Category Archives: Seafood

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Mussels are a favorite shellfish of mine and, while I love them steamed in various different broths, today I am presenting them in the form of Mussel Chowder and I’m sharing my own personal recipe.

Steamed PEI Mussels
PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic

PEI mussels are world famous and PEI is the country’s largest mussel cultivator. According to the Mussel Industry Council of Prince Edward Island, the Island produces some 45 million pounds of mussels annually and grows 80% of Canada’s mussel production.  Fresh PEI mussels are shipped to the USA, Hong Kong, Japan, and Kuwait. We may be Canada’s smallest province but mussel farming on PEI is big “muscle” and big business. I love checking out restaurant menus when I travel around the world and seeing PEI mussels on the menu!

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

The blue mussels that come from PEI are farmed mussels meaning they don’t come from the sea bottom but, rather, they are grown in mesh sleeves, known as “socks”.

Mussel Sock
Mussels in the Sock in Which They are Grown

On the day I publish this mussel chowder recipe for the first time, it is Food Day Canada, a day set aside each year to celebrate all the great Canadian foods we enjoy.  Here, in PEI, I have no shortage of local food options to choose from but, this year, it’s all about the mussels.

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

Mussels are more tender than clams and less gritty.  They are readily available on the Island at seafood outlets and supermarkets and are commonly served at gatherings on PEI.

PEI Mussels Served at Many Gatherings
Steamed PEI Mussels Served at Many Gatherings

Mussels are an affordable seafood and are quick, easy, and fast to prepare.  Steam them in liquid (even plain water) for 7-10 minutes, till the shells open. Dip these tasty little morsels in melted butter and oh-là-là! I like them steamed in beer, white wine, or apple juice with some garlic and fresh herbs.

PEI Mussels

Mussels are a great power food. They are low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals.  They are also gluten-free and are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

There are many different styles of mussel chowder and just as many ways to make it.  My mussel chowder is luxuriously rich, thick, creamy, and packed with wonderful flavor.

Begin by sweating some onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in butter to release the wonderful aromatics.  Add the flour and blend into the vegetables. This roux will thicken the chowder. Add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth,  white wine, and some good PEI potatoes. Pour in some milk to make the chowder nice and creamy. Finally, add in the steamed mussels, and fresh herbs.

Serve with crusty rolls, traditional homemade biscuits, whole wheat biscuits, or garlic or artisan bread.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

My local beverage pairing for this chowder is the Commons Czech Style Pilsner produced by PEI’s Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown. This is a clean, crisp lager that pairs well with mussels. You can read the story I previously wrote about this artisan brewery by clicking here.

PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company's Commons Czech Style Pilsner
PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company’s Commons Czech Style Pilsner

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Ingredients:
2 lb PEI mussels, washed and beards removed
1½ tbsp butter
¼ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 tbsp butter
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
3 tbsp flour
1 cup reserved strained mussel broth
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1½ cups whole milk or a combination of evaporated milk and whole milk
1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ tsp fresh dillweed, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Method:
To steam the mussels, melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add the white wine, parsley, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Add the mussels. Cover. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened.  Set aside 4 mussels in their shells to use as garnishes, then remove the mussel meat from the remaining shells, discarding any shells that have not completely opened.  Store mussels in refrigerator until needed. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the second amount of butter over medium heat.  Reduce heat slightly and add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Sweat the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, just until the onion is transparent.

Reduce heat to low. Add the flour to make a roux and stir to blend with the vegetables.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching.  Gradually add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth, and white wine, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Add the bay leaf and potatoes. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 8-9 minutes or until potatoes are almost fork tender.

Remove about ¼ cup of the hot liquid from pot and stir into the milk to temper it.  Pour tempered milk into hot mixture and stir to combine well.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the steamed mussels, fresh herbs, and butter. Cook for 4-5 minutes until mussels are heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish each with a steamed mussel, fresh herbs, or chopped chives. Serve with crusty rolls, biscuits, or artisan or garlic bread.

Yield: Apx. 4 servings

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Serving Size: Apx. 4

A hearty and delicious mussel chowder made with world-famous PEI mussels

Ingredients

  • 2 lb PEI mussels, washed and beards removed
  • 1½ tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup reserved strained mussel broth
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1½ cups whole milk or a combination of evaporated milk and whole milk
  • 1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp fresh dillweed, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. To steam the mussels, melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels. Cover. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened. Set aside 4 mussels in their shells to use as garnishes, then remove the mussel meat from the remaining shells, discarding any shells that have not completely opened. Store mussels in refrigerator until needed. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the second amount of butter over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly and add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Sweat the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, just until the onion is transparent.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add the flour to make a roux and stir to blend with the vegetables. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching. Gradually add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth, and white wine, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Add the bay leaf and potatoes. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 8-9 minutes or until potatoes are almost fork tender.
  4. Remove about ¼ cup of the hot liquid from pot and stir into the milk to temper it. Pour tempered milk into hot mixture and stir to combine well. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the steamed mussels, fresh herbs, and butter. Cook for 4-5 minutes until mussels are heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish each with a steamed mussel, fresh herbs, or chopped chives. Serve with crusty rolls, biscuits, or artisan or garlic bread.
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Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

Seafood Crepes
Asparagus and Lobster Crepes

Springtime in Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast means it’s lobster season so it’s a great time to make these delectable lobster and asparagus crepes that combine two of the season’s special treats!

