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Shellfish: 5 mistakes we make often
Shellfish: 5 mistakes we make often

Last year, with the Expo, everyone was wondering: would you eat a grasshopper or a cricket? Among the most heartfelt answers: “why not, after all they look like shrimp”.

Sara. The fact is that I i shellfish I love them and, as far as I'm concerned, they remain (and will remain) the only animals with legs, antennae and pincers that I love to find on my plate.

Shared passion: often the most coveted products are on the fishmonger's counter. As long as you choose them well and, once at home, treat them correctly.

Don't commit these 5 errors, if you don't want to irretrievably waste so much goodness.

1. Not knowing how to recognize them

lobster, knife
lobster, knife

There are many, I know. Some very similar to each other. But the macro categories are not difficult to identify.

The lobsters and prawns have claws and a fan-shaped tail. Always fan tail, but long antennae instead of claws characterize lobsters. Antennas also for the whole shrimp and prawn family, with a pointed tail.

The exception is the crayfish, which also have their claws and fan-shaped tails, like miniature lobsters.

The mantis shrimp are the only ones that cannot be confused with others because of that pale color, the flat tail adorned with two symmetrical black spots and the two claws on the sides of the head that look like wings (instead they are used to grab prey).

Then there are the rounded ones, generically called crabs: crabs, with smooth and pinkish armor with large claws; pincers also for fairy tales, dark red and lumpy; the spider crab, the most prized, of a classic lobster red, with thin claws, also has a “thorny” back.

2. Taking hasty looks


Recognizing freshness is what most throws the amateur into crisis. Given that the live crustacean can be recognized because it moves, this is a more common occurrence on the docks or in the seaport markets: only rarely, on city banks, do you touch a crab and that - zac! - reacts instantly.

It is also believed that mantis shrimp are always very fresh because, among all crustaceans (apart from the large ones that swim in the tanks) they are often self-propelled in the box. In reality, it is simply because they resist out of water longer than others.

Yes, lobster and lobster are also sold alive and long-lived. And I will not tell you in detail about that time in which one of these gentlemen survived a trip in the car closed in the bundle of the fish market, twenty-four hours in the fridge always closed in the bundle of the fish market, and then jumped out very lively while the water, on the stove, gurgled …

But, in short, let's say that unfortunately often all these little animals make a good show of themselves on the ice when they are now dead and dry. We cannot help but try to understand when the passing away took place.

Signs that must be avoided are the smell of ammonia (they develop it as they deteriorate) and blackened parts: the head and then the legs become dark as time passes. In fact, crustaceans that are no longer very fresh are sold headless.

The excessively bright color could denounce the use of sulphites, added to prolong their shelf life. However, like all additives, they must be indicated on the label: read!

Finally, if, once home, the carapace jumps off at the first touch … well … uh … what did you buy them to do?

3. Clean them badly

lobster cleaning
lobster cleaning

Cleaning is not difficult, but it requires a certain patience and is different from one beast to another.

The easiest to treat are shrimp and scampi.

If you remove the heads, just rinse them and not too much (they contain substances very rich in taste, see point 4).

If you want to shell, simply cut along the back or belly with scissors, spread and extract the pulp.

And here the donkey falls: people who take the shelled tail and throw it into the pot. This is not done if you have not eliminated the black fillet first: you can grab it from the head side, or cut it in the middle of the back with the tip of a small knife and, having identified the intestine, remove it with a toothpick.

But do it, please: not only is it bitter, but it's the intestine, for God's sake!

Lobsters, lobsters and crabs are cleaned after cooking by extracting the pulp from the body and claws.

Some very good ones manage to shell the mantis shrimp raw: I've never made it but, if you have time and dexterity, you are free to try.

4. Discard the scraps

lobster, cleaning
lobster, cleaning

Suppose for a cool recipe or a filling you only need the pulp. You will not throw away, will you, heads and shells? Especially the former contain all the flavor of the crustacean.

On the contrary: I don't know what your recipe is but if you cook only the naked pulp it will know little.

So, listen to me: use the scraps to make a base, toasting them in a pan and adding fish stock, white wine or plain water. Just rinse them and, in the case of large specimens, remove the eyes (but I always forget!) Which seem to be bitter.

This is how the classic bisque with shallots and a touch of tomato is made, but also a simple sauté with garlic, oil, parsley.

Let your sauce cook for a long time, even twenty or thirty minutes, making sure that it is always moist.

Turn off, filter by crushing and breaking the remains in the colander, narrow if necessary a little more and use this nectar as a base for a sauce, to flavor the home made mayonnaise with which to accompany a fried or simply, drop by drop, as a garnish to the dish.

5. Overcook them

cooking lobster
cooking lobster

This is truly unforgivable. If cooked, the firm and succulent flesh of the crustaceans becomes dry and lint-free.

Whatever the chosen technique, from steam to grilling, the crustacean is ready the instant the shell changes color: shrimp, scampi and mantis shrimp take no more than 2-3 minutes, medium-sized lobsters and lobsters 8-10, the biggest crabs at most about twenty.

The pulp must be slightly opaque, still slightly translucent and, above all, firm and elastic.

Make no mistake or you will nullify all the mistakes avoided so far. And it would be a crime.

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