I got hooked on seafood when I was a kid.
My dad and his friend had feasts in our apartment in New York. I was under 5, but I can remember the shrimp and fried bay scallops.
Moving to Florida introduced me to a treasure trove of the ocean’s offerings. My dad had crab traps hanging below the dock behind our house. He’d dump all our dinner scraps on them to attrack blue and stone craps. He went fishing all the time, too.
In college, I dove into the raw realm of sushi, and never turned-back.
Moving to the Upstate of South Carolina brought me closer to the coast, and a chance for fresh fare.
The truth is, though, that a lot of seafood you see has been frozen. Unless the store or restaurant has a pier poking out its back door, chances are the catch of the day spent a day thawing. And that’s OK!
Just be careful. Know what you’re buying. If it stinks, leave it alone. If you’re really worried, find a shop with a fish monger – that’s a seafood seller, not a cartoon character or an instrument used to mutilate Shamu. Whole Foods and The Fresh Market have a nice selection and someone behind the counter who can help.
Crab and shrimp are my favorites. I love mussels that are cooked in a flavorful broth or fiery marinara. Lobster is good, but not worth the cash – in my opinion. I can take or leave fish, fish – like tilapia and salmon. My rule of thumb, or fin, is to try it all and then make a decision.
Mahi-mahi wouldn’t usually make me happy-happy, but at Hoskins’, a quaint diner-like treat in North Myrtle Beach, it’s used in tacos that I can’t stop craving. Fish tacos? Try them.
Sea scallops are big (golfball), bay scallops are little (mini marshmallows).
The bay variety lend themselves to frying, I think. It’s sister from the sea can be fried, but is best left without an oily jacket built from breadcrumbs. You can overcook a sea scallop just by looking at it. Seriously.
They’re buttery and sweet with a smooth, tender texture. Unless you cook it to death. It’s dead already, OK? I can’t make that point enough.
This candy of the sea is actually good for you (most seafood is healthy, until you fry it or cover it in some goopy sauce). Scallops are more than 80% protein! They can be pricy, though. I’ve seen them at about $19.99 per pound. Two of them recently cost me just under $7.
You want dry-packed scallops. That means they were shucked and frozen, not bathed in chemical preservatives. The dry kind is better for you and will cook better, too. Ask before you buy.
Put a pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Let the butter melt. The pan should practically be smoking hot. Add the scallops.
Let them cook for 3 minutes. Don’t move them, talk dirty to them or wink their way. Leave them alone. After three minutes, flip ’em. You’ll notice that the side that just cooked is golden brown – there’s almost a candied-crust on it. Cook the other side for a minute and quickly spoon some of the butter, which will be brown and deeply flavorful, over the scallops. Then move them to a dish. They’ll continue cooking. If you leave them on the heat and overcook them, you may as well just save the money a and buy a pack of No. 2 pencils, then chew on the erasers.
I made a wasabi sauce:
That kind of oil is a little pricy, but it’s worth it. You’ll get a deep flavor from it. Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) paste, like the sesame oil, can be found in the Asian section of your favorite store. The paste comes in a little tube that’s tucked in a box.
So you don’t feel bad about buying a tube of wasabi just for this, here’s a tip:
Make this dip and serve it with blanched asparagus (boil water, toss in the spears, wait 2 minutes, take them out and put them in a big bowl of ice water to cool).
1 cup mayonnaise
4 tsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. lime juice
4 tsp. wasabi paste
There’s always a deal – if you catch it. The other day, I found crab legs for $4.99 per pound. I would’ve paid $35 for 3 1/2 pounds, but I paid $17 instead. At a restaurant, one pound will run you at least $17. These were already cooked. I just had to thaw them and steam them.
Either way, doing it yourself will be cheaper, tastier, and healthier than letting Mrs. Paul, Gorton’s, or the local shack do it for you!
Tip: Let’s talk sauces. Cocktail for shrimp (or crab) and butter for crab (or lobster).
I always have ketchup and Sriracha in my kitchen. Sriracha is a Thai chili paste that’ll light you on fire faster than a Bic. Mix the two and you’ve got a good cocktail sauce. Who needs a bottle of the red goop, anyway? And, you certainly don’t need a jar of horseradish taking up space in the fridge.
My dad and my stepmom eat crab so often that they bought little contraptions that keep a small butter dish suspended over a tea-light. If you’re a butter-lover on a budget, try this: Once your crab is almost done steaming, use the microwave to melt a few tablespoons of butter in a ramekin. When the crab’s done, take a coffee cup and scoop out some of the water you used for steaming. It’ll be hot, so be careful! Set the ramekin on the mug. The hot water will keep your butter nice and runny. Don’t have a mug or ramekin? Try it with two bowls, just don’t overfill the bottom bowl with the hot water!