The lobster fishery is a significant industry on the Island and, according to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website, “lobster is Canada’s most valuable seafood export and an iconic Canadian species exported around the world.” (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/sustainable-durable/fisheries-peches/lobster-homard-eng.htm).

Fresh PEI Lobster
Steamed Lobster in the Shell

The opening of the spring lobster season is a huge deal in PEI. On opening day — the day when fishers head out to sea with boats laden with traps — hundreds of Islanders gather at fishing ports around the province to see the fishers off. Naturally, mouths are watering for the first taste of lobster from the cold Atlantic waters, a taste that is usually satisfied a day or two after traps are set and the “first haul” of lobsters is brought ashore.

Preparing for Setting Day
Eve of Setting Day in the Fishing Village of North Rustico, PEI, Canada
Parade of Lobster Boats
Early Morning Gathering in French River, PEI, to Watch Parade of Lobster Boats on Setting Day

These are so worth the wait!

PEI Lobsters
Fresh Catch of the Day – PEI Lobsters

While I adore lobster straight out of the shell and served with homemade potato salad, I like creating recipes incorporating this tasty seafood as an ingredient.  Asparagus is the first vegetable of springtime on PEI and, for the crepes I am featuring in this posting, I am using asparagus as a complimentary ingredient to the lobster. The earthy undertones of the asparagus pair particularly well with lobster, especially when some mushrooms and a rich cheese sauce are added. Choose small mushrooms, either white button or the cremini variety, for this recipe.

My asparagus comes from the farm of Tim Dixon in North Tryon in central PEI, not far from the Confederation Bridge.  Click here to read the story I previously wrote on Tim’s asparagus-growing operation. For the filled crepe recipe, try to choose the freshest available  asparagus spears that are a uniform size. I tend to choose medium-sized spears. I find that spears that are pencil thin tend to cook up too quickly and become somewhat limp. Thick spears tend to have less flavor because they have gotten too old before they have been harvested. They may also have a somewhat unpleasant woody texture. The key thing to remember about steaming the asparagus is not to overcook it because it will go limp and loose its vibrant green color.

Fresh Asparagus

The crepes for this recipe may be made ahead (by a few hours or even a day or two) and stored between layers of plastic wrap in a tightly sealed bag in the refrigerator. Following the steps I have laid out for this recipe will help organize the process of preparing the filling and steaming the asparagus so that everything is timed to be ready at the same time for the crepe assembly.

I am quite lucky here on the Island as my local fish market, MR Seafoods,  in Charlottetown sells lobster already out of the shell which means they have done the work of removing the meat from the shell and then disposing of the shells. I find this is a quick and convenient way for me to get lobster meat for a recipe.

These crepes can be baked in au gratin dishes, a 7″x11″ baking pan or on a parchment-lined baking sheet which is the way the ones in the photos in this posting were baked. I wanted to ensure that the asparagus would remain intact and clearly visible when the crepes were plated so, by baking them on a rimmed cookie sheet, nothing disturbed the asparagus which could have happened if they were scrunched into a tight baking dish such as an au gratin.

Seafood Crepes
Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

As always, I recommend reading the recipe through a couple of times to ensure a good understanding of the method of preparation and that all the ingredients and cooking utensils and cookware needed to prepare the dish are available.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

Ingredients:

Crepes:
2 large eggs
1 cup flour (to make gluten-free, use 1 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp melted butter

Sauce:
¼ cup butter
1 shallot, finely minced (about 1 tbsp)
¼ cup flour (to make gluten-free, use ¼ cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
½ tsp granulated garlic
¼ tsp dried dill
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
2 extra-large egg yolks, lightly broken up with a fork
2 tbsp dry white wine or cooking sherry
1 cup grated cheese mixture (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Filling:
2-3 teaspoons butter
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

8 oz cooked lobster meat, cut into small chunks
40 asparagus spears

Garnish:
3-4 green onions (white and light green parts only) and/or fresh herbs for garnish (optional)

Method:

Step 1 – Make the crepes.  In large measuring cup or bowl and using an immersion blender, beat the eggs lightly.  Combine the flour and salt and beat in to the egg alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of milk).  Beat in the melted butter and beat an additional 30 seconds, or until batter is smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

Over medium heat, melt apx. 1½ tsp butter in a 8” non-stick skillet with sloped sides. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop up batter. Pour the batter in to the heated skillet while quickly swirling and tilting the pan to ensure batter distributes evenly and completely over the bottom of the pan. Return pan to heat and cook crepe until top loses its gloss, tiny bubbles start to appear, and the edges of the crepe start to slightly curl. Gently lift an edge of the crepe with the tip of a fork and grab the crepe with fingers and flip it over.  Cook the second side of the crepe for 15-20 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a clean tea towel. Repeat for remaining crepes, adding small amounts of butter to the pan, if necessary, to keep the crepes from sticking to the pan.

