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Archive for Fish/Seafood/Caviar

FOOD 101: Lionfish

With the demand for Chilean seabass, halibut, swordfish, wild salmon and other popular fish, retail prices for premium fish are so high that you might as well go to a restaurant for it.

  • Fresh Direct is currently listing these per-pound prices: wild Alaskan black cod fillet, $24.99; wild Chilean seabass, $29.99 (and it’s been previously frozen!); wild grey sole, $26.99; wild halibut, $23.99; wild snapper fillet, $24.99.
  • Even Ora King farm-raised king salmon (not the superior wild variety) lists at $24.99.
  • Elsewhere, yellowfin tuna is $23.99 a pound. Dean & DeLuca is selling a 2-pound combo, 1 pound of sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna and 1 pound California halibut, for $75.00. Whew!
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    We recently wrote about how trash fish, once discarded when netted along with more popular varieties, are becoming popular with restaurateurs and home cooks who want more affordable options. A fish restaurant in New York City, Seamore’s, recently opened with exactly that type of menu.

    Now there’s nuisance fish: invaders that are upsetting the local ecology. The “poster fish” is lionfish.

    Though beautiful to look at, they are the bane of the Caribbean.

       

    Lionfish

    Beautiful but venomous: You may have seen a lionfish in a home aquarium, but they grow quite large and burdensome in the wild.
    Christian Mehlfuhrer | Wikimedia.

    Voracious predators native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, lionfish were brought (or tagged along) to the Caribbean, where they happily hang out among the coral reefs.

  • They have been observed consuming fish up to two-thirds their size.
  • They use their long fins to herd smaller fish and then attack them.
  • They eat crustaceans like crabs, shrimps, even juvenile lobsters.
  • The population of groupers has declined drastically because they are a preferred meal for lionfish.
  • The invaders are able to reach sizes that are twice the typical size they reach in their home waters. Females release 30,000-40,000 eggs at a time, as frequently as twice a week.
  • Unfortunately, lionfish have no natural prey. None of the large reef predators, such as snappers, groupers and sharks, appear to want to eat them.
  • In many parts of the Caribbean, divers are encouraged to spear them. “Lionfish rodeos,” with the purpose of population control, are becoming as popular sport fishing event in resort areas. (Source)
  • Should you want to joint the rodeo, be advised: Many of their long, spiny fins are venomous.
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    TAKE A BITE

    The only good news is that, once the liofish is cleaned and the venomous spines are removed, the meat is lovely. It is a delicate, white flaky fish, firmer in texture than halibut, with a flavor profile somewhere between grouper and mahi-mahi. It readily accepts any flavor and technique a cook wishes to use.

    With a new name, lionfish could become as popular as the Patagonian toothfish (renamed Chilean seabass for marketing purposes) and mahi-mahi/dorado (dolphinfish).

    Any suggestions?

     

    Lionfish Ceviche

    Lionfish tastes like a cross between grouper and mahi-mahi. You can cook it or use it raw, in ceviche or sushi. Photo courtesy Euro USA.

     

    RECIPE: LIONFISH CEVICHE

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound lionfish fillets
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/3 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 1/3 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1/3 red onion, diced
  • 1/3 avocado, diced
  • Small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • 1/3 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: fresh cilantro or parsley
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    Preparation

    1. CUT the lionfish, peppers, onion, avocado and scallions into small cubes. Mix all ingredients together and marinate for at least two hours before serving.

    2. GARNISH with fresh herbs and serve.
     
    SEEK OUT THE UNFAMILIAR

    When you see an unfamiliar fish at the market, don’t hesitate to try it, especially if it’s well priced. Retailers wouldn’t sell it if it didn’t taste good—and the fresher, the better.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Lobster Day

    For a long time, National Lobster Day was celebrated on June 15th. But according to The Boston Globe, on August 5th, National Lobster Day was officially declared by Congress to take place on September 25th.

