12 Things You Didn't Know About Seafood
A lobster’s two claws serve two very different purposes.
Lobsters have one claw that is slightly larger than the other—this larger claw (which can exert up to 100 pounds of pressure) is used for crushing the hard shells of food sources, like clams, crabs, or other lobsters. The other smaller claw is used for tearing the soft flesh of food sources.
The “grade” of crab meat is determined by what part of the crab it comes from.
Large and succulent Jumbo-lump pieces—typically the most desired and priciest grade—comes from the crab’s muscular swimming legs. Claw meat, which has a darker reddish color and stronger crabby flavor, is the least expensive grade as it is easier to extract from the shell and offers a less mild creamy flavor—it’s the “dark meat” of the crab. Put the two together for a perfect balance.
The oysters we eat are not the same oysters that supply pearls.
The family of edible oysters, Ostreidae (or “true” oysters), that we find on menus or on ice at the marina are not the oysters that supply pearls—the mothers of pearls are an all-together different family. The treasure kept within the oysters we eat is their flavor.
Tip for the cook: Be sure to keep your oyster liquor; it makes a radiant addition to sauces and soups, like clam chowder.
Do you know what Poke is? It’s all the rage.
Less pretentious than sushi or ceviche, Hawaii’s own poke (chunks of raw fish—typically tuna—dressed in a soy sauce and sesame oil marinade and pronounced poh-keh) reins the current trendiest vehicle for raw fish across the mainland. This craze is a product of persistently increasing popularity of Hawaiian food across the country over the past 2-3 years. While ahi tuna is the typical choice, this traditionally casual Hawaiian fare can be made with any variety of sushi-grade fish. A great companion to another steady nationwide trend, meal bowls, poke is often served in the context of a rice or grain bowl with other components such as avocado. Some great spots to find poke include: Mainland Poke Shop in LA, Noreetuh in NYC, and BIG & Little’s in Chicago (for poke tacos).
Gulf red snapper is often mislabeled.
Are you sure that’s red snapper? In a 2012 study by ocean conservation group Oceana, 33% of the seafood it sampled from retail outlets across 21 states was mislabeled. Gulf red snapper was found to be the most commonly mislabeled fish in this survey—with only seven of the 120 samples of “snapper” purchased nationwide proving to actually be red snapper, ne of the most iconic, desired, and economically lucrative fish in the Gulf of Mexico. What’s labeled and sold as red snapper in grocery stores and other retail markets is often a cheaper, more plentiful white fish such as tilapia.
Crawfish were the first to be claimed as an official state crustacean.
By Louisiana, of course. They are also recognized as crayfish, mudbugs, crawdads, and freshwater lobsters. Crawfish have eight legs; four are used for walking and four are used for swimming. They walk forwards, but swim backwards.
Tip for the cook: When planning a crawfish boil, assume you’ll need about two pounds per person.
Back in the day, lobster was lowly.
Believe it or not, lobster used to be considered lowly poverty food in colonial New England. Cheap and overly abundant, they were mostly consumed by the poor and prisoners.
Kelp is more than tasty.
Bullwhip kelp, the most commonly foraged variety, is incredibly nutrient dense. This variety of brown seaweed is rich in bromine, bulk fiber, calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K.
Gulf red snappers become big mamas.
Gulf red snappers mature at a variety of sizes. The most common range between 1.5 to 10 pounds, but snappers in the 20 to lower 30’s pound range are by no means abnormal. The older and larger a snapper is, the more eggs they produce. A snapper on the smaller side of the spectrum produces less than 500 eggs per spawn, while a larger snapper can produce over 2 million eggs per spawn.
Biodegradable golf balls have been constructed out of lobster shells.
Yeah, we’re not making that up. In 2011, a University of Maine professor developed a biodegradable golf ball using lobster shells to reduce waste.
Our solution to reducing waste is throwing those lobster shells in a stockpot with aromatics and water to boil up some grade-A rich stock. If you don’t have an immediate use for it, store it in the freezer for up to 4 to 6 months.
A flakey white fish is the traditional (and arguably best) choice for Baja fish tacos.
Think mahi mahi, grouper, sea bass, and red snapper.
Tip for the cook: Using carbonation—beer or club soda—in fish taco fish frying batter is an easy trick to create that signature airy-crisp coating.
What is uni, anyways?
Uni (the Japanese term for “Sea Urchin”) refers to the edible portion of a sea urchin: the gonads. Once a delicacy rarely found beyond the sushi counter, uni has in recent years become a highly-regarded, highly-demanded item relished by food enthusiasts and chefs alike. No longer restricted to nigiri, uni is making acclaimed appearances on menus across the board—from being smoked and placed on a pile of buccatini pasta at NYC’s all’onda to being layered into a comforting toasty sandwich at El Quinto Pinto.
Tip for the cook: Uni should appear firm and slick, yet dry. If it looks to be wet, mushy, and generally gross (like the scooped out innards of a pumpkin)… that means you’re not looking at something fresh. And you should not put it in your mouth.