Posts Tagged With: Fish and Seafood

354/365: National Fried Shrimp Day*

Today’s dish delivers big flavors in a small package. December 20 is National Fried Shrimp Day!

And though out of season, it is also National Sangria Day. This spiked punch, which originated in Spain, is made with red wine, brandy, simple syrup, and fresh fruit. Lots of it. You could shake Carmen Miranda’s hat over the punchbowl and still not have enough for a proper pitcher. Since there isn’t much fresh fruit in season the week before Christmas, we’re celebrating fried shrimp instead.

Shrimp have been an important food source for eons. By eons, I mean, a really long time! Archaeologists in 1991 discovered ancient raised paved areas near the coast of Chiapas, Mexico that they theorized were used for drying shrimp in the sun, and clay hearths nearby were substituted when there was no sun. Physical evidence of shrimping dating back to 600 AD was discovered off the southeastern coast of North America, evidence that Native Americans in that region incorporated the crustacean into their diets. And in the 3rd century AD, the Greek author Athenaeus wrote “… of all fish the daintiest is a young shrimp in fig leaves.” I don’t know about the fig leaves, but I’ll agree with the shrimp. There’s a reason it’s the most popular seafood in the U.S., after all! They can be cooked and eaten using a variety of techniques. Just ask Bubba from Forrest Gump! Today, of course, we’re asked to enjoy them fried. Well, okay…if you insist!

We drove up to Seattle for an early Christmas visit with Tara’s mom and family today. On the way, we stopped at Mrs. Beesley’s, a favorite roadside burger stand, for a fried shrimp basket.

National Fried Shrimp Day

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

275/365: National Fried Scallops Day

You may have to shell out a few bucks to enjoy today’s food of honor, because it’s a delicacy from the sea. October 2 is Fried Scallops Day.

Scallops are one of my favorite seafoods, and everything tastes better fried. This should be a match made in heaven! But, because I enjoy scallops so much on their own – seared and/or sauteed are delicious – I almost think frying them is a waste. In my opinion, they’d be better straight up. Fortunately, we already enjoyed baked scallops earlier this year. If you want the history of this prized seafood, click on the link. We also divulged in Coquille St. Jacques, a French dish made with scallops, back in May, so we’ve definitely paid homage to the succulent bivalve.

To celebrate, my mom offered to take over the cooking reins for this challenge. She pan fried some wild caught Patagonian scallops with white wine and fresh herbs, and served them as an appetizer. They were divine! Thanks, mom!! (Looking forward to your comment below).

National Fried Scallops Day

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

268/365: National Crab Meat Newburg Day

You’ll have to claw your way to the seafood aisle in order to enjoy today’s food holiday. September 25 is National Crab Meat Newburg Day!

Crab Newburg evolved from Lobster Newburg, a dish invented by sea captain Ben Wenberg, who had become quite wealthy thanks to the “fruits” of his labor. Literally: he was involved in the fruit trade between Cuba and New York. When Ben wasn’t sailing the high seas, he enjoyed dining at Delmonico’s in NYC. One day he walked in and announced he’d discovered a new way to cook lobster. Charles Delmonico brought him a chafing dish, and he cooked the lobster at the table. Mr. Delmonico was so impressed with the end result he added the dish to his menu and named it in Ben’s honor, Lobster a la Wenberg. It became a big hit with diners, but was removed from the menu after Delmonico and Wenberg got into a skirmish over something, and Ben was banned from the restaurant. Patrons still demanded the dish, so Charles simply rearranged the letters – “Wenberg” became “Newberg” – and added it back to the menu. Creative chefs began substituting shrimp, frog’s legs, and crab in the dish, and for some reason these alternate versions dropped the second “e” in favor of a “u” to make it Newburg. We’ll always remember you though, Ben!

The timing of this holiday was fortunate, considering the leftover Dungeness crab we’ve got from our wedding weekend. We simply had to defrost that, extract the meat, and follow this recipe. What gives the dish its distinct flavor is cream and sherry. Actually, we were out of sherry, but substituted vermouth instead (left over from our martini challenge). I loved this meal, and couldn’t get enough of it! Tara wasn’t quite as impressed, but still enjoyed it.

National Crab Meat Newburg Day

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

217/365: National Oyster Day*

Flash those pearl-y whites as you shell out a few dollars if you’re planning on enjoying today’s food holiday. August 5 is National Oyster Day!

