Make Seafood Go Further
Through Cross Utilization
Don't let parts of seafood go to waste – with a little creativity you can use it all
When people think of seafood, oftentimes they're only thinking about a grilled filet, fried shrimp or whole boiled lobster. Yet as you know, there's so much more. But how can you use the seafood most people know about and get them to try even more? Cross-utilizing different types of fish and shellfish, especially for appetizers, is a great way to expose people to more items while also maximizing your stock.
You can use different parts of seafood to create new dishes. If you have a whole fish, you don't have to solely grill it and serve it with potatoes and vegetables. Jimmy Bannos, executive chef/partner at Chicago's Purple Pig, loves getting in whole tuna and making the most of it. Yes, you definitely want to take the center cut for a filet, but you can do so much more.
"We did five dishes with one fish," Bannos said. "The first day you do crudo because the fish is at its peak. Then move on to grilling the filet. We scrape everything off the end tail pieces with a spoon, grind the tuna meat and make meatballs for appetizers, tuna Bolognese for pasta and the bones for stock. It's 'nose-to-tail' tuna."
Chef Erik Niel of Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats in Chattanooga, Tenn., agreed. He said you can do multiple dishes with one fish, in this instance salmon. "We'll take the collar off the fish and marinate and deep fry it for a starter," Niel said. "We also scrape the bones and use the meat as a tartare; that's actually some of the best meat on the fish, but it has to be served raw."
Regardless if you have tuna, salmon or another whole fish, if you butcher it in-house, you'll have plenty of scraps and trimming left over. You'll definitely want to save all of that. Some cooks make the mistake of thinking they can't use those parts and throw it all away. That's like tossing money into a fire and watching it go up in smoke.
"You always have a couple of pounds of trimmings when you clean and portion certain fish," said chef Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse in Alexander City, Ala. "After cleaning like 60 to 70 pounds of flounder, you may have a pound of scrap and we save that and freeze it. Once we have enough, we'll do a fritto misto, gumbo or soup. Even with crab. We've gotten a fair amount of crab roe that has a nice ocean flavor. We make deviled eggs with that."
If you find that you maybe over-ordered some seafood, don't worry. Running a happy hour or lunch special can help sell it out before it goes bad because the last thing you want is to have rotten seafood. "We have happy hour oysters daily and we'll rotate through them; we don't like to keep oysters more than three days," said Tony Gentile, corporate executive chef/co-owner of Flagship Restaurant Group, which owns Plank Seafood Provisions in Nebraska. "We'll take the trim of the mahi mahi and make tacos. Parts of leftover salmon, like the belly, we'll smoke it, add citrus and top it on a crostini or put it in sushi rolls for spicy salmon. We take cod leftovers and make sliders with malt vinegar aioli. It's the odds and ends you can't make whole pieces out of."
Bannos also likes working with clams. He said there are countless ways to use the bivalves like serving them in a cold orzo salad with shrimp and having servers sell that as a starter with a nice crisp white wine. His favorite clams to work with? Razor clams.
"Razor clams are one of the most underrated shellfish in the water," Bannos claimed. "To me, they're the best-tasting clam, period. You can serve them straight up Spanish style: Keep them in the shell, shuck open, clean the stomach and grill them simply on a plancha and toss salsa verde on them. That's it."
So there are truly so many ways to cross-utilize your seafood. Sometimes it takes a little creativity. Other times, it's just realizing you can prepare them simply and let their natural flavors shine through.