Shrimp Surf Melt

With the warmer weather, swimming lessons starting, school ending and my garden exploding, it is evident that summer is here. Our days and evening are spent outside, while the kids play and we work in the yard. Dinners are almost always outside on the deck, while we talk about summer and what plans we have in mind. Thinking sleeping in, vacations, and hopefully just taking things slower. 

When Sunset Magazine sent me their new book, Eating Up the West Coast, featuring the best road trips, restaurants, and recipes from California to Washington, we immediately agreed that this summers vacations need to be spent at the beach. Flipping through the book we recognized quite a few of the restaurants, and bookmarked about 20 more. One of our favorite little places on the coast is in Astoria, Oregon called Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro. A few winters ago we were visiting family in this small beach town and they took us to the bistro for dinner. At first glance I thought the place was cute, small, friendly but I kind of had low expectations. And then our food came and was completely blown away. The next morning we went back for breakfast, it was that good. It's been awhile since I have been back but always remember their little bistro with the best food I have ever eaten on the coast. 

Astoria Surf Melt, recipe below, is from the bistro. Simple to make, and a crowd pleaser to say the least. Filled with shrimp, peppers, green onions, and cheese. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over top and serve with chips, pickles and a cold beer. 

Shrimp (Astoria) Surf Melt
serves 4

4 5-inch length French baguette
1/2 lb. cooked bay shrimp
2 tbsp. each finely diced yellow and red peppers
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup very finely chopped celery
1 1/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
3 tbsp. lemon juice

Mornay Sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
2 1/2 tbsp. flour
1 cup whole milk, warmed
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated cheese (swiss, gruyere, cheddar, jack, or muenster)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, reserved for topping
lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Cut each length of baguette in half lengthwise. Using a fork, hollow out all the baguette halves, keeping the shells intact. Toast the baguette shells on the prepared baking sheet in the oven until lightly crisp, 5-7 minutes. Set aside. 

Turn the oven to broil. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, bell peppers, green onions, celery, Old Bay, and lemon juice, taste for seasoning.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Using a whisk, blend in the flour to make a paste. Stir constantly until the paste has bubbled for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. When the paste stops bubbling, pour in all the milk and whisk vigorously until blended. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and whisk in the salt and pepper. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, then whisk in the cheese. 

Fold the Mornay sauce into the shrimp mixture until blended. Mound the mixture in the hollowed bread, and scatter with parmesan. Place on the baking sheet and toast 6 inches from the broiler until the tops are golden brown and the filling is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.