Given the heat the last few days, I’ve been craving lighter summer fare. It’s a little too warm for heavy food like pork shoulder and brisket. Smoked seafood, on the other hand, sounds pretty good. Everyone has had smoked salmon at some point, either cold or hot smoked, which is great with cream cheese, red onion, capers and toast points.
I’ve been in the mood for something a little different, so my wife and I are doing a smoked shellfish cookout. It is a fun twist on backyard cookout meets New England clam bake. We got a couple pounds of mussels and oysters along with fresh corn, potatoes and accompanying sauces. We are keeping it simple, so it's more about hanging out and enjoying the day, rather than how big can we go.
For the accompanying sauces, I’m doing a couple of different ones from around the globe. One of my favorites is Chimichurri from Argentina. It adds brightness and acidity to balance the smoky, saltiness you get from seafood. Next up is an Ancho-chile BBQ, a Mexican inspired sauce for a spicy option. If you’re looking to cool things down a bit, any sour cream, chive and lemon based sauce will work. Also, don’t forget the staples like lemons, limes and a bottle of regular cocktail sauce for the less adventurous guests.
The sides will also be simple. We are grilling the corn, husk off, and serving with salt, pepper and butter. The potatoes are best if you par-boil them, let them cool and then slice them into ¾ inch rounds. Then, grill them like a steak and finish with salt and pepper. I like to serve these big potato chips with a light horseradish cream sauce.
To cook the shellfish, fire up your Big Green EGG and keep the temperature to around 250-300 degrees. Add soaked wood chips like hickory or mesquite. Once it starts to smoke, lay the shellfish in an even layer, cover and let cook for 5-8 minutes or until the shells start to open. Any shellfish that don’t open should be discarded. Once they’ve open up, take off the grill and toss in the desired sauce. Since the shelf life of cooked shellfish isn’t very long, only do small batches at a time.
Serve freshly cooked shellfish with sauces and sides, relax and enjoy.
Side note - The mussels and oysters should always be bought from a reputable fish monger. They need to be cleaned before cooking, especially the mussels which must be de-bearded. The oysters are easier to cook if they are already on the half shell, but can be cooked whole. Be careful though, if they get too hot, they can shatter.
What's your favorite smoked seafood?