Archived entries for seafood

Great Lakes Whitefish BBQ

For my Dad, a perfect summer time meal is BBQ’d whitefish.

He lays them out, two great lakes white fish fillets, freshly caught a few days before.

He seasons it with salt, black pepper, paprika and freshly cut dill (not yet on fish in this photo).

Two cedar planks, soaked for an hour or two in water are ready and waiting on a hot grill to infuse a nice smokey wood flavor  into the spiced white fish fillets.

20 minutes later, dinner is ready with some fresh Michigan sweet corn.  Its delicious every time!

A Free Guided Fishing Expidtion to Isaacson and Steins

I felt really intimidated going into Isaacson and Stein for the first time. I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing. I was afraid of asking anyone questions for fear of bothering them, or being seen as an idiot. The piles of whole fish made me feel inept in my inability to clean them. But, it was all in my mind. People here are nice and there’s nothing to be intimidated of!

So you can make the most of your first I&S fishing expedition, here’s 8 tips for smooth sailing!

  1. Know the hours: They have weird hours. They’re never open past 4:15 during the week, although they are open 8-1 on Saturdays.
    1. Try to make it in during the week: its worth it. Saturdays are always busy busy and the selection is picked through. I go on Fridays when its pretty low key. If they’re not busy, the staff is way more willing to shoot the shit and help you pick out the right fish for your dish!
    2. Go early. If you go on Saturday, try to make it there as early as possible to get a good selection.

  2. Know the process:
    1. Grab gloves: There’s a box of plastic gloves on the table on your right when you come in. You’ll want them to handle the fish.
    2. Get your fish weighed: When you’ve decided on what you want, take your bag of fish to the table to the right of the door. Guys behind the table will weigh your stuff and give you a receipt.
    3. Pay for your fish: take your receipt to the guys at the window on your left and pay, cash or credit.

  3. Check the signs: Signs above the fish tell you more then just the name and price. It will also list where the fish come from, if its farm grown or wild, and if its fresh or previously frozen which guarantees you know what you’re getting.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re not sure which fish will work for your recipe, how you want it cleaned, or what’s the best stuff at the moment, ask someone. Just don’t be offended if they don’t give you a long answer. If they’re busy, they can be brisk. It is a whole saler after all. I’ve always found them to be very helpful!

  5. Get Your Fish Cleaned: Once you’ve paid, get in line at the two cleaning stations to the left of the payment windows. After your fish is cleaned, tipping is suggested. I have to make a confession, I never have (eek!). These guys are so covered in fish juice, with thick rubber gloves on, I don’t know where to put the money. Give it to them… put it in their pocket…. I’ve never seen any one else do it either. If anyone has advice on this, I’ll take it!!
  6. Use the Fish Bones in Stock: If your getting your fish cleaned, keep the bones and head. You paid for it, and you can use it for stock! They also usually have fish bones in the back corner you can buy for stock as well. I only use whitefish bones though, bones from salmon and other dark varieties make a really fishy stock which is definitely an acquired taste.
  7. Be Prepared:
    1. Don’t get grossed out: This place is stinky and there’s dead fish everywhere. There’s fish juice all over the floor. Like Cat B says, “Don’t wear flip flops”.
    2. Fish can rot: Raw fish and seafood are very delicate. Make sure you can go straight home afterward or carry a ice chest with you.
  8. Park your car! They have parking spots out front. How lucky! Well if you have a car.

Where Can I Find Fresh Fish In Chicago? Hellya: Isaacson & Stein!!

We get a lot of seafood sympathy from our seaboard friends for Chicago being landlocked and so far away from the coasts? (Lake Michigan grunts. Sorry Dude, you know what I mean). While its true, you’ll never see lobster for $3.00 lb here, not all the sympathy is warranted. So, is it possible to find fresh, reasonably priced fish in Chicago?

Ugh!! Did I hear you say Whole Foods? I’m sorry you’ve been paying so much! No, no no! The answer is Isaacson and Stein’s!

This has to be one of my favorite spots in Chicago, which the Yelper, Emily L. rightly describes as “Holy Foodie Heaven!” Isaacson and Stein, a fish wholesaler in the meatpacking district (Fulton off Halsted) which is, as it’s sign reads, OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!! If you’ve never been here, its worth a trip, just to look at the fish!

