Dreams of creamy seafood needn't be dashed by fat

August 04, 1993|By Charlotte Balcomb Lane | Charlotte Balcomb Lane,Orlando Sentinel

Many people love seafood baked in a creamy sauce with buttery bread crumb topping. Unfortunately, many of the same people would prefer to avoid the calories and fat these foods contain.

Creamed seafood casseroles with crunchy topping contains about half the fat of traditional recipes because they're made with evaporated skim milk instead of cream. Evaporated skim milk contains 60 percent less water than ordinary skim milk, so it has a richer flavor and creamier texture. Yet it contains less than a half-gram of total fat in 1 cup and has a fraction of the saturated fat of whole milk.

In this recipe, large shrimp and tender scallops simmer in the creamy, sherry-spiked sauce with sweet red peppers and mushrooms. The mixture is spooned into individual au gratin or casserole dishes and given a crunchy coating of crushed cornflakes mixed with a small amount of Parmesan, Gruyere or Swiss cheese.

Creamed seafood casseroles

Serves 4

1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 16)

1/2 pound scallops, drained, juice reserved

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 red pepper, finely chopped (1 cup) or 1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimentos

6 mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried dill

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

pinch ground hot red pepper

1 1/4 cups evaporated skim milk

3 tablespoons dry sherry

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1 cup crushed cornflakes cereal

Prepare the shrimp and set aside. Slice any large scallops in half lengthwise; leave small scallops whole and set aside.

In a 12-inch, nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, red pepper or pimentos and mushrooms. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to brown and onions are soft. In a small dish, combine the flour, salt, dill, white pepper, paprika and hot red pepper; sprinkle over the vegetables, stirring to combine. Cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the evaporated skim milk and continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add the shrimp, scallops and sherry; cook for 2 minutes, until the shrimp turn pink and begin to curl.

Divide the mixture between four oval au gratin dishes or oven-proof bowls. If desired, pour the mixture into a 1-quart oval au gratin dish or a shallow pie plate.

Mix together the crushed cereal and Parmesan, Gruyere or Swiss cheese. Sprinkle the mixture over each ramekin.

If serving at once, heat the oven broiler and cook for 4 minutes, watching carefully to make sure topping doesn't burn. If serving later, cover dish or dishes and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 12 minutes, and turn oven to broiler setting. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until topping is browned. Do not allow topping to burn. Serve hot.

Notes: If you follow a low-sodium diet, omit the salt from the recipe, which will reduce the sodium to 580 milligrams per serving.

Half-portions of this dish make a good appetizer or light luncheon. If the seafood gives off excess liquid during cooking, which can make the cream sauce seem thin or watery, thicken with 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water. Pour the cornstarch paste mixture into the hot seafood and stir over medium heat until the sauce thickens further. Pour into baking dishes and broil or bake as directed.

Vary the seafood according to taste and availability. Any firm-flesh fish such as snapper, grouper, monkfish, catfish or salmon can be used instead of shrimp; substitute a delicate fish such as flounder, sole or perch for the scallops. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces before using.

Gruyere is a type of Swiss cheese produced in Switzerland, Austria or France that has a sweet, nutty flavor.

(Nutrition information per serving: calories, 337; fat, 6.1 grams; carbohydrate, 36 grams; cholesterol, 110 milligrams; sodium, 874 milligrams.)

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