Cover for "A Year at Catbird Cottage: Recipes for a Nourished Life"
“A Year at Catbird Cottage: Recipes for a Nourished Life” is written and photographed by Melina Hammer and published by Ten Speed Press.

A recipe from Catbird Cottage

This nearly no-cook feast highlights colorful early summer bounty, paired with a luscious sauce through which to drag everything. By all appearances, the abundance of elements looks like it takes a good bit of effort to put together, but hooray, it does not. That is the magic of this dish, because who wants to cook when it’s hot out? And who also would like to eat outdoors, making minimal ovations to do so, and reap great results? Whole, tender veggies present in piles alongside plump, lightly poached seafood. Use what is peak ripe from your garden or the market and you will eat royally. Use this as a guide and set off to make your own delectable version. I use duck eggs as often as possible when making aioli, as they produce an extra creamy result. If you cannot find duck eggs, chicken eggs work just fine.

Grand Aioli Summer Feast

Makes 4 servings as a meal or 6 servings as a snack

Ingredients

Aioli

(Makes 1 cup)

    • 2 eggs
    • Juice from half a lemon
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1⁄2 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil

Poaching Liquid

    • 1 to 2 cups stock
    • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
    • 2 strips lemon peel
    • 1 small stalk fennel with its fronds
    • 1 shallot, quartered
    • Petals from 2 wild bergamot flowers, or 1 stem fresh oregano
    • 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (season the poaching liquid like the sea)
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne

Seafood

    • 8 to 12 mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
    • 4 to 6 jumbo wild shrimp, shell on and deveined
    • 8 ounces buttery fish such as cod, halibut, sable or wild salmon, cut into 1-by-3-inch segments
    • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off
    • 5 to 7 small waxy potatoes, such as new potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes
    • 2 handfuls slender wax beans, green beans, scarlet runner beans, or a mix
    • 3 small pattypan or summer squash, cut into bite-size wedges or spears
    • 2 or 3 Persian or Kirby cucumbers, cut into spears
    • Half a bunch of French breakfast or Easter egg radishes and their greens, trimmed
    • 2 custardy eggs (soft-boiled eggs)
    • Flake salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Grand Aioli Summer Feast
Grand Aioli Summer Feast. Photo by Melina Hammer/Catbird Cottage

Instructions

Make the aioli

    1. With your hand placed over a small bowl, crack an egg and empty it into your palm. Slightly part your fingers to allow the white to fall through into the bowl beneath, passing the egg from one hand to the other until all the egg white has slipped through, leaving you with only the yolk. Place the yolk in a medium high-sided bowl. Repeat the process with the second egg.
    2. Add the lemon juice, mustard and salt. Using an immersion blender, blend them together until uniform.
    3. Add the oil in a bare drizzle, blending continuously, until emulsified. It’s okay to occasionally pause adding the oil so you can incorporate the mixture fully.
    4. Once the mixture is emulsified, it will appear uniform, thick and silky. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed and pulse to blend. Transfer the aioli to a squat jar and seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight, to set. This step can be done three days in advance.

Poach the seafood

    1. Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cover the pan with its lid, cooking the mussels until their shells have opened, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or julep strainer to transfer the mussels to another large plate as you poach the remaining elements.
    2. Lower the heat to simmer and poach the shrimp until opaque, 4 or 5 minutes. Strain and set the shrimp aside with the mussels.
    3. Gently poach the fish pieces until opaque, 3 to 5 minutes. Salmon can be cooked medium rare, whereas the others should be cooked fully, until the meat flakes but retains its tenderness.
    4. Carefully remove the pieces using the slotted spoon or julep strainer and add the fish segments to the plate with the other seafood. Strain any solids from the poaching liquid and compost them — the poaching liquid will be a delicious elixir for yet another meal. Freeze or use for cooking beans or grains.

Add the veggies

Arrange the asparagus spears in a steamer basket, placed inside a saucepan with 1 inch of water. Place the lid on and steam over high heat until the asparagus turns bright green and the stems become just tender, 4 to 6 minutes, then shock in an ice bath until cool to the touch. Pat dry and set aside. Boil potatoes in salted water until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain them in a colander and allow to cool to room temperature.

Serve

Arrange the veggies into piles on a serving platter around a bowl placed in the center to accommodate the aioli. Alternate cooked and raw elements — and variety in color — as you plate. Peel the eggs, slice them in half and add them to the platter. Nestle in the seafood and fish as you add everything to the platter. Dollop the aioli into a bowl in the center and bring to the table. Keep flake salt and freshly ground black pepper nearby to season to taste. Eat at once.


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