Shellfish Cooking Tips & Tricks

When purchasing shellfish it is very important to ensure that they are very fresh and, in many cases, that they are alive and lively. Those with double shells must be tightly closed and those with a carapace and legs for movement must be animated.

There are two groups of shellfish:
(a) Molluscs.
There are two distinct types:
(i) bivalves which have two shells joined by a hinge, the most commonly used in catering being oysters, scallops and mussels;
(ii) univalves which have just one shell and include whelks and winkles.
(b) Crustaceans. These have a single shell and legs and include crab, lobster, scampi, prawns and shrimps.

It is worth remembering that many cases of food poisoning are caused by serving stale shellfish. A cut can quickly become infected by a scratch from live, raw or even cooked shellfish.

Wash the crabs in cold water and plunge them into sufficient boiling court-bouillon to cover them. Allow the crabs to simmer gently for approximately 20 minutes. When cooked leave them to cool completely in the liquid.

Lobster dishes:
There are two main categories:
(a) those made from boiled lobster which are served in the shell with a variety of sauces; and
(b) those made from lobster cooked by a combination of boiling, shallow frying or stewing and removed from the shell at some stage before serving in a silver timbale (a silver dish with an inner lining to keep food hot).

Lobster dishes served in the shell:
As outlined above, for these dishes the lobster is boiled and the flesh removed from the shell. The flesh is then cut slightly on the slant, reheated in butter and replaced in the shell with a variety of sauces. This general method is the same for all lobster dishes served in the shell; variety is achieved by the use of different sauces and garnishes as in:

Lobster Cardinal — Homard Cardinal
Lobster with Cheese Sauce — Homard Mornay
Lobster Thermidor — Homard Thermidor