For the oysters:
Clean and shuck the Texas oysters and remove from shells. Discard only the top halves of the oyster shells. Marinate the oysters in a mixture of the buttermilk and hot sauce for at least 2 hours. This can be done overnight, but must be kept cold. Dredge the oysters in a mixture of the flour and Creole seasonings until well coated. Fry the oysters in 375 degree oil for approximately 1-2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.
Over medium heat, sweat the shallots and garlic in butter in a sauté pan. Add the diced tasso, then top with spinach and cilantro. Splash in a bit of dry white wine and cook just until the spinach is wilted. To be safe, the oyster shells can be boiled before using. Fill each shell with the spinach mixture, then place one oyster on top of each and spoon over a silky layer of hollandaise sauce.
For the hollandaise sauce:
Slowly cook egg yolks, wine and hot sauce over a double boiler while whisking. When the yolks have doubled in volume, add remaining ingredients except for the butter. Slowly drizzle the butter in while whisking vigorously. Season with salt to taste. Store in a warm place until ready to use. Do not refrigerate or reheat. This is a very unstable sauce that must be served immediately.
Chef’s Comments: If I did have one personal favorite dish, which I’m not admitting to, this would probably be it. That old rule about good oysters only being available in months with an “r” was written in the late 1700s and no longer applies. Someone, somewhere is harvesting fresh beautiful oysters every single day of the year. I love the Galveston Bay oysters for this dish because of their plump and juicy size and I can get them really fresh, but any good quality oyster will work. I can’t even count the number of guests who at one time “didn’t like oysters”, but now come back regularly for their Texasfeller fix. The briny tangy flavor of fresh oysters, nestled in a light crispy coating with spicy tasso, wilted spinach and velvety hollandaise is a combination that gets people hooked for life. When anyone asks what the chef recommends, my answer always starts with a question “ Do You like oysters?” Full Recipe
Cook the bacon slices until crispy, then break apart into large bits by hand. Slice the jalapenos in half lengthwise, or just cut off the stems. Hollow out the inside of the jalapeno, being sure to get as much of the white veins and seeds out as possible. Combine the cream cheese and Boursin cheese and warm just slightly until smooth and creamy. Fold in the cleaned crab meat, being very careful not to break up the large lumps of crab. Stuff each pepper as much as it will take, even overstuffing a little bit. Bake in a 425 degree oven until the crab and cheese mixture is bubbling and lightly browned, approximately 7-8 minutes. Top each one with bits of bacon and fresh chives just before serving.
The jalapenos can be cut in different ways. The stems can be removed, then the body of the peppers hollowed out and stuffed. They will need to be roasted in a special rack designed for roasting jalapenos vertically, which I prefer. The racks are easy to find online and make great serving pieces as well.
I’m not sure when I saw the first commercially available jalapeno roaster, but I’ve been stuffing and serving these types of appetizers ever since. It’s important to get all of the seeds and veins out first to tame down the heat of these famous little peppers, but there’s even a tool made for that on the market now, too called the jalapeno corer. This dish does work well when cooked in the oven, but can be even more fun if the roaster is placed right on top of an outdoor grill and cooked with the lid down until the peppers soften and the filling lightly bubbles. Full Recipe
(Texas Striped Bass, Grouper or Red Snapper all have a nice flaky and delicate flavor that work very well for this recipe if redfish isn’t available)
Cut the roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and cold smoke with pecan wood for 30 minutes, then place on a roasting rack. Place the roasting rack in a convection oven on the lowest possible setting such as warm or 150 degrees. Allow the tomatoes to dry for 2 1/2 hours. Mix the Creole seasonings with pecan halves and pulse in a food processor several times until the nuts only have a few large pieces left, then scatter the mix out on a large plate. Lay the clean and dry fish fillet down on top of the seasonings and press lightly to get the nuts to stick. Be sure to lay the pretty side (or what we in the industry call the presentation side) down in the nuts. They will end up facing up on the finished plate. In a medium-hot pan, drizzle a little olive oil in, then gently place the fish fillet inside, pecan side down. Gently shake the pan back and forth just a little to keep the fish from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Nonstick pans work exceptionally well for cooking fish. Cook on the first side for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, being careful not to let the nuts burn. If the pecans turn black and smoke, the dish must be started over using a cooler pan. Turn the fillet over gently, then continue cooking until the fish is done. If the fish is very thick, place the entire pan into a 375 degree oven (as long as its an oven safe pan) and finish cooking in the oven after flipping. Remove fillet from the pan and let rest on a warm plate while you make the sauce. Raise the pan to high heat then caramelize the julienned onions and poblanos. Add in the smoked shrimp and garlic and sauté for one minute, then add white wine. Allow the wine to reduce by a little more than half, then add the tomatoes and butter. Swirl the entire contents continually until the butter melts, season lightly with salt and pepper, squeeze in the lime juice, then pour over the fish fillet and serve immediately.