Step 2 – Make the sauce.  In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the shallot until softened and transparent. In small bowl, whisk the flour, granulated garlic, dill, paprika, and nutmeg together. Stir flour mixture into the butter and shallot and cook until frothy.  Whisk in the chicken (or vegetable stock) and milk (or half-and-half).  Cook sauce, until mixture is smooth and heated (but not boiling) and is starting to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Stir 2-3 tablespoons of the hot mixture into the egg yolks then pour egg mixture into the sauce.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened.  Stir in white wine or cooking sherry.  Add the cheese mixture.  Continue to cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and cheese is melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove approximately 3/4 cup of the sauce and set aside.

Step 3 – Make the filling.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  In medium-sized skillet, melt 2-3 teaspoons of butter over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent mushrooms from scorching.  While mushrooms are sautéing, steam the asparagus in a tall pot with a small amount of boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Swish the asparagus in the cold water for just a few seconds then drain in a colander. This will also help keep the asparagus its vibrant green color. Remove mushrooms from heat and combine with the lobster meat.  Add the reserved ¾ cup of sauce and stir gently to coat mushrooms and lobster meat.

Step 4: Assemble the crepes.  Line 9”x13” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lay out 8 crepes on work surface.  Place 5 asparagus spears in the centre of each crepe, extending the asparagus tips by about ½” beyond the edge of the crepe.  Divide the lobster and mushroom filling mixture between the 8 crepes by placing filling down the center line of each crepe on top of the asparagus.  Gently fold crepe over filling, first one side and then overlapping the opposite side over the first. Using large pastry scraper or flat spatula, carefully transfer each crepe to the prepared baking sheet. Pour the remaining sauce over crepes to cover, leaving both ends of the crepes uncovered. Alternatively, the crepes may be baked in either 4 individual greased au gratin dishes or one oblong 7”x11” baking pan.  However, baking the crepes on a baking sheet allows the asparagus tips to stay perfectly intact and attractively visible when plated.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and, if desired, sprinkle with chopped green onions and/or chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or chives.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with favorite green salad.

Yield:  4 servings, 2 crepes each

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

Yield: 4 servings

Serving Size: 2 crepes per serving

Delectable crepes filled with fresh asparagus, succulent chunks of lobster, and sautéed mushrooms in a rich cheese sauce.

Ingredients

  • Crepes:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup flour (to make gluten-free, use 1 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • Sauce:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 shallot, finely minced (about 1 tbsp)
  • ¼ cup flour (to make gluten-free, use ¼ cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic
  • ¼ tsp dried dill
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, lightly broken up with a fork
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine or cooking sherry
  • 1 cup grated cheese mixture (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Filling:
  • 2-3 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz cooked lobster meat, cut into small chunks
  • 40 asparagus spears
  • Garnish:
  • 3-4 green onions (white and light green parts only) and/or fresh herbs for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Step 1 - Make the crepes. In large measuring cup or bowl and using an immersion blender, beat the eggs lightly. Combine the flour and salt and beat in to the egg alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of milk). Beat in the melted butter and beat an additional 30 seconds, or until batter is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.
  2. Over medium heat, melt apx. 1½ tsp butter in a 8” non-stick skillet with sloped sides. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop up batter. Pour the batter in to the heated skillet while quickly swirling and tilting the pan to ensure batter distributes evenly and completely over the bottom of the pan. Return pan to heat and cook crepe until top loses its gloss, tiny bubbles start to appear, and the edges of the crepe start to slightly curl. Gently lift an edge of the crepe with the tip of a fork and grab the crepe with fingers and flip it over. Cook the second side of the crepe for 15-20 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a clean tea towel. Repeat for remaining crepes, adding small amounts of butter to the pan, if necessary, to keep the crepes from sticking to the pan.
  3. Step 2 - Make the sauce. In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the shallot until softened and transparent. In small bowl, whisk the flour, granulated garlic, dill, paprika, and nutmeg together. Stir flour mixture into the butter and shallot and cook until frothy. Whisk in the chicken (or vegetable stock) and milk (or half-and-half). Cook sauce, until mixture is smooth and heated (but not boiling), and is starting to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Stir 2-3 tablespoons of the hot mixture into the egg yolks then pour egg mixture into the sauce. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened. Stir in white wine or cooking sherry. Add the cheese mixture. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove approximately 3/4 cup of the sauce and set aside.
  4. Step 3 - Make the filling. Preheat oven to 350°F. In medium-sized skillet, melt 2-3 teaspoons of butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent mushrooms from scorching. While mushrooms are sautéing, steam the asparagus in a tall pot with a small amount of boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Swish the asparagus in the cold water for just a few seconds then drain in a colander. This will also help keep the asparagus its vibrant green color. Remove mushrooms from heat and combine with the lobster meat. Add the reserved ¾ cup of sauce and stir gently to coat mushrooms and lobster meat.
  5. Step 4: Assemble the crepes. Line 9”x13” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out 8 crepes on work surface. Place 5 asparagus spears in the centre of each crepe, extending the asparagus tips by about ½” beyond the edge of the crepe. Divide the lobster and mushroom filling mixture between the 8 crepes by placing filling down the center line of each crepe on top of the asparagus. Gently fold crepe over filling, first one side and then overlapping the opposite side over the first. Using large pastry scraper or flat spatula, carefully transfer each crepe to the prepared baking sheet. Pour the remaining sauce over crepes to cover, leaving both ends of the crepes uncovered. Alternatively, the crepes may be baked in either 4 individual greased au gratin dishes or one oblong 7”x11” baking pan. However, baking the crepes on a baking sheet allows the asparagus tips to stay perfectly intact and attractively visible when plated.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and, if desired, sprinkle with chopped green onions and/or chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or chives.

