October is National Seafood Month, the perfect time to enjoy a seafood casserole. (Kathy D’Agostino photo)
“Sharing the fun of fishing turns strangers into friends in a few hours.” – Eugenie Clark
When most people think about October, they think about the leaves changing color and cooler temperatures. But did you know that October is National Seafood Month? For anyone who enjoys seafood, it’s fishermen’s hard work and diligence that makes it possible. Because of the ever-changing weather out at sea, they have an occupation that is difficult and dangerous.
I didn’t always know what was involved in the task of bringing seafood to our table. Living in a working waterfront community, I have come to understand and respect the arduous labor that goes into being a successful fisherman.
I had lived here for about three weeks when my friend Andy came to visit from New Jersey. Andy was an older gentleman with an abundance of know-how, and one of the kindest people I have ever met. When he retired, he learned to fish and tie his own flies. To this day, I have never known anyone to tie a fly as well as he did — a true work of art.
That first day of his visit we walked down to the dock on the cove. We had been fishing for about two hours when a gentleman came by in his lobster boat. He yelled over, asking if we were having any luck. We admitted that we were not.
He came closer, pointed to his house and said, “If you come by tomorrow around 8:30 a.m., I’ll take you fishing and we’ll catch some fish.”
Andy was up early and ready to go the next morning. Del, Andy and my husband, Frank, introduced themselves, and off they went with Del to the middle of Quahog Bay.
Del and Andy became fast friends when they shared stories of World War II. Del was an infantryman who volunteered for the Airborne, while Andy’s service included the invasion of Normandy.
In all the years we had known him, Andy had never shared the details of that service. He had kept it pretty much to himself. However, that day those two heroes opened up to each other and shared memories of the war. They reflected about battles and lost comrades, but most of all, they caught fish. They came back to shore, had a few beers, shared some laughs and even more stories.
That whole week we ate seafood and feasted on lobster. Andy and Frank spoke of the fishing skills that Del had revealed that afternoon. To this day, I don’t believe we ever saw Andy as happy as he was the day he went fishing and became friends with Del.
The years have gone by. Both Del and Andy have since passed. I know Andy went home after that week with fond memories of his saltwater excursion. I also know that I had a neighbor who was a hero and a great fisherman, and took the time to share an act of kindness that was priceless and never forgotten.
To celebrate National Seafood Month, I selected a casserole recipe that my friend Claude Bolduc gave me. Claude is a Harpswell Aging at Home volunteer and cooks for our Meals in a Pinch program.
Claude got this recipe years ago from the head chef at a restaurant called The Deck House in Bass Harbor. Claude has made it for me twice and it is nothing short of luscious. Give it a go. Trust me, it’s that good.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter 6 oven-safe dishes (8 ounces or bigger). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of plain breadcrumbs on the bottom and set aside.
1 1/2 pound of white fish, such as haddock or cod, cut into chunks
1/2 pound lobster meat
1/2 pound medium or large shrimp
1/2 pound scallops
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
Make sure your seafood is dry before placing equal portions in each dish. If using frozen seafood, be sure to dry well on a paper towel.
Ingredients for white sauce (bechamel):
1/4 cup butter
2 cups warm whole milk (plus a bit of the thawed water from the seafood)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 tablespoons flour (I sift the flour to avoid any lumps)
Heat butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted. Add the salt, pepper and garlic. Whisk the flour into the butter mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth and slightly browned. Add the warmed milk a cup at a time, stirring constantly until smooth.
When the sauce is ready, ladle equal portions over the seafood. Leave a bit of room at the top of each dish to allow for expansion. Place them all on a sheet pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll want to see a bit of bubbling at the end. In the last five minutes, pull out of the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then return to the oven for five minutes.
Serve the casserole immediately with rice. Enjoy! Makes approximately 6 servings.
Cooking at 43° North, a program of Harpswell Aging at Home, brings Harpswell residents together for cooking programs, in person and online. Watch the Anchor calendar for listings.
HAH always needs cooks for its Meals in a Pinch program, which provides nutritious meals to seniors in need of emergency assistance. For more information, contact Julie Moulton at 207-330-5416 or email@example.com.