How to Match Wood to Meat for Best Smoky Flavors It’s essential to match the right woods when grilling or smoking foods, from pork to fish. Think of pecan, mesquite and alder the same as ginger, basil or turmeric. Each tastes different. Use only varieties of hardwood that are low in resin for smoking or […]
If there were such a thing as a national shrimp intervention, this may be a perfect moment for it.
We are a popcorn shrimp nation, enthralled by endless shrimp platters and bulging all-you-can-eat seafood buffets. We are lovers of overstuffed po’boys, steaming bowls of scampi and takeout containers dripping with kung pao.
Loving shrimp is not a bad thing, but increasingly cooks and environmentalists wonder if we love shrimp too much. Or if we are loving the right shrimp.
Somewhere along the line, shrimp went from being that special thing to something you can gorge yourself on.
Like so much of the food we eat, shrimp comes with all sorts of issues: Ensuring sustainability. Eating locally. Guarding against disease. And, at the top of the list for many cooks, what tastes best?
Almost 90 percent of the American shrimp supply is imported, much of it from India, Thailand and Indonesia. But it’s been a tough couple of years for imported shrimp. Public health studies have been critical of the Food and Drug Administration’s testing program, and reports cite deplorable sanitation conditions at some processing plants. An incurable bacterial disease has devastated many shrimp farms, driving prices up. And even though the Seafood Watch lists certain farmed frozen shrimp from Thailand as an acceptable choice, the State Department in June released a report that highlighted forced labor used to catch the fish that feed some Thai shrimp farms.
Eating less imported shrimp and more shrimp from America’s coasts seems a logical choice. But a shift in culinary perspective — one that puts shrimp on par with food that is best in season and worth paying more for — is a change that most of us can only take slowly.
Shrimp’s popularity began to rise in the 1970s, along with foreign shrimp farms and inexpensive chain restaurants. Fancy shrimp cocktails at the “21” Club gave way to small, breaded shrimp at Red Lobster. Somewhere in the early 2000s, shrimp overtook canned tuna as the most popular seafood in America. People eat almost four pounds of it a year.
In Jacksonville, Fla., New Orleans and other shrimping capitals of the South, shrimp that has been boiled, fried or sauced with butter and Worcestershire is as common as bread. Shrimping is a legacy profession and the lifeblood of hundreds of coastal communities, whose shrimping families have endured hurricanes, environmental disasters and decades of foreign competition.
With foreign supplies in question and local food in vogue, many cooks and shrimpers here say wild American shrimp is the solution. But to assure itself a place at a shrimp-lover’s table, wild American shrimp will have to persuade cooks to embrace its more pronounced flavor, seasonality and higher price.
Shrimp are wild creatures, and availability rises and falls on a complex mix of reproductive cycles, government regulations and seasons. It’s named for its hard shell and is reminiscent of lobster. She poached it in butter and set it atop a little casserole of roasted corn, Mexican crema and smoked paprika.
Debate about the best wild Southern shrimp is intense. South Carolinians insist on white shrimp from their waters for Frogmore stew, a simple boil of shrimp, potatoes, corn, sausage and maybe clams or crab that came from the Gullah kitchens of the Sea Islands.
Some grew up loving the wild taste of brown shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, but critics say it can taste like iodine. Pink shrimp off the Florida coast has loyalists, so do Royal Reds, the rarest of the bunch because they are pulled only from deep water and can spoil quickly.
American shrimp is not without its problems. It can be expensive and hard to find. What a local resident here on the north Florida coast might pick up for under $9 a pound will cost $18.50 in Manhattan. Still, gulf shrimp is the best seller.
At the fish counter or supermarket, shoppers should not turn away from frozen shrimp. But be selective. Make sure the bag says “I.Q.F.,” which stand for individually quick frozen. The label will note whether the shrimp is farmed or wild, and where it came from. Buy shrimp in the shell. It protects the product, and peeled shrimp has often been treated with chemical preservatives.
Wild shrimp is attractive to a new generation of cooks. For our generation, we like to delve into the details of our food, and the whole wild-caught shrimp thing is just so much better.
And that is not a hard sell to a demographic group that increasingly wants to know more about the provenance, economics and social impact of what they eat.
Once you really get into shrimping, you are going to think maybe I shouldn’t be buying disgusting popcorn shrimp from a fast-food place.
Gulf shrimp gained new fans in the aftermath of the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Louisiana residents formed the White Boot Brigade, named after the shrimper’s rubber footwear, and began a nationwide campaign to introduce it to chefs across the country. Danny Meyer, Alice Waters and even Al Roker embraced it for its flavor and as a way to help save a culture.
