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Cape Flavors

Seafood martinis make festive New Year's Eve treat

By Denise Clemons | Dec 29, 2012
Photo by: Jack Clemons Seafood martini recipes can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.

Have you made your plans for New Year’s Eve? As you read this on Friday, you’ll still have a few days to organize Monday evening’s celebration. If you opt for a restaurant, you can choose an early dinner in elegant settings that will allow you to return home and watch the new year arrive from the comfort of your living room couch. Or, you could schedule a late supper capped with a champagne toast as the clock chimes midnight. If you prefer a large venue with live music and noisy crowds dancing as the ball drops at 12 a.m., there are festivities planned at clubs and bars throughout the county.

Through the years we haven’t held to any specific tradition, allowing our plans to evolve from wherever we happen to be and whoever is sharing the celebration. But one thing I’d like to incorporate in my menu planning this year was inspired by my friend Marie: a delicious twist on shrimp cocktail, the seafood martini. This is a far cry from my childhood restaurant indulgence of shrimp cocktail – curls of chilled shrimp nestled in crushed ice with horseradish-laced ketchup – always my favorite appetizer (although I would have happily eaten several for my meal).

According to recipe lore, the originator of this dish was Corbin’s Grille in Layton, Utah, and the appetizer became enormously popular with home cooks through a 2007 article in Bon Appetit magazine. Since then, there have been countless variations on the original, which combined lobster, crabmeat and shrimp with tomato and avocado in a spicy gazpacho sauce. Some were not content with the simplicity of the ingredients and delightful contrast of taste and texture, so several modifications have evolved.

Some recipes call for adding fried calamari rings and seared sea scallops, while others stir in orange juice or diced carrots and celery. Seared seafood is an odd pairing with the chilled elements; the citrus version had no heat to speak of, and the chopped vegetables created a seafood Bloody Mary cocktail (without the vodka).

Honoring the inventor by following instructions is always a wise way to start. But, like many of you, when you encounter an ingredient you don’t particularly like, it’s time to treat the recipe like a yellow traffic light – use your own judgment. I’ve included the original recipe as well as what I used to create the seafood martinis in the photo – not identical, but still delicious.

The first step is securing absolutely fresh seafood. Thanks to the Lewes Fishhouse, we had no difficulty finding peeled jumbo shrimp, lump (not jumbo lump) crabmeat and a cooked, shelled lobster tail. Avocados, lemons, limes and Roma tomatoes completed the shopping list, since we had the remaining staples in the pantry.

My first digression was to omit the clam juice, not a flavor I particularly favor. My gazpacho sauce didn’t include garlic (too strong for the delicate seafood) but added lemon juice for some tang. I also stirred in a dollop of olive oil to replace the volume and body of the clam juice. I pulled back a tad on the hot pepper sauce, but that’s definitely an acquired taste.

A few tips you may find helpful – although it might be tempting to use precooked shrimp, take the extra step to steam your own, as it takes only a minute or so to guarantee the correct texture. If your crab has been pasteurized, you don’t need to cook it further; the high-temperature process fully cooks the crabmeat.

Once you’ve layered the ingredients, except for the shrimp, which seem more decorative curled on the rim of the glass, give these treats some time in the refrigerator. This will give you a chance to chill the champagne before your guests arrive. Happy New Year!

Corbin’s Grille Seafood Martini

8-oz bottle clam juice
1 C chopped cilantro
3/4 C canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
1/4 C rice vinegar (unseasoned)
2 T fresh lime juice
2 t prepared white horseradish
1 t hot pepper sauce
1 pressed garlic clove
salt & pepper, to taste
1 C 1/4-inch cubes plum tomatoes
1 C 1/3-inch cubes peeled avocado
1 1/2 C cooked lump crabmeat, cubed
16 cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp
1 1/2 C shelled cooked lobster meat, cubed
lime wedges
cilantro sprigs

Combine clam juice, cilantro, tomatoes with puree, vinegar, lime juice, horseradish, hot pepper sauce and garlic in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about four hours. Divide chopped tomatoes among four large martini glasses. Top with equal amounts of avocado and crab. Pour about 1/4 cup gazpacho sauce over crab in each glass. Divide shrimp, then lobster among glasses. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs. Chill before serving. Yield: 4 appetizer portions.

Simple Seafood Martini

1/4 C crushed tomatoes with puree
1 T lemon juice
1 T lime juice
1 T olive oil
1 t prepared horseradish
hot pepper sauce (to taste)
1 t chopped cilantro
salt & pepper
1 C diced Roma tomatoes
1 C diced avocado
1 1/2 C cooked, chopped lump crabmeat
16 cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp, chopped*
5 oz cooked lobster, chopped
snipped chives

Whisk together the crushed tomatoes, lemon juice, lime juice, olive oil, horseradish, hot pepper sauce, cilantro, salt & pepper. Cover and chill for three hours. Divide the chopped tomato into four chilled martini glasses. Top with chopped avocado and crabmeat. Drizzle with chilled sauce, reserving about 1 T. Top the crabmeat with the chopped lobster and arrange the shrimp on the rims of the glasses. Drizzle with remaining sauce and snipped chives. Yield: 4 servings.

*Note: to cook shrimp, bring a saucepan of salted water to boil. When at a full boil, add the shrimp and cook for one minute. Drain and place shrimp in an ice-filled bowl to stop the cooking. When cool enough to handle, drain thoroughly.

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