Barton Seaver cookbooks offer new takes on familiar seafoods

Barton Seaver is known to many Maine residents and visitors for the work he has done with the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative promoting new-shell lobster. Others across the country know him as a proponent of sustainable seafood, an award-winning chef and National Geographic Channel host. He and his family live in Freeport, where he grows his own vegetables and fishes in Harraseeket Bay.
Seaver’s 2016 cookbook Two if By Sea features seafood from the Gulf of Maine presented in a variety of styles using simple cooking techniques. For those of us confident in our ability to successfully serve up a local catch, Seaver’s book invites us to open the oven door a little wider.

Whether you steam, boil, grill, sear or smoke the day’s catch, Two if by Sea has a sauce or suggestion. Oiling your salmon or bluefish before throwing it on the grill sounds great, but Seaver offers additional options such as Orange Spiced Olive oil with cinnamon, chili flakes and parsley or an Italian sauce of basil, garlic, tarragon and oregano. Want something unique with your seared scallops? Make a Skordalia sauce with ingredients I bet you have handy — almonds garlic, rosemary egg, vinegar and olive oil.
The most refreshing aspect of Seaver’s book is that he strongly encourages eating what is local and fresh. He encourages those unfamiliar with fish to try different types, providing a profile of fish species in the center of the book. For fishermen and those who cook fish frequently, he offers savory sauces, sides and techniques that may be new or are just a slight modification to familiar methods. By including a mix of recipes from down south as well as Spain, France, Japan and Mexico, Seaver encourages the reader to try something familiar in a new way. Recipe ingredients are an interesting mix of the unusual and commonplace Maine items.
For example, Maine mussels are familiar and versatile. Steamed, sautéed and smoked are some standard ways we find them presented. Seaver, however, offers us Pan Roasted Mussels over Applewood Chips with Drawn Butter. Does it sound complex? It’s a piece of cake! All one needs is a 400-degree oven, a cast iron pan and a cup of applewood chips or other fragrant wood chips along with lemon and mussels. In 15 minutes, a unique appetizer is ready.
Seaver also encourages us to mix things up, to find what works for each of us as eaters. For example, he writes about the Po’ Boy, a traditional Louisiana sandwich served on crusty bread with coleslaw and filled with seafood, usually fried. Rather than giving us a specific, he offers instead a variety of filling options such as mackerel with Green Goddess dressing, fried clams with remoulade or fried catfish with fresh tomato salsa.
Two if By Sea looks impressive: it is a coffee table-book size with beautiful photographs. However, don’t be fooled. Seaver’s written text, while casual, is culinarily thorough. It’s a sturdy addition to your kitchen.
In 2017 Seaver published another expansive book on seafood, American Seafood, Heritage, Culture & Cookery from Sea to Shining Sea (Sterling Epicure, 2017). American Seafood is the essential guide to more than 500 species, as well as a history of one of this country’s oldest industries. The 528-page book supplies a timely social history of the U.S. as a maritime nation, one built upon the bounty of the oceans and fueled by the dreams of generations of immigrants.