Your galley is the perfect place to do seafood right. Here’s everything you need to know to make it happen.
PROXIMITY TO THE ocean gives us more than just great views and sandy butts. It also gives us the chance to score the freshest seafood. Fan of grass-fed beef? You should try phytoplankton-fed oysters. Big fan of free-range chickens? Can I interest you in an ocean-range tuna? Food caught fresh is just finer. Period. Plus, seafood that lived its life in the oceanic expanse is probably freer of gross stuff like antibiotics, which can be all too common in fish farms. And I would rather take a long walk off a short pier than take my taste buds to a chain restaurant, where you’re just as likely to be feasting on farmed fish from across the country as something caught in the zip code in which you’re eating.
So, the next time you’re parked within an hour or two from the beach, our first recommendation is to look for the local seafood joint you can find. Ask your server which of their catch-of-the-day options are locally sourced, and pick one of them, even if you have to step outside your salmon-flavored comfort zone. Your taste buds will thank you. But if you’re ready for a masters-level culinary adventure, go the pro route: Capitalize on the nearness of saltwater
by sourcing and cooking some seafood yourself.
Every decent sized-beach town has a fish market where you can find something just off the boat, and this is the perfect place to start. Even the fanciest markets can be intimidating, though. They inevitably smell funny. They have fish you’ve never heard of. Some of the meat they have
seems like it might even be looking at you. Persist. Power through, and profit, using these tips for picking the perfect pescatarian provisions.
The Fish, the Whole Fish, and Nothing but the Fish
Fish age badly. As they lose freshness, their eyes gloss over, and they stink. So, as you’re picking out your dinner, remember: clear eyes, fresh smell, can’t lose. Different fish take different preparations, and your fishmonger should be an expert at knowing them all. Don’t be afraid to ask the magic question: How would you recommend cooking this? Then, your fish guy (or gal) should be able to do most of the prep work for you, like removing pin bones, scales, heads, or tails. Leave the tedious prep work to the experts. If you’re buying filets, they should have been cut that day.
Filets have a much shorter shelf life than full fish, so if they weren’t cut in the last 24 hours, just ask for your filets to be butchered to order. Cooking a great cut of fish is like grilling a great steak: Staying out of the way is typically the key to success. A little olive oil or butter, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and finishing with a spritz of fresh lemon juice are often all you need. Adding a rub of fresh garlic is OK too. But if you want to go full chef-mode, without all the work and using only store-bought ingredients, a light-colored hummus (the darker varieties end up extremely unappealing visually) can work wonders. Season your favorite filet with salt and pepper to taste, slather upon it a healthy helping of hummus, then bake, adding a couple of extra minutes to your filet’s typical baking time to compensate for the topping. That’s it. Nothing to it.
Mollusks: Go Beyond the Oyster
Oysters are the shelled darlings of many serious seafood joints, and with good reason: The difference between good ones and bad ones is enormous, and great ones are worth paying for. But unless you’re a shucking expert, a dozen oysters (I prefer mine on a cracker with a little horseradish and lemon juice) at home is probably more
trouble than it’s worth. Clams and mussels are fun and great for a romantic dinner. But for RVers, cooking them often takes a variety of time, ingredients, and utensils
that just isn’t feasible. That means that when you’re cooking in your home away from home, scallops are where it’s at.
Cooked properly, they’re buttery, delicious in their unadulterated form, and require almost zero prep work. They’re also extremely quick and easy to cook with nothing more than a frying pan, skillet, or even a grill. When cooking scallops, there are two absolute keys to success. If you do these two simple things, it’s nearly impossible to mess them up. First. Rinse them thoroughly. Like most mollusks, life on the ocean floor often leaves them feeling sandy. You should get your scallops preexcised from their shells, but don’t assume that means they’re grit-free.
Wash them thoroughly under cold water, rubbing gently to avoid damaging the flesh, but firm enough to get in all the cracks. Second, do not overcook them. Overcooking even by a minute or more will change their gloriously tender proteins into glorified rubber. After prepping, let your scallops shine by pan searing and seasoning simply. Heat a skillet with a few tablespoons of butter (or any of your favorite oils will work fine, as even at high heat you shouldn’t be cooking long enough for the smoking point to be a problem).
Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel, or air dry for several minutes after washing. Season to taste, then sauté for about two
minutes per side, and no more than seven minutes or so total depending on girth. You’ll know they’re done when they’re beautifully browned on both top and bottom, with the centers white and warm. Finish with another spritz of lemon juice and salt. Or go full chef mode by finely chopping some chili-roasted pistachios and tossing them in your sauté pan for the last two minutes, being careful not to burn the pistachios.
It’s OK to Be a Little Shellfish
Americans eat over a billion pounds of shrimp each year. They’re cheap and easy (the shrimp, that is), and hard to screw up in the kitchen, making them perfect for chefs of any experience level. They even have a built-in indicator when they’re cooked properly. (When they turn pink and look like cooked shrimp, they’re probably done). Any RV with a heat source and a pan of any type can handle its preparation.
And since they’re a sponge for flavor, pairing well with literally almost any flavor profile both simple and complex, their permutations in the finished form are almost endless. Toss-shelled versions in almost any sauce with pasta. Put them in a taco with almost any accouterments. Or salt, season, boil, peel, and eat with any old cocktail sauce. Mykelti Williamson as Bubba in Forrest Gump had it right. Shrimp really is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it … all from your favorite RV’s galley