Surf n’ Turf

So you’re having a swanky dinner party with the hep couple you just met at the Tiki Lounge. You want to impress, so you’ve got the Sinatra and Stan Getz cued up, you’ve got your Bombay Sapphire gin and martini glasses ready to go. Now, what to serve?

There’s no dish quite as swingin’ as surf n’ turf — it’s been a staple of country club menus, banquets and fine steak-and-chop houses for ages. Pull it off well, with lots of booze, and you’re evening might just end with one of those key-swapping things like in “The Ice Storm.” I’ll sometimes do variations on the theme, combining raw scallops and Parma proscuitto, for example, in an Italian crudo “surf n’ turf”, or a Japanese-inspired version with grilled Kobe beef and broiled black cod. There’s something deeply satisfying about a fork-stabbed bite containing both meat and fish. Or alternating back and forth, a no-man’s land of spinach or asparagus separating the two.

I wrote about it recently in my “Steak & Sinatra” post about Palm Springs, and had some requests. So here are a couple recipes — one for beef, one for crabcakes — which when you put them together on the plate make surf n’ turf. I’ve used chili powder and other ingredients for a Southwestern influence, so you can feel like you’re eating your surf n’ turf at a classy clubhouse in the desert, too.

Note: For the “turf” portion of the meal, I’m giving you a killer long-cooked beef short rib recipe… so it’ll be easy for you to have everything ready at the same time. (i.e. you can’t really overcook it.)

*   *   *

Surf n’ Turf
serves 4

“The Turf” — Sonora chipotle beef short ribs

4 meaty short ribs on the bone (approximately 1 to 1.5 lbs)
1 large shallot
2 tbsp. yellow mustard
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. chipotle pepper powder (or 1 dried chipotle, ground in a spice grinder)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/3 cup white wine
sea salt & fresh pepper
1 cup red wine (syrah or zinfandel)
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cold butter

Chop the shallot. Combine the mustard, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, chipotle powder and paprika into a paste. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, then rub with the paste. Make a basket with heavy aluminum foil, spread shallots, pour 1/3 cup white wine into foil, then place ribs on top. Seal the foil tightly and place in a baking dish. Cook at 250 degrees for 4 hours.

While the ribs are cooking, make the sauce. Combine red wine, chicken broth, bay leaf and sugar in a small pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower to low heat and cook until reduced by 80% to a thick syrup. (About 45 minutes to one hour). When sauce has reached the desired consistency, turn off heat, remove bay leaf and let cool in pan. (You’ll reheat briefly at the last minute.)

Make your crab cakes ahead (below), and keep in the fridge. Cook during the last 15 minutes of your rib cook time.

After your ribs have cooked for four hours, open the foil and spoon pan juices over the meat. Turn the oven on to 450, and cook the ribs for an additional 10 minutes, until golden. Remove to plate.

*   *   *

“The Surf” — Cayenne crab cakes with spicy remoulade

1 lb. dungeness crab meat (king crab will also work)
2 farm fresh egg yolks
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. capers, chopped
juice of one and a half lemons
tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup flour
vegetable oil
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1 large shallot
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. Tabasco
8 fat asparagus stalks, peeled to within an inch or two of tip with a potato peeler
2 tbsp. cold butter
splash of white wine

Combine ingredients for crab cakes — crab meat, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, bread crumbs, celery, onions, 1 tbsp. chopped capers, juice of 1 lemon and cayenne pepper. Pat crab cakes into eight patties of equal size. Set aside until ready to cook.

Make remoulade. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a small pan, and sweat the shallots over medium heat until pearly. Add cream and cook until reduced by half. Remove from heat, stir in egg yolk, juice of half a lemon and 1 tbsp. butter. Fold in mayonnaise, Tabasco and 1 tbsp. chopped capers. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the asparagus. Heat 1 tbsp. butter in a large pan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the asparagus and toss to coat with butter. Cook for a few minutes, until the asparagus is turning bright green. Add a splash of wine (2 or 3 tbsp.), turn heat to high, and cook until wine has cooked away but pan is still wet. Turn off heat and cover.

