From the Sea to Your Smoker MEAT Insider SMOKED SEAFOOD Challenge
At first, seafood can be intimidating to grill or smoke. You really have to watch out for spoilage — everything from mahi-mahi to shrimp and sea urchin can spoil before you realize it. But when you take the right steps, you don’t have to worry at all! I keep my fresh seafood in cold ice water just prior to grilling or smoking. If it’s frozen, you just keep it on ice until you’re getting ready to cook your fish, lobster, shrimp, or whatever seafood you may be using. Once I am ready to smoke, I take my seafood out of the ice water, pat it dry, and let it sit out for about 10–15 minutes to air dry a little more. While it’s drying, I like to prepare any sauces I’m using. If I’m making shrimp, I may make a garlic butter sauce — see recipe on Page 3. This sauce goes well with smoked shrimp, and I’ll say that smoking shrimp is better than having them any other way. When it comes to making the garlic butter sauce, I may even add a bit of cheese. This adds a little extra creaminess and a great flavor. The sauce itself is pretty straightforward and nothing fancy, but it adds a lot when paired with the shrimp. To top it all off, I sprinkle some freshly chopped chives over the dish. As much as I love smoked shrimp, there are many other kinds of seafood that are also perfect for smoking. Crab legs, for instance, are great when prepared in a smoker. Shoot some butter into the legs and put them in the smoker, and you’ll be left with a real delicacy. I can say the same about any crustacean, as well as oysters, clams, and sea urchin — sea urchin already has a sweet taste that you can really set off with a good smoke. Back when I was serving in the military, I knew some officers who loved crab legs. They couldn’t get enough of them. We’d butter some legs, throw them on the grill or in the smoker, and let them get a nice smoky flavor. The mess chef always had a ton of good recipes, and I learned a lot from him. When I got out of the military, I lived in Louisiana for a while. We did a lot of our own crabbing down there, and I got a chance to try some of the recipes I learned from the mess chef. Long story short, we ate really well.
The thing about seafood is you need to think outside the box when it comes to grilling or smoking. Try different herbs and spices to find what you like. While there’s a lot of good recipes out there, seafood works with a surprising number of herbs and spices, and you can find great flavor combinations you might not have considered. I’ve reached the point where I mostly incorporate fresh herbs and seaweed. Prepping seaweed is very easy. You clean it off with fresh water and chop it up like lettuce. It even goes well in a fresh, crisp salad to complement your seafood main course, whether that’s fish, shrimp, or clams. When it comes to clams, I don’t eat a whole lot of them, but when I do, I put them in my smoker near the firebox with a wet piece of burlap. You want the flame to hit the wet burlap to create a good steam, which is what opens up the clams. All it takes is a minute or two, and they’re done. If you don’t have burlap handy, any heavy cloth that can soak up water will do. You can even use a pan of water. You just need to get a steam going in your grill or smoker.
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