The industry’s crawl back took another hit in 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana and in other coastal states that pull shrimp from the gulf, testing is more rigorous than it has ever been, and supplies have been declared safe by federal and state agencies, though many consumers are still hesitant.
That even includes people in the shrimp business .One shrimper who runs a seafood processing company in Grand Isle, La., is doing about half the business he did before the BP spill. Like a lot of people, he quit eating shrimp for a while. Although shrimpers are still pulling some deformed product from the gulf, he couldn’t stay away long.
Wild shrimp has other ecological problems. Fish and turtles get caught in the vast nets shrimpers pull through the water. Reducing that bycatch has been a focus in the wild-shrimping business. Sea turtle mortality dropped after shrimpers were ordered to attach devices to their nets that allow the turtles to escape. Louisiana is the only state that doesn’t comply, earning it a place on the Seafood Watch avoid list.
Still, most wild American shrimp from the Eastern Seaboard, the Pacific Ocean, the gulf and the waters around Alaska gets good marks from seafood monitoring programs, some of which also endorse certain kinds of farmed shrimp, including the small but growing domestic operations.
If we could make it one of many things we ate from the sea, then we could live off our own shrimp and eat the by-catch. It should be viewed as this precious local product, not a commodity product.
Source: NYtimes.com, 8-5-14
Baltimore metropolitan area eateries are giving back again at this year’s Dining Out For Life on September 18, 2014. Will you join them? For the last 21 years, the restaurant community has united for this one special day to support Moveable Feast, a nonprofit organization that provides meals and nutritional counseling to people and their […]
What makes a truly great sandwich? It’s no small question — sandwiches are big business, both for restaurants — Subway, the largest QSR chain in the world, has over 42,000 locations — and retail, with nearly 90% of consumers report eating a sandwich within the past week, the majority eaten and prepared at home.
So what makes a truly great sandwich? When asked to finish the sentence, “A truly great sandwich starts with having truly great…,” 42% of consumers chose the bread or carrier as the most important component. This should be good news to the many operators who have been busy introducing a wide variety of specialty carriers in the past few years. Pretzel, for instance, continues to grow as a carrier — it grew 33% on sandwich menus over the past year, and 170% in the past four years. Brioche is also growing fast, and the term “artisan” is being used more frequently to describe sandwich bread.
What are consumers looking for when it comes to sandwich trends? While it’s no surprise that familiar favorites like turkey and ham are the most consumed options, unique sandwich trends like tortas also scored highly with consumers, both in familiarity (77% of consumers were familiar with tortas) and appeal (they were also the highest scoring unique sandwich option). Operators and manufacturers can also look to regional American cuisine for menu and product inspiration — nearly 60% of consumers were interested in the Kentucky hot brown, and Buffalo, New York’s local specialty, the “beef on weck,” a roast beef sandwich with fresh horseradish on a salt and caraway-topped “kimmelweck roll,” also scored highly. And BBQ was the most popular “MegaTrend” we tested, with 64% of consumers highly interested in BBQ sandwich options — a trend operators and manufacturers may be promoting through an increase in Southern-inspired flavors and components. Pulled proteins, for instance, are growing on sandwich menus — pulled or shredded chicken is up 90% over the past four years, and pulled pork is up 36%.
Supermarkets, in particular, may need to start leveraging these trends in the future as they continue to compete with nearby restaurants by adding more prepared foods, including prepared sandwiches and other deli options. Today’s consumers are encountering a wider variety of sandwich options and flavors, from regional and ethnic influences to healthier ingredients and quality-driven descriptors like “slow-cooked” and “hand-carved.”
Millennials, meanwhile, continue to blur the lines between dayparts. As reported in our breakfast keynote report, millennials were more likely than other age groups to eat breakfast outside of breakfast hours, and the same holds true for sandwiches — 27% were inclined to eat a sandwich at breakfast (excluding breakfast sandwiches), while a quarter considered them a late-night snack option.
Source: Smartblogs.com, 8-13-2014
The way we eat — the kind of food we buy, where we get it, how it’s prepared — has become a part of our identity, a guiding force that shapes how we live. It unites us. And divides us. Food brings people together in communal functions. But it also pits ideologies against each other: vegetarians vs. carnivores; all-natural evangelists vs. the convenience crowd; calorie counters vs. indulgence seekers.
No matter where individuals fall on the spectrum, we are a country obsessed with food. And with a seeming explosion in allergies, heightened concerns over obesity, increased scrutiny of chemical additives and growing environmental concerns, there’s more attention being paid to what we eat than perhaps ever before. After decades of stocking our kitchens with meat, cheese and noodles, while simultaneously dieting to reverse the effects of all those fatty, starchy foods, we may be realizing that food isn’t just a way to live, it’s a lifestyle choice.