Ohh! Wild Caught Red Snapper!

“Ah, the smell of fish on a sunny afternoon. Once your nose adjusts to the waft of fish stank (if that is possible), this place is really a gem.”
-Scott A.

This store’s one big room is a weekly conduit of over 10 reeking tons of the most beautiful fresh fish and seafood in the city. If its good enough for the best restaurants in Chicago, its good enough for me! I’m no snob.

Their selection is awesome, ranging from the exotic to local, with rare South American varieties next to locally caught whitefish and perch. Classic seafood options are almost always available, including my favorite fresh muscles, succulent scallops and shrimpies of various sizes. Most of the fish is sold whole, but as the week wears on, you’ll see more and more piles of fillets all cleaned and prepped that day.

Whole fish? Don’t worry, after you buy the fish, you can take it over to the two cleaning stands and have one or their amazing mongers gut and clean everything for you, so you get to leave with the freshly cleaned fillets ready for your dinner.

Action shot: Cleaning an Alaskan Halibut! I’d never seen even a partially whole halibut before. This fish is huge and he filleted it in one solid quick motion. These guys really know how to wield a knife!

Okay, I know I sound like a paid commercial, but I’m not alone. People freak out about this place. Don’t believe me? Check out their 4 1/2 star yelp page.

“I LOVE this place…minus the fish juice I get on my shoes (don’t go in there in flip flops!)”
-Cat B.

Ha! Thanks Cat for the great tip! Speaking of tips, check our User’s Guide to Isaacson and Stein so you can make the most of your I&S fishing expedition!

Succulent Ceviche with Whitefish

Ceviche blew my mind the first time I heard of it. The idea of “cooking” with no heat seemed so exciting; that because of the delicate tissue in seafood and fish, when you soak it in a high acid solution, often lime juice, the acid will break down the cell walls and “cook” the meat.

I love the delicate succulence of sushi and sashimi, and this same quality, often lost or diluted when cooking, is so wonderfully preserved in ceviche. Each bite is a burst of subtle juiciness infused with the tartness of the citric marinade. Nothing can be more satisfying on a warm summer day then this fresh cool dish!

Because this dish is all about the delicacy of the meats, you want a fish which has a more subtle flavor. As awesome as this dish is, it can be made horrible with a strong fishy flavor. Gross gross gross! So stay with a whitefish and you won’t be sorry. Although, we are very frugal here, this is a dish which needs good quality fish. It can be made with some cheap farm raised tilapia, but I would suggest going to your local fish monger or grocer and asking for a good fillet cut. I’ve made this with wild stripped sea bass as well as the Peruvian Corvina sea bass for the Polynesian meal, and the better the meat, the more beautiful this dish becomes. So don’t skimp. That’s my advice.

The marinade needs to be high enough acid content in order to “cook” the fish. I tried making it with marinades higher in wine content then citrus juice or vinegar but the meat was a bit raw, even after soaking for 8 hours. SO my recipe sticks with the traditional technique of being mostly citrus juice with some additional flavors. Many recipes call for cutting the fillets up into small bite size chunks, which make the soaking time much less, but I like keeping the fillets larger because I feel as though the meat retains the fresh texture better. So with no further ado, on to the recipe.

Recipe: Whitefish Ceviche


    • 1-2 lb of fillets of whitefish
    • 10 limes
    • 1/2 c. white wine
    • 1/2 c. sweet vinegar (rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, etc)
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 tomato, diced
    • fresh fruit, diced
    • salt
    • pepper
    • optional: papaya seeds, black tea


  1. Prep fillets: Take each fillet and cut in half or in thirds (for large pieces). If the fillets have differences in thickness, trim any thicker areas to create a uniform thickness. Place the fillets between parchment paper and gently pound to lightly tenderize the meat. Don’t beat it, just to slightly mush it a bit.

    Soak the fish in salt water:
    In a bowl of salt water, soak the bowl for 10 minutes or so. This will give the fish a quick brine and help infuse the salt into the meat.

    Tenderize the meat: Remove the fish from the salt water and lay out in glass dish. Lay each piece of fish out so they don’t overlap. Sprinkle fish with salt and freshly cut pepper. You can use smashed papaya seeds instead of pepper. Optional, you can also sprinkle the meat with dried black tea which helps give a nice subtle bitterness to the sweet taste of the fish. Cover the dish in syran and place in the fridge.

