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Seafood Preparation Tips From the Venus de Milo Restaurant

Buying and Handling Shrimp

Preparing a Lobster for Broiling

Preparing a Lobster for Steaming or Boiling

How to Store Fresh Seafood


Buying and Handling Shrimp

Buying Shrimp: Shrimp is a highly perishable item and should only be purchased frozen to insure freshness. Avoid buying peeled and de-veined shrimp because the shrimp can lose some of its flavor during the cleaning process. The most consistent shrimp in size, texture, and flavor are the gulf whites which come from Mexico and Ecuador. Most shrimp imported into the United States is farm-raised Ecuadorian. Shrimp are sized according to their count per lb. The best size range for value, quality, and ease of handling  is probably the 26/30 range. 

Defrosting Shrimp: Shrimp should be defrosted in the refrigerator or under cold running water. Never thaw shrimp in a microwave. Any black spots on the shell of the shrimp indicates that spoilage has begun. A gritty residue on the shells indicates the product has been bleached to remove these signs of spoilage. If either condition is evident, return the shrimp to where it was purchased. 

Peeling Shrimp: Shrimp will retain more of its flavor if it is cooked in the shell. It is a good idea to leave the shell on if poaching or grilling shrimp. De-veining is optional but be aware this gritty, stringy vein can be very unappetizing. It is preferable to remove the vein, especially if the shrimp is poached and cooked for shrimp cocktail. 

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Preparing a Live Lobster for Broiling

Lobsters are quickly and painlessly killed by inserting a sharp knife in the underside where the tail and body meet. Always wait until the last minute to kill the lobsters; otherwise they will lose a lot of the natural juices and flavor. Our advice is that you move quickly but carefully as you prepare your lobsters for broiling. It is a very good idea to have some rubber kitchen gloves on hand when you prepare the lobsters to protect your hands from the spiny parts of the lobster shell.

Place the lobster on its stomach on a cutting board and while firmly holding its body use a cleaver or a heavy French knife to remove the claws and legs. The lobster will instinctively curl its tail when you remove its claws.

Next, place the lobster on its back and firmly grasp the tail. Insert a very sharp boning knife into the abdomen where it meets the tail and draw the knife towards the tail.

Next, reverse the procedure, this time holding the lobster by the body while drawing the knife from the cut in the abdomen along the tail. Take special care not to cut through the shell along the back of the lobster.

The next step is to split the lobster. With the lobster on its back, press down with the fingers and thumbs along each side of the lobster until the shell cracks open, exposing the interior of the tail and the body cavity. All of the lobster is edible except for the stomach, which is the hard sac near the head and the intestinal vein. Remove and discard these parts.

The greenish liver or tomalley and the coral are edible and can be prepared in a stuffing or left in the lobster during cooking. In all of our broiled lobster recipes we will remove and discard everything in the body cavity. The reason we donít use the tomalley or coral is that the tomalley can be bitter at certain times of the year and most people today just do not find the coral to be as appetizing as past generations have.

We suggest that the lobster be thoroughly washed under cold running water before proceeding with a recipe. The claws may be boiled or steamed and shelled to provide lobster meat for stuffing or they may be broiled with the lobster and served as a garnish.

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How to Prepare a Lobster for Boiling

Most people cook lobsters by simply throwing them into a pot of boiling water. While this method may get the job done, it certainly leaves a lot to be desired as far as quality goes. Boiling flushes much of the flavor out of the lobster and the resulting stock will most likely be too weak in its unreduced state to offer any kind of sauce making ability.
It is far more desirable to steam a lobster in a flavored broth of herbs and wine. Steaming will lock in much of the flavor of the lobster while the juices that manage to escape will be caught in a highly reduced stock. This stock can later be used to create a variety of sauces to accent the boiled lobster.
Rinse the lobsters with cold running water then kill them by inserting a knife where the tail and body meet. Find a stockpot that is big enough to hold the lobsters and has a tight fitting lid. Add about 2 cups of water, wine, or clam juice or any combination of liquid you desire to the stockpot with whatever herbs you like and bring the stock to a boil. Shallots, parsley. peppercorns, or bay leaves are all components of a court bouillon and will give a nice flavor to the stock. Avoid ground peppers or salt at this point. These are enhancing or finishing spices and are not easy to control when added early.
Once the stock is boiling, add the lobsters and replace the cover. Steam the lobsters for about 12 minutes or until they are bright red and the tails spring back when straightened then released. Remove the lobsters and place in an oven set to warm until you are ready to serve them. Use the lobster stock to make a sauce of your own design or try our recipe for Steamed Lobster with Parsley Wine Sauce.

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How to Store Fresh Seafood

Fin Fish: Fresh fin fish should always be used within two days of purchase. Never allow seafood to remain unrefridgerated for long periods of time. Fresh seafood should be held as close to 32 degrees as possible, this is usually accomplished through icing. Do not let ice come in contact with fish filets because ice leaches the flavor from fish. Fresh fish should never be allowed to sit in its own juices because deterioration will occur more rapidly.

Shell Fish:  Keep live oysters, mussels, and clams damp and at 35 degrees. Do hot let shellfish come in contact with ice or fresh water and do not store them in air-tight containers. Shucked shellfish must be held as close to 32 degrees as possible.

Live Lobsters and Crabs: Keep live lobsters and crabs at 35 degrees in damp packaging such as seaweed. Do not hold them in water or in an air-tight container. 

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