As mentioned before, I went to the Fish Guy Market to pick up some fish and ended up with a pork chop for lunch (which was delicious), but I also ended up buying some softshell crabs and some sturgeon. The sturgeon looked very dense and meaty (like a steak), so I was intrigued by it. The fishmonger told me that it was, in fact, like steak, so I could grill it with high heat, roast it, or do anything that I would normally do with steak.
After looking at it for a while, I chose to do a barbequed sturgeon. I also wanted something that would mimic a normal summer side dish, and my mind immediately turned to mashed potatoes. However, I have made mashed potatoes dozens of times, so I wanted to do something different. I took off to Jewel to figure out what I was going to make. When I got there, I came across some parsnips and remembered the last time that I was at Tru for dinner they served a barbequed salmon with a fried parsnip log. I figured I could make a garlicky parsnip puree (courtesy of Tyler Florence, just changed a bit) that would be an interesting substitute for mashed potatoes. I knew that I was going to do the crabs very simply (floured and fried in oil with some lemon), so that was well settled.
I made my own barbeque sauce as I always do (using Sprecher root beer as the base) and adding some fennel seeds instead of juniper berries as the seasons are changing and I wanted to get a little away from the winter sauce that I make. I then briefly grilled the sturgeon to brown it on the outside, put it in a pan and basted it with the sauce, and cooked it in a very hot oven (450 degrees) for 8 minutes to finish and bake the sauce on . To my surprise, the sturgeon was nearly the exact same texture as chicken, so it was particularly suited for barbeque sauce. Also surprisingly, the parsnip puree tasted like coconuts which paired nicely with the vinegar-y sauce. The crabs were beautifully crisped and sweet.
Sturgeon (serves 2)
2 sturgeon filets
1. Preheat oven to 450 and a grill to high heat.
2. Put the sturgeon filets on the grill 2 minutes per side turning 45 degrees after 1 minute to make grill marks on each side.
3. Put the sturgeon in a frying pan and generously baste with barbeque sauce.
4. Put the pan in the oven for 8 minutes to finish cooking and to bake on the sauce.
5. Remove from oven and baste again with more sauce. If you want, use a blowtorch to singe some of the sauce to give some interesting variation in taste and texture.
1 lb of parsnips, peeled and large diced
1 cup cream
1 sprig of thyme
4 tbsp butter
1 head of garlic, sliced horizontally
1. Put parsnips in a sauce pan and put in just enough water to cover.
2. Bring the water to a brisk simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes until parsnips are extremely tender. Remove parsnips from the water, but reserve water on the side.
3. While the parsnips are simmering, put the cream in another sauce pan and put the garlic (cut side down) and thyme in it. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
4. When the cream is done, put the parsnips in a food processor with the butter and a couple tablespoons of the water they cooked in. Puree on high until it gets smooth.
5. Once smooth, with the food processor running, pour in some of the cream in a thin, steady stream until puree is the consistency you want it (should be like slightly thinner mashed potatoes, but not liquidy).
6. Add kosher salt to taste.
3 softshell crabs
1. Lightly sprinkle both sides of each crab with salt and pepper.
2. Film the bottom of a saute pan with canola oil and heat over medium-high heat for a few minutes until hot.
3. Dredge each crab in flour and shake to get off the excess flour.
4. Put each crab top-side down into the hot oil and cook for 3 minutes. Flip the crabs and fry the other side for 3 more minutes
5. Serve with lemon wedges.