    Prep marinade: Squeeze limes for fresh lime juice. Mix juice with wine and vinegar. Set aside. Dice onions, tomatoes and any fresh fruit. I used papaya and mango. The fruit helps infuse a sweetness into the fish.

    Assemble ceviche: Remove dish of fish out of the refrigerator. Cover with 3/4 of the diced onion, tomatoes and fruit, reserving 1/4. Pour the marinade so it just covers the fish. Recover and chill.

    Flip fish: After 15 minutes, remove the dish from the fridge and flip the fish. Cover and chill. The fish will probably need to sit between 6-8 hours in the marinade to be fully prepared. Check back every couple hours to flip the fish, maybe two or three times.

    Plate the fish
    : When you check the fish, take a piece and slice into the center. You’ll want it to be white all the way through. If its still pink at the center, it needs a bit more time. When its done, remove the fish from the marinade. Cover with the remaining fresh onions tomatoes and chopped fruit.

    Serve, eat, yum!

Cooking time (duration): 30 (8 hours total)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Diet (other): Reduced fat

Meal type: breakfast

Culinary tradition: Persian

Recipe by on.
Microformatting by hRecipe.

Easy Posh: Shrimp Bisque

I’ve had a few requests from friends for the recipe for the Shrimp Bisque I made for my family’s Christmas Eve dinner. Delicious and decadent, this soup can be made for not too much money or skill.

A great soup for a dinner party, you can impress your guests with little to no fuss. This website is all about trying to help our readers appear more fancy then they can afford so this one is for you. Just mention the “Champagne Reduction” you made for the soup base, and all your guests will think you’re the shit, ahem, I mean, a true epicurean.

Shrimp Bisque
serves 8 as a starter, 4 as a main dish
Continue reading…

Like Shrimp Cocktail? You’ll Love Shrimp Cocktail Dip!

I love this shrimp dip because it gives you shrimp cocktail plus cream cheese. Say no more. Plus, this dip is as easy to make as it is to eat! Great for you last minute party planners!

Shrimp Cocktail Dip

  • 1-2 packages cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. salad shrimp
  • 1 c. of cocktail sauce -or- 1 c. ketchup and 2 Tbl shredded horseradish (drained)

Using a hand mixer, blend cream cheese (packages depending on the size of your dish) and sour cream. Your looking for a constancy which will be less stiff and be easily scooped by a cracker without cracking it.

Spread cream cheese on bottom of your chosen dish. I always use a glass pie pan.

Spread cocktail sauce over cream cheese.

Place shrimp in a strainer and allow all excess shrimp juice to drip out.

Scatter shrimp over cocktail sauce and you are done.

Presto: Shrimp Dip!

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Although Christmas day is exciting, Christmas Eve is always my family’s favorite time. My Mom likes to make a multi-course meal which generally includes prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, and other delicious treats.

Feast of the Seven Fishes by Jason Santa Maria

Last year, my Mom decided to be adventurous for our Christmas Eve meal and suggested trying the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Southern Italian Christmas eve dinner meant to represent the 7 Catholic sacraments. My Mom thought it would be an exciting challenge for us to try something different and a little more complex. Here was our menu:

  1. Bagnacauda a Garlic and Anchovy spread, served with Baguette
  2. Fried Calamari
  3. Baccala Vesuvio a soup made with salted cod and tomatoes.
  4. Salmon Scallop Terrine
  5. Poached Halibut served with a Champagne Butter sauce w Lemon Barley Pilaf
  6. Lobster Salad
  7. Crab w/ Angel Hair Pasta

Our meal was delicious, although I have to admit, we did not do the best job of serving small enough portions to get through all the courses. We had to quit in the middle of the Lobster salad. If we ever do this again, we have to keep in mind the Gourmet portions!

Check out these sites for more info and sample menus:
Mario Batali

I wish you all a wonderfully delicious Christmas!

Scallop Pot PIe

The scallop pot pies we made for my Mom’s Birthday Dinner turned out absolutely delicious and the only richness required was in the flavor not the pocket book. The use of the acorn squash as bowls is so Autumnal and really made this dish perfect for a cozy fall candle lit dinner.

Scallop Pot Pie
serves six

  • 1 lb small scallops
  • 1 1/2 c. – 2 c. white wine
  • 1 1/2 c. half and half or 3/4 c. heavy cream and 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 large onion diced or two medium onions diced
  • 1 large carrot diced or two medium carrots diced
  • 1-1 1/2 cups diced fennel bulb
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas
  • 1/4 c. frozen corn
  • 1-2 Tbs chopped dill
  • 1 stick of butter + 4 Tbs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1-2 tsp garlic salt, onion salt or shallot salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 0ptional 1/2 lb raw shrimp chopped
  • 3 small acorn squash
  • biscuit dough for topping, recipe follows.

Being by preparing your acorn squash to use for your bowls. Cut the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff. Cut a small disk off the outter ends of each squash bowl so they will sit flat and not roll. Using a paring knife or sharp spoon, cut out as much of the squash meat from the sides as possible.

The squash at the top has been fully scooped, and the one the bottom shows the disk shape at the bottom cut for the pot pie to keep it from rolling over.

I found a spiky ended grapefruit spoon worked really great for this. Be careful not to puncture through the sides of the squash skin. You can scoop some of the squash out of the bottom if the squash is really thick, but you want to leave some in place so the pot pie doesn’t leak out the bottom. We planned on using the squash filling to make soup, but ran out of time. My recipe for roasted butternut squash soup would work well for this. Set squash bowls aside.

Prepare biscuit dough for topping and chill while preparing filling. Recipe follows.

To prepare the filling:
I like to poach the seafood first, as sometimes it takes me a while to get my sauce just right and I don’t want it to be overcooked. Over medium-low heat, saute 1/4 of diced onions and fennel in 2 Tbs of butter until clear. Add 1 1/2 cups of white wine and scallops (add optional shrimp as well). Allow to come to a boil. Once the wine is boiling remove pan from the burner and drain scallops reserving the white wine. We want to under cook the scallops here, because they will finish cooking when we complete the sauce. This step is to infuse the wine with the scallop juice so it will cook into the sauce.

Now we want to prepare a roux to help the sauce thicken. An easy roux can be made by mixing an equal part butter to flour. Using a fork, mix together your stick of butter and 1/2 c. flour. Keep mixing until you have a thick paste.

Thickening your sauce, adding roux and boiling.

Place the saute pan back on burner over medium to low heat. Melt 2 Tbs butter and suate remaining onions and fennel until clear. Add carrots and saute for a couple minutes. Don’t overcook the carrots, our goal is to retain a bit of crispness to them. Add the reserved wine you drained from your scallops and your half and half. Allow to bring to a boil and add 1/2 the roux and allow to boil. As it boils it will thicken. Keep adding roux a tsp at a time until your sauce is at your disired thickness.

Filling with all ingredients added.

Add peas, corn, dill, and onion salt and allow to cook for a minute or two. Add your scallops. Taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly. I find a generous dose of pepper (1/4- 1/2 tsp) works well, but season to your taste.

Fill acorn squash with filling. Roll out prepared biscuit dough in a rectangle on a floured surface and cut into six equal sections large enough to fit your squash.

Brush dough with raw egg. Place dough, egg side down onto squash and trim excess dough. Pinch dough around rounded edges of squash and brush top of dough with egg yolk. Spinkle with paprika. Place squash on a baking tray.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375. After 15 minutes check your dough. If it looks like it is getting too dark, cover with aluminum foil until cooking is done.

Serve and eat up. OK, I know all these directions sound complicated, but this dish is not super hard. Try it and see.

Swiss Cheese Biscuit Dough

  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 4-6 Tbs chilled butter
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. shredded Swiss cheese

This recipe is based on the Joy of Cooking biscuit recipe, which I use so much I keep one of my red ribbons to keep this page permanently marked.

Mix the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or large fork, fork butter into the flour mixture until chunky. Add milk and mix with fork until dough is pretty well mixed. Empty onto a floured surface and gently kneed to form a dough until you have a desired thickness. I try not to handle the dough too much, biscuit dough is best if its not overworked. This will help it be nice and flaky. Chill dough until your ready to use it.

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