Steward of the Sea

Chris Hastings celebrates undiscovered delicacies of the Gulf Coast. 

By Jan Walsh     

 Photography by Beau Gustafson


Hot and Hot Fish Club’s Chris Hastings never settles for the status quo. That’s why these days, he has a new source for seafood: the “bycatch” of wild, line-caught Alabama seafood. These fish are untargeted in species, maturity, or size and happen across the rails of the fishing boats. By cooking and sharing them with us in his restaurant, Hastings is helping sustain the sea, while broadening our experiences and palates. In today’s cooking demo, he prepares Gulf Coast baby octopus, Gulf lionfish, and Gulf shrimp with black rice, romanesco sauce, saffron cream, crispy chorizo, and watercress. Hastings is executive chef and co-owner with his wife, Idie, who is also a chef at Hot and Hot. And while Hastings’s cuisine, talent, and accolades have gone earned him spotlight over the past several years, he remains humble and approachable.



grilled octopus

grilled head-on shrimp

pan-seared Gulf lionfish

black rice

reserved lemon vinaigrette

Romesco sauce

chorizo powder

crispy chorizo

saffron aioli

foraged chickweed


Grilled Octopus: 

octopus (cleaned)

vegetable stock
Place octopus in pressure cooker. Cover with vegetable stock. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove and shock. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on grill to reheat before plating.


Black Rice:

1 cup black rice

1¾ cup water

½ teaspoon shallots

1 sprig of thyme

pinch of saffron

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

½ cup diced bell pepper

2 tablespoons shallots

1 tablespoon thyme

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup preserved lemon vinaigrette


Combine first six ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove, chill, and plate. Sauté bell peppers, shallots, and thyme in butter. Add rice and reheat; toss with preserved lemon vinaigrette.


Spicy Romesco Sauce:

2 roasted bell peppers (skin and seeds removed)

¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 slice of bread

1 8 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 rehydrated chili peppers

1 cup olive oil

pinch of saffron

1 roasted garlic

salt and pepper to taste


Purée all ingredients in Vita Prep.


Saffron Cream:

1 teaspoon saffron

1 tablespoon hot water

¼ teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup crème fraîche


Procedure: Combine all ingredients and place in squeeze bottle.


Chorizo Powder:

1 cup diced chorizo

1 tablespoon oil

20 grams maltodextrin

pinch of salt


Procedure: Crisp chorizo. Strain oil and chill. Reserve crispy chorizo for garnish. Wisk chorizo oil, salt, and maltodextrin.

To plate: Spread two tablespoons of Romesco sauce on plate. Reheat ½ cup of black rice. Place on plate. Place grilled octopus (two ounces per plate), grilled shrimp (two per plate), and fish (two ounces per plate) on rice. Toss foraged chickweed with one teaspoon of preserved lemon vinaigrette and place on top. Garnish with chorizo powder, chorizo pieces, and saffron aioli.

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