Monday, August 20, 2012

Lobster, a Sea Captain, and an Anagram!!!

Continuing my trilogy of East Coast classics, I must include the sumptuous "Seafood Newburg!" Seafood Newburg is an American dish made of seafood, butter, sherry, and cream. It is deliciously seductive, and has an interesting history! The dish was created by Ben Wenberg, a West Indies sea captain, who brought the recipe to chef Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico's Restaurant in New York in 1876. The original recipe was made only with lobster, and was added to the menu as "Lobster a la Wenberg," in honor of Ben. It was an immediate hit! However, after a "falling-out" between Wenberg and Charles Delmonico, the dish was removed from the menu. After endless requests by customers for the dish, it was restored to the menu and renamed "Lobster a la Newberg," reversing the first three letters of the captain's name. Somehow, by 1897, the dish was better known as "Lobster a la Newburg."

In addition to becoming a staple of hotel dining rooms in the United States, it was among the most popular dishes served in the American Pavillion at the Paris Exposition of 1900. It then began appearing in French cookbooks, referred to as "Homard saute a la creme." The original recipe was made with clarified butter, cream, lobster, Madiera, salt, pepper, cayenne, and thickened with egg yolks. To see the original recipe, click here! The modern version is now made with a variety of seafood, a roux as a thickener, and sherry instead of Madiera. When I am fortunate enough to spend Christmas with my in-laws on the East Coast, my mother-in-law always makes this on Christmas Eve, and serves it over puff pastry shells! (I know, she's awesome!) In addition to adding some sliced button mushrooms (as my mother-in-law does), I have also added a generous pinch of cayenne, in honor of the original. I highly recommend serving it over puff pastry shells for a stunning presentation! Feel free to mix and match any seafood of your choice! It's fabulous!

Seafood Newburg

Serves 6


1 package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells, cooked according to package directions
1 stick (4-ounces) unsalted butter (plus more, if needed)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups light cream
1/2 cup dry sherry, such as fino or amontillado
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound sea scallops, muscle removed, and halved horizontally
1/2 pound haddock or hake fillet, skinned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I skipped the fish and replaced it with 8-oz button mushrooms, thickly sliced)
1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound lobster meat, cut into bite-size pieces (I used 8-ounces jumbo lump crab-meat, instead)
Generous pinch of cayenne, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the cream sauce
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the cream and sherry and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Whisk in the paprika and nutmeg over low heat. Cook, whisking often, until no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes.

For the seafood
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. If the pan is dry, add another couple of tablespoons or so of butter, until melted. Add the scallops and haddock (if using) and cook over moderate heat, stirring gently, until the haddock starts to turn white, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and lobster (or crab) and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the cream sauce and mushrooms and simmer over low heat until the seafood is cooked, about 3 minutes longer. Season with salt,  pepper, and cayenne to taste. It will look like this:

To serve
Place one pastry shell on each plate, and generously top with the seafood and cream sauce. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the former Inn at Isle au Haut, Maine.

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