New Orleans’ Premier Seafood Chef Eases Fish-Cooking Phobias Forever
Tenney Flynn, a fisherman and award-winning chef who’s been deemed “the Seafood Czar of the Gulf region” by The Wall Street Journal, hears concerns about cooking seafood at home from customers who fill the dining room at his New Orleans restaurant, GW Fins. As a frequent guest chef on television and in cooking demos around the country, he’s been showing audiences for years how cooking seafood can be quick and easy with a little practice and the right techniques.
His new book, The Deep End of Flavor: Recipes and Stories From New Orleans’ Premier Seafood Chef, can help us all navigate the complexities of the seafood world and ease our fish-cooking phobias forever. A timeless guide to understanding and preparing all kinds of seafood at any skill level, with whatever fish is available, The Deep End of Flavor hit shelves August 13.
Flynn divulges his secret to making a foolproof roux and a deep-flavored stock as complex as the sea that will translate into the best gumbo, risotto and shrimp creole you’ve ever tasted, let alone made.
A Georgia native, Flynn’s recipes meld his lifelong love of Southern cooking and appreciation for the flavors of his adopted Louisiana home with his passion for the flavors of countries he’s visited, including Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico.
He shares his Shortcut Seafood Risotto and seafood stock recipes from The Deep End of Flavor below.
Shortcut Seafood Risotto
A lot of home cooks are daunted by risotto, which is traditionally made with Arborio rice, a short-grain, starchy rice from Italy that requires a watchful eye and constant stirring for 40 minutes or more to achieve its characteristic creaminess. At GW Fins, Chef Flynn starts the process several hours, or even days, in advance, reducing the final cooking time to about 10 or 15 minutes.
This two-part method also works well in a home kitchen, allowing plenty of time in between to complete the rest of the meal. The rice is cooked in fish stock and shellfish folded in at the last minute to pair with a simple fillet, but this risotto is also great on its own as a main dish. Use this recipe as a template to vary the stock and vegetable and protein additions for other meals.
Make-Ahead Risotto Base
2 cups shrimp or fish stock (recipes below)
1 Tbsp. salted butter
2 tsp. chopped shallot
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 cup Arborio rice
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1⁄4 cup white wine
1 Tbsp. chopped fines herbs or parsley
Bring stock to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep warm. Melt butter
in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until tender, and then stir in the rice to coat with the fat. Season with salt and a pinch of black pepper. Add the wine, stirring constantly until all the liquid is absorbed. When the pan is dry, add the hot stock, 1⁄2 cup at a time, stirring continuously until the pot is again dry before adding additional stock. When the stock is absorbed, add the herbs. Remove from the heat, spread out on a baking sheet and refrigerate to cool about 30 minutes or so, uncovered. When completely cool, cover with plastic for up to 2 days.
2 cups shrimp or fish stock (recipes below)
1 Tbsp. salted butter
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1⁄2 pound cooked seafood: lobster tail meat, peeled crawfish tails or peeled and deveined large shrimp (cooked or uncooked)
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese or softened butter
Chopped parsley or fines herbs for garnish
Remove the risotto base from the refrigerator. Bring the stock to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep warm. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until tender, and then stir in the cooled risotto base. Lightly season with salt and pepper, and begin adding the additional stock 1 ⁄2 cup at a time, stirring and allowing the pan to dry between additions. Taste for doneness. The grains should be creamy—not mushy—and uniformly cooked if you’ve stirred properly.
If you’re not quite ready to serve, remove it from the heat and add a bit more stock or water to reheat if needed. It is essential that the risotto is completely done before adding the seafood, cheeses and parsley.
Strong Shrimp Stock (yields one quart)
Sacrificing a pound of whole shrimp to grind into the stock is essential to getting great flavor. For an even richer stock, add fish stock in place of the water if you have some.
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
2 Tbsp. diced onion
2 Tbsp. diced carrot
1 Tbsp. diced celery
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
Shells (and heads if available) from 2 lbs. of wild-caught American shrimp
1 lb. unpeeled wild-caught American shrimp, rough chopped, including shells
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup canned tomatoes, mashed up a bit
1 bay leaf
6 cups water
Heat a large saucepan to medium; add the oil, onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, and then add the shrimp shells and chopped shrimp. Cook on high, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
Add the wine and reduce to almost dry, and then add the tomatoes with any juice along with the bay leaf.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the volume is reduced to a little over 4 cups, about 30 minutes. You may need to raise the heat or add more liquid if it’s cooking too slowly or too fast, but 30 minutes is a bare minimum for flavor extraction with this quantity of shrimp.
Remove the bay leaf and purée the mixture well with an immersion blender. Or use a regular blender and put a clean towel over the top, allowing for expansion of the hot liquid, and cover loosely with the lid.
Force this puréed mixture through a fine strainer or sieve, mashing it to get all the juice. This can be done well ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen.
Note: For a lighter stock that can be used in place of fish stock, follow this recipe, omitting adding the whole shrimp and skip the purée. Just strain it after it has simmered for 30 minutes.
Basic Fish Stock (yields one gallon)
The first step to making top-quality fish stock is to get LOTS of bones. For a gallon of finished stock, I fill a 3- to 4-gallon pot with at least five pounds of bones from fresh, relatively lean fish that have all traces of viscera removed and have been rinsed in cold water until the water runs clean. Crabs and any shrimp shells that you may have saved in the freezer can go in. Fish heads are fine, too, if fresh and well-rinsed. This is a light stock that should have a clean, fresh flavor. It will reduce while making the soup and become more concentrated.
1 onion, rough chopped
2 stalks celery (no leaves), chopped
2 bay leaves
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
5 lbs. bones from very fresh, relatively lean fish, cleaned
1 lb. whole live blue crabs or frozen gumbo crabs
2 cups frozen shrimp shells or heads (or whatever you have)
1 cup white wine
Water to cover (about 1 1/2 gallons)
Place onion, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme in a very large stockpot. Place the fish bones, crabs and shrimp shells on top of the vegetables, add the wine, and pour in enough water to cover the bones and vegetables. Bring slowly to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, skimming off foam as needed. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Strain and reserve.