Chef’s Comments: Redfish is a true Texas treasure. It’s been popular with sportsmen for quite some time, but in recent years several very reputable aquafarms have begun to produce these fish near the Texas Gulf coast. The slightly firm texture, sweet & tender meat, and year-round availability make this fish one that I consistently serve all year long. I love adding just a little texture and complexity by coating one side with pecans. Full Recipe
Wash and clean the crawfish tails, then soak in a mixture of equal parts buttermilk and Crystal Hot Sauce for approx 1 hour. Dredge the tails into flour (seasoned with Creole blend) and coat. Fry just until the tails are crispy (approx 1 minute), then drain on paper towels. Dress the sandwich rolls with a generous helping of remoulade sauce, add the crawfish and top with lettuce and tomato.
Blanch the jalapenos in hot oil just until the skin blister, then shock in ice water. Remove the peel, then smoke using a stovetop smoker for 2-3 minutes. Remove the seeds and chop, then mix with all remaining ingredients well and refrigerate until ready to use. Full Recipe
For the crab poppers:
Pick through the crabmeat for any shell pieces, but leave the large jumbo chunks intact. Combine the buttermilk, salt and egg and whisk together until the mixture is smooth. Drop the pieces of crab into the wet mixture to coat, then directly into the panko crumbs. Mix until coated well on all sides with the crumbs. Fry the crab pieces in 365 degree vegetable oil until golden brown, then drain on paper towels. Serve each crab popper on an individual spoon, or with toothpicks as a passed appetizer. Drizzle with cascabel-lime aioli and garnish with chopped chives.
For the aioli:
Simmer the cascabels in just enough water to cover for 22-24 minutes with a tight fitting lid. Once they are soft, remove them from their cooking liquid then put the chiles and 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) of the cooking water into a food processor. Add in all ingredients except for the oil and blend for 1 minute. After one minute, begin drizzling in the oil slowly while the processor is on until a slightly thick mayonnaise consistency is reached. Cool and serve. The consistency can be adjusted as necessary. If it’s too thick, add a little more of the cooking liquid. If it seems too thin, add in more oil while the processor is running.
I love to serve this dish when the blue crabs are plentiful and fresh huge jumbo lump crabmeat is abundant. It’s a perfect small bite to start off a party, packed with flavor and just a touch of heat, but not too hearty that everyone fills up before the main course. They can be served on individual spoons, or skewered with large toothpicks. Full Recipe
For The Oysters
Shuck the oysters and discard the top shell. Be sure to slightly cut the muscle that attaches the oyster to the bottom shell as if you were serving them raw. Lay the oysters, shell down, right on top of a hot wood burning grill, then top each one with a generous spoonful of the chili sauce. Cook until the sauce begins to bubble in the shells. Remove carefully with tongs and serve. The oysters will cook as they simmer in the hot chili sauce.
For The Sauce
In a medium sized saucepot, sweat the onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add in all remaining ingredients except for the lime juice and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Puree with a stick blender and strain. Add in the lime juice at the end and serve.
This method of putting a little chili powder on the outside of the scallops before cooking develops an incredibly rich outer coating once the scallops have been seared and really works well with the tangy and rich Anaheim sauce. Don’t be afraid to pour a little extra sauce for sopping up with grits or your favorite starch. Full Recipe