    Sponsored by Senator Angus King of Maine, the resolution was agreed to “without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent.”

    Maine is the largest lobster-producing region in the world, and lobstering is a multi-generational family tradition. There are no corporate fleets, but independent lobster boat owners and more than 5,600 independent lobstermen who work on the boats (the women are also called lobstermen).

    Lobstering is an important component of the state’s economy, and care is taken to keep it that way.

    MAINE LOBSTERS ARE SUSTAINABLE

    Maine lobstermen were committed to sustainability and traceability long before it was fashionable. The industry’s 150 years of responsible fishing practices have earned it the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable seafood certification.

       

    live lobsters

    Just-caught lobsters at the dock. Photo courtesy Lobsters From Maine.

     

    Maine Lobsters are 100% hand-harvested from small day boats, one trap at a time. Maine banned diving or dragging the sea floor for lobster in 1961.

    WINE PAIRING WITH LOBSTER

    A new generation of modern chefs has added excitement to lobster meals, by trading the conventional boiled or broiled lobster with drawn butter for more modern flavor pairings: cilantro, ginger, honey and wasabi, for example. Classic dishes like Lobster Thermidor have given way to the far more popular Lobster Mac and Cheese.

    Now, what about the wine?

    As with many dishes, and especially fish and seafood, the type of wine is best matched to the preparation. Thanks to Lobster From Maine for some of these suggestions, which we merged with our own.

  • Lobster with Asian Seasonings: Drink Riesling or a sparkling white wine with high acidity, like Cava or Champagne (Prosecco lacks the acidity).
  • Lobster in Cream Sauce: Lobster Thermidor is our favorite dish, followed by Lobster Risotto. White Burgundy or an oaky California Chardonnay is the perfect match, and also work with Lobster Alfredo and Lobster Pot Pie.
  • Lobster Grilled Or Steamed With Drawn Butter: Champagne or an oaky Chardonnay is our first choice; or Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Grigio and Albariño also work, and are more affordable. Lobsters From Maine advises that, if you want to try red wine with lobster, pair grilled lobster with Grenache/Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo or a rosé.
  • Lobster Salad: Vinaigrette requires a high-acidity wine: Cava, Chablis, Champagne, German Riesling Kabinett, Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre. If the salad is mostly greens with a small amount of lobster, you can try a Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Lobster Steamed In Beer: If the lobster is steamed in beer (usually Lager or Pilsner), drink the same type of beer.
  • Lobster in Tomato Sauce: Lobster Fra Diavolo or other pasta with red sauce and lobster calls for Chianti or another high-acid red wine. Tomato sauce has too much acid to pair with most white wines, but if you must have white, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc have the highest acidity of all the white grapes; Chablis has good acidity as well as minerality. The cooler the climate, the higher the acidity, so don’t pick a white wine from Australia, California, South Africa or New Zealand.
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    lobster-decorated-theseafiregrillFB-230r

    A deconstructed lobster salad: lobster meat, cherry tomatoes, red leaf lettuce and droplets of basil oil and balsamic vinegar.Photo courtesy The Sea Fire Grill | NYC.

     

    LOBSTER TRIVIA

  • It takes lobsters an average of 5 to 7 years (depending on the water temperature) to grow to legal size. They grow more slowly as they get larger. A lobster that weighs 3 pounds is approximately 15-20 years old, and a 25-pound lobster would be approximately 75-100 years old. Some believe that lobsters in unfarmed areas—30 miles off the coast of Maine—can reach as 120 years in age.
  • Lobsters have different pigments in their shells and come in a variety of colors. Fishermen have been known to bring in blue, yellow, red and spotted live lobsters. Usually, when lobsters are hard-shelled, their shells are a darker color. Also, when you cook hard-shell lobsters, their shells will turn a brick red color and sometimes black, whereas soft-shelled lobsters, when cooked, are a bright red color.
  • A lobster can be a righty or lefty. The dominant claw is the larger, craggy one and is used to crush shells. The smaller, serrated claw is used to rip, tear, and retrieve the meat within its prey.
  • The “green stuff” inside the lobster is the liver, called tomale. The waxy red substance in the tomale is the coral, or roe. Both are considered to be delicacies.
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  • The bigger the lobster, the less meat it has in its tail, proportionately. Plus, larger lobsters are less desirable because by the time the center of the meat is cooked, the outside meat is overcooked.
  • Female lobsters are the aggressors in mating; 42% of Americans consider lobster the world’s most romantic food.
  • Lobsters kept in tanks or other close quarters become cannibalistic. That’s why their claws are banded.
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    Maine Lobster Trivia

