Fire, Wine, and Seafood: Move Your Holiday Feast to the Beach
Trade the table for the sand with Chef Kevin O'Connor, author and star of Hulu’s Chefs vs Wild
As the sand slowly warms around the growing fire fed by the coastal breeze, cold bottles of wine pop and pour. The aromas of ginger, shallot, and smoke begin to mix with those of the ocean and surrounding dune grasses. Cutting boards get put to work in the sand while nets crawling with crab and gnarled oyster shells make their return from the tides. As the grill fills, bottles empty, and curious seagulls multiply. We’ve taken our holiday crab feed to the beach this year, with fire as our focal point.
Chef Kevin O’Connor is no stranger to a feast on the beach, and he’s ushered in seasonal delights designed for enjoyment around the fire with exceptional wines. When he’s not cracking into crab and bottles of Chardonnay, he can be found hosting large open-fire dinners all around California, foraging in the woods, or surviving and cooking on Hulu’s new show “Chefs vs Wild”.
Chef Kevin crafted this custom holiday menu with recipes that vibe with bottles from our Outdoor Adventurer Collection. These are wines from rugged terrain, made by makers with natural tendencies and extreme care for the environment in which they were grown. These bottles are shareables and gifts that will deliver salt-of-the-earth inspiration for your next great adventure or outdoor spread. Here’s how Chef Kevin brought the scene to life in California recently.
THE RECIPES - serves 4
- Cut the lemons and limes in half, brush the cut side with olive oil and grill until caramelized, but not charred. Carefully remove them from the grill as they’ll be hot and you run the risk of losing the juice as you pull them off. Set aside and allow them to cool.
- Juice the citrus into a small mixing bowl and stir in the herbs and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Stir once more before dressing freshly shucked oysters.
- Line a baking sheet or plate with parchment. To make the candied pepitas start by placing the sugar in a wide, non-stick pan. Bring to medium-high heat and without shaking or stirring, allow the sugar to caramelize. Once a consistent golden brown color is achieved, stir in the toasted pepitas followed by a sprinkling of the harissa and salt with a heatproof rubber spatula. Immediately spread onto the parchment-lined tray and allow to cool. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container.
- Position a grill grate over glowing hot embers or heat a grill to medium-high heat. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds and connective tissue then cut into quarters, and again into thinner wedges to allow for faster cooking. Toss the squash wedges in one tablespoon of olive oil and a liberal pinch of salt. Grill squash on both sides until well caramelized and tender. Remove from the grill and set aside.
- Remove the outer leaves from the radicchio and discard. Cut the bottom from the head of the radicchio and separate all the leaves, tearing them into smaller pieces if needed. Toss the grilled squash and radicchio together with an additional tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and champagne vinegar. Finish with crumbled goat cheese and pepitas.
Ingredients2 live crabs (1.5 - 2 lbs each)
- Start by toasting the black pepper and salt in a wok or large cast iron above the fire. Stir frequently until toasted and aromatic. Remove and set aside.
- Grill the scallions until nearly charred, then chop and add to a bowl with the remaining chili sauce ingredients. Stir until well combined and set aside.
- Position a wok or large cast iron above the fire and begin to heat the oil for frying. Remove the backs from the crabs and discard any of the innards and gills. Cut the bodies in half, then cut them into segments with the body attached to the legs and claws. Using the back of a knife or a cleaver, gently crack each leg segment and claw to allow for easier eating. Toss the crab in a mixture of the two starches and using a colander, or your hands, shake off excess starch. The crab should be evenly coated. Once the oil is hot (flick a bit of the starch into the oil, it should aggressively bubble) carefully add the crab — this may need to be done in batches. Fry all The crab, turning once to evenly cook, for about 4 minutes on each side. Set the fried crab aside and discard the frying oil.
- Add the ginger, shallots, jalapeno, and garlic to the pan/wok and cook until aromatic. Toss in the crab, salt and pepper, and toss well to coat just before serving.
An easy dessert to bring out any time you’re cooking around the fire — simply allowing pears to caramelize in their own skins next to the fire while preparing the rest of the meal is a super easy way to impress your adventure buddies. Make these toasted oats ahead of time to pack with you in your cook-up kit.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss the oats in the olive oil and cinnamon and toast on a baking sheet for 12 - 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and store in an airtight container.
- Arrange the pears near the fire, repositioning and turning them above the coals for 45 minutes to an hour. Keep an eye on the pears, continually turning and repositioning near the heat source until softened and darkened a bit.
- Slice the hot pears and place them over a spoonful of mascarpone. Drizzle with honey and finish with the toasted oats.
To learn more about our friend in fire — and his book Chasing Harvest - head to www.chefkevinoconnor.com Photography by Mike Battey - www.mbattey.com