Roasted Salmon Steaks – with a lemon-butter sauce. Easy and delicious!
4-6 Fishvish Atlantic Salmon Steaks (500 grams)
1/3 cup butter
Juice of 2 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Chopped coriander or basil leaves for garnish
Preheat the oven to 200° C.
Butter a 9-by 12-inch baking dish.
Place the Fishvish Atlantic Salmon Steaks in the prepared dish.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and paprika; add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Liberally drizzle the sauce over the salmon. Bake for 10 minutes per 1-inch of thickness, or until desired doneness.
It’s a question that is probably discussed to death pretty much all over the shrimp eating world. The opinion is evenly divided for both points of view. Most frozen shrimp / prawn is usually head and shell off with the tail left on and usually “de-veined”. If the shrimp / prawn is head-on shell on, then more often than not, the “vein” would still be in there. This “vein” that we are talking about it is one that runs along top of the shrimp / prawn.
What is strange and NOT discussed that often is whether or not to “de-vein” the one on the underside of the shrimp / prawn. This is almost always left in. No matter where live you on the planet.
Why this dichotomy? Well the simple answer is – it doesn’t have a gritty mouth feel like the “vein” on the top side of the shrimp / prawn. The more detailed answer what this post is about.
The top “vein” is actually the Alimentary Canal or intestine that runs along the top of the shrimp, from the mouth of the shrimp all the way down to the tail (where the “bum” is located). On the dorsal side of this “vein” runs the Supra-Intestinal Artery supplying blood (a translucent color so we actually never really see the artery) to the intestine and the abdominal muscles. These are both removed together – they are pretty much stuck to one another so when one is removed the other comes with it.
Anatomy of a Crustacean
Given the shrimps’ method of eating, a lot sand (if sea catch) or mud (if pond catch) goes in with the food. Some of it gets flushed, some of it just sits there in the intestine when the shrimp is caught or harvested. Some poop might be left in as well. The sand/mud is what gives us a gritty mouth feel and the poop can add a slightly bitter after-taste to food. So the two main reasons for removing these are really just that – we DO NOT wanna eat poop and the sand/mud texture in the mouth is terrible. Also, leaving the “vein” in increases the risk of the shrimp going bad faster as poop will decay quicker.
These are too small to “devein”.
It’s important to note here that only 50% of the people actually remove this! The shrimp is eaten as is! I have personally eaten shrimp both ways and maybe I’ve been lucky, but I have not been able to tell the difference. Do I “devein” shrimp when I cook? Yes, I remove the intestine every time IF its possible i.e. the size of the shrimp has to be large enough to do that. I mean if I’m making a Prawn Fried Rice and using tiny shrimp (100-200 per kg) there is no way I am going to sit and spend hours doing this delicate procedure when I can barely hold on to the little fellas! I mean really, it’s hard enough to get them outta their shells!
That brings us to the bottom “vein”.
Its NOT a vein
Its NOT an artery
Its NOT part of the digestive tract
Its NOT cartilage
What the devil is it then?
Its the Central Nervous System of the shrimp – the main nerve cord!
It runs along the dorsal or underside of the shrimp. Unlike most mammals, shrimp / prawns do not have a spine to protect the central nerve. The shell and legs perform that function.
Nowhere in the world will frozen shrimp that is labelled “de-veined” ever have this removed. In India, even our local fishmonger never removes this until specifically asked to and then too she/he will probably make a fuss about it. I have never ever removed and I do not personally know any one, in my circle of friends and family, who remove it. Why?
It does NOT contain poop
It does NOT contain blood
It does NOT have any sand/mud in it and therefore NO gritty mouth feel.
Peeled & Deveined Prawns from Fishvish
With the shrimp / prawnsFishvish sells, the top “vein” is always removed. The bottom never removed. This is a process followed by every shrimp processing factory in the world! We source all our products from such export factories and they all follow mandated processes that are certified by not only India’s FDA but also USFDA, EU FDA, Australia FDA and Japan’s equivalent to the FDA.
Deveining the bottom vein.
