I am so excited to introduce Life Where We Are’s first guest blogger–Chef Kyle Groves of Catch Restaurant and Oyster Bar is not only a really great chef, he is a really great guy. He also happens to be the first chef that I trusted enough to serve me an oyster! I know, you are already impressed, right? Here’s more… Calgary’s Avenue Magazine just released their list of Top 40 Under 40 for 2013 and Chef Kyle Groves is one of the 40! (Check out that link to find out more about Kyle and his amazing accomplishments.) Chef Groves also shared an easy recipe for a Lobster Grill, so read through to the end of the post to make sure you don’t miss it.
Six tips every home cook should know for the handling and preparation of seafood.
By: Kyle Groves
People always ask me for tips and tricks when it comes to seafood. I always tell them that the most important thing is to buy the best freshest seafood available. It’s really that simple. When shopping, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Cheap sushi = old sushi. Cheap seafood = … well, you get the point. That being said, you don’t need to break the bank to get great seafood. You can certainly buy lobster or crab and pay a premium, but you can also buy clams and mussels that taste awesome! Or buy wild BC salmon and halibut, neither are wildly expensive and both are part of a healthy diet.
Here are six tricks and tips for cooking and buying great seafood:
1. Buy Fresh
One of the biggest tricks for amazing seafood is simply to buy great seafood. There are many options when it comes to buying seafood such as fresh vs. frozen, wild vs. farmed or whole vs. fillets.
Although frozen seafood has come a long way over the years, when it comes to buying smaller quantities of fish (like you would typically use in your home) fresh is the way to go. Fresh fish should look fresh. What does that mean? It means that if the fish is whole the eyes should be clear, not cloudy. The flesh should be firm, not soft. The gills should be bright red, not brown. Finally it SHOULD smell like fish (remember, it IS fish), but it should not smell fishy. If you smell it and it has a strong smell to it, pick another piece.- Or another place to shop.
Shellfish should be tightly closed or closed tight once agitated. Remember that clams, mussels, and oysters need to be alive before you cook them.
Lobsters should be alive, heavy for their size and feisty. Another trick is to find the lobsters with the longest antennae. Lobsters that have been in a tank for a while will eat the antennae so it’s a giveaway that they have been in the tank and not in the ocean!
2. Think Sustainable
Sustainable seafood is the only way forward if we want to have seafood in the future. Currently the world fisheries are expected to collapse in 2048, more than 90% of all large predatory fish have been caught, and overfishing is rampant.
More and more programs are being formed to educate consumers on choices that they can make to impact the world’s oceans. Ocean Wise is a program created by the Vancouver aquarium that aims to educate consumers and restaurants about sustainable seafood options.
So what is sustainable seafood?
Ocean Wise categorizes it with these four criteria:
- Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures.
- Well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research.
- Harvested in a method that ensures limited by catch on non-target and endangered species.
- Harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.
An easy way to means of finding sustainable seafood sits right in your pocket/purse. Your mobile phone can download a quick app (like the free Ocean Wise app) which will guide you to where you can purchase sustainable seafood and also to help decide which items are considered sustainable.
Some of the biggest offenders are the most commercially available seafood. Tiger prawns and Atlantic salmon are some of the worst culprits, and cause massive damage to the ecosystems that they are found in.
Though these two items are easy to find, you can find great alternatives like wild BC salmon or halibut that are just as easy to find. You could also search for spot prawn or selva prawns. Both are certainly harder to find, but worth the extra effort.
3) Don’t Over Complicate
A mistake many people make when cooking fish is to over complicate it. They add spices, herbs, rubs, and marinades – All to mask the flavour of the fish. All you need to enhance and highlight a delicious piece of fish is a little butter or olive oil, salt, and a squeeze of lemon.
Remember that fish should taste like fish.
Try this the next time you are cooking a piece of fish (such as wild salmon or halibut) at home.
