A Cure for the Uncommon Salmon

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by Cathy Erway

What a luxurious working-day lunch. It’s casual and uncomplicated to make — an open-faced sandwich — but on top of this bread lies slices of home-cured wild-caught red Alaska salmon surrounded by jewels from the garden. Funny to think that cured salmon (not smoked, but similar in texture and taste, sans smokiness) was once a common luncheon meat for the working man before it became a delicacy. It’s produced through a quick and easy process of rubbing salt, sugar and other seasonings into the fish, and letting it draw out moisture over a couple days. So, fishermen of Scandinavia, or Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, would use this method to make their fresh catches keep longer over time. Overfishing led to the rarity of this fish and now most salmon is farmed (and, to the connoisseur, tastes nothing like its wild brethren). Now, wild-caught salmon from the only sustainable fishery left in the world, Alaska, commands more than tenderloin on the market. So how did I get my hands on this stuff, and why am I sharing it with everyone for lunch? I caught wind of a wild-caught Alaskan salmon CSA, and signed up as soon as I could.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

A Comfy Bed For Lobsters

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by Daniel Meyer

[Why didn’t I think of this? – mb] 

If you can get fresh lobsters, chances are that you can also get fresh seaweed. A nice fishmonger should be able to order some for you, or an enterprising mother can just wade into the ocean and bring it home in a bucket. This is exactly the project that my mom decided take on for the 4th of July (I’m only writing about this now because I just had some pretty tasteless lobster and it reminded me how good my mom’s was). 

I got a phone call from my mom (Anne) at 8:00 on a Friday morning while I was working at the farmers’ market. She was calling from the Atlantic Ocean, wading just off the coast of Cape Cod, where she was gathering seaweed for cooking lobsters. She brought it home in a plastic trashcan, and kept it soaking in water for a few days until it was time for her to cook 4th of July dinner. 

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Posted in Seafood

Sunday Supper: Crawfish or Shrimp Boil

Over on Kitchen Daily I’m talking lobster, but here’s another shellfish recipe that just screams Summer. Adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Crawfish or Shrimp Boil, Louisiana Style

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 30 minutes, plus time to cool

It’s traditional to serve the seafood (and vegetables; see the variation) in the center of a newspaper-covered table with some French bread and a bowl of the cooking water—which will taste pretty good after having all this cooked in it—handy for dipping.

About 6 quarts water, fish stock, or shrimp stock

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried thyme or several sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

3 cloves

4 small dried hot red chiles

Salt

4 pounds whole crawfish or shrimp

Tabasco or other hot red pepper sauce for serving

Lemon wedges for serving

Freshly ground black pepper

Garlic mayonnaise, or tartar sauce for dipping, optional

1. Bring the liquid to a boil in a medium to large saucepan and add the bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, garlic, coriander, cloves, chiles, and plenty of salt. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Add the crawfish or shrimp. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the seafood cool down for a few minutes in the liquid.

3. Remove the crawfish or shrimp with a slotted spoon, sprinkle with more salt, and serve, passing hot sauce, lemon wedges, black pepper, and sauce at the table.

Crawfish or Shrimp Boil with Vegetables. More of a meal: In Step 1, add 11/2pounds waxy potatoes and 1 pound onions (all cut into large chunks if they’re big- ger than eggs). Boil with the seasonings until just beginning to get tender, about 10 minutes. When you add the seafood in Step 2, add 4 to 6 ears of shucked corn (cut in half if you like). Proceed with the recipe.

Posted in Recipes, Seafood

On Finding and Shucking Oysters

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by Cathy Erway

It was something I would have normally found awe-inspiring: a platter of freshly shucked oysters, placed ceremoniously on a chrome stand. The opened half shells dotted the perimeter of the dish, sunken into a bed of crushed ice. In the center lay lemon wedges and small cups of cocktail sauce, horseradish and vinaigrette, with spoons dug provocatively down in. In their pools of clear brine, the silver flesh of the oysters seemed to quiver gently even seconds after being set down, and their juices threatened to drip into the ice. These were served up at a well-heeled restaurant with much recent hype, no less, at a table that was the envy of every person waiting patiently outside. It was, by all standards, a real foodie’s dream. But it just wasn’t the same for me.  