In closing, I’d like to say that, yes, the top “vein”, at least India, is usually removed by the overwhelming majority. The bottom one – almost always NEVER removed. It’s pretty much cosmetic anyway and I haven’t seen even high end, fine dine restaurants remove this bottom “vein” either. Still, its a personal choice and those that like to remove it, it’s simple enough – make a shallow cut along the bottom length and use a toothpick or the pointy end of a knife to pull the “vein” out. Just be careful, it’s delicate and will break easily.
Don’t let something that’s so trivial stop you from enjoying your shrimp / prawns. Even if you’re not buying them from Fishvish!
Octopus is as common as prawns and fish along the coast.
I can’t really remember the first time I ate octopus; it was definitely not in my growing years—we stuck to freshly caught river fish, since salt-water fish was almost impossible to procure in our nook of the hinterland. Adulthood ushered in experimenting with newer foods, which was further supported by the move to a bigger city with more food-crazy people to make friends with and eateries that welcomed patrons looking for new experiences. Honest confession: I’ve stuck to grilled octopus all the times I’ve had the privileged option of ordering this not-so-good-looking eight-armed “monster of the deep”. The last time this happened was at a teeny South Beach store of a popular Miami ceviche chain; we carried our order out to the beer lounge of a youth hostel next door, ordering a round with our tasty dinner, the last night of our trip. I ordered a fish and shrimp ceviche aji amarillo-style, grilled octopus and a side of mango slaw. Of course it was a lot of food for one person, and I surely would’ve been happy with the grilled octo and tangy slaw.
Octopus may be an exotic ingredient for a lot of us inlanders, but it’s as common as prawns and fish for the folk living by the sea, along the coastline. While not the most popular of seafood galore, octopus has its own following of fervent fans who appreciate its deep-sea brininess and distinct flavour. And while grilling seems to be the most popular way of enjoying this fascinating creature around the world, there are plenty of stews, curries, and even raw dishes to line up for the bucket list. Raw octopus may literally be the last one on the “things to eat before you die” list; Korean sannakji is still-wriggling octopus cut into small pieces, served with salt and sesame oil. These are to be chewed well before swallowing them down your throat; the suction cups on the arms have been known to latch on to the inner walls. Very few seafood varieties can claim to bring on such excitement and thrill.
You may think there’s something royal about octopuses; they literally are blue-blooded, and are marked in shades of purple, that colour most associated with nobility. Considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates, they exhibit complex behaviour, including using coconut shells to conceal themselvesand changing body shapes to mimic other animals. They are all venomous, but the venom is mild in most species making them perfectly fine to eat. The strikingly pretty blue-ringed octopus, however, carries enough venom to kill twenty-six adult humans within minutes. Just like the other cephalopods that include squid and cuttlefish, octopuses eject a dark ink when threatened. Masters of camouflage, they can change colours to match surroundings. Most species inhabit the deep depths of seas and oceans, but some are found closer to the surface and also tide pools and coral reefs.
In The Raw
Baby octopus is prized all over the world.
Raw, octopus meat is white and purple, gelatinous and firm. When cooked, the outside turns a reddish pink, while the inside is all white. The arms, misleadingly termed ‘tentacles’ have rows of suckers, similar to those seen on squids; the array patterns may differ between species though. Octopus meat is lean in fat, low-calorie and full of protein; dieters and gym rats revel in the 160 calories and 30 grams of protein each tasty portion of 100 grams has. The meat is especially rich in iron and Omega-3 fatty acids, with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium and vitamin B12 thrown in. The cholesterol content, just like in some other seafood, may be a little higher than what’s ideal, but a small serving eaten regularly is just what keeps the nutritionist stoked.