How will Americans be eating in five years? Here’s what they said about the future of food:
Food that’s good for us will taste better
A growing number of chefs, food bloggers and restaurateurs have started dedicating themselves to promoting healthy food that’s also delicious. They’re finding ways to cut down on fat, sugar and meat and still make money.
There are plenty of restaurants and food purveyors out there that are working to make nutrient-dense food delicious and appealing and exciting.
Vegan is going mainstream as people seek healthier, convenient options. Included on her menus is a “bacon cheeseburger” made with seitan, a gluten-based meat alternative; caramelized onions; tofu bacon; and battered dill pickle chips. “When you can have something that tastes delicious and it feels good in your body and you feel like you did something good for yourself, why wouldn’t it sell?” she says.
Farm-to-table will trickle down
The advent of farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants have brought food sourcing to the forefront of Americans’ consciousness. Not only are strawberries grown an hour away fresher and better tasting than the ones that spent days or even weeks being shipped across the country, buying that produce supports the local economy and a more sustainable way of eating.
But it’s also expensive. Access to locally grown produce is still relatively reserved for those who can afford it and have the time to seek it out. “Unfortunately, if you’re a single mom and work two jobs and can barely put food on the table, you don’t have time to think about where your food came from.
That could change if the country collectively demands better food. Hopefully that support of local farmers and farmers markets, and programs that introduce kids to gardening, will help make access to better food a national movement. If you can have this happen on a grass-roots level, then it spreads so it’s in the community. No one is dieting. They’re just eating better food.
As people begin to look for (fresh food) in their everyday dining occasion, they put more pressure on grocery and other fast-food segments of the industry.”
We might see ads for broccoli
Another way to make produce cheaper? Get people to buy more of it. Processed foods dominate the grocery business, luring us with million-dollar marketing campaigns that show up on our TV screens as commercials with our favorite athletes or celebrities, in magazine ads and in eye-catching store displays.
The problem is there’s no branding in produce. The power of marketing is huge.
Unfortunately, the government doesn’t necessarily make it easy. How do we level the playing field for people financially to make it possible for them to eat healthier in ways that aren’t going to cripple their budgets? One big way would be to totally rethink the Department of Agriculture. Because so much of that agency’s energy and research and development money is going into crops that fuel the highly processed food industry. And so little of it is going into making fruits and vegetables less expensive.
We’ll see the end of the diet
Can a country that has built an entire industry around dieting decide to, instead, just eat healthier all the time?
Groups of people have adopted gluten-free diets even though they’re not technically allergic to gluten. Others prescribe themselves the Paleo diet, eating the protein-heavy, dairy-free foods of our Stone Age ancestors.
When it comes to eating, we are a country of extremes, Erickson says, opting for meat and potatoes or doing a complete 180 and going only for vegetarian and non-fat food. But what were once considered specialty diets are starting to be combined and adopted into a more balanced and manageable way of eating all the time.
Somewhere in between is something we cannot treat as a diet, but treat as an accepted and sought-for lifestyle as it relates to what we consume.
And as fresher, local food not only becomes more widely available but is prepared in ways that are appealing, eventually people will make more choices of things that are better for them because it tastes good, not because they’re necessarily disciplined about it.”
Source: usatoday.com, 8-14-2014
Trim portion sizes, build a healthier plate, and don’t automatically eliminate foods from your diet.
Try to cut out most of the junky stuff – Avoid and don’t eat any processed or manufactured food products
Here are seven ways towards trimming down. . .
Get healthier: Just try to feel better. Become more active as well.
Nothing processed: Don’t eat any junk that’s processed. Make almost all of what you eat — which isn’t hard if you keep your diet simple, and shop the farmers markets.
No fake fats: Be particular in the types of oils you choose –Use olive oil, and butter. But none of that stuff in the plastic tubs.
Tasting only: Cooking large quantities of food can be full of temptation – Resist. And when tasting what you cook, taste just enough to know when the flavors, consistency and doneness are right.
Build your plate: Start with vegetables – whatever is beautiful and bright and colorful, fresh from the farmers market. That becomes the main dish. Who needs meat, other protein at every meal?
Keep meals simple: Maybe an ear of fresh corn with some butter and a touch of salt; some green beans from your local market or garden; and a fresh tomato sandwich on 12-grain bread. Delicious.
Be mindful of snacks: Eat Clif Bar products as a snack. Also buy cherries or strawberries or a bunch of carrots. Keep them around. You have to plan — from the buying, to the moment it goes into your mouth.
Source: cleaveland.com/dining 8-7-2014