Notes

Serving Suggestion: Serve with favorite green salad

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Seafood Crepes
Lobster and Asparagus Crepes
Seafood Crepes

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer Recipe

Beer-steamed Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

My recipe for steamed mussels calls for some aromatics to build a flavor base in which to steam the tasty little morsels.  Aromatic cooking involves some type of fat or oil – I’m using butter in this recipe – combined with some aromatic vegetables and herbs.  In this case, I am using onion, celery, and garlic along with some fresh thyme. The combination of a fat product and heat help to release the wonderful aromas of ingredients and infuse dishes with fabulous flavors.  Ever walk into the tantalizing scent of a kitchen where onions and garlic are cooking in oil or butter? That’s aromatics at work.

Preparing this flavor base at the beginning of the cooking process adds depth and complexity to the dish. Since mussels cook rapidly,  chop the vegetables up somewhat fine as they need to release their flavors quickly in order to add flavor to the dish.

The fresh mussels should be rinsed under cold water before they are cooked.  If any of the shells don’t close up after this rinsing, tap the  shells lightly. If they still don’t close, discard them. Any “beard” on the mussels also needs to be removed.

Once the vegetables have been sautéed and released their flavors, it’s time to add a small amount of lemon juice and some beer to the mixture. The lemon juice adds fresh, crisp notes to the broth. This helps to balance the seafood qualities of the broth once the mussels are added. Beer adds both depth and complexity of flavor to the mussels which should be steamed in a very small amount of liquid.  If too much liquid is used, it will dilute the flavor altogether. It’s the steam, not the amount of liquid, that cooks the mussels. In this recipe, I have chosen to use a craft beer that has been brewed right here on Prince Edward Island at Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown (click here for my story on this brewery).  The strawberry and rhubarb flavored “Rhuby Social” witbier with its slight tartness pairs particularly well with seafood.

It’s important not to overcook the mussels as they will become tough. I find that 5-7 minutes is usually sufficient; however, the amount of steaming time depends on several factors including how many (and the size of the) mussels in the pot, the weight of the pot, and amount of heat over which they are steamed. The ultimate test of doneness is a peek inside the pot to see if the shells have opened.  It’s very important that, at the end of the steaming process, any shells that have not opened be discarded. If a shell has to be pried open, it is not considered safe for consumption.

These mussels can be eaten with bread dipped in the steaming broth.  Simply strain the broth to remove the vegetables and herbs. Alternatively, they can be eaten dipped in melted butter or even with a simple splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

(Printable recipe follows at end of posting)

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

Ingredients:
2 lbs. PEI mussels, rinsed and beards removed

1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4” piece of celery with leaves, chopped
½ tsp salt
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” Beer

Method:
In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, celery and salt. Sauté, stirring briskly, just until onion has softened and has started to become transparent.  Add the thyme, lemon juice, and beer.  Increase the heat to high and bring liquid to a boil.  Add the mussels. Cover and steam the mussels for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened.  Remove pot from heat and let mussels stand in broth for 1-2 minutes.

Remove mussels from broth with a slotted spoon and discard any shells that have not opened.  If desired, strain the broth and use for dipping bread to enjoy with the mussels.  Alternatively, melt butter in which to dip the mussels.