  • In 2014, Maine lobstermen landed more than 120 million pounds of lobster—85% of the lobster caught in the United States.
  • The largest recorded Maine Lobster weighed 27 pounds. These super-lobsters usually end up in aquariums or museums.
  • The Maine Lobster industry is one of the oldest continuously operated industries in North America, with the first documented catch dating back to the 1600s.
  •  
    Here’s more lobster trivia.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Save The Lobster Heads & Tails

    We love this idea from Chef Ric Tramonto and John Folse of Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans.

    Rather than toss the lobster heads and tails*, they plated them. It’s beautiful, and the most fun we’ve seen since Chef David Burke’s Angry Lobster On A Bed Of Nails.

    This photo shows Restaurant R’evolution’s Lobster With Sheep’s Milk Gnocchi. We made Lobster Newburg, one of our favorite special-occasion dishes (in a cream sauce with sherry, brandy and a touch of nutmeg—here’s the Lobster Newburg recipe).

    But there’s much more to place between the heads and tails. Just a few ideas:

  • Fettuccine Alfredo or other pasta with lobster
  • Lobster & Chorizo Paella
  • Lobster Cobb Salad
  • Lobster & Coconut Milk (such as Lobster Curry and Lobster Roatan)
  • Lobster Mac & Cheese
  • Lobster Pot Pie
  • Lobster Ravioli
  • Lobster Risotto
  • Lobster Salad
  • Lobster Stew
  • Lobster Thermidor
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    lobster-head-tail-restaurantrevolutionNOLA-230b

    Now that’s a presentation! Photo courtesy Restaurant R’evolution | New Orleans.

     

    You can even put the head and tail on a lobster roll, or have them adorn a bowl of lobster chowder or lobster dip.

    Just set the head and tail flat on the plate. And keep recycling: At the end of the meal, you can wash the heads and tails and stick them in the freezer. How else can you use them?

     
    *After the meat has been removed for the recipe, of course.

     

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    Can’t wait to dig in? We’re ready to eat both! Photo courtesy LobsterFromMaine.com.†

     

    NEW SHELL LOBSTER: THE BEST LOBSTER YOU CAN HAVE

    Between June and November, lobsters in the cold, clean waters of Maine shed their old shells and grow new shells. The result is known as Maine New Shell Lobster, also called soft shell lobster. It’s the sweetest, most tender lobster meat.

    The superior taste and texture is a result of the pure Gulf of Maine seawater that fills the newly formed shell. It naturally “marinates” the meat, creating a more intense lobster flavor and added moisture.

    A thinner shell also means that you can crack and eat the lobster by hand—no nutcracker necessary.

    New Shells are prized by locals as a seasonal delicacy. But they are the best-kept secret in seafood. Even professional chefs don’t know about them, and both hard shell lobsters and New Shells are available in Maine throughout summer and fall.

    Now that you’re in the know, now that you have to ask for your New Shells by name.

     

    Like all Maine Lobsters, New Shells are caught the old-fashioned way: by hand, without modern technology, one trap at a time. Because the soft shells are fragile, New Shells don’t travel as well as their hard shell counterparts.

    But thanks to advances in packaging and handling techniques, Maine New Shell Lobster, once only available in Maine, can also be shipped to you. Check Bayley’s Lobster Pound.
     
