The versatility lies in the fact that you can successfully mousse up a fairly wide variety of seafood. I used shrimp (21-25s), but you can also use scallops (bay or sea), salmon, even tilapia. Each blends a bit differently with the luscious steaming vegetables, but the result is always good. The soft, cool consistency of the final mousse carries the range of flavors wonderfully: hints of sweet from the seafoods and the leeks and the fennel, bright tartness from the lemon, and surprise from the chile peppers.
The wine. Further on the versatile theme, use what you like. If you have half a bottle of whatever sitting around, great. I've even used flat champagne.
As for pairing, it's lovely with a chilly Prosecco, as well as with a limoncello spritzer with a sprig of fresh thyme in it. —boulangere
several as an hors d'oeuvre, 2 for dinner
TO STEAM THE SEAFOOD
fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced thin, fronds reserved
White part of 1 leek, washed, and sliced thin
cloves garlic, smashed
dried japones chiles
dried chiles de arbol
sea or kosher salt
1/2 bottle white wine
1/2 pound of shrimp, or scallops, or salmon, or tilapia
Add all the ingredients for steaming your seafood, except the seafood, to a stainless steel pot with a lid. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and set the pot off the burner. Let sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to blend and the peppers to soften.
Set a bowl in the sink, then set a colander in the bowl. You’ll want to collect the steaming liquid so as to use some of it in the mousse. And rather than pour the rest down the drain, think about freezing it for some future use - another mousse, or a soup.
Shrimp can go in whole, but cut fish fillets into 1” or so chunks. Return the pot to medium-high heat, and bring back to a boil. Add the seafood all at once. Cover the pot and steam until done. The length of time will depend on what you are steaming. Regardless, remove the pot from the heat just BEFORE the contents appear done. They will finish cooking while you move from the stove to the sink and pour everything into the colander.
Use a set of tongs to pick out the seafood and also to grab the equivalent of a generous handful of the vegetables - about a cup-and-a-half. Be sure to pull out the chiles, too; break each into a few pieces. Spread everything out on a baking sheet and set in the refrigerator to cool down. Keep the remaining vegetables to serve re-warmed over pasta or polenta; alternatively, toss them into a salad.
Meanwhile, use your hands to break up the soft cream cheese into chunks and drop them into the bowl of a food processor. Add lemon juice and zest, and pulse to blend. Remove the chilled ingredients from the refrigerator and add them all. Dip out a ladle of the liquid leftover from steaming and add about half of it. Pulse the food processor to blend everything, but not so much that the mousse becomes perfectly smooth. It will taste much better if there is some substance to it. It should have a gentle, spreadable consistency. Add more steaming liquid and pulse a few more times if necessary. Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper. If it isn’t quite spicy enough for you, add some drops of Sriracha. Divide between a couple of ramekins and garnish with chopped fennel fronds.
Serve with lightly toasted slices of baguette and some wedges of fresh lemon. Arrange some of the whole fennel fronds around the serving platter.