New England seafood favorites, sole and a sweet Maine crab.
We finally got out of town! A few days at the sea shore, and we are refreshed and ready for spring. It felt like winter when we left, a driving icy rain that turned to sleet now and then, lots of fog, and winter shoes. After arriving at the hotel, a swim and an amazing dinner, we retired looking forward to a day of sunshine, and we were indeed rewarded.
Enjoying the seaside
Yes, we walked the beach, looked for shells, visited the Nubble lighthouse, did a little casual shopping, and had our lobsters, lobster rolls, and fried clams. Dinners were delightful, with the best of Maine seafood, starting with a great selection of local oysters which we greedily consumed before remembering to snap a picture!
On the way out, I picked up some frozen Peekytoe crab, a delightfully sweet local rock crab that is among my favorite shellfish delights. When asked, you’ll find a number of different theories about the origin of calling these Atlantic rock crabs Peekytoe. The one I like the best and makes some sense is that it is a slang name that comes from “picked toe” because of the sharp points that turn inward. Picked would be pronounced with the Maine accent making it two syllables, pick-ed, (rhyming with wicked, a much used New England qualifier meaning very, or really), and it evolved to peekytoe. Sounds good to me.
Now, let’s continue the fun
After four days of enjoying other people’s dishes, the first thing I want to do was cook! A Sunday night supper of sole stuffed with the crab kept us firmly at the shore. My sole were on the small side, so in order to roll it up I had to overlap two or three filets together and it worked out perfectly. You can also use flounder or whatever flat fish you like, local if possible.
A food memory
A few scallions, mushrooms, and fresh tarragon were all that was needed to enhance the filling. Years ago, at a French restaurant, I enjoyed a marvelous sole stuffed with bay scallops and Swiss cheese, and covered with a velvety thick Mornay sauce. I have made versions of this many times over the years, and more recently experimented to lighten it up a bit while keeping the flavor.
A little cheese
I chose a nutty smoked vegan Swiss cheese. While most of the vegan cheeses leave something to be desired, there is a smoked version that is quite tasty when melted. It worked well here, the mild smoke added a lovely element while not overpowering the crab. If I were making this with dairy, I would use our local Boggy Meadows Farms Smoked baby Swiss, an absolutely delightful cheese!
The sauce is simple, the juices from the baking dish thickened with a small bit of flour, which is optional, you can just strain the juice and leave it at that. Or, if you want the sauce richer, after straining, just add a few tablespoons of full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream to the strained juice in the saucepan and cook until the desired thickness.
All in all, this is a pretty quick dish to make. But rest assured, it’s wicked good!
Peekytoe Crab Stuffed Sole
- 1 lb. sole or other flatfish
- 2 oz. smoked Swiss cheese, dairy or vegan, grated
- 8 oz. Maine peekytoe crab, or other domestic crab
- 4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced or if small whole
- 2 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- A few sprigs of tarragon
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp. flour
- ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp. vegan or dairy butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an oval baking dish and cut a piece of parchment to fit.
Pat the fish dry. If the fish are large enough, use one per serving. Smaller ones can be pieced together, as I did here, to create four packets. Season lightly, and divide the cheese among the four portions.
My crab was frozen, so after thawing, I squeezed any excess water from it into the baking dish. Check for any bits of shell. Divide among all four portions.
Sprinkle a few mushroom and scallion pieces on each bundle and season with salt and pepper. Then, carefully roll them up and place seam side down in the dish.
Add any remaining scallions and mushrooms to the dish along with the tarragon and wine.
Cover with parchment and a large piece of aluminum foil pressed tightly around the dish.
Bake for 15 minutes, remove the parchment and foil, and check. It will probably need another five minutes or so, or until a knife inserted in the fish meets no resistance.
While the fish is cooking, combine the fresh breadcrumbs and butter in a small skillet and cook until it starts to brown. By cooking the crumbs separately, you can brown them as desired, and cook the fish perfectly.
Remove the fish from the oven, place on a plate, and cover to keep warm.
Strain the juice from the pan into a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Mix the flour with two tablespoons of water and whisk into the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens.
Pour the sauce into the serving platter, place the fish on top, and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and a bit more fresh minced tarragon.
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