    MAINE LOBSTER VERSUS CANADIAN LOBSTER

    We recently attended an event to taste the New Shells, and met several chefs and lobstermen. We asked if they find a difference between Maine lobsters and the Canadian lobsters caught farther north in the Atlantic.

    Their consensus is that, since the waters off of Maine are fed by the Labrador current which also flows past New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the lobsters are very similar.

    They opined that local differences such as diet, water temperature and water quality—which easily cause differences in oysters—are not significant.

    So buy American, but if someone offers you a Canadian lobster, eat it!

     
    †We disclose that these are Maine lobsters, but not New Shell lobsters. The available photos of New Shells were too plain.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Gremolata, The Fresh, Homemade Condiment

    porgy-raisinpuree-gremolata-leeks-distilledNY-230r

    This roasted porgy fillet at Distilled NY has
    gremolata on top, raisin purée on the
    bottom. Photo courtesy Distilled NY.

     

    Gremolata is a fresh condiment that originated in Italian cuisine. It is too-little-known in the U.S., and may be most familiar to Americans as the accompaniment to osso bucco, braised veal shank.

    The condiment consists simply of fresh chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic. The addition of other green herbs is optional; we add basil or mint when we have it on hand.

    It has such lively flavor that you can cut back on salt. A pinch of gremolata spices up almost any dish:

  • Eggs
  • Fish and seafood
  • Meat and poultry: lamb, pork, rib roast, veal, venison
  • Poultry
  • Pasta and risotto
  • Potatoes
  • Salad and cooked vegetables (we love gremolata with sautéed
    string beans)
  • Soups and stews
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    CLASSIC & MODERN GREMOLATA

    Gremolata (also spelled gremolada) is a relatively new condiment. According to Merriam-Webster, it first appeared in 1954, derived from the Italian dialect of Lombardy. What we don’t know is why these words were used (any guesses?):

  • Gremolaa, from gremolâ or gràmolâ, to mix or knead flour for dough.
  • Grêmola or grâmola, an apparatus for kneading dough, a flax or hemp brake*.
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    Here’s the classic gremolata recipe with precise measurements. You can update the recipe, tailoring it to specific dishes, by substituting ingredients:

  • Use grapefruit, lime or orange zest instead of the lemon zest.
  • With lamb dishes, add or substitute mint for the parsley.
  • With beef dishes, add grated horseradish or well-drained prepared horseradish.
  • With smoked salmon or deep-flavored fish (bluefish, herring mackerel, sardines), substitute capers
    for the garlic, basil for the parsley.
  • It’s great on an anchovy pizza.
  • Add to breadcrumbs and make a gremolata crust for fish.
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    RECIPE: GOLDEN RAISIN PURÉE

    Some people use raisin purée as a substitute for refined sugar in baking. But it also complements grilled proteins, as Chef Sean Lyons of Distilled NY shows in the photo above.

    You can also use it as a dessert sauce, and you can replace the raisins with dried blueberries, cherries or cranberries.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup raisins
  • Water
  • Dash of cinnamon, nutmeg or other favorite spice
  • Optional: a splash or brandy
  • For dessert purée: Grand Marnier or other fruit liqueur* to taste
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE the raisins in a small pan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until the raisins are plump.

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/sultanas snackfarms amz 230

    Golden raisins, also called sultanas. You can substitute dried blueberries, cherries or cranberries in the purée. Photo courtesy Snack Farms.

     
    2. DRAIN the raisins, reserving the cooking liquid. Place the raisins and 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid in a food processor or high powered blender and puree for 1 minute until completely smooth. Remove the purée from the food processor.

    3. SIEVE the purée for additional smoothness, if desired. Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a month.
     
    *A device to break down the straw or stalks of flax and hemp.

