Chef Chris Braswell of the award-winning Steamers restaurant on the Outer Banks shares his tips for preparing a seafood feast at home.
Ah, summer. The season of seafood. Right now, chef Chris Braswell of Steamers, an award-winning seafood joint in Corolla, North Carolina, is in the midst of steaming spiced shrimp, grilling the day’s catch, and fresh frying scallops. But for those who can’t make it to the Outer Banks this summer—or just can’t wait to get there—chef Braswell has a few straightforward tips for preparing a seafood feast at home.
Step one, just like at Steamers, is to buy the freshest, highest quality of seafood available. “There can be a lot of confusion about buying seafood,” says Braswell, “so the first and most important step is buying from a fishmonger or market that you trust. Visit them on a regular basis. The more your buy and handle seafood the more you will develop an eye for freshness.”
Steamed Shrimp – Never Over-steam
“When steaming shrimp at home it’s paramount that you avoid over cooking the shrimp,” says Braswell. “Always make your steaming process the last part of your meal prep, so that you can focus on watching the shrimp steam. Steam shrimp in small batches in a steamer. There should be only one layer of shrimp and spice (Bay seasoning is great for shellfish cooked in the shell) on the bottom of the pan at a time. Once shrimp is about 95% pink remove it and place it on a platter. The entire shrimp should appear pink, but the small interior vein should be a light gray. Remember that shrimp in the shell will continue to cook even after removed from a steamer and will finish cooking on the platter.”
“I like to serve it with my homemade cocktail sauce and lemon and enjoy with a craft beer,” says Braswell.
Grilled Fish – Never Let the Marinade Overpower the Flavor or Texture of the Fish
“At Steamers, we like to grill two to three different fish at a time for variety, which is ideal for a backyard barbeque with family and friends,” says Braswell. “Usually, we go with hearty Gulf Stream fish such as Yellow Fin Tuna, a robust Wild Caught Salmon, and a light white fish such as Mahi-Mahi. You can make your own marinades or choose ones from the local gourmet market, but the big key to matching fish and marinades is to remember that you always want to taste the fish first and the marinade next. Thick heartier fish such as tuna and swordfish are great with rubs and thick marinades like barbeque sauce. Robust fish like salmon work great with marinades that are deep and rich such as soy-based marinades. For mild flaky fish use a vinaigrette-based marinade.”
“I serve grilled fish on a big platter and top the filets with a fresh summertime salsa for a light, fresh and healthy meal,” says Braswell.
Fresh Scallops – Scallops, the Filet Mignon of the Sea, Should be Cooked to Similar Temperature
“We love to keep it simple at Steamers, so that we can showcase the naturals flavors of the high quality seafood we serve,” says Braswell. “How we prepare our scallops is a great example. Whether we lightly fry, blacken or grill the scallops, we always cook them to a medium-rare (125-135 degrees) temperature. The center should be a translucent color. If you prefer more well done try a 145-150 degree temperature. Remember this is the filet of the sea and does not need to be drowned in cream or butter.”
“I simply serve scallops with a remoulade, always a great bet,” says Braswell.
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