Head-on local shrimp are in the markets and there are so many delicious ways to prepare them, it is hard to decide a favorite. I get many requests for the seafood lasagna that I make with local jumbo lump crabmeat, fresh local catch and a generous amount of just-caught, North Carolina shrimp. It may seem as if this is a complicated dish, but it is pretty simple to make once you read the recipe. You may want to add a few extra minutes for clean-up, though! Also, while this dish may appear heavy, served with a green salad, it is actually quite appropriate for a summertime supper. If you make ahead and bake just before service it is a great dish to prepare for company — you can actually mingle with your guests. Serve this family style and let everyone help clean-up. Another of my favorite shrimp recipes is Shrimp Bisque. These recipes will feed a group of 20, so invite friends or plan on lots of leftovers!
6 lbs. pounds head-on shrimp
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small sweet Mattamuskeet onions
2 medium carrots
2 medium stalks celery
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
8 cups water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sherry
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Cayenne pepper dash
Making the Bisque:
Steam shrimp, remove shells and save. Rough chop the shrimp into bite sizes and keep cold.
Over medium heat, melt a third of the butter in a small stock pot. Add onions, carrots, celery and shrimp shells (yep, the heads, too!). Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to soften and shells are browned and caramelized. Add tomato paste, thyme and bay leaves and stir until everything is coated. Add water and stir to combine. Heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain to remove veggies and shells. The remaining liquid is your shrimp stock. Clean stock pot and return to stove. Melt remaining butter and add flour. Whisk to make a blonde roux. The flour will become golden and nutty flavored. This will take only 3 to 4 minutes. Taste to make sure the flour is cooked through and doesn’t taste raw.
Slowly add sherry and hot stock, whisking until smooth. Bring bisque to a simmer and add cream, cayenne and chopped shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Warm until flavors have melded, only about 5 minutes, and serve, or remove from heat and chill until needed, then re-warm gently.
Seafood Lasagna with Tarragon Béchamel
1 pound local crab meat, jumbo lump
1 pound local fish, any type, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound steamed local shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
1 box lasagna pasta, cooked (homemade pasta is best if you are totally DIY)
4 cups shredded mozzarella
32 oz. ricotta cheese
1 cup green onions, chopped
1 stick + 6 tablespoons butter
½ gallon milk, whole, organic
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
Start by preparing your parts. You have several components you will need to assemble; all are quite simple, but they do take time. Cook your pasta and drain. To save yourself heartache, place each noodle on a piece of parchment paper immediately after draining. Line up several and then top with another piece of parchment until all the pasta is flat and not touching. This isn’t a necessary step if you like piecing together the puzzle that happens when the pasta is left to cool in the colander.
Next, cook your fish and shrimp. This is basically a butter baste. Gently warm 6 tablespoons of butter in sauté pan, when foamy, add fish and shrimp. Spoon the butter over and around the seafood until it is completely cooked. I like a mild white fish as well as super fresh tuna. Actually, I haven’t met a fish I didn’t like in this dish. Spoon seafood into a small bowl and set it aside until time to assemble.
Pick your crab. Pick it again. When your family finds a piece of shell, you can cheerily inform them that they can be guaranteed that the crab is local and hand picked and that shell is proof. You will not find shells in imported, bleached or pre-formed crab nuggets. Try thinking of random crab shells as a local badge of honor.
In medium-sized bowl, combine picked crabmeat with ricotta and green onions. Set aside.
Next, make the béchamel sauce. Heat the milk in a saucepan; you will need it warm when you add it to the butter and flour. In a separate, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt ¼ cup butter and then stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste bubbles. Do not let the roux become brown. This should only take a few minutes. You can tell by taste when you are ready to add the milk. If the roux still tastes like raw flour, cook it a bit longer until it does not. At this point, add the hot milk, a cup at a time, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt to taste; lower the heat and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in dried tarragon. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper to prevent a skin from forming. This recipe makes a béchamel that has a little more milk than normal. This will be needed because we are baking with pasta.
Ok, we are ready to assemble. In large baking dish, ladle in 2 cups of béchamel sauce to coat the bottom completely. Add a layer of lasagna pasta. Top with half of the crab and ricotta mixture. Top that with half the fish and shrimp and then ladles of the béchamel. Repeat. Top lasagna with all the mozzarella and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until top cheese is melted and browned. Leftovers freeze nicely!