Place flour on a plate. Dust each side of each crab cake in the flour. Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook crab cakes 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove crab cakes to a plate and keep warm in the 200 degree oven.

To compose surf n’ turf:

Reheat the wine sauce over high heat until simmering, then remove from heat. Stir in 1 tbsp. cold butter to velvet the sauce. At the same time, reheat the remoulade briefly over medium heat until simmering.

On each of four plates, place two asparagus stalks in the center. On one side, place a short rib. On the other, place two crab cakes. Drizzle a little of the wine sauce over and around the short rib. On the other side of the asparagus, place two crab cakes and drizzle a little remoulade over the top.

For a real country club flourish, add a sprig of curly parsley and a thin half slice of lemon. Put on some Sammy Davis Jr., and serve with martinis.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ben
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 15:22:11

    As it happens, my birthday is this Monday so instead of going out for dinner, my wife is going to allow me the same budget at the grocery store for one meal. It’s going to be surf & turf. It’s not going to be clever, like yours. I’m making Butter-Poached Lobster (Keller-method from the Fch. Ldry. book) over Pappardelle (yeah, i love pappardelle noodles and I always keep my homeade ones on hand) with Cote de Boeuf. Haven’t figured out a vegetable dish to complement yet. I’d do classic creamed spinach but my wife doesn’t really like it so I’ll have to do something else. I really don’t want asparagus either. Suggestions? Definitely going to be drinking a serious Montrachet followed by an aggressive Rhone red.


    • scolgin
      Apr 01, 2011 @ 15:31:39

      Happy birthday Ben. Mine was two days ago. I like that Keller butter-poached lobster, perhaps the most imitated preparation in restaurants across in America. (Nobu’s miso-marinated cod running a close second!) Dinner sounds great! You could go a mashed direction on the veggie — a nice cloudy puree of celery root? I also like simple sauteed greens with a meal like that — either beet greens or Tuscan black kale, for example, sauteed in olive oil with a little rendered pancetta for flavor? Here’s a fancy and decadent idea — if you can find fresh baby artichokes, trim them, blanch them, and then crisp them up with some olive oil in a hot pan. Cheers to you, my friend!


  2. Ben
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 15:36:30

    Wife also vetoes the kale and celery root, both of which I love. I’m on the hunt for the artichokes! Thanks for the idea. Artichokes will link the lobster, steak, and wine together perfectly.


    • scolgin
      Apr 01, 2011 @ 15:40:23

      You’re wife needs some schoolin! ; ) Yeah, i thought that artichoke idea was a winner. You need a veggie with some cajones to stand up to all that other stuff. Enjoy! And let me know how it all turns out…


      • Ben
        Apr 12, 2011 @ 15:40:24

        I got lazy and did not make the surf&turf production. In fact, when my birthday finally rolled around we were so tired that we walked over to a local restaurant ( where I had the most delightful salad ever of escarole and black walnuts. I secretly watched as my wife ordered suckling pig for an appetizer but did not ask the about the details. She at it with joy and I then asked her if she realized she just ate pig face/head. She went into a state of denial.

        Anyway, just another recommendation for the Big Green Egg. I made lobsters on it this past weekend. Delightful. I’m opposed to dispatching lobsters with a knife (weak, I know) so I used a different method. I poached the lobsters for two minutes, until death arrived . . . then pulled off the claws, split the tails, and finished them on the grill. Awesome.

      • scolgin
        Apr 12, 2011 @ 21:13:22

        I understand. I ducked out to sushi on my b-day. Wow, lobster on the BGE sounds great! Best lobster I ever had was at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, Chinois. I was sitting at the kitchen bar in the back talking to the chef, when he pulled up a wriggling lobster, split it with a knife, threw it in a pan and into the wood burning oven. Bliss.

        BTW, I’m with you. I have to put them into suspended animation in the freezer. Sometimes people ask if we eat our chickens, and I say, “Are you kidding!?? They’re my friends!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: