11.20.2012

Holiday Seafood Recipes with Food Network Star Martie Duncan (Interview)

For most of us, the holiday season means the same old dinner fare: turkey, ham, pot roast, etc.

But the holidays make for a great excuse to cook up a feast of Alabama Gulf Seafood. From shrimp and grits to crab dip to grilled oysters, seafood is a quick and easy way to keep your guests both entertained and well fed.

So we asked Birmingham native and “Food Network Star” finalist Martie Duncan for some tips on how to heat up your dinner party during the cold weather months.

For expert advice, full recipes and more, check out the interview below.

Many folks think of seafood as a warm-weather meal. Why should we eat seafood during the wintertime?

The months between October and February are entertaining season! We do more entertaining during those months for family and friends than any other: Halloween, tailgating, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s celebrations, Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day…. the list is just about endless. Seafood is delicious, easy to prepare and it cooks quickly. That’s the perfect menu item for any party to me.

When Thanksgiving rolls around, turkey always takes center stage. But what sort of seafood sides, appetizers, or even main courses would make a good substitute or complement?

A lot of folks love Oyster Dressing. Many in the South have Seafood Gumbo on their Thanksgiving menu along with a smoked turkey; the gumbo is full of shrimp, fish and crab. Shrimp and Grits makes its way onto many Thanksgiving tables and Bacon Wrapped Shrimp is the perfect starter.

For December holidays, a feast is a must. What sort of seafood would be ideal for this month?

For decades, my family has always had a chilled Shrimp Cocktail or my Citrus Pickled Shrimp for the holidays. To change it up slightly for December, I add a tablespoon of whole cloves to the marinade. I put those in cheesecloth and tie it so I can remove it before serving. Whole cloves are too large to leave in for serving. I also delete some of the lemon and add orange juice and orange slices. If it is an adult only crowd, I put a splash of orange liqueur in it too. Many of my friends have a raw bar for their holiday buffets which includes oysters on the half shell.

Serious foodies love to make their holiday meals festive. Is there any sort of special touch or extra flare that we can add to our seafood to give it an impressive presentation as well as impeccable taste?

I like to keep it simple and always use what I have in the dish for garnish. Lemons, oranges, bay leaves, rosemary, flat leaf parsley or other herbs make a lovely garnish.

With holiday meals, there are going to be plenty of leftovers. And we’ve all heard that lots of seafood spoils quickly and/or isn’t as good when re-heated. What are some good seafood recipes that will still taste great the next day or two?

I often turn my leftover seafood into gumbo or paella. Since it is already cooked, I simply bring some seafood stock to a boil and put the cooked seafood in it for a few moments before transferring it to the new dish I’m making. I don’t want to overcook it.

So it’s the day after Thanksgiving/Christmas, and we’re recovering from stuffing our bellies to the breaking point. What sort of light seafood dish should we try for lunch or dinner to balance out the calories and cure that holiday hangover?

I love this Herbed Shrimp over Pasta dish. It’s light, fast and tastes great. From refrigerator to table, this one takes about 15-20 minutes.

When the holidays roll around, we’re always worried about gaining an extra pound or two. What are some of the healthiest seafood options that won’t have us loosening our belt buckles after we eat?

Most seafood is healthy if you don’t fry it. If you do, that’s ok too—just try to exercise portion control and eat fried food in moderation. I never seem to be able to do this myself, however. 🙂

Any further holiday seafood recommendations or advice you have for us?

I did a very simple seafood dish for “Food Network Star.” It’s so fast and easy—you cook it in parchment paper packs. Simply cut parchment paper to 12 x 12 squares—one for each guest. Next, make a “rack” or a “nest” of veggies, citrus, herbs—whatever you like for the fish to sit on. I often use citrus and herbs. Onion and tomatoes are great, too. Then add your seafood on top of the nest. I like flounder, snapper, grouper or tuna. Mix up a little olive oil, salt, pepper and favorite herbs like thyme in a bowl and drizzle on top. Add a tiny pat of butter. Fold up each pack and seal tightly. You can make these ahead, put on a baking sheet, and leave them in the fridge until you are ready to bake. Bake these on the baking sheet in an oven preheated to 425 for 10-12 minutes—maybe a bit longer depending on the size of the fish. Here’s the complete recipe from Food Network Star: Fish in Parchment.