Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School
What a huge learning curve I had this week with shellfish. If you read last week’s blog, you know that I am a Midwest farm girl who had no experience with fins, scales, and particularly things that carry a house on their back! After this week’s class however, I am shocked at how easy most shellfish are to cook.
Shellfish are categorized according their skeletal structure:
Univalves – Single-shelled mollusks
e.g. abalone, sea urchins, conch, escargot
Bivalves – Mollusks with two shells joined by a hinge
e.g. clams, mussels, oysters, scallops
Crustaceans – Jointed exterior skeletons or shells
e.g. lobster, crawfish, shrimp, crab
Cephalopods – Mollusks with tentacles attached directly to the head
e.g. octopus, squid/calamari, cuttlefish
When buying live crab or lobsters, look for movement. If you buy them frozen or pre-packaged and they are still moving—run.
Live clams, oysters and mussels should be tightly closed or should close when touched. They will open as they age. Any shells that don’t close when touched are dead.
Don’t let fresh water come into contact with live lobster or crab as it will kill them.
Unlike fish, clams, mussels and oysters are sold alive, as they don’t die when out of the water. When they are purchased live in the shell they should be stored in the mesh bag they came in. Don’t store in airtight containers, submerged in water, or plastic bags without holes, as they will suffocate. Throw away any that are cracked or have chipped or broken shells.
Red as a Lobster
Live lobsters are not red—lobsters only turn red when cooked. The color of a live lobster can be green, black, brown, yellow, white, or even blue. The color has nothing to do with the taste.
Anatomy of a Lobster – Male vs. Female
Although some chefs (probably male) claim that female lobsters taste sweeter, most experts agree that there is no taste difference. The culinary difference between them is that the female lobsters may have roe (a.k.a. lobster caviar), which some people love eating.
How to “sex” a lobster (I don’t make this stuff up)
- Flip the lobster over on its back.
- Look under the lowest set of legs, and locate the swimmerets.
- Touch the swimmerets.
— If they are hard and bony, the lobster is a male.
— If they feel soft and feathery, the lobster is a female.
In other words, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure this one out.
Note: be sure to have rubber bands in place on the lobster’s claws before attempting to identify his/her private parts.
Nobody can tell you about lobster better than Julia Child. Click here to see her PBS show, called The French Chef. Need something a little more contemporary? Click here to watch “How to cook and eat lobster”.
Cool Tip: To get the meat out of the little legs, all eight of them, use a rolling pin and roll from one end of the leg to the other and the meat will pop right out.
The terms “shrimp” and “prawn” are used interchangeably by markets and restaurants even though they are biologically different. The culinary world distinguishes the two based on size.
There are over 300 species of shrimp, and thousands of varieties. All have their own characteristics of color, flavor, texture, and cooking preference.
Fresh shrimp should have firm bodies that are still attached to their shells. They should be free of black spots on their shell since this indicates that the flesh has begun to break down. The shells should not appear yellow or gritty as this may be indicative that a chemical has been used to bleach them.
U.S. farmed shrimp is by far the best choice.
For Monterey Seafood Watch’s extensive list of the best shrimp to buy click here.
Benefits of Shrimp
Shrimp is a great source of B-12, selenium and unusually low-fat, low-calorie protein. A four-ounce serving of shrimp supplies 23.7 grams of protein for a mere 112 calories and less than a gram of fat.
Did you know?
- 1 BILLION pounds of shrimp are eaten each year by Americans.
- A shrimp’s head is 50% of its body.
- A shrimp’s heart is in its head.
Rona was assigned Yaam Goong (Spicy Prawn Salad) that was healthy and very tasty. Click here to see the recipe on Rona’s blog.
She also included a recipe for Thai Green Curry with Mussels, click here for that recipe.
I was assigned to grill shrimp with a refreshing mint pesto. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves
- zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon, zested with a zester
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1 ½ lbs. medium shrimp
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 serrano chile, seeded
- 1 large bunch of fresh mint (leaves only) – or 2 small ones
- 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the first six ingredients in a medium bowl. Add shrimp, cover and refrigerate while you prepare the pesto.
- Combine pine nuts, garlic and chili in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth.
- Add mint and lemon juice and process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Gradually add the oil and process until mint pesto is smooth and creamy.
- Set aside.
- Skewer the shrimp on the metal skewers and grill until done, just about a minute per side. Serve with the pesto.
Nobody knows what to do with shrimp (a.k.a. fruit of the sea) like Bubba Blue.
Quote of the Day
“Most seafoods…should be simply threatened with heat and then celebrated with joy.” Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet)
I don’t know… kind of sounds like love to me.
…and then she paused for thought
Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.