Splashes of citrus bring out the fresh and best in every kind of seafood

January 18, 1995|By Cathy Thomas | Cathy Thomas,Orange County Register

Fish and citrus fruit. It's a perfect marriage of flavors.

And the time is ripe.

I long to match citrus with fish, a symbiotic pairing that makes fish taste fabulous. Even "fishy" fish becomes mild-mannered when complemented with citrus.

Fried calamari become a delicacy with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Sauteed scallops can make your palate snap to attention when a splash of orange juice is lightly drizzled on top.

Better yet, poach salmon fillets in a mixture of orange juice, shallots and a little fish stock (or clam juice); once the fish is cooked, use the liquid to make an orangy butter sauce. Or substitute firm-fleshed white fish fillets, such as sea bass or halibut.

Garnish with slivers or slices of candied kumquats.

Grapefruit also pairs delightfully with fish. To intensify the flavors, reduce grapefruit juice by vigorously boiling it with white wine, minced shallots and pink peppercorns. Strain and use the grapefruit mixture as a base for a butter sauce. This delicious sauce is great with all shellfish as well as mild, firm-fleshed fish (such as orange roughy, sea bass or halibut). It is especially delicious with crispy crab cakes.

If you prefer to eliminate butter, you can boil grapefruit juice to make grapefruit essence (1 cup reduced to about 1/4 cup) and combine it with reduced-fat mayonnaise and capers. Serve it as an accompaniment to any mild, white fish and garnish with 3 or 4 sections of grapefruit (preferably the ruby-red variety) fanned on the plate adjacent to the fish.

Sections of lemon, grapefruit and orange can be combined with olive oil, minced garlic, fresh thyme and minced onion to make a citrus-style, vinegar-free "vinaigrette."

Here are several recipes that team citrus (grapefruit, lemons, oranges and kumquats) with fish and shellfish. In all cases, you can substitute several kinds of fish.

Salmon Poached in Orange Juice

Makes 4 servings

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, peeled and minced

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet

3/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup clam juice

1/2 cup whipping cream or half-and-half

salt and white pepper to taste

candied kumquat slices (recipe follows) or orange segments or slices (optional garnish)

minced fresh parsley (optional garnish)

In a small skillet cook shallots on medium heat in 1 tablespoon butter until softened. Set aside.

Using the thin, sharp knife, cut salmon on the diagonal into 1 1/2 -inch thick slices. When the knife reaches the skin, turn it to remove the salmon slice from the skin.

In a large skillet, combine juices and shallots. Add salmon in a single layer. Bring liquid to just below a simmer and poach salmon for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, remove salmon from liquid and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven about 3 more minutes, or until just cooked.

Meanwhile, boil poaching liquid on high until reduced by half. Add cream and reduce again by half. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon sauce onto individual serving plates. Top with salmon and garnish with candied kumquat slices or orange slices. If desired, sprinkle on a little minced parsley. Serve immediately.

Fish substitutions: Firm-fleshed white fish fillets, such as sea bass or halibut instead of salmon.

Candied kumquat slices: In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar; bring to a boil. Boil until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced kumquats (seeds, if any, removed). Boil on high 8 minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl. Allow to cool. Lift kumquats from syrup and use as a garnish for Salmon Poached in Orange Juice or in yogurt or on ice cream topped with a little orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier.

*

This is a variation of a recipe from Cafe del Rey in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Crab Cakes With Pink Grapefruit Sauce

Makes 8 crab cakes

SAUCE:

1 1/2 cups pink grapefruit juice

3/4 cup dry white wine (or 1/2 cup dry white wine and 1/4 cup dry red wine)

6 shallots, peeled and minced

15 whole pink peppercorns, see note

CRAB CAKES:

3/4 pound crab meat, see note

1/4 cup minced celery

1/4 cup minced red onion

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons diced mild green chilies (canned)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs, divided use, see note

4 tablespoons butter for sauteing

2 sticks chilled butter, cut into 16 pieces

sprigs of fresh basil and/or chives (optional garnish)

Combine all sauce ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and boil on high heat until reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Strain and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine crab meat, celery, onion, mayonnaise, egg, chili and Worcestershire sauce. Add 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and stir to blend. Form mixture into 8 patties, about 3/4 -inch thick. Coat both sides of patties with remaining bread crumbs.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large, non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Saute crab cakes until golden brown and crisp on both sides (about 4 minutes per side). Transfer to baking sheet and place in a 300-degree oven to keep warm while you finish the sauce.

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