Monday, June 21, 2010

All About: Smoked Seafood

Smoked fish is somewhat of an exotic treat nowadays - which is a 180 degree turnaround from what life was like for our cave-dwelling ancestors! Before we learn to harness the power of moving electrons to circulate chemically-cooled air in a refrigerator, we simply smoked our'seafood order', straight after we caught it from the ocean. Today we check out some basics about smoked fish, and perhaps get your tastebuds tingling a little …
An introduction to smoking methods
No, we aren’t encouraging you to do anything that might increase your risk of lung cancer… only your risk of becoming addicted to a new favorite dinner! Everybody has their own special and preferred smoking method, but most adhere to some common principles:
  • The fish is treated with salt - either a concentrated brine or a surface coating of dry salt. In the salting process (which will take only a few minutes for smaller fish, but many hours for big fish), the salt draws most of the moisture out of the fish and in turns a little salt leaches in.
  • The salt's antibacterial properties, added to the fact that there is less moisture for bacteria to survive in, make the smoked fish safer to eat without refrigeration.
  • A second cure is done, both to draw more moisture out and to add different flavors. Sugar, spices, herbs, rum and whiskey are all popular curing agents
  • The fish is hung to air dry in a cool breezy spot (which is as likely today to be inside as outside).
  • It is taken down after a tacky coating known as a pellicle has formed - the coating helps seal in moisture, prevent fast rising to the surface and spoiling, and also helps the smoke flavor adhere to the fish
  • The fish is either hot smoked (where it is also cooked) or cold-smoked (like lox)
Best fish for smoking
Usually big deepwater fish are the ones that are smoked. The following are all popular:
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Sablefish
  • Sturgeon
  • Bluefish
Should I smoke my own fish or buy pre-smoked fish?
The advantages and disadvantages of buying pre-smoked fish are much the same as buying anything in ready-made form. You'll need to consider that:
  • Readymade is much faster and easier
  • It also means that you don't waste time and fish in 'learning' the smoking process
  • But it is less personalizable
  • And sometimes pre-smoked fish costs a little more

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cooking Guide for Perfect Crab Legs

There's nothing better than in-season crab legs … especially when they're the big, meaty king crab kind! Fresh frozen king crab legs are delicious, and you can do so much more with them than cooked frozen legs which have to be handled delicately so they don't become tough and chewy. If you've snagged some delicious fresh frozen king crab legs, here are some tips for cooking them!
If you’re buying your crab legs (or any other fresh fish in your seafood order), you'll need around 8 ounces for an entrĂ©e-sized serving, and up to a pound for full adult-sized servings.
Defrosting tips
Don't defrost your king crab legs in the microwave - microwaves often have 'hot and cold spots' that mean you'll end up with little cooked, chewy bits on your crab legs. Defrost them in the refrigerator for 8 hours. If you take them out of the freezer before you go to work, they'll certainly be ready in time to cook when you get home.
Cooking styles for king crab legs
Cooking seafood can be tricky at the best of times! Here's how to ensure your king crab legs are delicious by whatever cooking method you favour:
  • To steam crab legs: Bring a pan of water to the boil with some salt in it; pop your crab legs in and set a timer. If your crab legs are fresh frozen, allow them to steam for 12-15 minutes, or until they are warmed through and starting to become aromatic.
  • To boil crab legs: Bring your water to a boil first, then drop the crab legs in. Don't leave the water boiling - let them simmer for around 15 minutes, depending on the size of the legs.
  • To bake crab legs: Crack the crab legs and brush them with a mixture of butter, lemon juice and a seasoning of your choice, then bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes.
  • To microwave crab legs: Note - this is only recommended if you have purchased pre-cooked frozen crab legs. Fresh legs can cook unevenly, as we mentioned earlier.