RECIPES: Smart seafood choices make holiday meals even more special

Foolproof recipes for swordfish, crab and shrimp impress, save time, money and effort.
Making smart choices at the fish counter can make this year’s holiday seafood dishes, like Swordfish Au Poivre (center), Baked Honey Ginger Shrimp (top left), Crab Legs with Spicy Garlic Tomato Sauce (top right) and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms (bottom left), impressive and reasonably affordable. (Chadwick Boyd for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

Making smart choices at the fish counter can make this year’s holiday seafood dishes, like Swordfish Au Poivre (center), Baked Honey Ginger Shrimp (top left), Crab Legs with Spicy Garlic Tomato Sauce (top right) and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms (bottom left), impressive and reasonably affordable. (Chadwick Boyd for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Seafood dishes make the holiday table look and feel festive, which is why the seafood counter is one of the busiest areas of the grocery store this time of year. Knowing the smart purchases to make in advance of your shopping trip will save you time, money and frustration.

For appetizers, look to the large and extra-large shrimp commonly found on sale this time of year. Here, we mix the two sizes together to make the dish substantial and eye-popping. Lump crabmeat, which is lower in cost this year than years prior, is blended with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, then baked into mushroom caps for a simple, but luxe, starter.

Instead of pricey filet mignon, impress your guests with a home cook’s version of one of this year’s hottest restaurant entrees, made from less expensive swordfish or yellow fin tuna. Or, choose splurge-worthy crab legs dressed up with a rich, though economical, spicy tomato sauce.

Whether you use one or all of these recipes, making smart seafood purchases will give your loved ones an unforgettable feast this season.

Chadwick Boyd is a chef, entertaining expert and frequent magazine contributor. Find his work at chadwickboydlifestyle.com.

RECIPES

While these dishes appear sophisticated, they balance quality seafood with familiar ingredients found in most supermarkets. The recipes are foolproof for any level of cook, alleviating concerns the money spent on the fish and shellfish could be wasted. They also take roughly 30 minutes to prepare, keeping time in the kitchen to a sensible amount. To ensure freshness, flavor and food safety, purchase the seafood no more than 24 hours before cooking, and enjoy it within two hours of preparation.

Lower priced lump crabmeat is the focal point in these simple, but luxe stuffed mushroom starters. Touches of lemon pepper, salty Parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs amplify the flavor and add some lovely crunch. (Chadwick Boyd for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

icon to expand image

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Crab-based appetizers are traditional holiday fare. Often, though, they are laden with fillers, like cream cheese and mayonnaise, which diminish the beloved crab taste.

These Crab Stuffed Mushrooms keep the lump crabmeat at the focal point with touches of lemon pepper seasoning, salty Parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs to amplify the flavor and add crunch. To make the presentation more interesting, mix shiitake mushroom caps among the white buttons or creminis. A whisper of smoked paprika brightens the color.

Fresh ginger and lime zest along with honey, Creole seasoning and freshly chopped cilantro make this elegant appetizer modern and bold. Various-sized shrimp are mixed together, creating an intriguing and filling dish for guests. (Chadwick Boyd for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

icon to expand image

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

Baked Honey Ginger Shrimp

Instead of relying on Old Bay seasoning, this modern, bold shrimp appetizer incorporates fresh ginger and lime zest with sweet honey, Creole seasoning and freshly chopped cilantro. The size of the shrimp is varied, making it more intriguing and filling for guests. It is one of those crowd-pleasing recipes that you might consider doubling.

Replacing pricey beef tenderloin with less expensive swordfish transforms the fine dining French classic steak au poivre. Crushed pink peppercorns and fennel seeds make a more flavorful and pretty crust while bourbon serves as a more accessible option to costly cognac with an equally pleasing taste. (Chadwick Boyd for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

icon to expand image

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

Swordfish Au Poivre

Swordfish Au Poivre is considered one of the hottest dishes on restaurant menus this year. It’s a clever take on the cracked pepper-crusted French classic, steak au poivre, most often found at fine dining establishments. Swordfish steaks are quite similar to beef tenderloin. They are thick, meaty and take on strong flavors really well. But they cook in far less time.

Typically, black pepper and expensive cognac are used to make the signature creamy “au poivre” pan sauce. This home version, however, mixes in pink peppercorns and fennel seeds for a more flavorful and pretty crust and stirs more accessible bourbon into the cream for an equally pleasing taste. Consider serving it with duchess potatoes (similar to twice-baked potatoes) and a lemon-olive oil watercress salad.

Crab Legs with Spicy Garlic Tomato Sauce: This traditional holiday staple is elevated with a coating of Old Bay seasoning and garlicky tomato sauce before being baked in the oven. The bold flavors seep into the crab, creating a surprisingly tasty presentation worthy of those special family gatherings. (Chadwick Boyd for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

icon to expand image

Credit: Chadwick Boyd

Crab Legs with Spicy Garlic Tomato Sauce

King and snow crab legs are a holiday favorite that are almost always served steamed with melted butter. While that’s a guaranteed easy way to enjoy them, there are other options to make them even more delicious while keeping the preparation simple. This recipe coats the legs in a clever way with Old Bay seasoning, then smothers them with a quick-cooking, garlicky tomato sauce poured on top. It all bakes on a cookie sheet, allowing the big flavors to seep into the crab while warming through. The crab legs can be served on the baking sheet or transferred to a platter with crusty bread on the side to sop up the juices. It’s a dramatic and tasty presentation worthy of Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve or other big family gatherings.

Pro tips: Crack the shells using a crab leg cracker, or ask the fishmonger to crack them for you. If you purchase crab legs that are already steamed, follow the recipe as written and reduce the baking time to 8 to 10 minutes, or until heated through.

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.

About the Author