Yield: Apx. 2 servings

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Beer-steamed Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

Mussels Steamed in Beer Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

PEI Mussels steamed in an aromatic beer broth. Dip the mussels in melted butter for the ultimate treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. PEI mussels, rinsed and beards removed
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4” piece of celery with leaves, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” Beer

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery and salt. Sauté, stirring briskly, just until onion has softened and has started to become transparent. Add the thyme, lemon juice, and beer. Increase the heat to high and bring liquid to a boil. Add the mussels. Cover and steam the mussels for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened. Remove pot from heat and let mussels stand in broth for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Remove mussels from broth with a slotted spoon and discard any shells that have not opened. If desired, strain the broth and use for dipping bread to enjoy with the mussels. Alternatively, melt butter in which to dip the mussels.
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Labour Day Picnic by the PEI Seaside with Lobster Croissants on the Menu

I’ve had a great summer of picnics this year!  Haven’t gone on this many picnics in many years.  I had forgotten how much fun and relaxed al fresco dining can be.  This posting will feature my Labour Day Weekend Picnic but, first, a little trip down memory lane.

One of my favorite summertime memories involves a picnic.  I was visiting a neighbour playmate and we were probably about 8 or 9 years old.  We took a notion one hot summer day that we would have a picnic by the little stream across the road from my friend’s place.  The two of us stood by the friend’s mother at the kitchen counter as she whipped up some gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, placed them in an old tin school lunchbox, filled a thermos with Kool-aid (anybody remember Kool-aid?), and sent us off on our big adventure to the picnic by the stream.  Off we went across the little country road, down through the cow pasture to a little stream which, at its deepest point was probably all of 4″ or 5″ deep.  We situated ourselves, had our picnic, and probably returned to the house all in the span of about 15 minutes, no doubt ready for another activity!  Yet, we had been on a picnic adventure and made a memory.  That was back in the days when kids played outside all day and found numerous ways to amuse themselves and none of them involved cell phones or computers.

I will admit my picnic adventures have progressed and become a bit more sophisticated.  There are so many options for picnic foods, particularly when it comes to sandwiches – there are traditional sandwiches with any number of different kinds of breads as options, wraps, baguettes, different kinds of rolls, bagels, etc.  For my picnic by the sea today, I have chosen croissants.  They are tasty and have a nice, soft texture.  Because I live near the water and close to a small fishing village that has a fresh seafood market open daily in the summer, lobster was a logical choice for a croissant filling.  The late summer fishing season has opened in Victoria-by-the-Sea on the south shore of PEI so buying lobster at the seafood market means the lobster is really, really fresh.  Take a look at this 1 1/2+ pound lobster that I took home with me to make the filling for the croissants!

I don’t really have a defined recipe for lobster filling for sandwiches or croissants.  I chop the lobster meat into fairly large chunks as I like to see good-sized pieces of lobster in a lobster roll or croissant — no mashed-up or shredded pieces of lobster meat will do for me!

I add a bit of celery, some pepper, some fresh chopped chives, a splash of fresh lemon juice, and some homemade mayonnaise – just enough to hold the meat together and give it flavour.  That’s it, nothing more as I don’t like anything that detracts from that rich lobster flavour.

I buttered the croissants, added a bed of fresh lettuce from our garden and then heaped on the lobster filling.  Yes, it was very yummy!

A little closer look….

And, this is what I mean about wanting to see nice big pieces of lobster in the sandwich.  Isn’t it mouthwatering and colorful!

Add some potato chips and picnic fare doesn’t get much better than this, particularly when the picnic location is beside the water.  With something as special as lobster, the menu does not have to be extensive.  Let the lobster star all on its own!

Croissants are so easy to handle and eat…particularly when filled with lobster 🙂

My August Cookie of the Month was the chocolate drop cookie.  They were dessert.

I added some fresh fruit – this time, some green grapes – and the picnic basket was ready to go.

I always like to take along some props to dress up the picnic spread, regardless whether it is at a picnic table or on the ground as is the case here by the beach.  It doesn’t matter whether I am in my dining room setting a formal table or outside, I like to think of setting the stage for a feast for the eye as well as for the stomach.  A few props really can make an ordinary picnic a bit more special.

For my seaside picnic, all it took was a blue-checked cloth, a stylish matching wicker picnic basket, a lantern with a blue candle, and some seashells and starfish, to dress up the dining experience.

I love the patterns in the pink-red sandbars on PEI.  Our Island beaches are extraordinary – on the south side, they tend to be more the pink-red color you see in the photo below while, on the north side, the sand is more of a soft pink color.  This is definitely a dining room with a water view!

However, the sky began to look somewhat ominous so we thought we had better hurry up and eat in case a rain shower came along and spoiled the picnic.

1-DSC_0623

I hope you have enjoyed some of the scenes from our seaside picnic that featured PEI lobster.  Enjoy your Labour Day weekend.

