Shellfish get a bad rap in the mainstream community; they’re considered unhealthy because they’re bottom dwellers, and can be exposed to large amounts of pollution; they can be harvested in such a way as to endanger other sea dwellers (although not intentionally); some of them carry lots of fat. Shellfish are, in fact, healthy and belong in the diet of anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle. The only reasons for not eating shellfish are you’re allergic to them, or you just don’t like them.
Shellfish are clams, crabs, crawfish, lobsters, oysters, and shrimp. The best ones are harvested off the American coast in Maine, Maryland, Charleston, Savannah, Apalachicola, Bayou La Batre, and New Orleans. There are some dangers associated with imported shellfish; because of where they are harvested, the waters are extremely polluted far more than the American waters; if the imports are farmed, the conditions of the farms usually lead to diseased and polluted fish. When buying shellfish, be sure you know the country of origin before you purchase.
Most shellfish can be used in appetizers, main dishes, or salads. Crab cakes are both a popular appetizer and an entrée dish; fried clams are a popular appetizer, and are part of most seafood platters. Crawfish are used in main dishes such as crawfish etoufee or are eaten as a boiled or smoked main dish. Lobsters are served in dishes such as lobster thermidor, or serve as the entrée. Oysters are eaten raw on the half-shell, or cooked in a stew, fried, or made into Oysters.
Shrimps are eaten boiled, in shrimp cocktails, fried, butterflied and stuffed, or served in Shrimp Creole.
Shellfish are, for the most part, low in fat; the exception is the crawfish, which contains fat in the head portion. The fat is not a problem; your body needs fat to be healthy, and the small amounts found in shellfish don’t create an issue.
Being from the South, shellfish play an important part in the cuisine; here is my recipe for Shrimp Creole: Modify it and make it your own if there’s something in it you don’t like or are allergic to.
1 pound of Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small bell pepper diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 ribs celery, de-strung and diced
2 Bay leaves
½ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 small clove garlic, chopped
Fine Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 14-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 cup shrimp stock
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup water
Old Bay seasoning
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Add the bell pepper, celery and onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves, cayenne pepper, garlic, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and the tabasco sauce. Cook, at a simmer, for 15 minutes. Make a slurry from the flour and water, and add to the sauce. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the shrimp stock and cook for another 10 minutes. Season the shrimp with the Old Bay, and add to the skillet. Cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes. Serve over cooked white rice.