Here's something you probably already know: Seafood is delicious, but it can be expensive! Lobster tails, crab legs, and even shrimp can feel luxurious for a weeknight meal.
But here's something you may not realize: Buying whole seafood instead of just buying tails or legs can actually be a more cost effective way to purchase seafood, similar to buying a whole chicken. Many parts of the seafood can be used in other dishes, which means multiple meals can come out of one piece of seafood.
So before you steer clear of a mid-week seafood meal, read these tips from Pan Hompleum, proprietor of seafood restaurant Low Country in Chicago, Illinois, on creative ways to make the most of your seafood. " There is a purpose for every part of what you are using," he says. "Every part of animal is tasty in its own way." Get ready to dig in!
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Who says that seafood has to be limited to dinner? Take lobster for instance. You can certainly use the tails for a lovely dinner, but don't stop there. Save the leftover knuckle meat and claws to make lobster rolls or lobster sandwiches for lunch, and even throw a little bit into your scrambled eggs in the morning. If you want to get fancy, no one will turn down crab or lobster Benedict in the morning.
Hush puppies, biscuits and more
Hush puppies are delicious on their own, but why not kick them up with a little crab like they do at Low Country? And don't stop at hush puppies. Biscuits are another great way to use leftover crab or lobster meat, taking a pretty simple dish and giving it a creative twist. You can even make crab bread pudding or a crab or lobster dip.
Mac and cheese, please
Who doesn't love creamy, gooey mac and cheese? Make an adult version with seafood. Hompleum uses crab claw meat to add a pop of red to the dish, and a whole lot of flavor. Lobster is also a popular choice for mac and cheese. A little bit goes a long way!
Spread it on bread
Hompleum is a big fan of crab butter. " In Dungeness crab, lots of people toss the whole body away, but the body is a really great part of the meat—we call it crab butter," he said. He uses the crab butter in a multitude of ways — combining with rice to add some extra flavor and even just taking bread to dunk straight into the crab butter. The inside of shrimp heads are sweeter and have the same sort of delicacy as the crab butter. Of course, you could make actual butter with crab or lobster as well.
Soups and sauces
Once you've dug out every piece of meat from your lobster, crab or even shrimp, it's time to put those shells to work. Yes, you can use those shells to make amazing stocks. Make a gumbo with shrimp heads, lobster shells or crab shells. Use the lobster shell to add richness to a pasta sauce. Crab and lobster bisques are both delicious with flavor enhanced by the shells.
Home cooks should be aware that not every part of the seafood is always edible or usable. Hompleum trains his employees to show their patrons both the edible and inedible parts of the seafood. A good rule of thumb? He says anything that seems to have a strange texture is generally inedible, but consult your local seafood specialist for help.