And enjoy you should. Oysters are tasty delicacies meant to be savored. And, they have alleged aphrodisiac properties. That’s what is called a win/win, people!

Oysters are a group of bivalve mollusks that live in saltwater. They have been an important food source for as long as man has roamed the earth; there is plentiful evidence of ancient mounds of oyster shells in many prehistoric sites throughout the world. Oyster farming and cultivation dates back to the Roman Empire. Casanova, infamous ladies’ man of the 18th century, allegedly made a habit of consuming 50 oysters every morning for breakfast, helping to fuel the myth that oysters are aphrodisiacs, a notion that began when Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love – rose from the sea on an oyster shell. (The fact that she purportedly ordered “Somebody get me a freakin’ towel, I’m dripping wet here!” has been lost to history, no doubt in an attempt to maintain the illusion of sexiness in the story). It turns out there’s some truth to the theory, actually; oysters are rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Oysters, like caviar, were once so plentiful in New York Harbor they were a cheap food for the working class, but overfishing dramatically dropped their population levels to the point that they are now considered a delicacy. Stories like this make me wonder whether hot dogs will be viewed as a rare delicacy that commands outrageous prices in another hundred years or so.

A Portland landmark since 1907.

A Portland landmark since 1907.

There are many different ways to enjoy oysters: they can be eaten raw, smoked, baked, fried, boiled, steamed, stewed, pickled, etc. Probably the best way to eat them is the simplest: on the half shell, raw (they are actually alive when you eat them – not that this should gross you out or anything), with a squeeze of lemon juice, a spoonful of mignonette, a dash of hot sauce, and perhaps a bit of horseradish, to suit your tastes. Oysters take on the flavor of the water from where they are harvested, and can taste sweet, salty, buttery, or metallic. East Coast oysters tend to be thin and mild-tasting, while West Coast oysters are plumper and more flavorful, often described as creamy and sweet.

Up until a few months ago, Tara and I both thought we hated oysters. Then one day, on a whim, we ordered a couple as an appetizer while at a trendy bar in Portland, and were blown away. We have since had them several times, and now count them as a delicious delicacy, savoring their briny flavor whenever possible. So we were quite happy when this holiday rolled around! The fact that it’s also National Waffle Day barely registered. There was only one food item we were interested in celebrating, and that was the oyster, baby.

What better place to celebrate than Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, Portland’s oldest family-owned restaurant? This landmark spot dates back to 1907, and is located above the city’s famed Shanghai Tunnels. There’s even a glass pane in the floor where you can look down and see the tunnel below your feet. Not only does Dan and Louis ooze history, they know how to do oysters! As you’d expect. We shared a half-dozen Pacific oysters, including our favorite, Pickering oysters from Puget Sound. Sweet, mellow, and delicious. Today’s food holiday was pretty awesome!

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

71/365: National Baked Scallops Day

Three days after celebrating crabmeat, we honor another delicious seafood: March 12 is Baked Scallops Day! Scallops have long been a personal fave of mine (much like crab), so this has been a fun past few days.

Scallops are characterized by a brightly colored, fan-shaped shell. The word comes from the French escalope, which means “shell.” It doesn’t get much more literal than that. Scallops symbolize female fertility; many paintings of the goddess Venus include a scallop shell to help identify her. The scallop shell also symbolizes the setting sun, and Greedy Ass Big Oil Conglomerates (it is the logo for Shell). But we’ll overlook that, since the meat is so damn tasty. Scallops are considered a delicacy around much of the world, prized for their mild, sweet flavor and nutritious properties. In the U.S., we generally eat the abductor muscle, the white and meaty part of the scallop. In other parts of the world, scallops are eaten whole (though presumably this does not include the shell). Scallops are broken down into two different categories: bay scallops and sea scallops. The main difference is in the size; sea scallops are considerably larger, making them a better choice for pan searing. Scallop season runs from November to March, but frozen scallops are available year-round.

I picked up some sea scallops from the seafood counter at Fred Meyer after work. They were $18.99 a pound, which is just a tad pricey, so I asked for 1/2 a pound. Chuckled when I ended up with a whopping 4 scallops. But there are four of us this week, since I’ve got my kids, so I simply baked the scallops as an appetizer, and we had fish (cod) for dinner. The recipe was pretty simple and, as you might guess, delicious!

Baked Scallops

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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