Photos by Cathy Arkle
Crustaceans crawl around the bottom of the ocean eating all the stuff the other fish drop. At least, that’s how I picture them in my head. They are, however, some of the tastiest animals on the planet, so I’ll forgive them their lack of judgment on their food choices.
May had live samples of many of the shellfish I’ve mentioned in both today’s column and in Part One. She made a lobster salad with tarragon mayonnaise as an extra treat for us while we cooked our assignments. I’m not a huge fan of tarragon, so I’ll use dill as a substitute. Let me know if you want this recipe and I will include it in another article…
All crustaceans have an exoskeleton and are jointed. The lovely lobster has two varieties: the Spiny, which has no claws and a hard, spiky shell and the Clawed, the famous Maine lobster is obvious example here. There are Langoustines, which are small and have a richer, stronger flavor. These come from the Mediterranean. You can get the tails in most frozen food sections.
The most flavorful size for your basic Maine lobster is usually less than 2 pounds. They’re a little younger and a little sweeter. May suggests you keep the rubber bands on their claws until their done cooking. I guess she doesn’t want them pushing their way out of the put or pinching your nose before you send them swimming. Boiling and broiling are the most common ways to cook them.
Hurry! Dungeness crab season is happening right now. They are fat, meaty, big creatures. Crab meat is most often taken from the legs, although you can get lump meat from the body which is fabulous in crab cakes and salads. The East Coast is known for their Blue/Chesapeake Bay crabs. They’re a little thinner and flatter. The Alaskans have their King, Spider and Snow crabs where the legs are about 9 feet long. Ok, I’m prone to exaggeration, but they are pretty large!
These are the most popular of all the shellfish. HOWEVER, you have to be really careful where you get these from! Do NOT buy any from anywhere near Asia, as their farming practices are a bit suspect. American wild and farmed shrimp are the best choices.
Shrimp comes in a lot of different colors and types: tiger, white, spotted and brown are popular variations. If possible, cook your shrimp in their shells, as the shells give you a lot of flavor. That’s why you use the shells to make shrimp bisque! I bet anyone reading this will have cooked shrimp in some way. That’s the beauty of these little guys-you can cook them any way you want….as long as you don’t overcook them. Oh, by the way, for the most part, prawns are just really big shrimp. In reality, true prawns are gotten from Asia, but because of the way they raise fish and shellfish, you won’t find true prawns here.
Someone asked about crawfish. Popular around the Gulf Coast, these are fresh water crustaceans with a lovely, intense flavor. Try some in stews and soup.
There were some awesome recipes given out for us to make this night. Cathy and I both got shrimp recipes. Hers is an awesome one on skewers with a mint pesto. Go to Cathy’s Blog to see it. Mine is below. I am definitely making this one again. It’s even HEALTHY! I think May gave me this one on purpose. Thanks, May!
Yaam Goong (Spicy Prawn Salad)
- 1 head red lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 lb large prawn or shrimp, peeled, deveined and boiled. (I butterflied mine while raw, so they looked pretty after cooking)
- One ½” piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
- 1 small red onion, julienned
- 2 serrano chilies, thinly sliced (take the seeds out-it’s REALLY spicy with them left in)
- 1 stalk lemongrass, very thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsps Thai fish sauce
- 1/3 C lime juice
- Salt and pepper
- 2 scallions, sliced
- ½ bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- Leaves from 3 sprigs of mint
- Put the lettuce leaves on the bottom of a platter.
- Arrange the prawns, ginger, onions and chilies on top.
- Combine the lemongrass, garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and pepper.
- Taste for salt. Spoon over salad.
- Garnish with scallions, cilantro and mint.