What can we say? We’re lucky. Our job includes getting to eat at some really cool places and meet a lot of really cool people. A lot of them being chefs, and one in particular who has always stood out to us is Chef Matt Dean Pettit. Not only is Matt super talented in the kitchen, but he is one of the nicest and most endearing people we’ve had the pleasure to chat with.
You may recall some of our favourite recipes by Chef Matt from the Becel #AvoAlley and PLNT pop-ups that we shared not long ago (don’t his Tuna Poke Baked Wonton Nachos and Crunchy Vegan Guacamole Bites) and when we heard that Matt was coming out with his second cookbook, we knew we had to get our hands on a copy ASAP.
With spring just arriving and summer around the corner, this is the cookbook you’ll want to have on hand for weekends by the lake. We asked Chef Matt to do the impossible and pick his 3 favourite recipes from his new book The Great Shellfish Cookbook that are guaranteed to take your cottage menu to the next level this summer!
Of course, we know that purchasing loads of quality shellfish ain’t easy on your bank account, so we asked Chef Matt to share some of his favourite spots in Toronto to score great fish for the best price. His top picks? Mike’s Seafood and Seafront Fish Market in the St. Lawrence Market, Hooked in Kensington Market and Leslieville (although it’s on the higher end of pricing, it’s always worth it), and Diana’s Seafood Delight in Scarborough that’s a trek you won’t regret.
Keep reading for all 3 of Chef Matt’s favourite recipes from The Great Shellfish Cookbook!
Spadina Special Cantonese Lobster Lo-Mein
“Spadina Avenue is the site not only of Toronto’s Chinatown, but also of countless late-night meals I’ve had over the years. On any random night, you’ll see some of Toronto’s best cooks and chefs dining in the small, packed restaurants that line the street. I love getting to know the staff at these restaurants, including my favorite, Rol San, and asking them questions about their cuisine. Some of the best advice I’ve received over the years is to let the flavors bind together. Fresh garlic, ginger, and green onions, plus any other Asian spices you may like to add, create a great base for almost any sauce.” – Matt
2 live lobsters (11/2 lb/680 g each)
1/2 cup (125 mL) cornstarch 6 green onions
1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 Tbsp (15 mL) minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp (5 mL) Chinese five-spice
1 cup (250 mL) vegetable stock
1/4 cup (60 mL) soy sauce 1/4 cup (60 mL) rice wine 1 Tbsp (15 mL) fish sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar
1 package (17 1/2 oz/500 g) lo-mein noodles, cooked as per package’s instructions
1 cup (250 mL) fresh bean sprouts
1. Prepare an ice bath in a bucket or the sink.
2. To cook the lobsters, in a very large saucepan over high heat, bring 6 quarts (6 L) of salted, cold water to a boil. Using tongs, submerge the lobsters, head first, in the boiling water, and cook, covered, for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until they turn bright red. Using tongs again, remove the lobsters from the water and place them in the ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes to stop the cooking process. Then, using a large chef’s knife or kitchen shears, carefully crack and break down the shells and remove as much meat as possible. Roughly chop the meat and place it in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch and mix to coat the lobster pieces.
3. Finely chop four of the green onions and place them in a small bowl. Chop the remaining two green onions and place them in a separate small bowl.
4. In a large, deep saucepan or wok, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the four finely chopped green onions, garlic, ginger, and Chinese five-spice. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant.
5. Add the coated lobster pieces to the saucepan and stir to mix all the ingredients together. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once or twice.
6. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the vegetable stock, soy sauce, rice wine, fish sauce, and sugar. Mix well. Add the sauce to the saucepan, mix to combine, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until heated through. Add the remaining two green onions and the bean sprouts. Stir well.
7. Place the cooked lo-mein noodles on a large serving platter and top with the hot lobster mixture. Serve immediately.
Melted Cheesy Mussels
“I think I may love cheese as much as I love lobster (as you may have realized from some of the other recipes in this book). In this recipe, I like to use Spanish Manchego, which is made from sheep’s milk. It’s a medium-hard cheese and packed with flavor. Typically, it’s aged for a minimum of 60 days and up to 2 years. If you love cheese as much as I do, and if you find yourself visiting Toronto, be sure to seek out my good friend and maître fromager Afrim Pristine, the co-owner of Cheese Boutique. His place is a real treasure—it’s filled with every kind of cheese imaginable, as well as cured meats, crackers, hot foods, and more!” – Matt
11/2 lb (680 g) live mussels 1 cup (250 mL) shredded
Spanish Manchego cheese
1/2 cup (125 mL) full-fat sour cream
1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy (35%) cream
1 tsp (5 mL) chili flakes
1 bunch chives, finely diced
1. Preheat the oven to the high broiler setting and place one of the oven racks in the second-highest position. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Clean the mussels under cold, running water. Remove any hair connected to the mussels and discard any mussels that are completely or even slightly open. Set aside.
3. Fill a large saucepan with 1 cup (250 mL) of cold water, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the mussels, cover, and steam for 2 to 3 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open.
4. Once the mussels have cooled, grip the top shell in one hand and the bottom shell in the other hand, and give a small pull to detach only the top shell. Repeat with the remaining mussels. Discard the top shell of each mussel, leaving just the meat in the bottom half of the shell. Place the mussels on the prepared baking tray.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and chili flakes.
6. Spoon 1 tsp (5 mL) of the cheese mixture into each half mussel, using the back of a separate spoon to pack it in tightly.
7. Place the mussels under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Watch closely so the cheese doesn’t burn.
8. Remove the mussels from the broiler, transfer them to a serving platter, and garnish with diced chives. Serve these hot.
The Sailors’ N’awlins Crawfish Boil
“Here it is, folks, another great recipe for eating with your hands. I think you know by now that I love that messy style of eating. I like to host crawfish dinners at home during the summer, and this Louisiana staple is perfect for any outdoor party. If you buy live crawfish, which may be tough to do unless you live in the southern United States, you’ll need to clean or “purge” the crawfish before eating them (see the note, below). This recipe can easily be doubled for a larger gathering.” – Matt
3/4 cup (185 mL) seafood seasoning, divided
4 medium lemons, halved
2 lb (900 g) red potatoes, quartered
2 lb (900 g) spicy sausage, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) rounds
6 ears of corn, cut in half
10 lb (4.5 kg) live or frozen (thawed) crawfish
2 cups (500 mL) unsalted butter, melted
1. In a very large stockpot, bring 10 1/2 quarts (10 L) of cold water to a boil over high heat. Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the seafood seasoning, the lemon halves, and the potato quarters. Bring the water back up to a boil and then cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes have softened slightly. Add the sausages and corn. Cook for 10 more minutes. Add the crawfish and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
2. Drain off the water, and allow the seafood to cool for 3 to 5 minutes, until cool enough to handle.
3. In the meantime, set up your serving table with a plastic tablecloth and plenty of newspapers. Pour the seafood right on the table. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup (60 mL) of seafood seasoning overtop.
4. Break out the napkins and cold beer, and dip the pieces into the melted butter. Don’t worry about getting your hands dirty; it’s all part of the fun!
NOTE: Purging is a simple process. Dump the live crawfish into a large cooler or stockpot. Empty one large box of kosher salt over the crawfish, and then add enough cold water to cover them all. Using a large spoon, stir well and allow the salt to clean out any mud or dirt. Let them soak for about 5 minutes and then drain off the water. The crawfish are now ready to cook. Remember to discard any dead or unmoving crawfish prior to cooking!
(Story by Assistant Editor, Blair Stutz)