Five Ways to Showcase the Versatility of Seafood

Five Ways to Showcase the Versatility of Seafood

Sustainable seafood and global flavors are very on-trend right now. Not surprisingly, today’s chefs are menuing items that combine both of these culinary directions.

Here are Five Ways to Showcase the Versatility of Seafood

1. Make the familiar bold

Consumers are looking for global or ethnic seafood dishes, says James DeFraga, executive chef at AquaKnox in Las Vegas. “People tend to look for familiar flavors, but executed in a creative way,” he says. “Our menu is a fusion of many ethnic or global dishes with seafood as the staple.”

One popular menu item is Ora King Salmon, which DeFraga says melds Asian influences and flavors. The salmon is grilled and glazed with a kabayaki eel sauce served with Chinese black forbidden rice and carrot-miso sauce. “This dish was inspired by different ingredients found in Asian cooking,” he says. “When composing a dish, I always base the plates on how different flavor profiles go together regardless of the region.”

2. Highlight the lighter protein

Some chefs are looking at seafood as a focus not just for global flavors but for the entire menu as well. In June, Underbelly, a Houston restaurant that offered beef as the main protein, announced it was no longer buying whole cows and was changing the focus of its menu to encompass lighter seafood selections. The idea was for the kitchen staff “to dig deep into the cultures that exist in Houston.” That means different proteins, including seafood, in nontraditional dishes.

Gary Ly, chef de cuisine at Underbelly explains, “We try to look at a traditional dish of a certain cuisine and incorporate what we would like to eat with it.” Some examples include:

  • Crawfish Empanada with Chipotle Crema. While empanadas are traditionally stuffed with pork, beef or goat, Underbelly created a lighter version stuffed with crawfish.
  • Korean Fried Soft-Shell Crab. Korean fried chicken is something that is now being done all over the country. Underbelly puts a seafood spin on the classic dish by replacing the chicken with soft-shell crabs while they are in season.

3. Turn the Charcuterie into “Seacuterie”

Seafood can be a stand-in not only for other proteins but also for entire presentations. For example, a charcuterie board with meats and cheeses as a shareable appetizer is on-trend now, as is the seafood version, or “seacuterie.”

  • PB Catch Seafood and Raw Bar in Palm Beach, Fla., offers its “Food-On-A-Board” experience. Customers can choose among Cured White Tuna, Salmon Pastrami, House-Smoked Fish Dip and other seafoods.
  • Southpark Seafood, also in Portland, menus Smoked Fish Board among its charcuterie options. Customers can choose the fish they want, which gives the server an opportunity to talk about sustainable seafood. “We live, breathe and cook Pacific Northwest, and we love having the opportunity to show our love of the land and sea to anyone and everyone,” says Jason Gerlt, general manager.

4. Let Seafood be the surprise star of the dish

Chefs can get creative not only in presentation and cooking methods, but also in menuing seafood in preparations where one might expect to find another traditional ingredient. For example:

  • Rockfish Parmesan is fresh rockfish that is Parmesan breaded, topped with beurre blanc sauce and crispy capers, served with mascarpone polenta and broccoli Alfredo. (Seasons and Regions, Portland)
  • Lobster Burger with Belgian Fries and aioli sauce and Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon or ham and mixed greens (Et Voila!, a Belgian and French restaurant in Washington, D.C.)
  • Smoked mackerel fried rice and Maine crab fried rice (Long Grain in Camden, Maine)
  • At Gather in Boston, the Lobster Cobb has baby iceberg lettuce, chopped bacon, hard cooked egg, Gorgonzola, cherry tomato, avocado and green goddess dressing

5. Take Advantage of Trending Global Cuisines

According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast, Authentic Ethnic Cuisine, African flavors and Ethnic Fusion cuisine rank among the top trends in global flavors. Tilapia, which is sourced through aquaculture and is a very versatile white fish, features prominently on menus of some global-themed restaurants.

  • Appioo African Bar & Grill in Washington, D.C., serves Ghanaian dishes such as tilapia marinated in fresh ginger seasoning, served grilled or fried, with a choice of sides including jollof rice (rice with vegetable stew), waakye (cooked rice and beans), fried plantain, fried or boiled yams or banku (fermented corn and cassava dough).
  • African Grill in Denver serves baked or fried tilapia with salad, plantains or jollof and fufu (a ball of dough made with cassava and green plantain flour).
  • Rainbow African Grill in Gaithersburg, Md., offers tilapia pepper soup with fufu or rice and plantains.

Whether it’s as a stand-in for chicken, beef or other protein, or as a protein that is a staple in home-cooked foods from another region of the world, seafood can play an important role in ethnic and globally inspired menus.

Allied content by Penton Restaurant Group