Buying shellfish

Shellfish is a broad term that includes any type of aquatic animal that has a shell of some kind. A few popular names that make their way onto our menus include: crabs, lobster, shrimp and clams. And with some basic "fish smarts," any fsd can have these healthy and delicious meat alternatives on their menu.

Derek Healy, exec. chef for City Club Bunker Hill, a private business dining club located in downtown Los Angeles, conducts "Cooking with Chef Derek" classes and was named exec. chef of the year in 1998 for the Western Region of ClubCorp, the facility's parent company.

What customers want: "At least 80% of what we sell here is seafood. Most of the seafood is purchased fresh every day. I use it immediately. Other quantities come in fresh-frozen. We have a lot of Asian members and my menu reflects their tastes," he says.

Healy adds creative twists to many traditional culinary favorites. "One our most popular dishes is Alaskan King Crab Chowder. But here the king crab recipe takes on the qualities of a Manhattan clam chowder—with a bit of California panache thrown in. The addition of tomato paste to the chowder gives it the Manhattan connection. Other ingredients include carrots, celery and onions. And in California we like spice, so I add chile or ancho chile. The ancho chile gives it a nice smoky flavor. I make a stock using the shell crabs and let the stew cook for about two hours. The crab meat itself is sweet—I find the seafood arriving from Alaska ranks among the best in the U.S. It's added to the stew for only a few minutes at the end of the cooking cycle. This prevents toughness. The dish works as both an entree and appetizer. "It's nice and hearty—grilled ciabatta bread is a great accompaniment to it."

Know thy supplier: Where and from whom you get your fresh fish is a recurrent theme from savvy fsds. Healy purchases all of his shellfish from a trusted supplier.

Another shellfish that plays a prominent role on Healy's menu is the scallop. Diver scallops from Maine are delivered fresh to his doorstep. "They're only two days out of the water. I get them fresh, already cleaned, packed on ice. There is no processing or water added to the scallops."

As with the crab meat, he uses the scallops immediately, ordering just enough fish to cover the scheduled recipes.

"The scallops can be sauteed quickly, using olive oil and butter. I use olive oil for heat and butter for flavor." And Healy reveals another unique flavoring component to his scallop recipe."Occasionally I coat the scallops with a little bit of sugar, which immediately caramelizes. Cooking time varies but it's quick, resulting in rare to medium rare scallops. I usually get under 10 scallops to a pound—five scallops make a portion. The plate presentation consists of the scallops positioned on top of a pistou sauce—a mixture of crushed basil, garlic and olive oil," he says.

Evaluating the goods: And Healy offers these words of advice about safety and freshness: "The main thing I look for when evaluating seafood quality is odor, or I should say, lack of odor. And specifically when purchasing oysters, mussels and clams—the shells should be closed tightly," he advises.

In addition to cooking with fresh shellfish, today's fsds have a a variety of prepared, quality items available to them.

Jennifer Gallagher is greeted each day with a truly discriminating audience. The chef-manager of Johnson & Wales Univ. Club dining facilities, knows that many of her customers will be future premier chefs. In addition to working on-site, Gallagher is an instructor at the prestigious culinary school, located in Providence, RI. The dining hall also serves as a place where student interns hone their culinary skills.

No cleaning necessary: "Clam fritters and crab cakes are part of the normal lunch rotation on our main buffet line. We use a Phillips product—jumbo lump crabs—which we buy in bulk from our Sysco distributor. It's an excellent product, which arrives already cleaned and chopped. We mix the crabs with a prepared spicy batter mix consisting of cayenne and paprika." Gallagher also adds Old Bay Seasoning to the mix, a classic seasoning containing several spices including pepper and cinnamon.

Three crab fritters make up a portion. Students can garnish the fritters with a freshly made remoulade sauce—the classic French sauce—which Gallagher prepares by combining mango, chopped pickles or relish, hard boiled egg, mustard and vinegar.

In addition to fritters, Gallagher prepares crab cakes using the same lump crab meat. She just whisks together the meat, scallions and red pepper. "The mixture is ladled on to a flat top grill. She allows two crab cakes to a serving." Like the fritters, the crab cakes are a regular menu item, featured on the buffet line.



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