Shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and oysters, are flavourful and healthy at the same time. They contain lots of protein and are a source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Perhaps you just settle with having them at a restaurant every now and then because you find cooking them intimidating or tedious. But, with some practical knowledge, such as how to buy them, clean them, store them, and cook them, you may find that having them at home can be just as enjoyable.
Relatively cheap, clams are in season in September to April. Mussels are also available around this period of time (September to March). As for oysters, they are available all year round.
You’ll want the freshest shellfish available, and a trusted fishmonger or a reputable supplier can help you with that. There also ways to know whether shellfish are fresh or not. For instance, when they have a strong ‘fishy’ odour, it is an indication that they are not fresh; instead, they should smell fresh like the sea.
Additionally, they should be bought live; otherwise, they are not good for eating anymore. An indication that they are alive is when they are tightly closed. Or, if they are open a bit, they close quickly when you tap them lightly. Shellfish unfit to eat won’t open on their own when cooked, so it’s best to discard them..
Generally, shellfish are packed in a plastic bag when you buy them, so see to it that you keep the top of the bag open, allowing them to breathe. As soon as you get home, have them rinsed, drained, and placed in a glass bowl, covered tightly with a damp tea towel. You can keep them for a couple of days on the bottom shelf of the fridge, or you can freeze them for up to three months.
Another thing to remember when storing shellfish is to never store them in water; otherwise, they will die. Also, do not put them in a bowl of water and try to feed them oats; this is a myth. If it does something, it would be that it shortens their lives, and you would not want that.
Before cooking shellfish such as clams and mussels, see to it that they are clean. They can use a good scrub. Mussels, specifically, may need some “debearding”.
Steaming is one easy way to cook shellfish. Just place your mussels or clams in a pot, and bring to a boil one-half cup of water for every pound, mixed with some garlic, onion, and leek. Cover up the pot to allow the shellfish to steam open. This usually takes 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the species.
You can also have them grilled, which is particularly easy as well. For instance, cook clams and oysters over direct heat until the shells open. You can serve them with butter and other seasonings.
Indeed, shellfish are tasty and have various health benefits. And, now that you have some knowledge on how to buy, store, and cook them, you can enjoy them at the comfort of your home.