Saturday, March 29, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 12 (Part 1)

We covered shellfish this week, so that was good. Did you know that in Maine, their lobster goes for about 3.99 per pound? It's expensive elsewhere because it needs to be shipped.

First up: crustaceans. Live at the bottom of the ocean. Soft, pliable shells. Damn tasty, too. I added that last part myself.

Ever wonder what the difference is between prawns and shrimp? Wonder no longer! They're the same thing, although prawns are larger. Local shrimp can come from waters anywhere from Alaska to San Diego. Farmed shrimp are fine to eat, but they are bad in terms of the environment and waste. If you can't buy or use fresh shrimp, buy frozen, defrost it in the fridge and use within 48 hours.

Also, ever wonder why shrimp are served with the tail on? Because it makes them look bigger, makes it look like you're getting more bang for your buck.

Wild shrimp, and lots of them.

Spot prawns, about to give their all for our
culinary educations.

Spot prawns, having given their all for our
culinary educations.

Dungeness crabs come from waters from the west coast up to Alaska. The season for catching them runs from November/December through early spring. There is no such thing as farmed Dungeness crab - they're all wild caught. Dungeness crabs also do not molt.

Spider crabs (King Crabs, Snow Crabs) have smaller bodies and longer legs. In other words, they kind of look like spiders. With spider crabs, you only eat the leg meat, nothing from the body.

On the east coast you have blue crabs. They are hard-shelled crabs that molt and when they molt, the new shell is soft. They are small - the largest blue is smaller than the smallest Dungeness. A lot of blue crabs sold in California actually come from Mexico, as the east coast likes to keep their blue crabs.

Imitation crab is usually composed of haddock or pollock.

I'm not much of a crab person, I did like these crab
cakes, although that might have been due to the
mayo as much as the crab cakes.

Except for a cousin that lives off the coast of France (what a life!) no other lobster has the Maine's sweet taste. The Lobster on the Santa Monica Pier has Maine lobsters shipped daily.The west coast is home to the Pacific Rock Lobster, which tastes completely different from Maine lobster. You can now get permits to catch lobster off the South Bay, Palos Verdes and San Pedro.

Lobster is not farmed. They're very plentiful off the east coast, where they blanket the sea floor.

Maine lobsters about to join their spot prawn
brothers in sacrifice.

Clams should always be rinsed right before cooking. Throw away if there is any cracking or damage to the shell. Clams cook quickly and are cooked to order, not held. Their shells open as they cook; any unopened clams should not be served, but should be thrown away.

The most sustainable and are both farmed and in the wild. The beard is part of their filtering system and should be removed just before cooking when rinsing. They cook like clams.

Scallops can move pretty quickly in the ocean. They swim by clapping their shells together. If you search on You Tube, you can find a number of videos showing them in action. Scallops are mild and can take lively sauces. They also have a good texture for ceviche. Be sure they are dry before you cook them.

Oysters should be served fresh (as soon as shucked). Can be cooked (ex: Oysters Rockefeller) and are often found in traditional New England Thanksgiving stuffings. We got a chance to shuck and it's nowhere as easy as shuckers make it look. I've tried oysters a couple of times (including this week) and just can't wrap my head around the appeal.

We also had to fabricate squid, which kind of gross, although the little fried calamari rings I turned him into were delicious!



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