It's National Seafood Month!
While every day is seafood day at Sitka Seafood Market (and in my kitchen), October is officially National Seafood Month, and to honor the occasion, I’d like to share a few of my favorite seafood dishes and recipes of 2023.
Top of the list are oysters from the Medomak River, just five miles north of my home in Maine. Plucked, shucked, and slurped right on the dock, these oysters are grown in silt-rich waters, and are without a doubt the freshest and most delicious I’ve ever had. They are a bit more umami-rich and less briny than the Pemaquid oysters harvested a few miles south of my home and closer to the ocean. The merroir — defined as the complete set of local conditions in which seafood is raised — is very clear in the differences between these two oysters and imbues each with unique characteristics. A squeeze of lemon and a dash of hot sauce is nice but not necessary when seafood is this exquisite.
I love the simplicity of crudo (raw fish) made with sockeye, especially our dense and fatty Copper River salmon. In the easiest of preparations, thinly sliced salmon is lightly dressed with nothing more than olive oil, fresh lemon juice, briny capers, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, allowing the clean, bright flavor of the fish to come through. Add minced shallots and chopped fresh parsley if you like, but don’t be tempted to overload the fish with garnishes or you’ll lose all the briny-minerally freshness of the fish.
My inspiration comes from many sources — books, videos, and magazines to name a few — but above all are restaurants. I love to go on food crawls with adventurous and hungry friends to share the experience…and the expense. We pick a cuisine and neighborhood, research the best dishes to try at different restaurants, and plot our route. Queens in New York City (comprising more than 90 distinct neighborhoods) is a mecca for all types of Asian cuisines and has been the source of many food adventures. Malaysian, Laotian, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Korean cuisines, and many more are all represented in Queens and it’s almost impossible to go wrong. But finding good Asian restaurants outside of big cities is hit or miss (mostly miss, if truth be told). Thankfully, online markets are great sources for specialty items and supermarkets offer increasingly diverse ingredients. When I can’t get to Queens, I go to my pantry to whip up Seafood Dan Dan Noodles, Seafood Wontons in Chili Oil, Cantonese-Style Sablefish, Pan-Fried Cod with Chili Crisp, and Stir-Fried Sablefish Tips.
Late summer and early fall is peak mushroom season in my part of Maine and while I’m not an expert, there are several local varieties — chanterelles, black trumpets, chicken of the woods, and oyster mushrooms — that I can easily (and safely) identify. I know enough to carry a paper bag when hiking or wear a baggy t-shirt when running to hold any mushrooms I come across. This year, which has been rainy and somewhat cool, has been stellar for foraging and has inspired lots of great meals. One in particular was Seared Halibut with Wild Mushrooms and Bacon, crusty sourdough bread, and a fresh tomato salad. The mushrooms were foraged, the bacon came from a local farm, I baked the bread, and I grew the tomatoes. The halibut was from Alaska (of course), but everything else was wild or local or both and it gave me immense satisfaction to know that I had a part in so many aspects of that meal.
Whether you see coho, king, or keta salmon, or lingcod, in your box this month, I hope you enjoy National Seafood Month with your catch this October.