Atlantic lionfish population can be genetically narrowed down 
to ten fish released by aquarium hobbyists in Florida
during Hurricane Andrew.

Efforts are being made to control the lionfish population.
Lionfish "derbies" are held,
essentially fishing competitions,
 to catch as many lionfish as possible in a set period of time, 
with prizes awarded to teams for the biggest fish and the most caught.
The derbies, sponsored by REEF,
the Reef Environmental Education Foundation,
(an organization devoted to ocean conservation)
are trying to create media exposure so more people 
can be made aware of the growing problem of
the "invasion of the lionfish."
Hopefully, local restaurants will jump on the lionfish bandwagon,
and will offer this fish on their menus
and introduce it to consumers.
In order to do this,
seafood initiatives need to be developed
to compliment fishing efforts and make lionfishing more profitable.
Both restaurants and consumers need to be educated
for this to become feasible.

Chefs Johanna and Justin Lachine
begin preparations for our meal.

Our first course is lionfish with
rutabaga, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and pecans.
Note:  Any white, flaky fish could be subbed for the lionfish.
Flounder or grouper would work just as well.

Lionfish  4 5-oz. fillets
1/2 cup pancetta, crisped, fat reserved
red onion, small dice
carrot, small dice
1 cup brussels sprouts, blanched and halved
1 cup rutabaga, medium dice, blanched
1 cup butternut squash, medium dice
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cup green grapes
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tble rosemary
1/2 cup butter, chilled, cubed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup sliced green onion

Season fillets with 2 parts kosher salt and 1 part each pepper and granulated garlic.
Sear fillets in rendered pancetta fat.
Remove and set aside.
In same pan, add onion and carrot and lightly sauté.
Add brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and rutabaga
and cook about 2 minutes.
Add pecans, grapes, stock, paprika, chili powder, and rosemary
and reduce by half.
Add butter, parsley, pancetta, and chives.
Reduce slightly until butter is incorporated
and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide among plates
and top each with seared lionfish fillet.

This dish would be a great fall/winter dish
even without the fish.
The chefs are always ready
to answer our questions
and offer advice.

Next up was the Lachines' version
of Oysters Rockefeller.

Nobody knows the original Oysters Rockefeller
from Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans.
It is a closely-guarded secret 
and it is said that Jules Alciatore, Antoine's proprietor and chef,
exacted a deathbed promise that the recipe ingredients 
and proportions remain a secret.
However, the "recipe" has evolved
 and has been adapted and imitated
throughout the years
in a myriad of ways.
Personally, I like 'em all.

Oysters "Rockefeller" with Creamed Spinach
36 oysters, cleaned and shucked
 Make Béchamel Sauce:
2 cups whole milk
3 TB flour
3 TB butter
white pepper
1 lb blanched, dried spinach chopped
finely diced white onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Melt butter in saucepan, add flour, and cook 4-5 minutes.
Slowly add milk, salt and pepper to taste.  
Add sauce to chopped dried spinach.  Set aside.

Make Hollandaise Sauce:
1 lb melted clarified butter
5 egg yolks
1 TB hot sauce
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
3 TB lemon juice
pinch salt
pinch black pepper
Add all ingredients except butter to a blender.
With blender on high,
slowly drizzle in the butter until combined and creamy.

To plate, top shucked oysters with creamed spinach
and bake at 400° for 5-7 minutes.
Finish with hollandaise and chopped bacon.

Our last dish was a creamy pasta with shrimp and scallops.
Creamy Seafood Pasta
 2 cups heavy cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup chopped bacon
1/2 cup caramelized onion
parsley and chives for garnish
4 cups cooked pasta
12 scallops
12 shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Heat heavy cream in large sauté pan over medium heat.
Add parmesan cheese and stir to blend.
Stir in bacon and caramelized onions.
Keep warm while you prepare the seafood.
Heat another large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Add 3 TB oil and scallops and shrimp.
Cook about 1 1/2 minutes each side.
Turn off heat.
Add pasta to sauce.
Place in serving bowls and top with seafood, herbs, and Parmesan.

 This was plate-lickin' good!

Fortified by delicious food,
I always like to take a stroll through the aquarium.
The turtles are always happy to see me.

The alligators gave me the eye.

And the otters ottered.

Stay tuned for our next class in the seafood series -
Chef Jason Jordan from Black Pelican.

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