Getting hold of freshly caught octopus may be easier if you live next to the coast, or have access to a supermarket or fishmonger getting daily deliveries of fresh catch. Cleaning fresh octopus can be a little tricky, but there are several tutorials available, breaking the process down into easy steps for noobs. The processis riveting, from the removal of the eyes and beak to the blanching of tentacles in boiling water, so that they curl up evenly. Using the frozen versionmakes it so much easier though, since it is usually cleaned and prepped, ready to be cooked, so no advance planning is required. Another bonus—frozen octopus is much easier to work with. A lot of home cooks recommend freezing fresh octopus to tenderize it for faster cooking, so you already have a head start. Thawing 10-12 hours in the fridge before cooking is an option, or accelerate this by putting the sealed package in cold water for about 30 minutes. Open package, and use contents as needed. Remember to maintain a constant cold temperature for the meat, if not cooking right away.
The Long and Short of It
Octopus is either flash cooked or stewed for a long time.
Which brings us to the best part, where it gets more exciting. Also, sometimes confusing. Octopus is one of those ingredients that elicit a cluster of cooking suggestions ranging from the obvious to the aberrant— either flash cook it or braise or simmer for hours, as for squid; thwack it against rocks(or a kitchen sink for the modern version); boil in a copper pot; simmer with a wine cork. Scientists, however, suggest adding a bit of vinegar and lots of cooking time for a richly flavoured dish with the right bit of bite. All however don’t agree, but old, inherited wisdom and hands-on experience do seem to have the authoritative edge.
Many of the suggestions for cooking squid can be applied to cooking octopus as well; which only makes sense since they both belong to the same cephalopod family. Octopus that has been cooked longer than a minute or two, but lesser than the hour or so recommended to break down the gelatinous tissue will be chewy and rubbery—exactly the thing some diners complain about, and cite as an excuse to avoid eating. But blame the unskilled hands, since well-cooked meat is a pleasure to eat—not exactly melting, but tender with a bite. Baby octopuses cook faster than fully-grown animals, so it’s not uncommon to find grilled baby octopus served with a dipping sauce, or in salad.
Low and slow simmering is the key to cooking. “The average simmering time should be about an hour for a one pound (450g) Octopus, two hours for a four pound (1.8kg) Octopus, but that will vary.” suggests Cook’s info. You could simmer the meat in water, or stew it in a stock, adding onions or leeks, garlic, herbs like thyme and parsley, even spices like bay leaves, peppercorns etc. The tenderized meat can be finished on the grill, quickly charring it, or added to stews and curries. The braising stock can added to the latter for better flavours. The meat shrinks quite a lot during cooking, so account for that when deciding portions.
What You Gonna Do?
Grilled octopus is very popular in many cuisines.
What can you do with octopus? Plenty of dishes. Cook the meat until tender, and stuff it into flaky pastries like this. Fry the cooked meat with potatoes and chorizo for a Spanish-style stir-fry or toss with cooked potatoes to make a polpo e patate. Another salad from italy, more specifically Puglia, mixes together celery, carrot, parsley with cooked pieces. For an Italian-Asian thrill, serve octopus stir fried with sesame oil, mushrooms and basil over angel hair. Speaking of Asian, Korean cuisine has a lot to offer, octopus-wise. Nakji Bokkeumtraditionally uses baby octopus to stir fry with veggies and sauces and hot pepper, but tenderized discs of larger tentacles can be used too. For Jjukkumi Gui(Spicy Grilled Baby Octopus), you could use braised meat; marinate for at least 3 hours before the final stage of cooking.
Octopus, known as makul in Marathi, is quite popular among fishing communities in and around coastal areas in various states in our country. While Indian dishes using this seafood have not made it to mainstream eating out yet, there are plenty of recipes developed around it. Uday Potdar, a medical professional with a passion for everyday local cuisine explains his favourite ways of cooking octopus: “Baby octopus chilly fry—the Goan way; octopus moilee—the Kerala way; octopus koshimbir (salad)—stir-fried octopus with fresh roasted and crushed cumin, a dash of kokum extract, coal-roasted shallots, crushed sea salt, garnished with freshly scraped coconut and chopped coriander”.
Octopus curry is relished not only in India, but also Jamaica, Seychelles, Mauritius etc.
Octopus dishes can be paired with many wines, including most whites, even some light-bodied reds. A fruity Zinfandel will be great with grilled octo, but a Rioja should couple equally well too. Look at a pinot noir to match with an octopus salad, and a viognier with curry.