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Lobster Cakes

Barbara's Lobster Cakes
Barbara’s Lobster Cakes

The opening of the spring lobster season on Prince Edward Island is always an event.  Fishing boats, laden with lobster traps like those in the photos below, depart wharves around the Island in the very early morning to set their traps, often going several miles out to sea.  This is called “setting day” and it is not uncommon for people in the local fishing communities to head to their local wharves to see the fishing boats off.  Setting day 2013 was yesterday, April 29th.  I didn’t make it to a wharf yesterday or today but I am sharing some photographs I took during fishing season 2012.

Lobster Fishing Boat Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

 

Lobster Fishing Boats Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

 

Lobster Fishing Boat Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

Several communities also have church services known as the “Blessing of the Fleet” services on the Sunday before setting day.  These are sometimes held inside nearby local churches but, most frequently, they are held on the wharves of the fishing ports.

Today was the first day of the season that fishers could check their set traps and bring in their catches.  The photos below were taken at North Lake Harbour, PEI on June 1, 2012; however, the same scene would be playing out today at many harbours across PEI.

Lobster Fishing Boats Filled With Their Day's Catch Returning to Port at North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Lobster Fishing Boats Filled With Their Day’s Catch Returning to Port at North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]

Lobster Fishing Boats, North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Lobster Fishing Boats, North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Unloading the Day's Catch at North Lake Harbour [June 1, 2012]
Unloading the Day’s Catch at North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
And, here are the “goods”!

"The Prized Cargo" - Fresh PEI Lobster
“The Prized Cargo” – Fresh PEI Lobster!

Boats at rest after their day’s work fetching the catch.

North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
And, once they are cooked, look at the fabulous rich color of these freshly caught PEI lobsters!

Cooked Lobsters
Cooked Lobsters

Many Islanders will be dining on fresh lobster for supper this evening.  For many, it is a tradition to have fresh lobster on the first day of the catch.  This is one of the benefits of living on an Island – we have plenty of fresh seafood.  Many (including myself) will argue that lobster from the spring fishery is better than lobster fished later in the summer from waters that have warmed up over the season (even though lobster from the later catch is very good, too).  I don’t know why it is but lobster from the cold Atlantic water always does seem to taste better and I think even has a better texture meat.

I remember the first time I was on a Caribbean cruise many years ago, ordering lobster from the dinner menu.  My taste buds were salivating for what I knew to be lobster taste.  Oh my!  It didn’t taste like lobster at all as I know it.  That’s when I discovered the difference in taste of lobster that comes out of cold water and that out of very warm waters!  I never ordered lobster from a cruise ship menu again.  I wait for the good PEI lobster at home!  The ironic part of this is that I never liked lobster when I was growing up.  In fact, when the family would be chowing down on lobster, my mother always roasted me a chicken!  However, they convinced me to try a bite of it when I was probably about 18 years old and I’ve never looked back and have more than made up for it since!  I love lobster by itself and in just about any other recipe imaginable!

So, tonight, I am dining on Lobster Cakes to celebrate the opening of the 2013 PEI lobster fishery season and am sharing my recipe with you.

Barbara's Lobster Cakes

Barbara’s Lobster Cakes

2 cups warm mashed potatoes (about 2-3 medium-sized potatoes)

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp tartar sauce

2 oz. grated cheddar cheese

¼ tsp dried dillweed

½ tsp parsley

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 small scallion (apx. 1 ½ tbsp)

2 tbsp celery, finely chopped

2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped

7 – 8 oz. cooked lobster (fresh or frozen), cut into bite-sized chunks

½ – 1 cup bread crumbs

 

Apx. ¾ cup finely ground seasoned bread crumbs for dredging lobster patties

1 – 2 tbsp oil

 

Method:

Place warm mashed potatoes in large bowl.  Add beaten egg and mix well.  Add tartar sauce.

Stir in grated cheddar cheese.

Add dillweed, parsley, and pepper.  Stir in scallions, celery, and red pepper.

Lastly, add the lobster and mix well.  Add just enough of the first amount of bread crumbs so the mixture will hold together and can be formed into patties.

 

Using ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop up mixture and form into round patties.  In shallow bowl, place the seasoned bread crumbs.  Dredge each patty in the bread crumbs until completely covered on all sides.  Place on wax-paper lined baking sheet and chill for 1 hour to allow flavours to blend and for patties to become firm so they won’t break apart when sautéed.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, reduce heat to medium and sauté lobster cakes 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Transfer browned cakes to greased baking sheet.  Bake in oven 6-7 minutes to finish the cooking process and allow cakes to become firm so they will hold together.

Serve lobster cakes, 2 per person, hot with citrus aioli or your favorite tartar sauce and a side of green salad.

Lobster Cakes with Citrus Aioli
Lobster Cakes with Citrus Aioli

 

These cakes freeze well, uncooked.  When ready to serve, simply remove cakes from freezer and thaw.  Sauté and bake as described above.

