When I was a kid, shellfish scared me. I mean, these denizens of the ocean aren’t the prettiest things to look at. Mom was smart, though. She removed the delectable meat from her crabs, lobsters, and mussels and created the most awesome dishes with them. I got over my fear, eventually, and began to tackle critters such as king crab legs bravely. I’ve been a fan ever since.
The overwhelming quality of shellfish to me is its sweetness. I love fish, to begin with. However, shellfish offers a sweet depth of flavor that finned seafood doesn’t quite match. Even the shells are delicious. No, not to eat (with the exception of soft shell crabs, of course), but added to stocks. Briny, deep and rich.
My favorite shellfish would have to be lobster. Expensive tastes this guy has! Boiled, steamed, broiled, grilled – however you cook it, the integrity of the succulent meat always remains uncompromised. Mom used to mix the lobster roe with Italian flavored breadcrumb and stuff the cavity of those soon-to-be red beauties, which were then broiled. She offered a garlic-butter dipping sauce, and I was in heaven. Yes, whether it’s simmered in a bisque or mixed with mayonnaise and stuffed in a bun, lobster is always OK with me.
That being said, my love of shellfish extends to just about any variety. Have you ever tried blue crabs in garlic and beer sauce? Easy to prepare. I sauté garlic in olive oil for a bit, then add my blue crabs with a generous sprinkling of oregano. When the pot is back to a sizzle, I pour in a can of lager beer, cover, and simmer until the crabs are done. Really fantastic.
Or how about ceviche? Although it can be prepared with just about any seafood, I prefer scallops. The acid in the citrus juice “cooks” the scallops, leaving them tender and delicious. Try Phyllis’ recipe. It’s wonderful.
I’m just beginning. During the summer months, I love to do Shellfish Boils. Steamers (clams), mussels, crabs, shrimp, you name it. I throw them all in a gigantic pot, with some water on the bottom (you’re really steaming, not boiling.) You can season however you like. I always use Old Bay. Throw in some baby potatoes, corn on the cob and a few pieces of chorizo sausage, and you have a real feast on your hands – literally, because forks on not allowed.
Being a shellfish maniac, I really love stuffed shrimp. After all, you’re getting two shellfish flavors for the price of one. Delicate lump crabmeat mixed with cracker meal, herbs, and spices – generously stuffed into butterflied jumbo shrimp. Pop ‘em in the broiler with a drizzling of melted butter and, I mean, how can you go wrong?
I’m kind of rambling here, as I’m wont to do when it comes to food. Nevertheless, I must ask if you go crazy at those buffets that offer king crab legs. I do. If it’s a really good buffet, there are some jumbo boiled shrimp in the offing as well, in their shell. Or how about raw bars? How many raw clams and oysters can you eat in one sitting? A squeeze lemon, or hot sauce, or both? Yes, a bit expensive, but worth every penny.
Coming off of Lent, I’m surprised at how hungry I’m making myself talking about all these shellfish. Puts me in mind for some linguini with white clam sauce, followed by sautéed soft shell crabs. They’re in season, you know. But then again, shellfish is always in season when you sport a healthy appetite.
Bay Scallop Ceviche
A refreshing treat is awaiting you as those hot summer days are about to roll in. A ceviche of bay scallops, the smallest, sweetest and most delicate of the various scallops will serve as a delicious summer tonic. As you know, the acid of citrus juices “cooks” the seafood. There is no real cooking and the components are put together in a jiffy.
Ceviche may be served as an appetizer or the main course of a luncheon. Use your imagination to come up with a serving vessel. How about a lettuce wrap, in a scallop shell,* a clam shell or martini glass? Serve within 24 hours. Serves 6 – 8.
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. bay scallops
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 cup tiny grape tomatoes
1 small red onion, cut into a small dice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ripe Haas avocado, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
In a nonreactive container, completely cover scallops with lime juice, orange juice, and olive oil. Mix. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Mix in jalapeno, tomatoes, onion, salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for another hour. Toss with avocado and fresh cilantro just before serving.
*Scallop shells may be purchased in fancy food shops.