mixed seafood

It is one thing to eat a breaded, boneless tilapia fillet.  It is another thing entirely to rip into a hearty cioppino or a paella.  They can contain parts that are not meant to be eaten and they feel riskier.  I was once afraid to eat any seafood stews or mixed seafood dishes.  My fear was that one bad element could ruin the whole dish and I didn’t want to eat a fishy fish or a crabby crab.  You can control the risk by buying only fresh seafood from a reliable dealer.  If you can ensure the quality of the individual ingredients, then why should you be afraid to combine them?  

Combining several sea creatures into one dish is a great way to sample several types at once.  It can be a great way to expand your seafood comfort zone.  More importantly, it can make for some very interesting meals.  Keep reading for three relatively easy options, starting with super simple and increasing in complexity.  Add as many elements as you dare.

Steamed mussels and clams – This is as basic as you can get.  It is easy and delicious and really allows the seafood to shine.  Mussels are best between October and April, but they are mostly farmed in Prince Edward Island, so they are available all year.  Mussels out of season will be skinny and can be strongly flavored.   There are many species of clam and several should be available all the time.  Pick out a few types with contrasting shells for some variety.  Mussels and clams should be cooked while still alive, so they should be consumed on the same day that you buy them.  Bring them home, give them a good rinse in cold water, and store them uncovered in the refrigerator atop a bed of ice, in a bowl.

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, add a couple teaspoons of olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add some aromatics and cook until they start to get really fragrant.  I like to use shallots or garlic as the main component and then add things like rosemary or thyme or a bit of oregano.  You can also add red pepper flakes for a bit of spice, or get really adventurous and add some curry powder or chorizo.  Just get creative and have fun with it.  Once the aromatics are ready, add about ½” of white wine to the pot and bring it back to a boil.  Add the mussels and clams and cover for 6 – 8 minutes until all the mussels and clams open.  Discard any that do not open.  Toss to coat with the cooking liquid before serving.    For a simple first attempt, try this recipe:  MUSSELS AND CLAMS RECIPE

Once I had a great meal of mussels in Halifax, Nova Scotia and it came with 3 different, wonderful sauces.  They were so good and so memorable that I try to recreate that experience every time I eat mussels.  One was a roasted red pepper sauce, one was a marinara, and the other was a garlic butter sauce.  I like to break the mussel shells apart, use the empty side to scrape the meat from the other side, then use it like a spoon to scoop up some sauce.  That way every mussel is in a healthy scoop of sauce.  No need for a recipe here.  Just find a tomato or pepper-based sauce that you like and serve it alongside your meal.  A nice crusty bread goes well too.

Mixed fish curry – This is a safe one to try and it gives some nice contrasting texture and flavor to your seafood dish.  Many curries call for equal portions of salmon and white fish.  The salmon really adds a richness to the dishes and the white fish balances the dish so it doesn’t get too oily.  Pick a couple of good looking fish fillets that are firm enough to handle being stirred around.  White seabass, swordfish, halibut, striped bass, or sturgeon are good choices for your white fish.  Any salmon will work.  Thai Kitchen makes a wide variety of products that can make this really easy.  They have red or green curry paste that you can combine with coconut milk to make an easy curry.  You can kick it up with any or all of the following: ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, red chilies, lemongrass, garlic, Thai basil, and cilantro.  They make it even easier with a jarred totally prepared product that is good enough to stand on its own.

Once you have decided on the flavors you want to include, you can add in some vegetables as well.  Curries go well with bell peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, bok choy, bean sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, or squash.  Simmer the vegetables in the sauce until they are almost done, then add the fish cut into 1 inch cubes and cook for about 5 minutes until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through.  Serve with jasmine rice.

Seafood spaghetti – This is so easy it is almost cheating, but it is a great jumping off point for a broad range of mixed seafood choices.  Start by making your favorite tomato-based spaghetti sauce.  You can make your Italian grandmother’s sauce that dates back 12 generations or you can crack open a jar of store bought sauce, depending on how much time you have.  My wife makes a wonderful spaghetti sauce a few times a year and we freeze it for special occasions, but there are some pretty good options on the shelves in your local grocery store.  I’m not above grabbing a jar of sauce for those days after the kids get out of baseball practice and I need to get something on the table quickly.  I’ll usually add a bunch of minced garlic and some red pepper flakes.  Some fresh herbs or fresh veggies can help too.  

Regardless of the origin of your sauce, get it up to simmer and dial in your flavor before you add the seafood.  It will cook quickly and sauce can simmer for a long time.  When you are happy with your sauce, start adding seafood.  You can include as many as you want, but make sure you add them in the right order and be mindful of the timing.  

Live clams or mussels – 8-10 minutes
Sea scallops – 8-10 minutes
Raw Shrimp – 6-8 minutes
Fish (1 inch cubes) – 5-7 minutes
Calamari – 5-7 minutes
Cooked crab parts in shell – 5 minutes
Bay scallops – 5 minutes
Cooked crab meat – 3 minutes

Serve with or without Pasta.

There are dozens of other options available to the adventurous seafood eater.  Look for these on the menu next time you go out for a nice dinner, or better yet, search out a recipe and give them a try.  

Mixed seafood grill
Low country boil
Frutti di Mare
Seafood salad