~ Seafood Newburg: Shrimp, Scallops & Crabmeat ~
This sinfully-rich dish of sweet, tender seafood swimming in a silky-smooth cream sauce is one of those quintessential dishes of the latter 1950's, '60's and '70's that sadly, many cooks have forgotten about. Not me. It's one of the first fancy-schmancy restaurant dishes American housewives started making at home because it didn't take a ton of time or a lot skill to prepare from scratch. Then, as with almost anything made with a cream sauce at the time, the cream-of-soup people stuck their two cents in and began to sell cream of shrimp soup -- dumbed down versions began appearing everywhere. I know this, because when I started making Newburg as a new bride back in 1974, I was determined to never travel down the cream-of-anything road.
Newberg = lobster only. Newburg = other or mixed seafood.
A bit about Lobster Newberg: This is a 100% French dish with an all-American name. It was the brainchild of Ben Wenberg, a sea captain in the mid 1800's. In 1876, he demonstrated his all-lobster dish to the manager of Old Delmonico's Restaurant in NYC. After a bit of recipe tweeking, done by the restaurant's French chef Pascal this elegant dish appeared on the menu as: Lobster a la Wenberg. After a disagreement between Wenberg and Delmonico, the dish was removed from the menu, then, to satisfy complaints from patrons, it quickly reappeared, under the name of Lobster a la Newberg. When the recipe appeared in print in 1897, it revealed that live lobsters were boiled, chopped, fried in clarified butter, then simmered in a liquor-laced mixture of cream, cognac, sherry, eggs and cayenne pepper until the mixture reduced by half, then, it was brought back to a boil after adding some Madeira -- a labor-intensive, time-consuming process.
A bit about seafood Newburg and Newburg sauce: By the 1930's variations of the dish began showing up in restaurants everywhere -- all less complicated to make: fork-friendly pieces of previously-poached (in stock and white wine) fish, lobster, shrimp, scallops, crayfish and/or crabmeat, gently reheated in the previously-prepared sauce. In 1938, Delmonico's paid homage to this most famous dish by naming its mixed seafood version: Newburg. As for the separately prepared Newburg sauce, it became well-known for its versatility to sauce all sorts of fish, seafood, meat, poultry, egg and vegetable dishes.
Choose your favorite foil: egg noodles, steamed rice or toast points.
My 1st choice: pretty-to-look-at, oh-so-easy puff pastry shells!
Before you start, decide what you want to serve your Newburg atop. It's superb over cooked egg noodles or steamed white rice, but, it was classically served over brioche toast points. I like all of them, but, when I'm in the mood for the classic, an alternative which lends an elegant touch to the presentation, is: a package of store-bought puff pastry shells. I'm baking 2 packages today, for a total of 12 shells, which will be enough to serve 6 people as a main course (2 per person).
~ Step 2. Remove from oven and immediately transfer pastry shells to a cooling rack. Allow to cool 5-6 minutes. Using the blade of a sharp knife, follow the score lines all around each top/perimeter without plunging the knife so far into the centers as to pierce through to the bottom.
My Sinfully-Simple Sherry & Cream Newburg Sauce!
8-12 tablespoons minced shallots
4 tablespoons dry sherry
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
2 jumbo egg yolks
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
~Step 2. Mince the shallots as directed. In a 2-quart saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add shallots and adjust heat to saute, until shallots are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add sherry and continue to cook about 2-3 more minutes. Turn heat off.
~ Step 3. Stir in a small, 1/4-1/2 cup of the cream mixture. After that small amount is thoroughly stirred in, switch from using a spoon to a whisk and slowly drizzle in the rest of the cream mixture, whisking constantly. Over medium heat, whisking constantly (do not stop for any reason) bring the mixture to the point where if you do stop for 1-2 seconds, it is simmering. This will take about 3 additional minutes.
My favorite fork-friendly combination of seafood for Newburg:
1 pound bay scallops, drained
1 pound pasteurized jumbo lump crabmeat, the best available, well-drained
1 quart shrimp stock, preferably homemade
3 cups white wine (Note: Feel free to substitute shrimp stock for wine.)
~ Step 1. Place the shrimp stock and white wine in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Do not lower the heat. Add the shrimp and wait 3 minutes. Add the scallops and wait 3 minutes, or until seafood returns to a simmer. Drain into a colander and immediately return shrimp and scallops to the hot pan and return the pan to the still warm stovetop. Gently fold in the lump crabmeat.
~ Step 2. Add and gently fold in all of the warm Newburg sauce. Three cups of sauce will be, and is, the perfect amount to enrobe all of this sweet, succulent seafood. This is enough seafood for 6-8 main-course servings no matter what you're serving it atop. Serve pleasingly warm, not steaming hot.
Pile 'em high and pretty too -- presentation is everything!
Special Equipment List: baking pan; parchment paper; cooling rack; sharp paring knife; paper towels; 1-quart measuring container; electric stick blender; cutting board; chef's knife; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; whisk; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides; colander
Cook's Note: Whenever I am making a shrimp dish that requires me to peel the uncooked shrimp I place and store the shells in two big bags in my freezer. The moment I get two pounds, which is a lot of shells, I make shrimp stock. You can find my recipe ~ Save Those Shrimp Shells!!! Because I Said So!!! (How to: Make a Basic Shrimp Stock a la Melanie ~ in Categories 14, 15 or 22!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)