Celebrate with Seafood

A few nights back I brought home two pounds of mussels and two pounds of tuna steaks for a celebratory dinner. My husband and I had just put a house under contract earlier that morning (fingers crossed!) and our good friends had just listed theirs in anticipation for a move up the coast. We figured a nice seafood spread was the perfect way to round out the day. Baked sweet potato fries, a hearty loaf of bread and a salad topped with citrus complimented the fish and we made sure the white wine was flowing.

The tuna steaks were coated in Asian Sesame Tuna Rub and left to rest for 20-30 minutes. I used almost an entire ¼ cup jar. There were two reasons for letting the fish rest: First, to bring the steaks to room temperature before searing and second to let the moisture of the fish activate the Wasabi and Soy Sauce powders in the blend. Once they were up to temperature, I quickly seared them on a hot grill. One – two minutes on each side. We sliced the fish once it was off the grill and topped it with a fresh squeeze of lemon. Delicious!

 

The mussels were paired with Green Thai Curry. The lemongrass, lime leaves and chile powder gave the sweet mussels a nice amount of zing. I started with 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy Dutch Oven, added thinly slices shallots from the garden to crisp, poured in a tablespoon and a half of the curry and then the rest of a bottle of white wine. My guess is it was 1/3 of a cup of wine. For a minute of two I let those flavors come together and then stirred in the mussels – making sure that each was coated in the butter/curry combination before covering and reducing the heat to medium low. Three to five minutes later, the mussels had opened and were ready to enjoy. Because I never think you can have enough butter, I added two more tablespoons of butter to the pan before serving. True mussel heads know the meat is great, but the best part is the broth in the pan! Always make sure you have a nice, thick crust bread on hand for soaking and slurping.

 

Musing on Rope Raised v. Wild Mussels

Rope grown mussels are a favorite salt water treat. I’ve spent many a summer morning harvesting mussels at low tide and no matter how many time I rinse those gems, the grit persists. So, I’ve made the switch to farm raised. Living in southern Maine there are plenty of great aquaculture programs produce high quality, sustainable raised oysters, mussels and a variety of seaweeds for food use. Moving beyond the grit issue, farmed seafood can have a number of environmental benefits.

Bivalve aquaculture has been shown to improve local water quality. Oysters and mussels are both filter feeders. Growing them in the water column means they have plenty to eat as the tides ebb and flow, and they’re quick to clean as they consume. Massive oyster beds have been reintroduced in the waterways surrounding New York City in an effort to start a ‘bottom up’ approach to cleaning. Here in Maine, coastal communities are welcoming aquaculture programs in partnership with traditional fishing as we’re reminded just how interconnected species are within healthy coastal ecosystems. Turns out we should all be eating oysters on the daily to support these small-scale ocean farms.

  

Photos courtesy Bangs Island Mussels website

One of my favorite Portland based aquaculture businesses is Bangs Island Mussels. Over the last twenty years the company has stayed true to its roots as a Maine, family run business. Father and son team Matt and Gary Moretti started the business with an eye on sustainable harvest and a deep respect for the ocean. Both the mussels they hand seed and the rope grown kelp they’re now harvesting benefit from the cold waters of Casco Bay. Landing their bounty in Portland, a foodie city where seafood is on every menu, aligns them with farm to table dining and makes them a star in this ‘eat local’ culture. Head over to their website to learn more.

Evelyn Smith

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