    †You can match dried cherries with cherry liqueur, dried cranberries with cranberry liqueur.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Oyster Shells

    In this era of recycling consciousness, it’s important to re-use something at least one more time before it ends up in the trash. There are suggestions galore, from re-using plastic dry cleaning bags to wrap clothes for wrinkle-free traveling, to filling empty drink bottles with water for in-home or grab-and-go use.

    Even if something must ultimately end up in a landfill, it’s surprising how many different items destined for the garbage can be re-purposed at least once.

    We were feasting upon a mammoth plateau de mer* at a local bistro, wondering if we should ask to take the empty lobster and shrimp shells home to make stock. Then it struck us: If the larger scallop shells have long been used to serve Coquilles St. Jacques and other foods, we could find uses for the cast-off oyster shells. The solution was easy: Use them as replacements for appetizer spoons (also called amuse-bouche spoons or tasting spoons, and a popular way to serve at cocktail bites).

    You can wash and refill the oyster shells ad infinitum; you can use scores of them at parties; and if you collect too many, you can give sets to your friends.

    As we munched our way through the platter of seafood, we thought of the visual fun of using those half-shells to serve something other than oysters. Here’s our preliminary list, especially appropriate since today, August 5th, is National Oyster Day:

  • Fill with salmon, scallop or tuna tartare
  • Ceviche “shooters”
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    tuna-tartare-oyster-shell-jamesbeard-230

    What would you serve in an oyster shell—besides oysters, of course?James Beard Foundation. This dish was created by chef Kyle Koenig of Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, New York.

  • Add a fried oyster, topped with tartar sauce, horseradish cream or spicy mayo, garnished with chopped chives
  • Serve anything topped with tobiko, from a hard-boiled quail egg to grilled cauliflower florets
  • The natural: Oysters Rockefeller or “Scallops Rockefeller,” substituting scallops for the oysters
  • As a “spoon” for smoky whitefish salad, chopped herring salad or any salad
  • Use for non-seafood purposes, such as stuffed mushrooms (you can serve the mushrooms chopped instead of filling the caps)
  • Use for anything you would serve in an appetizer spoon (this is often a repurposed ceramic Chinese soup spoon)
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    *French for “plate of seafood,” a plateau de mer, or plateau de fruits de mer, is a seafood appetizer that consists of raw mollusks (clam, oyster, periwinkle, scallop) and cooked shellfish (crab, lobster, prawn, shrimp). The seafood is served cold on a platter, on a bed of ice. At restaurants, depending on the size ordered, the platter can be two or three tiers high and plated in silver for a grand presentation.

     

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    Why purchase tasting spoons when you can repurpose oyster shells to do the same thing? These spoons are from Libbey.

     

    NON-CULINARY USES FOR OYSTER SHELLS

    We traveled the Web to see how others were using empty oyster shells. Here’s what we found:

  • Crafts. Turn the shells into craft projects.
  • Gardening. Crush and mix them into your garden soil. The shell is 95% calcium carbonate and provides a slow release of calcium that de-acidifies and helps balance soil pH, loosen clay and improve drainage. That’s good news for tomato and other vegetable gardens.
  • Gardening. Similarly, use crushed shells in container gardening; the coarse texture of the crushed shells promotes drainage. Sprinkle them in the bottom of planting holes for vegetables and bulbs. Be sure to use crushed shells, not commercial oyster shell flour, for an even release of calcium throughout the growing season.
  • Gardens. Save enough shells to create a garden path. Oyster shell paths are a recycling effort that originated in Colonial times: If you’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg, you’ve seen them. They’re a charming alternative to gravel, and can also be used as a cover material for patios, courtyards and driveways.
  • Aquaculture. If you live near salt water, or are headed there, toss the dried oyster shells back into the sea. Young oysters will attach themselves to the empty shells, helping to propagate more oysters. The person who contributed this dip dumps the shells near her dock to create a mini oyster reef. “It creates a habitat for crabs, for which we have crab-pots (YUM!).”
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    If you have other ideas, let us know!

      

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