You see, the day before, I had foraged for oysters on a calm and sandy beach. I wasn’t expecting to find them, nor the quahogs, hermit crabs and miniature shellfish that lay half-hidden at my feet. But I recognized the teardrop shape and craggy surface of the first oyster from afar, and spent the next hour or so peeling the beach for more. Once home, I shucked them open one by one, to enjoy with friends. I’d collected ten oysters in total, and they ranged wildly in stature: the smallest being the size of a baby’s ear and the largest one, a round and deep-bowled object that held a mouthful-sized mollusk. Some had translucent green strands of seaweed clinging to its shells, which I could never get off. One had another oyster shell impossibly stuck against it like a Siamese twin. Slipped into the mouth, some oysters gave with a subtle crunch, like a softened piece of cartilage, while others went down as a smooth, cold lobe of blubber. All of them were very easy to shuck. Perhaps it was this particular species, but the way the tiny crevice between the pointed ends of both shells – the sweet spot – gave so easily with the shove of a shucker made it seem as if they had been waiting to be opened, too.  

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Posted in Farming, Seafood

Fix the Farm, Not the Salmon

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By Paul Greenberg

[Paul Greenberg is author of the newly released “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food” and a frequent contributor to the New York Times on fish, seafood and ocean issues. As far as I’m concerned, he’s fast becoming the country’s most knowledgeable writer about aquaculture, a difficult topic if ever there was one. – mb)

When the New York Times reported in June of 2010 that the US Food and Drug Administration was “seriously considering” approving a genetically modified Atlantic salmon for American consumption the cries from environmentalists and food reformers were, predictably, almost audible on the streets. The AquAdvantage® Salmon uses a “genetic on-switch” from a fish called an ocean pout (a very different animal) in combination with a growth gene from a Chinook salmon to achieve double the growth rate of unmodified Atlantic salmon.

The animal’s creator, AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, MA, asserts that the fish will be sterile and grown in out-of-ocean bio-secure containment structures. (We’ve heard that before. – ed.) Nevertheless the emotional worry of genetic contamination of wild fish, the public preoccupation with health risks a modified salmon could pose, and just the overall ick-factor consumers have about GMO food were all on display across the foodie and environmental blogosphere a few days after the Times article ran.

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Posted in Food Politics, Seafood

Score One for the Oceans

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By Casson Trenor

In the embattled world of seafood, it’s nice to see positive change in a major public venue. As heartwarming as it is to hear from someone who has pledged to stop eating unagi, it feels even better when a sushi restaurant – or even better, an entire seafood distributor – drops it altogether in the name of environmental preservation.

So I’m thrilled to see a spark of light appear in the otherwise relentlessly dismal saga of the bluefin tuna.

No doubt you’re familiar with Food Network’s Iron Chef America, a culinary contest wherein a visiting chef races against time to prepare an assortment of gastronomic delights for a panel of judges. At the same time, one of the resident masters – a star-spangled group known as the Iron Chefs – embarks on the same task in an effort to defend his or her title against the upstart challenger. The dishes are linked by the requirement that they must all involve the day’s secret ingredient, which is revealed only moments before the contest, which takes place in a regal arena known as Kitchen Stadium, begins. The chefs are allotted one hour to prepare their items and are judged on the relative merits of their menus. The chef whose culinary tour de force is deemed to “reign supreme” by the panel is the winner. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Seafood

Stir-Fried Squid (But Not That Much) and Basil

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The interesting thing about this squid stir-fry was how much squid I used: two of ‘em, for two people, and although they were big-ish, the total weight was about a quarter-pound, and the dish fed two of us more than satisfactorily.  

I cooked a big onion, a couple of stalks of celery, and some garlic and ginger in peanut oil until they were tender. I took ‘em out, threw in cut up squid, and cooked for about a minute. I put the vegies back in, along with the basil you see here and, a minute later, a couple of tablespoons  of peanuts, then a couple of tablespoons of water and soy sauce. Tiny bit of sesame oil. That was it, and over rice – we were happy.

Posted in Chinese, Seafood

Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook 

Lubricated Crab Larvae

It had to happen sooner or later. Oil has officially contaminated the Gulf of Mexico’s seafood chain.

Last week Geoff Pender of the Sun Herald, a newspaper serving the Mississippi coast, reported that scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi and Tulane University had found droplets of oil in the larvae of blue crabs. While the oil’s presence is no immediate cause of concern for those craving a summer evening Cajun crab boil ,it is a harbinger of bad news. Small fish such as menhaden feed on crab larvae, and as they say, big fish eat little fish. “I think we’ll see this enter the food chain in a lot of ways,” Harriet Perry, director of the Center for Fisheries Research and Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, told Pender. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Seafood