While meat and seafood have been served at the same meal since since the dawn of plenty, and Diamond Jim Brady (1856-1917) consumed platters heaped with steaks and lobsters, the pairing known as surf and turf originated in 1960s America.
It became the darling of American steakhouse menus, combining the two most expensive items on the menu: lobster (surf) and filet mignon (turf). It has its own food holiday, February 29th, National Surf & Turf Day.
But we can’t wait until the next leap year, 2016, to share this treat: surf and turf sushi.
SURF & TURF HISTORY
The earliest earliest print reference found by FoodTimeline.org, our favorite reference source on the history of all things food, was published in the Eureka [California] Humboldt Standard of August 14, 1964: “An entrée in restaurants in Portland [Oregon] is called surf and turf—a combination of lobster and steak.”
Luxury sushi: a lobster-avocado maki topped
with torched tenderloin, sweet eel sauce and
a garnish of togarishi and rice crisps. Photo
courtesy Ten Prime Steak And Sushi |
Some sources claim that the concept originated on the East Coast, based on a 1966 print citation newspaper article in the Miami News. The columnist says that the restaurant La Hasta has created the best thing since lox and bagels—surf and turf; and that on some weekends the management had to take the dish off the menu, since demand exceeded supply.
Sorry, East Coasters: 1964 beats 1966.
Yet a third claim from a food writer couple, without printed proof, that the same dish by the same name was served at the Sky City restaurant in the Seattle Space Needle, at the 1962 World’s Fair. That may be, but documentation is required. If anybody remembers it from the World’s Fair: Please raise your hand. There’s a bonus if you have the menu.
Fun fact: The beef-seafood combo is called “Reef and Beef” in Australia.
THE NEW SURF & TURF
The original may have been lobster and filet mignon; but as long as there’s something from the surf and something from the turf, you’ve got surf and turf! We “invent” a different combination for our monthly surf and turf dinner. The past year’s pairings have included:
Clam roll and a hot dog
Crab cake and lamb chops
Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and Canadian bacon
Fish and chips with sliced sausage “chips” (heavy, but fun)
Fried oysters with a burger (make it edgier with a fish stick and tartar sauce)
Fried oysters with steak (or, garnish the steak with a raw oyster on the half shell)
Two rows of raw tenderloin-topped sushi,
plated with yellowtail, eel and other seafood
sushi we had to crop out. Photo courtesy Ten
Prime Steak And Sushi | Providence.
Lobster roll and a chicken sausage, both in brioche buns
Oysters wrapped in bacon (an oldie, but still “surf and turf”)
Panko fried shrimp with chicken-fried steak (too much fried food for us)
Salmon or tuna grilled rare with rare filet mignon
Salmon tartare and steak tartare
Scallops with grilled lamb chop or pork chop
Shrimp and beef stir-fry (good but not as festive as the other variations)
Shrimp and poached chicken cocktail
Shrimp kabobs with grilled skirt steak
Shrimp tempura and pork tenderloin
Sliced grilled tuna and sliced breast of chicken
And now, we’ve discovered surf and turf sushi from Ten Prime Steak And Sushi in Providence.
Our maki-rolling skills are rusty, but we’ll try it right after we master our March recipe, surf and turf meat loaf. (So far, ground chicken and whole baby scallops are the mix of choice.)
MIX & MATCH
You could fill every day of the year with a different option and not run out (and if anyone decides to start a restaurant based on that concept, send a hefty ideation fee here).
Pick your favorite seafood and meats: crab cake, crab legs, scallops or shrimp with lamb chops or pork chops, for example.
Surf: any fish or shellfish. Think outside the lobster box to caviar/roe, clams, crab, crawfish, eel, escargot, grilled tuna, mussels, octopus, oysters, shrimp, squid, sushi/sashimi, uni (sea urchin). Grilled cod or halibut stand up well to beef and pork.
Turf: bacon (and the bacon group: Canadian bacon, prosciutto, serrano ham, etc.), beef, bison, exotics (boar, elk, ostrich), lamb, ham, poultry, pork in their many forms: grilled, roasted, ground, ribs, sausage, etc.
And props to Allen Brothers, purveyor of prime meats to restaurants and the public, for the idea of creating the surf-topped filet mignon. The company topped filet mignon with a crown of lobster “stuffing” (chopped lobster, fresh herbs (try tarragon or thyme), scallions, cream, butter, sweet onions, bread crumbs and a touch of garlic), as well as a lump crab meat version with mozzarella, chopped spinach, garlic and rosemary. (You’ll have to make your own, though; the company has updated the product with new, non-surf, toppings.)
Try your own hand at the new surf and turf and let us know your favorites.