Shell Fish

Food Facts covered below are for abalone, clams, crab, crayfish, langostinos, lobster, mussels, oyster, scallops, shrimp and squid,

Shell Fish Facts

Abalone:  The edible portion is the foot, which is very tough and needs to be pounded into tenderness. Has been so over-fished that they are becoming rare. The price is very high and they are considered the delicacy of shellfish.

Clams:  Hard-shells are the most sought after. Soft shell clams cannot close its shell because its neck sas out too far. The largest soft-shell is the geoduck, which may weigh up to three pounds. Sea clams are usually used for canning or in packaged soups.

If you dig your own clams, you must purge them of sand and debris before eating. Allow the clams to stand 20 to 25 minutes in clear sea water. The water should be changed at least three to four times to be sure they are free of residues.

Crab:  Blue crab is from the Atlantic and Gulf areas. Dungeness is caught in the Pacific Ocean. King and snow crab are caught in the north off the coast of Canada and Alaska. Stone crab comes from Florida. Soft shell crab comes in four sizes; spiders, which are the bare legal size of 3-1/2 inches across, hotel prime at 4 to 4-1/2 inches, prime at 5-5-1/2 inches and jumbo at 6 to 7 inches across.

Crayfish:  Small freshwater crustaceans. Louisiana produces about 20 million pounds a year. Similar to shrimp, all the meat is in the tail. Also called crawdads.

Langostinos:  A crustacean, sometimes sold as rock shrimp. Usually sold frozen and used mainly in soups and salads.

Lobster:  Two main lobsters are sold in the United States. They are Maine and Spiney. The most prized Maine lobster is excellent tasting and more sought after. The Spiney lobster has most of the meat in the tail and has smaller claws. The Newburg in lobster means that the recipe contains a cream and sherry mixture. Newburg pertains to an old Scottish fishing village.

Mussels: Mussel farming is becoming a popular business. They are raised on ropes, which keep them from the silty bottom, thus making them cleaner and more salable. When grown in this manner, they are also twice the size of ordinary mussels.

If a shell isn’t tightly closed, test to see if the mussel is alive. Thump the shell with your fingers or insert the tip of a knife. The shell should close immediately. Discard any mussels that stay open or have cracked shells.

To clean mussels, scrub with a stiff brush, then pull off the beards or remove them with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Place the mussels in very cold water and rub the shells together to remove any remaining debris. Or scrub with a vegetable brush.

Oyster: Over 90 million pounds are consumed worldwide. About 50 percent are now aquafarmed. The flavor and texture will vary depending on where they are harvested.

Don’t worry about eating oysters when there’s no “r” in the name of the month. They’re edible year round (but in summer they are more palatable cooked than raw).

You can tell if an oyster is fresh because its shell is firmly closed or snaps shut when tapped. If it’s already shucked, check for a clean, sea-sweet odor and clear liquid.

A “drunken” oyster is much easier to open than a sober one. Carbon dioxide does the trick. After five minutes in carbonated water, its muscles relax and the shell is a cinch to open.

Caught at the shore without a knife? Set oysters on hot rocks close to the fire – they will open right up. Or wrap them in wet seaweed and lay them on hot coals for a minute or two.

Cook sucked oysters quickly on low heat so that they don’t become tough. The best way is to poach them gently in hot milk or sauce, just until the edges curl.

If you are broiling oysters, steady them in the pan by setting them in rock salt or propping them with crumples of aluminum foil.

Scallops:  A mollusk that dies very quickly when removed from the water. They should not be over-cooked or will become tough. They are usually shucked at the time they are caught and placed on ice. There are over 400 varieties of sea scallops.

Shrimp:  There are over 250 varieties of shrimp. They are classified as number of shrimp per pound. The jumbo shrimp should average 16 to 25 per pound, large shrimp average 20 to 32 per pound, and medium shrimp average 28 to 40 per pound, while tiny ocean shrimp can average over 70 per pound. One pound of raw shrimp will yield one-half to three-quarter pound after cooking. Large shrimp are called prawns. White shrimp are milder in flavor and more expensive than brown. Brown feed more on algae and have a stronger iodine taste.

  • To peel shrimp quickly, use kitchen scissors. Cut the shrimp shell from top to bottom. The shell and the vein will easily slip off.
  • If shrimp has a slight ammonia smell, it is deteriorating.
  • The FDA has taken action against some firms that over-bread shrimp to raise the weight and price.
  • Shrimp may have more cholesterol than any other shellfish but are very low in saturated fat.
  • Shrimp with heads are more perishable than those without their heads.
  • A shrimp head contains almost all its organs including most of the digestive system.
  • The dark colored intestinal tube running down a shrimp’s back is okay to eat as long as it is cooked. However, it may be a little gritty due to the bacteria and other residues of digestion. The bacteria are killed by cooking the shrimp.
  • Shrimp deteriorates very quickly and should be used the same day you purchase it, or at least no later than the next day. Never refreeze thawed shrimp; most of the shrimp you buy has been frozen. If you wish to keep it longer, buy it frozen solid.

Squid:  Usually not thought of as shellfish. Normally called calamari. To keep it tender, do not cook it for more than three minutes. If stewing it, cook it for at least 15 to 20 minutes. The whole body and tentacles are edible. Squid has more cholesterol than shrimp.

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