It’s All About The Now
Life is pretty dull if it’s all about reaching out for the known and familiar every time. A little excitement, a tad of thrill on your plate will keep you chugging along splendidly. A tasty adventure is just the ride you need. Go ahead and cross that off your bucket list.
About the Author An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
Last year, on everybody’s favourite food porn show Masterchef Australia, we saw the pleasant George Calombaris dish up a luscious-looking Coconut ‘Calamari’ with Blackberry Sorbet, Blackberry Jelly and Blackberry Coulis. He scraped out the flesh of a young coconut, cut it carefully into rectangles, scored it in a diamond pattern, and folded it into rolls to be served atop stewed fruit with other accoutrements. A beautiful dish expectedly, this was a clever dessert take on fresh pristine calamari, that gorgeous piece of seafood that lights up many a seafood platter, and can be both, a casual snack served with cold beers in dimly-lit, bright with people and music beach shacks, or an elegant dish served in mellow light in an upscale restaurant, with a glass of Albariño poured by an attentive sommelier.
Squid in Italian-style tomato sauce with spaghetti makes for a superb dish.
The terms ‘squid’ and ‘calamari’ may sometimes be used interchangeably, but technically, they are as different as prawns and shrimp are from each other. Both cephalopods (along with octopuses and cuttlefish), squid and calamari have eight arms, two tentacles with suckers along the edge, and ink sacs as part of their defence mechanism. Calamari have side fins running on the entire length of the body, while squid show shorter fins on the sides. Calamari are also more tender than squid, and are usually more expensive.
Squid have three hearts and move through water tail first instead of the other way round. They swim by sucking water into the mantle, that is then released through the ‘siphon’. Some species of giant squid can grow up to 43 feet long, and have eyeballs the size of a basketball. There are more than 300 species of squid identified, although scientists estimate there may be another 200 that haven’t been studied yet. Most squid are omnivorous, some even turn cannibalistic. Squid are found in almost all major bodies across the world, in warm tropic waters as well as colder aquatic environments, some extremely so.
Bunch of Suckers
The outer skin on squid has reddish-brown spots.
Fresh squid is firm to the touch, and the skin has coloured spots. The meat is delicate and white, and is rich in niacin/vitamin B-3 and vitamin B-12. A 3-ounce serving of raw squid has only 1.2 grams of fat, with a brimming 13.2 grams of protein, all adding up to a feather-light 78 calories. Of course, crispy squid rings rack up the fat content considerably, but are the most popular, since they’re the easiest to cook, and even simpler to serve as snacks or appetizers.
Squid, like most other seafood, is quick to cook, and doesn’t need much by way of prep. There are several tutorialsavailable to help with cleaning and prepping, including harvesting squid inkfrom the ink sac, which can be used for making your own pasta, or for printing cards as part of a fun DIY project. You could always buy cleaned squid, cut into rings, or left whole, and just get on with the cooking bit; it doesn’t get any quicker or convenient than that.
Cooking squid is a bit of a swinging-from-extreme-to-extreme activity. Squid is almost all protein with very little fat; while this means it gets the nutritionist’s fervent nod of approval, it also needs a bit of care with cooking, not unlike most seafood. For crisp calamari, keep the frying time to within a minute or so. For delicately tasty morsels of coconut flesh-like meat, leave the squid to braise in a sauce for about 20-30 minutes covered. Some people suggest freezing squid overnight, or, even better, opting for frozen squid as the secret to soft bites. Also, soaking squid in milk adds to the tenderness. When frying squid, keep the oil temperature to the lower range recommended for frying; some chefs believethis keeps the squid inside moist, even as the crust crisps up
Score ‘Em, Stuff ‘Em
Scoring squid meat helps keep it in shape, and also contributes towards tenderizing it.
