10 North Carolina Seafood Dishes to make for Lent, or Anytime!

This spring, add the taste of of North Carolina waters to your menu with these 10 recipes that feature whole porgy, shrimp, tuna and more.
by Kayla Guilliams

Whether you’re looking for fish-forward ideas to have on Fridays during Lent, or merely want to incorporate more seafood in your diet, these recipes from local chefs, restaurants, and food writers are sure to please your adventurous palate. Be sure to take advantage of the fresh fish we have at our fingertips here like the historic Earp’s Seafood Market on Saunders Street or Locals Seafood at the Farmers Market. (And we suggest reading these seafood preparation tips from Saltbox Seafood Join chef Ricky Moore before you dive in.) Here are 10 seafood dishes from North Carolina food pros to try at home.

Whiskey Kitchen’s Smoked Fish Dip

An easy dish to pull together in advance to have on hand for company, a picnic, or travel, this dip, featured in out March 2017 issue, is a favorite at downtown establishment Whiskey Kitchen.

Smoked Fish Dip Ingredients
4 cups smoked fish, picked and flaked
1/4 cup Duke’s mayo
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
1/4 cup pickled shallots (recipe below), chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pickled Shallots Ingredients 
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 pieces star anise
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon whole black pepper

Toss the smoked fish and chopped pickled shallots together until well combined. Whisk together mayo, mustard, sour cream, heavy cream, dill, salt, and pepper. Fold in the fish mixture. Once the dip is combined, place in jars to serve and garnish with remaining pickled shallots, a sprig of dill, and a dash of olive oil (optional). Serve with bagel chips, crackers, or toasted bread. For the pickled shallots: Combine all ingredients except shallots in pot and bring to boil. Pour hot pickling liquid over shallots. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Serves 8-10

Ricky Moore’s Whole Broiled Red Porgy

“Keep it simple,” said Moore about cooking seafood, in the Fish Fare in our August 2020 issue. “Fresh fish doesn’t need much to elevate the flavor of the sea that’s already there,” he says. This recipe, which incorporates lemon, garlic, and herbs, is a perfect example of that.

1 two-pound whole fish, like Red Porgy, scaled and gutted
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bulb of garlic, halved
1 lemon, halved
Handful of fresh herbs (such as rosemary and thyme)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
4 to 5 sticks of celery
Sea salt, freshly-cracked black pepper and garlic powder

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a 2-inch baking pan, add 4 to 5 sticks of celery, some thick sliced onion, halved garlic and halved lemon. Pour in some stock, making sure that the vegetables are not completely submerged. Once you’re ready to cook, give your fish one final good rinse, then pat dry with paper towels. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the top of the fish in diagonal lines, about 1 inch apart. Brush the fish generously on both sides and the inner cavity with oil. Slice half of the lemon into slices, and stuff those, plus the garlic and herbs, into the cavity of the fish. Make sure that the garlic is completely tucked in and not exposed. Season the outside of the fish generously with sea salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Switch oven to broiler. Place the fish on top of the vegetables and broil on high for 18-20 minutes, or until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees and flakes easily with a fork. (Cooking time will vary depending on the size/variety of your fish.) Remove from the oven, and finish with fresh olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice. Serve warm, and enjoy!

Humble Pie’s Tuna Tartare

From our story A Slice of Home in the September 2020 issue, this Tuna Tartare recipe is a Humble Pie best-seller. Combining fresh yellowfin tuna, Sriracha, and Duke’s mayonnaise for a sweet and spicy tartare, don’t skip finding pork rinds.

Tuna Tartare Ingredients 
2 cups (about 2 small fillets) yellowfin tuna
1/4 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 clove garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons of mirin or rice wine vinegar
2 to 3 teaspoons soy sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons wildflower honey
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons sliced chives
2 bags pork rinds
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut tuna into chunks, then dice into small pieces. In a small bowl, combine the Sriracha, garlic, mirin, soy sauce, honey, shallot and chives. Pour over the tuna, then add in mayonnaise a spoonful at a time until you have a consistency that you like (you may have some left over). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with pork rinds.

The Register Family’s Italian Antipasto

From Matt Register’s Thanksgiving menu shared last November, this is a recipe from Register’s mother-in-law, Charmayne Talerico. It’s a bright, healthy side or portable dish any time of year.

