Shellfish


Sweet and succulent, shellfish is a culinary treasure that can be presented in the simplest or most elegant of ways. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and melted butter, toss with pasta Alfredo or wrap in a fancy puff pastry crust.
All fish are broken down into two broad categories: fish and shellfish. While fish have fins, backbones and gills, shellfish are equipped with shells of one form or another.

Varieties

Shellfish are separated into two basic groups: crustaceans and mollusks.

Crustaceans
have elongated bodies and jointed, crust-like shells. Examples include crabs, crayfish, lobsters, prawns and shrimp.

Mollusks are invertebrates with soft bodies covered by a shell of one or two pieces. They can be further divided into three groups:
   
    Gastropods—Also called univalves, these mollusks have a single shell and single muscle. Common gastropods are
    abalone, limpet, periwinkle, snail and whelk. With the exception of abalone, gastropods are not as highly regarded
    in the culinary world as bi-valve mollusks.

    Bi-Valves—These mollusks have two shells hinged together by a strong muscle. Examples include clams, scallops,
    oysters and mussels.  

    Cephalopods—This class of mollusk is characterized by tentacles attached to the head and ink sacs, which are used
    to attack predators. Common cephalopods are octopus, squid and cuttlefish. These are quite popular in southern European,
    Japanese and Chinese cuisines.

Buying Tips

Choose a reputable retailer with rapid turnover and a regular, fresh supply of fish. Supermarkets generally purchase fish from a "middleman" wholesaler, which means the fish don't get to the market as quickly. Specialty fish markets, especially those in water areas, often buy directly from fisherman. You can't get any fresher than that.

Some varieties of shellfish (like crab, shrimp and lobster) are available pre-cooked or frozen, but most varieties will be alive when purchased. Lightly tap the shells or exposed muscle–they should move when touched. Shellfish should smell sweet and fresh like the ocean, not fishy.

When shopping, make the fish counter your last stop before going home. Ask for a bag of ice or bring your own cooler to keep the fish cold. Once home, immediately refrigerate and enjoy your fresh shellfish the same day.

Storage, Preparation and Cooking Tips

For more information, see individual listings for:

abalone

clam

crab

lobster

mussels

oyster

scallops

shrimp


Try one of our favorite shellfish recipes:

Gemelli P

Related Recipes

View BigOven's shellfish recipes

by BigOven editorial team
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