Squid in salads is also a favourite with people around the world. This involves quickly blanching the meat and then marinating it in a vinaigrette or even a citrusette, seeing how lemon and lime, along with garlic, pairs with squid so well. Simple ingredients like tomatoes, parsley and olives work great in a squid salad, with the flavours getting better the longer the salad sits. Stuffed squid is a hit in seafood platters too; stuffing ingredients including chopped squid tentacles, minced prawns, onion and garlic, herbs, bread crumbs etc. are popular. Alton Brown has a great stuffed squid recipe, wherein he suggests turning the squid tubes inside out prior to stuffing; since the outer side tends to curl outward, the stuffing stays put. Since the tubes also curl up when they’re cooked, scoring them in a criss-cross pattern helps to preserve shape. Scoring also helps tenderize the meat to some extent.
Bijal Patel and Shumu Gupta, cofounders Fishvish, are fans of stuffing squid too. Bijal has tried his hand at stuffing squid with prawn and crabmeat, and sautéing the prepared tubes in butter and garlic with extremely satisfying results. Shumu loves squid rings stir-fried with butter and garlic and batter-fried calamari, but his favourite is, similar to Bijal’s dish, crabmeat cooked with a bit of onion and garlic, and stuffed into squid. He then sautés the squid in butter and serves it with creamed spinach. A bed of spaghetti or tagliatelle Alfredo would also work very well.
Cooking the tentacles with the tubes may turn your dish purple, so either discard the tentacles or cook them separately, when using as part of the stuffing.
Kalamarakia Yemista is another stunner of a stuffed squid recipe. Sometimes made with parsley, rice, raisins and white wine, this Greek dish has other variantsthat call for ricotta and lemon. Stewing squid in tomatoes and white wine makes for an amazingly delicious dish. Take it to the next level by stuffing the tubes first.
Make the World Go Round
From Asia to the Americas, crunchy squid rings make for a bestselling appetizer on restaurant menus.
From sautéing rings in a Kerala-style masala to stir-frying them with a coconut and powdered rice spicy paste like they do in the south of Tamil Nadu, squid is popular in the coastal regions of the country, as well as the inland areas. Stuffed squid makes an appearance on quite some regional menus, be it in the form of this spicy Goan-style ambot tik sauce, or this Konkani recipe of crispy squidthat is stuffed with a fragrant masala first—talk about the best of both worlds. The Goans also make an excellent calamari fry with a recheado masala that is popularly had as a snack with local beer; add the beachside to the mix, and you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.
Across the globe, crunchy squid rings are the bar bite equivalent of popcorn. Served with lemon and aioli or mayonnaise, or marinara sauce, or soy or sesame sauce, depending on what part of the world you’re eating them in, batter-fried squid (or calamari, as the dish is also known) is as common and universal as fried potatoes. Added to pasta, stews, even rice dishes like paella, squid is a favoured pick all along. Squid ink is an interesting culinary ingredient; in Spain, they stew squid in its own ink for a black stew, while in Italy, to amp up the noir some more, they serve a sauce made with squid ink, wine, tomato paste and squid.
George isn’t the only Masterchef judge with a squid affection; Gary Mehigan serves Squid with Chilli and Garlic and Crisp Lettuce, and a Calamari with Bean Puree and Chilli, while Matt Preston stuffs hot dog rolls with crumbed calamari and mayo for his version of a lobster roll.
Dine Fine with Wine
Squid is a standard component of seafood platters across the world.
Elegant, albeit effortlessly dished squid makes for sophisticated dining, and a glass of your cellar’s best makes for a quick yet fine meal. Pair a calamari fritti with a sparkling white or rosé. The rosé also friends up well with stir-fried, Asian style spicy squid, or stuffed squid in a tomato and white wine sauce. With light stews, a Sauvignon Blanc is a great option, while a fruity Chenin Blanc brings out the flavours of grilled squid well.
If you haven’t tried eating and cooking with squid beyond the crunchy rings variety, now’s a good time to practice your cooking chops. Whether you’re trying an easy to do squid dish with familiar ingredients that a friendly neighbour shared the recipe of, or a more elaborate, spectacularly plated main, you will want to hold on to that sucker with all of your two arms.
About the Author An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.