Chefs are cooking at home more right now, just like the rest of us. For James Walt, executive chef of Whistler’s Il Caminetto restaurant, that is one of the simple pleasures to be found amid the current COVID crisis. One dish he finds himself regularly making for his family right now—shrimp in barbecued avocado—is featured in his cookbook, Araxi: Roots to Shoots, Farm Fresh Recipes.
“I first saw a grilled avocado in Mexico years ago, and I loved the charred flavour against the creaminess,” he recalls. “We’ve been cooking at home every night during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we wanted to mix it up a bit. When the restaurant closed, we knew the avocados wouldn’t make it so I brought some home.
“With the warmer weather coming, this is a good lighter dish, and it is extremely easy to prepare,” he says. “Our family is mainly pescatarian so we always have shellfish in the freezer. We also make our own mayonnaise so we can control not only the flavour but what’s in it. When you make a fresh mayonnaise, you can still store it in the fridge for at least a week. This recipe in particular is really good with tuna fish, egg salad, or in a sushi roll when you are doing your sushi nights at home. The citrus flavour from the yuzu is very pleasant.
“We’re always trying to find a silver lining in challenging times,” he adds. “The one blessing that has come out of this is two chefs in the same family having dinner every night together with our children. Every day something delicious comes out of our kitchen —fresh bread, croissants, pasta, soups, braises, and such. I will never forget these special moments. It’s too easy sometimes to take life for granted.”
Small Shrimp in Barbecued Avocado
Serves 4-5 as a main dish, or 8-10 as an appetizer or side (1⁄2 avocado per person)
5 large avocados, just ripe
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon + 1 good pinch of sea salt
1 good pinch of cracked black pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
18 ounces Matane or other good-quality small, fresh shrimp, cooked
1⁄2 cup yuzu mayonnaise (recipe below)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Preheat your barbecue or indoor grill to high heat. (Be sure that it is well cleaned.) Set a small bowl in the fridge to chill.
Cut each avocado in half lengthwise. Give a light twist to each avocado, and, using your knife or a spoon, gently remove the pit. Arrange the avocado halves on a baking tray, flesh side up.
In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the pinch of salt and pepper and the lemon juice and zest until blended. Pour this marinade evenly over the avocado flesh, then turn the avocados over and move them around the tray to further coat the flesh with marinade.
Using tongs, carefully brush the barbecue (or indoor grill) with a lightly oiled rag or kitchen towel to prevent sticking. Place the avocados on the grill, flesh side down, for 2 to 3 minutes, until nicely charred and slightly softened. They will continue to cook once removed from the grill (we call this residual heat). Transfer the avocados to a serving platter, skin side up, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to cool slightly.
In the chilled bowl, very gently combine the shrimp, mayonnaise, and chives with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt until well mixed. Be careful not to break the shrimp. Check the seasoning.
Spoon some of the shrimp mixture into the middle of each barbecued avocado half and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve immediately.
Makes 3 cups
2 egg yolks
1⁄4 cup yuzu juice (available at Japanese grocers)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups grapeseed oil
Sea salt and ground white pepper to taste
In a blender, combine the egg yolks, yuzu juice, and Dijon mustard at low speed until emulsified. With the motor running, slowly add the grapeseed oil in a thin stream until the mayonnaise becomes thick. Season with salt and white pepper, cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
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