Yield:  Apx. 1 dozen cakes

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Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce for Halibut Steaks

Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce over Halibut Steak served with Herb-Roasted Potatoes and Steamed Root Vegetables
Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce over Halibut Steak served with Herb-Roasted Miniature Potatoes and Steamed Root Vegetables

Every Spring, I freeze bags and bags of rhubarb for recipes to be made through the remainder of the year.  I am always looking for new ways to serve this versatile vegetable.  Living on an island on the East Coast of Canada, fish is readily available.  Sometimes, I like to eat the fish plain, just pan-seared or oven-baked but, other times, I like it dressed up a bit.  Rhubarb and citrus make a nice combination and citrus sauces go well with seafood so my creation includes both rhubarb and citrus fruit.

It will be another couple of months before we have fresh rhubarb from our garden so I thought it was time to use up some of the remaining frozen rhubarb (or maybe I just needed to have a Spring food because our Winter is getting very tiresome with 2 major snow storms within 3 days this past week).  So, today, I am going to share with you a sauce that I created especially for white fish.  You can use any kind of white fish with this sauce – my choice was the halibut steak because it had enough thickness to it that it would hold together to plate well for presentation and not break into pieces.

I will tell you, though, that this sauce has a number of steps so it is probably not suitable for weeknights for most of us as it is does take some time to make.  It dresses up fish so would certainly be suitable for a special weekend dinner or for company.  I love the rich red-colored sauce as a contrast to the white fish.  I hope you enjoy.

Blood Orange and Rhubarb Sauce for Halibut Steaks

(created by Barbara of My Island Bistro Kitchen)

1 cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen

2 tbsp sugar

¼ cup water

 

Juice of 2 blood oranges (about 2/3 cup juice)

 

1 tbsp butter

1 shallot, finely minced (about ¼ cup)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tbsp. Liquid Gold Pomegranate Quince balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. Pomegranate molasses

2 tsp. liquid chicken bouillon concentrate mixed in ½ cup hot water

1 1/2 tsp. blood orange zest

¼ tsp. sage

¼ tsp. ginger

1 ½ – 2 tsp. cornstarch mixed in 1 tbsp. cold water to make thickening paste

Method:

In saucepan, place the rhubarb, sugar, and ¼ cup water.  Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until rhubarb has softened.  Push the rhubarb through a sieve to release the juice.  You should have about 1/3 cup of rhubarb juice.  Discard rhubarb pulp.  Set juice aside.

Making the Rhubarb Juice

Meanwhile, grate 1 1/2 tsp zest from one blood orange.  Squeeze juice from 2 medium-sized blood oranges and strain through sieve to remove any pith and stones.  In small saucepan, over medium-low heat, reduce the orange juice to about half.  You should have about 1/3 cup of juice after this process.

Preparing the Blood Orange Juice

In clean saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the shallot and minced garlic for 3-4 minutes until shallot is translucent.

Sauté Shallots and Garlic

Add the rhubarb and orange juices, Pomegranate Quince balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses, chicken stock, orange zest, sage, and ginger.  Bring to a boil over medium-low heat.

Remove from heat and strain through fine sieve into clean saucepan to remove any pieces of garlic and onion.  This will make a clean, smooth sauce.  Return mixture to low heat.

Mix cornstarch with water to make a paste.  Add about 1 tbsp of the hot liquid from the sauce to temper the paste so it will not go lumpy when added to the hot mixture.  Add to saucepan mixture and stir or whisk until thickened to consistency desired.

Makes enough sauce for 3-4 servings.

To serve:

Pan-sear or oven-bake halibut steaks till fish flakes easily.  Plate the fish and pour 1-2 tbsp sauce over each steak.  Garnish with chopped pistachio nuts, if desired, and blood orange slices.

I served the fish with a medley of yellow, red, and blue herb-roasted miniature potatoes, steamed carrots and turnip, and paired this meal with Beringer’s Chardonnay (CA).

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Black Garlic – Garlic’s New Cavier?

Scallops with Black Garlic
Scallops with Black Garlic

Ever heard of black garlic?  What do you think of when you hear the term?

Black Garlic Bulbs
Fermented Black Garlic Bulbs

Black garlic is not a variety of garlic grown.  Rather, it is regular garlic bulbs that have gone through a fermentation process.  Fermenting garlic to turn it into black garlic is truly food transformation.  I say that because black garlic in no way tastes, looks like, or has the same consistency as the traditional hard white garlic we use to give garlic flavour to dishes.

To find out more about black garlic, I travelled to Kensington, PEI, where I paid a visit to garlic grower, Al Picketts, of Eureka Garlic.

Eureka Garlic, Kensington, PEI

Al has been growing garlic for 12 years.  In 2012, he grew 42,000 plants and this year, with the cloves already in the ground since October, Al has increased his crop to 46,380 plants which will be harvested in July-August, 2013.  He grows eight types of garlic and 78 varieties in those types.  Yes, Al knows a thing or two about garlic!