Antipasto Salad Ingredients
Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces
Cucumbers, sliced 
Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Fresh mozzarella, cubed
Pepperoni, sliced
Black olives, sliced
Green olives, sliced
Roasted red peppers
Artichoke hearts
Tuna fish, canned albacore
Italian dressing (they like Good Seasons)
Salt and pepper

Layer all ingredients on a large platter. Pour the salad dressing over the antipasto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Fanny Slater’s Garlicky Shrimp with Oregano Butter

Raw jumbo shrimp meets earthy oregano and lemon pesto butter in this recipe from Fanny Slater. The shrimp pairs just as deliciously with a crisp glass of rosé as it does with that beer in your back pocket, wrote Slater in July of 2017.

1/2 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of your knife but still intact
24 raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
Wooden skewers soaked in water
Coarse salt and black pepper
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Oregano and lemon pesto butter (recipe follows)

In a small saucepot, heat oil over medium-low heat and add the smashed garlic. Cook until garlic is golden brown on both sides, then remove each clove with a slotted spoon. Cool the oil to room temperature and divide into two portions. Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Butterfly the shrimp by making a slit in them lengthwise. Thread the shrimp onto skewers and then brush them using the first bowl of garlic oil and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the shrimp until opaque, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Using the second bowl of garlic oil, brush the cooked shrimp again and then arrange the skewers onto a platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve ramekins of the Oregano and Lemon Pesto Butter alongside for dipping. Serves 4

Lemon and Pesto Butter Ingredients
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 small cloves garlic
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons honey
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted over low heat

In a dry small skillet, toast the pumpkin seeds over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until lightly golden and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Immediately remove from the pan and transfer to a bowl to stop the cooking process. In a food processor, pulse the pumpkin seeds, garlic, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper until the seeds are broken down. Add the parmesan, oregano, basil, honey, and lemon zest and juice and pulse until thoroughly combined. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil a little bit at a time until the pesto is velvety. Place the pesto in deep bowl and slowly whisk in the melted butter until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Makes about 2 cups

Katsuji Tanabe’s Shrimp Fideuá

In a November 2020 piece about family food traditions, Katsuji Tanabe, chef-in-residence at Vidrio + LM Restaurants, shared this Spanish dish with us. Similar to paella, he tops it with shrimp cooked in butter and garlic and garnishes with a homemade olive oil-based aioli.

Fideuá Ingredients
4 cups of dry fideuá 
1 pinch saffron 
4 cloves garlic 
4 cups tomato sauce 
1 cup extra virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup of chopped jalapeños 
1/4 cup chopped fine onion 

Shrimp Ingredients 
4 cups of peeled and clean shrimp 
1 tablespoons chopped garlic 
1 cup frozen peas 
1/4 chopped parsley 
2 tablespoons butter 
1 lemon 

Aioli Ingredients* 
4 cloves garlic 
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
2 teaspoons salt 
1 1/2 cups of light olive oil 

*This aioli is going to be used as a garnish on top of the pasta and shrimp. 

In a large pot or paella pan if available, add the oil onion, jalapeños and pasta. Cook until the pasta changes color to a toasted brown. Keep stirring to avoid burnt pasta. Then, in the blender, add tomato sauce garlic and saffron, blend. Add this to the pasta and cook at low flame for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid. Hold at a super low flame. For the shrimp, in a saute pan, add the butter and garlic, and cook until soft; then add the shrimp, salt, and squeeze the lemon. Cook until done (5 to 8 minutes). Then add the peas and parsley. Then amass this on top of the fideuá, making sure the shrimp looks nice and organized. Spread around the peas. For the aioli, In the blender add garlic, egg yolk, mustard, sherry vinegar, salt. Blend until smooth, then slowly drizzle the oil until you get a thick consistency (do not over mix). Then hold in the fridge until needed. Tananbe says, if you want to cheat, you can always chop some garlic and mix it with mayo ( but don’t tell anyone). Garnish with some lemon wedges, and there you have it!

Ricky Moore’s N.C. BBQ Shrimp

Another from Fish Fare in our August 2020 issue, this is a genius idea to cook fresh in-shell shrimp in Moore’s homemade tangy BBQ sauce. These are messy but well worth it!

