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Seafood for All Seasons

FOOD FADS COME AND GO, but through them all, fish and seafood maintain a high profile. Think of the various diets-du-jour currently in vogue and those touted over the past years: There've been low-fat, low-carb, highprotein, all-natural, "lite," Mediterranean, and many emphasizing "good" fats (such as omega 3s, found in many fish). Even some vegetarian diets allow for an occasional seafood diversion. No matter what the food fashion, fish fits.

Adapting to the times
At the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, Executive Chef Denis Ellis says the movement of much food preparation to the front lines has expanded the ways seafood can be offered to its customers.

Safe Storage

Follow these industry guidelines for safely storing seafood:

  • STORE FRESH FISH in the coldest part of the refrigerator; plan to use within 1 to 2 days, or freeze.
  • MOLLUSCAN SHELLFISH (clams, mussels, oysters) should be refrigerated in containers with clean, damp cloths, not with airtight lids. Live mussels, oysters and clams may open their shells even in the refrigerator. Give them a tap and they will close if alive; if not, discard. Cook fresh shell-fish within 1 to 2 days.
  • LIVE LOBSTERS AND CRABS should be cooked the same day of delivery. Store cooked whole lobsters or crabs in rigid, air-tight containers and use within 2 to 3 days.
  • STORE SHRIMP, SQUID AND SHUCKED SHELLFISH in leakproof, covered containers. Use squid , shrimp and scallops within 1 to 2 days. Shucked oysters should be cooked within 7 days.
  • PASTEURIZED CRAB MEAT can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 6 months; once opened, use within 3 to 5 days. Do not freeze.
  • KEEP SMOKED SEAFOOD products refrigerated and use within 10 days.
  • VACUUM-SEALED SURIMI seafood can keep 2 to 3 months in the refrigerator; once opened, use within 4 days. Can be frozen.

Source: National Fisheries Institute.

"With food courts and exhibition stations, campus meals are cooked to order or at least much closer to service now, and the same is becoming true for catering," he explains. "We've really gotten away from the massive amounts of food served in hot boxes. In the old days, that meant having to prepare fish with lots of sauces or stuffings so it would hold up well. But with grilling and stir-frying, freshly-cooked fish is becoming very well accepted among the students."

Ellis notes that seafood specials featuring simply-prepared fillets of shark, tuna or red snapper have gone over "surprisingly" well. "Of course, fried options will always be popular on a college campus, but we've had good reactions to offerings like our new Hawaiian Ahi salad," he says. "That exotic entrÈe features lightlyoiled and -seasoned ahi tuna steak with mixed greens, banana chips, mandarin oranges, pineapple and coconut (see recipe)."

At George Fox University in Newberg, OR, Sous Chef James Pennington notes that seafood sales have increased between 10 and 15 percent over the past ten months. "Customers are looking for high protein items now, but they still want to eat healthfully. We do a lot of wild salmon—from smoked to poached— along with shrimp and simply steamed or fried cod."

Flavor and crunch
Notre Dame's Ellis observes that the inclusion of flavorful seasonings, batters and crusts enhances the appeal of seafood items. "We're seeing things available from seafood brokers now that show new twists on older items. For example, instead of just selling beer-battered halibut and cod, they're now marketing Corona-beer battered fish. Tilapia and cod are available crusted with coconut, potato and even crushed tortilla chips. You can purchase them prepared or make up your own flavorings and coatings."

Homemade seasonings drive most of Ellis's seafood preparations, from chipotle and lime to ProvenÁal-style flavors.

Donald Holmblad, executive chef at the Bon Appetitmanaged Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, MN, creates a customer-favorite Potato-Crusted Walleye Pike that ranks as a good seller not just because of the crunchy appeal, but also because of state pride. "The walleye is Minnesota's state fish, so it's always very popular when we serve it," he notes. "People around here grew up eating a lot of fish and seafood, so it's not just that they're seeking out healthy options; it's just what they know."

To satisfy their taste for seafood, Holmblad serves his customers plenty of crispy choices, from blackened catfish to a variety of fillets with pecan and shredded-potato crusts.

Students at San Diego State University are frequently treated to Macadamia Nut-Crusted Mahi Mahi, thanks to Executive Chef Paul Melchior's penchant for Hawaiian food, developed when he lived on the island. He also likes to spice things up with a wasabi beurre blanc on salmon, or add crunch to a shrimp dish with candied walnuts. "We have some type of seafood three to four times a week for lunch and twice a week for dinner," he says. "With the mad cow scare, I see customers moving even more toward seafood now."

Seafood's Top Ten

According to the National Fisheries Institute, the ten top-selling fish and seafood items rank as follows (as of 2002, the most recent compilation):

1) Shrimp 6) Cod
2) Canned tuna 7) Crabs
3) Salmon 8) Clams
4) Pollock 9) Tilapia
5) Catfish 10) Flatfish

Guided by the weather
Uncomfortable summer humidity led to the development of a favorite zesty seafood item on the menu at Clement Manor, a senior living facility in Greenfield, WI. "It was really hot and I was trying to think of dishes well-suited to the weather," says Sous Chef/Production Manager Dorothy Reyes. "I had a good deal on trout, and since I love to cook and eat Mexican-style food, I decide to put the two together."

The result was her Rainbow Trout Seviche with Slaw (see recipe), served cold as a small plate or in a martini glass for a special appetizer. "We usually only offer it in the summer, but residents still ask for it throughout the year," she says.

Other warm weather favorites at Clement Manor include "lots of shrimp pasta salads," grilled salmon with cold sauces on the side, and a variety of fish topped with a fresh tarragon/tomato Provence sauce.

To view the recipes associated with this article, click on this link:
seafood recipes

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