Friday, December 19, 2008

Seafood Gratin

Some recipes, when tasted the first time, are so very delicious that you wonder where they have been all your life. Such is the case with the most delectable seafood gratin I made for dinner tonight. It is so rich, and filled with so much silky creaminess that it is almost impossible to go back for seconds, and almost impossible not to. A cream/wine sauce that is spiked with saffron forms the base, then it is loaded with shrimp, scallops and halibut and layered with sauteed carrots and leeks. Though it has many steps in its preparation, none is particularly complicated and it can be made in advance and baked later. The recipe hails from the Barefoot "Two Sticks of Butter" Contessa and is definitely one for a special occasion or one that would make an ordinary occasion special. I realize that this photo does not do justice to all the beautiful seafood concealed beneath the buttery blanket of Panko, but trust me, you will be amazed by its creamy goodness.

If you cannot find good seafood stock in your market it is really simple to make.

Seafood Stock

Saute 3 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery stalks, one chopped carrot, and the shells from one pound of shrimp in 2 T olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add 1 1/2 quarts of water, 1/2 C good dry wine and 1/3 C tomato paste. Stir in 10 sprigs of thyme and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and continue to simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve, pressing on solids to remove as much stock as possible. You should have about 1 quart, but add wine or water to make up the difference if it is a bit short.

Seafood Gratin

1 cup seafood stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons good dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

8 ounces raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half crosswise
8 ounces raw halibut, cut into1-inch chunks
8 ounces raw sea scallops, cut in half crosswise
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups julienned leeks, white and light green parts (2 large)
1 1/2 cups julienned carrots (3 carrots)
1 cup panko (Japanese dried bread crumbs)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the stock, cream, 1/2 cup of the wine, the tomato puree, and saffron in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and add the shrimp. After 3 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp to a bowl. Add the halibut to the stock for 3 minutes, until just cooked through, and remove to the same bowl. Add the scallops and cook for 3 minutes then remove to the same bowl. Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Mash 1 tablespoon of the butter together with the flour. Whisk the butter mixture into the sauce along with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saute pan. Add the leeks and carrots and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of wine, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

Combine the panko, Parmesan, parsley, tarragon, and garlic. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and mix it into the crumbs until they're moistened.

Put the seafood into a greased 9 x 13 dish. Strew the vegetables on top. Pour the sauce over the seafood and vegetables and spoon the crumbs evenly on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Serve hot.

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