Garlic Bulbs Drying
Garlic Bulbs Drying

Al’s main business is in selling seed garlic but, in November, 2011, he began the fermentation process to turn garlic into black garlic.  Al has been working with the Bio Food Tech Center in Charlottetown as he perfects his fermentation process and product.  While Al keeps his exact fermentation process a carefully-guarded secret, he did show me a recycled refrigerator that he insulates well, heats with a water heater, and uses as an incubator of sorts for the fermentation process.

Incubator for Fermenting Black Garlic
Incubator for Fermenting Black Garlic

Inside this incubator are stacks of covered plastic storage boxes containing hundreds of garlic bulbs fermenting.  He tells me it takes about three weeks in controlled temperature for the fermentation to occur.  The top right photo below shows a garlic bulb in the early stages of fermentation and the one in the lower right photo is a completely fermented bulb.  The photo on the left below shows different colored bulbs in the plastic containers; these are bulbs at different stages of the fermentation process as they change and deepen in color.

Black Garlic in Various Stages of Fermentation
Black Garlic in Various Stages of Fermentation

When fermented, the cloves will be a dark chocolate brown color – almost black — and very soft.  This is not the kind of garlic you could put through a garlic press and it does not mince well.  But, oh, it does have its own unique flavour!  The cloves can be carefully sliced or mashed with a fork and added to recipes.

Black Garlic Bulb and Clove
Black Garlic Bulb and Clove

When Al offered me a taste of the black garlic, straight up, I must admit I was trying to prepare my tastebuds for a somewhat pungent, strong garlic flavour.  But, one of the most surprising things about black garlic is the taste.  I would describe it as somewhat sweet, no discernible garlic taste, and being a cross between a prune and a fig in taste, color, and texture.  So, if you are looking to use it as you would regular garlic, don’t expect any garlic flavour in the dish as black garlic has a sweet, fruity taste.  Black garlic, however, brings its own unique subtle flavour to dishes like soups, sauces, and seafood and is often used in Asian cooking.  The black color does not change when cooked so you need to prepare for that color in your dish.  There are not a lot of black foods and some might suggest they would not be appetizing.  However, I find the contrast of the black garlic on white fish, for example, to be quite dynamic and appealing.

Black Garlic Color and Texture
Black Garlic Color and Texture

Black garlic is a relatively new local food item and the jury is still out as to whether it is a food fad or if it may well become a food trend.  Could it be garlic’s new cavier?  Promoters claim it may be the next superfood, citing its health benefits — it reportedly boasts twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic.  That said, I couldn’t find any scientific research studies completed on black garlic that would state conclusively what its specific health benefits are.

So, if it doesn’t taste like garlic why, then, use it?  I would say because it offers another flavouring and complexity to many dishes.  I have used it on pizza and in seafood dishes and I plan to try it next with pork.

Al tells me that black garlic can be stored at room temperature – no refrigeration required – for several months.  He says it can also be stored in the freezer and, when you want to use it, just remove as many cloves as needed and mash them with a fork or slice them with a knife – there is no need to thaw them first.

Al sells his black garlic for $30/pound.  On Prince Edward Island, it is available directly from Al at his farm “Eureka Garlic” on the corner of Routes 2 and 233 in Kensington (902)836-5180.

Black Garlic Packaged for Sale
Black Garlic Packaged for Sale

As you know, when I visit a local producer, I bring home their product and make a recipe featuring the food item.  The recipe below, for scallops, is how I used black garlic with seafood and I found the result really tasty (yes, I’ve made this dish more than once already!).  The black garlic does not mask the scallop flavour and yet it accents the seafood well.  This recipe serves two.

Black Garlic on Fresh Scallops
Black Garlic on Fresh Scallops

Scallops in Black Garlic

14 scallops

3 T butter

Fresh ground pepper

4 cloves black garlic, sliced

¼ cup white wine

½ T balsamic vinegar

1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp dried chives

Pinch dillweed

1 tsp parsley

 

Ingrediets
Ingredients

Melt 2 T butter in small skillet.  Over medium-high heat, sear the scallops 2-3 minutes per side until lightly golden in color.  Transfer scallops to plate and keep warmed.

Searing Scallops
Searing Scallops
Black Garlic
Black Garlic

Add 1 additional tablespoon of butter to skillet.  Add the black garlic and sauté for 30-45 seconds.  Add pepper to taste.  Add white wine, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice.  Stir over medium-low heat 1-2 minutes until sauce reduces.  Add herbs and heat for about 30 seconds.

Adding Black Garlic
Adding Black Garlic

To serve, plate the warm scallops and spoon the black garlic sauce over the seafood.  Serve with potato or rice and a side of vegetables.

Serves 2

Scallops with Black Garlic Served with Potato Cake and Vegetables
Scallops with Black Garlic Served with Potato Cake and Vegetables

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