BBQ Shrimp Ingredients
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper
1 tablespoon Texas Pete
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Pepsi Cola
1 tablespoon Carolina Treet Cooking Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lemon, sliced
1½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds medium to large fresh shrimp, unpeeled
Salt and black pepper to taste

First make the sauce. In a bowl, combine the bay leaves, paprika, pepper, Texas Pete,Worcestershire, Pepsi, Carolina Treat Cooking Sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and lemon slices.Using a whisk, stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside. Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once melted and sizzling, take the pan off the flame and add garlic. Gently let the heat from the pan cook the garlic. Place the pan back on the flame, add shrimp and sauté for 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and simmer for 7 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. Take the shrimp out of the pan and place on a warm platter.  Reduce the sauce that is left in the pan until it has a glaze consistency. Pour sauce over the shrimp and serve.

Six Pack of NC

Courtenay Griffin’s Pickled Shrimp

An oddity to some, pickled shrimp is a southern staple for many for it’s portability and because it’s the perfect tailgate and beach day food. This recipe shared in September 2015 has major Italian vibes with capers, olives and more.

Pickled Shrimp Ingredients
1 package Good Seasonings Italian dressing mix
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 (4-ounce) bottle capers, liquid drained and liquid reserved
1 (5-ounce) jar green olives with pimento, drained and liquid reserved
2 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

Make Italian dressing, per package directions, substituting red wine vinegar for the vinegar. Make it 24 hours ahead of time for best results. Combine dressing, onion, red bell pepper, capers, olives, and shrimp together in a large bowl. Add some or all of the reserved capers and olive liquid to taste. Let sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving. Makes about 10-12 servings.

Baked Oysters with Kale + Hazelnuts

Food writer Kaitlyn Goalen formulated this recipe in November 2013 inspired by Sean Fowler’s Oysters Rockefeller at Mandolin. As she says, “I made a riff of my own with the second half, topping with creamed kale and a fontina-hazelnut crust. Both experiments were well worth it. Luxury never came so easily.”

Baked Oysters Ingredients
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves sliced into very thin ribbons
½ cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Fontina cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
1 cup breadcrumbs
Rock salt
2 dozen oysters, freshly shucked and deeper shell halves reserved

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the kale and the chicken broth. Let simmer over medium heat until the broth is almost completely evaporated, about 6 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and cook, stirring, until the butter has melted. Add the cream and fontina and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is incorporated into the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 450°. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the hazelnuts and breadcrumbs; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt. Line the surfaces of two baking sheets with rock salt. Arrange the reserved oyster shells on the two sheets, then place an oyster in each shell. Top each oyster with a tablespoon of kale and sprinkling of the breadcrumb mixture. Transfer to the oven and bake until the oysters are bubbling and the tops are beginning to turn golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 4.

Clams with Spicy N.C. Sausage and Pickled Okra

Often overlooked for other popular shellfish like shrimp and mussels, clams are easy to cook, sweet as ever and a very affordable seafood option. Ricky Moore shared this recipe in August 2020 which he pairs with buttery potatoes, sausage and pickled okra for a complete meal.

2 dozen N.C. clams
3/4 pound of spicy N.C. air dried sausage, sliced into coins
7 ounces clam juice
5 large garlic cloves, shaved or thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
8 ounces celery, diced
Splash of white wine
Bunch of parsley
Knob of butter
Olive oil
12 spears of pickled okra, cut lengthwise
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy bottomed pot or skillet with high sides, drizzle in some olive oil and cook the sausage on medium high heat. Cook until you see no more pink, then remove from the pan and set aside. In the same skillet, drizzle a little more olive oil into the pan then add in the garlic, onions and celery and sauté until soft but not caramelized. Add the clams, tossing them a few times into the garlic and onions. Add the white wine to deglaze and let it cook down a couple of minutes, tossing the clams. Add the sausage back in, along with the okra, stirring until well distributed, then cover the pan so the clams can steam in the liquid and open up gently.  When clams have all opened up, stir in a knob of butter and chopped parsley for garnish, maybe a quick drizzle of olive oil, too. If a clam didn’t open when the rest did, discard. Serve immediately. Serves 2