Category Archives: Seafood
How to choose fresh fish, avoid bad clams and triumph at the lobster pound by choosing the smaller, softer crustacean
Apparently lobster prices in Maine are at an all-time low. That’s very rough for all the hardworking lobstermen and women in my home state, and if you don’t think lobstering is tough work, think again. Imagine being out on the water in freezing weather (every month of the year but July) on an open boat deck, wearing rubber overalls while handling bait and pulling traps up from the bottom of the bay to earn your living. It’s cold, it’s backbreaking, it’s dirty and it’s dangerous.
Whatever the price, if we don’t buy lobsters, the lobsterman’s labor is all for naught. So as we approach the season of my most favorite of all seafood, the soft shell lobster (or shedder), I thought you might profit by taking a gander at my seminal look at seafood, Avoid the Bad Clam, originally posted in October of last year. It contains many handy tips on choosing seafood to prepare at home and an invaluable guide to successfully navigating the lobster pound. Here you go:
Recipe: Mussels in Garlic and Wine
So as you’ve probably guessed, I spend a fair amount of time sucking tube in the form of cooking programs. In truth, I’m something of a whore for TV cooks and will watch almost anything, so long as it involves chopping and stirring, and generally the more outrageous, out-of-control and outré the chef the better. Witness my love for Paula Deen. So out there, so over the top, so Southern — I just cannot get enough, y’all. Similarly, I’ll jack into YouTube and watch Mrs. Child, the Two Fat Ladies or Graham Kerr for hours on end. It’s like crack for me.
Imagine my excitement then, when my pal Joe Hoover over at Londonsurvival introduced me to the manic, magical, utterly soused world of Keith Floyd. Though no longer with us, the great Floyd virtually created the cooking show genre in the UK, or so I gather. Now, if you search on YouTube, you’ll find dozens of fabulous episodes all guaranteed to please. My personal favorite involves our hero preparing ostrich meat and eggs on a brazier in the Outback, surrounded by a gaggle of free-range ostriches, who are apparently oblivious to the cannibalism going on right under their beaks. It’s pure kitchen magic, folks.
But here’s the thing. The guy could actually cook, and most of the time he made it look effortless — and even if it wasn’t effortless, it still looked really fun. So here he is with a lesson in the preparation of mussels. It’s not one of his more outrageous episodes, but it is one of the more instructive. If you have questions about how to choose mussels, or any other seafood, there’s a vintage Slattern post that covers the subject pretty completely.
Hot tip: If you buy farm-raised mussels, they’re much less apt to be sandy and thus are less fiddly to prepare.
Cold poached salmon for emergencies. Or every day.
A friend of mine recently called in a panic. It seems her fiancé had run into an old girlfriend from whom he parted on amicable terms and had – wait for it now – invited her to have dinner. At their apartment!
Gentlemen, just in case you’re wondering what the problem is here, let me enlighten you: We may say this kind of situation is just fine, and occasionally we may even mean it (if your ex has gained 100 pounds or married George Clooney, though it’s probably too much to hope that she’s done both), but as a general rule it is not okay, especially if she (or he) is still single. If you must consort with former flames, at least have the decency to book an expensive restaurant and suggest that your life partner spend some quality time at Bloomingdales accompanied by your Visa and warmed by the glow of your effusive apologies and genuine remorse. Failing that, you’d best offer to cook or be willing to order takeout from 21 (think Grace Kelly in Rear Window).
As none of the above had gone down, I suggested the following to the soon-to-be Mrs. Deadbeat. “Turn that frown upside down and look upon it as an opportunity to shine.” Yeah, sure I did. What I really advised was to pull out the big guns: Manolos and a black dress, expensive wines and the easiest menu possible. Then I offered to let her borrow my big diamond earrings, the ones I got after Mr. Slattern invited HIS old flame to dinner many years ago – on a work night. It was then that I developed this life saver: cold poached salmon with yogurt dill sauce, and it worked a treat for my pal too.
I am a magnet for bad seafood. At a restaurant table of six, everyone gets a delicious portion of crab cakes, broiled scrod or lazy man’s lobster. Except me. If there’s one malodorous, borderline piece of fish, one rotting lobster tail or just a single rancid clam in the kitchen, it magically finds its way to my plate. So, out of necessity, I have become something of an expert in the choosing, purchase and preparation of fish. If you’d ever been on the business end of a bad mussel, you would be too.
I’ll spare you the usual foray into my sordid past and get right to business.