Valentine’s Day is Tuesday and when thinking about what to serve for dinner I, as I often do on this occasion, reminisced about the night I proposed to my wife.
That was more than 30 years ago when we were living in Toronto, and on the day I had planned to propose, I was off from my restaurant chef job. My wife, on the other hand, was at work being a busy pastry chef, and while she was working, I plotted out how I would pop the question.
It wasn’t the most complex plan. When she came home I would choose the right moment to ask, open champagne, make her a lovely dinner and we would start making wedding plans.
With regard to the latter, my wife and I enjoyed dining at a restaurant called the Filet of Sole. It’s no longer open, but back then it was a busy, fun place that served the freshest seafood, often combining various types in one dish.
It was also loud, not the best place for a soft-spoken person like me to ask someone to marry them. But I did think a seafood feast would be a romantic supper for such an occasion.
So while my wife was at work, I headed to Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market and bought a range of items — jumbo shrimp, fish, scallops and more — to make a seafood bake, similar to today’s recipe. A seafood bake is a simple, yet deluxe way to make a sumptuous dinner for two that you can get oven-ready in advance. The latter part would be handy, as I could have the meal well in hand before my wife got home.
I did my food prep, got the champagne chilling and waited. I was nervous, but that changed to worry when she walked in the door. After a long day at work and a long commute on the streetcar home, she was exhausted. Perhaps the timing was not right for this.
But once she got settled into our cosy apartment, I realized I just had to ask her. I did, she said yes and we had a most wonderful evening planning our wedding.
I can’t recall what I served with the seafood bake we enjoyed that night, but steamed rice and a green vegetable, such as beans or asparagus, and some crusty bread would be good choices.
To all celebrating: Happy Valentine’s Day.
When is seafood cooked?
When baking today’s seafood dish and trying to determine if all items are cooked, take note that when ready, fish and shellfish, such as lobster meat, prawns and scallops, should feel slightly firm, not hard, a sign you have over cooked it, and not soft, a sign it’s not cooked through. When cooked, the flesh of fish will also start to slightly separate into flakes, and it will lose its translucency and become opaque. The later two points are also true for shellfish, with items such as prawns also turning a pinkish/red colour when cooked.
Sumptuous Seafood Bake for Two
This deluxe seafood dish is easy to make. Simply set the seafood in a baking dish or pan, top with a rich wine/butter mixture, and bake until the seafood is cooked.
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 to 12 minutes
Makes: two servings
2 (3 oz.) snapper, halibut, cod or salmon filets, each 3/4-inch thick
4 to 6 large sea scallops
4 to 6 large wild prawns, peeled and deveined (see Note)
1 (3- to 4-oz.) lobster tail, split in half lengthwise
1/4 cup white wine
2 to 3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 tsp dried
1 small garlic clove, minced
• pinch salt, paprika and cayenne pepper
• squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
• lemon slices or wedges for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Place the fish, scallops, prawns and lobster, the latter flesh-side-up, in a single layer in a shallow baking dish or pan. (A dish or pan 13-by- nine inches or similar in size will work here.)
Combine the wine, butter, tarragon, garlic, salt, paprika, cayenne and lemon juice in a small pot and set over medium-high heat. Warm the mixture just until the butter is melted, and then remove pot from the heat.
Spoon and drizzle the wine mixture over the seafood. Set seafood in the oven and bake, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the seafood is just cooked.
Sprinkle seafood with parsley, garnish with lemon slices (or wedges), set baking dish on the dining table and enjoy.
Note: To peel and devein a prawn, hold the tip of tail of in one hand. Slip the thumb of your other hand under the shell between its swimmerets (little legs). Pull off the shell and, if desired, leave the very tip of the tail in place. With a small paring knife, make a lengthwise slit along the back of the prawn. Now pull out, or rinse out with cold water, the dark vein. Pat prawn dry and it’s ready to use.
Eric options: If you wanted to get this dish oven-ready an hour so in advance, simply set the seafood in the baking dish, and then cover and refrigerate. Place the ingredients for the wine mixture in the pot, but don’t heat it up yet.
When you are ready to bake the seafood, take it out of the refrigerator and uncover. Warm up the wine mixture as directed, spoon over the seafood and start baking.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His latest is The Great Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.