Last year, for our two-week sailing getaway, I made “lobster and shells” for the first time from the cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?” I made a mountain of it, packed it up in a plastic container and placed it directly on top of the ice in the bottom of the cooler. Let me tell you, we couldn’t stop eating it.
“This is a winner!” my husband exclaimed.
Ina Gartner, aka the Barefoot Contessa, calls this salad a taste of summer in the Hamptons, but I’ve brought it to the Pacific Northwest with a few minor adjustments. You can buy cooked fresh lobster meat if you’d like, but it’s expensive and perishable.
Instead, I bought langostinos at Trader Joe’s in the frozen seafood section. But that was last year, and Trader Joe’s tells me a worldwide shortage of langostinos has made them only intermittently available. I couldn’t get them recently, so I instead made them with Trader Joe’s shrimp, peeled and deveined.
I brought the shrimp onboard frozen in the bag, sautéed it in a pan and then cut it into bite-sized pieces. Of course, you could use crab or smoked salmon if you had it on hand, but try the lobster or shrimp version for yourself and see what a taste of summer lightness it is.
And don’t skimp on the dill. Use the entire 3/4 cup of the freshest herb you can find.
It might be fun to try diagonally-sliced snow peas or sugar snaps for crunch and color, or maybe fresh red radishes. Recipes are made to be played with. And you can choose to make part or all of the recipe at home.
Make ahead: My preference is to make it ahead and keep it really cold. I luxuriate in the idea that lunch or dinner is ready and waiting. The last time we had it onboard, we dug into it and ate it for lunch every day for three days, it was so delicious and refreshing.
Onboard/partially at home: I have also made it onboard, setting up a mise en place cooking station … little paper bowls filled with chopped ingredients. It was fun to feel chef-like in my galley. At home, I cooked the pasta and corn ahead of time, and put it in a large container to add the other ingredients later. Then I mixed up the sour cream and mayo and put it in a separate container. If you want, you can squeeze the fresh lemons and pack up the lemon juice separately, too. Take along the rest of the ingredients to chop in your galley.
Cut corn off the cob over a Bundt pan. You can slice off the cob easier and the kernels fall into the pan.
If the ice is on shrimp, remove. Sautee shrimp in two to four batches in a frying pan (don’t crowd them). Cook only two to three minutes, turning with tongs when they turn pink. Sprinkle shrimp with garlic powder and grind salt and pepper on top.
Good olive oil
1/2 pound (half box) small pasta shells, like Ronzoni (I found them at Metropolitan Market)
Kernels from 6 ears of corn (about 3 ½ cups)
6 scallions, white and green pars, thinly sliced
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and small-diced*
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (fresh from the farmers market)
1 pound cooked fresh lobster meat, medium diced (or two bags of frozen shrimp or langostinos)**
3/4 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream (I used low-fat)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fresh dill
*I like to buy a package of three peppers — one yellow, one red and one orange, for color, at Trader Joe’s
**I used two bags of Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined, 20-30 count
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add one tablespoon of salt and some olive oil. Add the pasta and cook it for about eight minutes, until al dente. Add the raw corn kernels to the pasta and cook it for another two minutes, until the corn is tender.
Drain the pasta and corn together in a colander and pour them into a large mixing bowl. Add the scallions, diced peppers, tomatoes and lobster, tossing gently to combine. Allow to cool slightly.
If using shrimp, let safely thaw (see Cautions below) then sprinkle with a little garlic powder and a grind of salt and pepper. Remove any extra ice on shrimp and sauté two to three minutes, turning with tongs when pink. Chop shrimp into bite-sized pieces.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, two teaspoons salt (to taste) and one teaspoon pepper until smooth. Pour over the pasta and mix well to bind the ingredients. Stir in the dill, four teaspoons salt (to taste), and one teaspoon pepper.
Cover with plastic wrap or put into plastic container and chill for up to six hours to allow the flavors to develop. Check the seasonings and serve chilled or at room temperature.
Be careful with seafood: frozen foods should be thawed in a cooler at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. To thaw more quickly, place in sealed, leakproof bag and submerge the bag in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the food is completely thawed. Cook immediately.
Mixtures with mayonnaise need to be kept really cold, directly on the ice.
Hints from the Barefoot Contessa: Ina suggests it’s important to use small shells so that the corn kernels can get stuck inside them. She also recommends that if the sauce is too thick after it’s chilled, add a few tablespoons of milk, cream or lemon to thin it.