Heat a frying pan and add a little oil or butter. Season the fish with a little salt and then place it in the pan. Don’t fuss with it. Let it brown slightly on one side and then put the whole pan in a 350F oven for about 5 minutes. Remove it from the oven, flip the fish over and squeeze a little lemon on it. Serve the fish with a simple salad or some great vegetables.
Remember that fish doesn’t take long to cook so have everything else ready to go before you cook it.
Alternatively, put the fish on a piece of parchment paper, season with salt and a little olive oil then bake the fish for about 5 to 7 minutes. A small toaster oven is the perfect tool for cooking fish fillets in (not a toaster, toaster oven. This is very important).
Remember that fish is simple to cook. Try not to over complicate it.
4) Don’t Overcook
So often people cook fish much longer than required. If you have fresh fish remember this – They eat it raw in a sushi restaurant. If they don’t need to cook it to death in a sushi restaurant, then you don’t need to do it at home.
Cook salmon to medium, cook tuna until it’s rare, cook halibut to medium well (135F), cook mussels and clams until just after they open. Fish should be served warm, not hot. If it’s piping hot then it’s a good possibility that it’s overlooked or it’s well on its way to being so.
A great way to test it is to take a metal cake skewer and pierce the fish. Hold the skewer there for five seconds and then hold the skewer right underneath your bottom lip. It should feel warm but not so hot that it’s uncomfortable.
Let grandma or the cat eat the dry, well-done piece of salmon. You know better. At least now you do.
5) Develop a Relationship with a Local Fish Monger.
Step one. Say hello and ask them what’s fresh today. Buy that fish. If the fish is really good (as it should be) then the next time you go in, tell them how much you appreciated the advice. Ask about sustainability, ask about fresh vs. frozen. They will appreciate a few questions and it shows that you know enough to ask smart questions. If you need something special, call a week ahead of time and they will be happy to arrange it. Get to know them and they will hook you up (yes, the pun was intended).
6) Make it Fun
Kids love fun. Kids love food. Make food fun. Simple right?
Have fun with seafood! Have a lobster boil in the summer in your backyard. Lay down some newspaper on top of the picnic table and dump your steamed seafood all over it and sit down to a feast. (See attached recipe) Let everyone have fun and get messy. If that’s too much for you, try steaming some fresh mussels. Use crusty bread to mop up the juices in the pan. Teach your kids about moules and frites!
How about oysters? Get some fresh oysters and shuck them then get the kids to try them. I have seen lots of kids love oysters when their parents are too scared to even try one. Tell dad that he’s being a chicken if he won’t try one…. Unless he’s allergic, then go get a tuna sandwich.
Seafood is something that worries lots of people but if you stick by these six tips you will realize how tasty and simple that seafood can be. Remember that you don’t need to be a pro to cook seafood, but if you are still worried then you can always come visit us at Catch & The Oyster Bar.
- 4 to 6 Lobsters, 1.5lbs each depending on the amount of people (preferably Ocean Wise)
- 5 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
- 10 ears of Corn
- 2 lbs Manila Clams
- 3 lbs peeled and deveined Shrimp (preferably ocean wise)
- 1 lb Butter
- 5 Lemons cut into quarters
- 2 TBS Old Bay Spice (Silk Road Spice Merchants makes a great one)
- Put the lobsters into boiling salted water for about 6 minutes
- Peel and boil the corn on the cob for about 5 minutes
- Cut Yukon gold potatoes in half and toss with salt, pepper, and some butter
- Wrap the potatoes in a foil pouch and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft
- Once the lobsters are cooked, split them in half (lengthwise) and rinse out the insides
- Place the lobster, cut side down, on the BBQ and grill for another 5 minutes
- At the same time put the corn cobs on the grill
- Flip the lobster over and brush the meat with melted butter, remove from grill
- In the meantime place a tinfoil bag of clams on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes until the clams open
- Finally toss the shrimp with a little butter and seasoning and put them on the grill for about 2-3 minutes depending on the size
- Once everything is cooked put it all together onto a large serving platter covered with newspaper
- Garnish with lemon halves (and seaweed if available)
- Serve family style with melted butter and lots of napkins