March 1, 2012 |

2012 March: Sounds Fishy

By Jeffrey Freehof

Clam Chowder

For years, we’ve made a great living on selling pizza, subs, salads, wings and pasta, implementing different components to our menu to stay creative. Still, there’s always room for growth, and seafood can be a huge benefit to your operation, creating both extra revenue and elevating yourself from the competition.

Every market is different, and that’s why I’m going to try to keep my seafood ideas more mainstream. I’ll start by sharing what I did in my shops back in Massachusetts when I bought them in 1998. The three units already sold seafood salad, using chunks of surimi crab salad. Surimi is essentially an artificial crab product that actually does contain about 10-percent real crab. It is finished with pollock or some other white fish and bound with some type of starch. This is certainly affordable and has a decent flavor to it. What I did to our seafood salad was flake the crab by hand, which gave it a more natural shredded look, and then I added some pre-cooked baby shrimp. It was almost as inexpensive as the crab product but brought the quality level of our seafood salad up by 10 notches. We offered it on subs as well as an add-on to our garden salad. Here’s a recipe to try:

Seafood Salad

2 pounds shredded crab
1 pound baby shrimp
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Now, let’s talk linguini with white clam and garlic sauce. This is both very simple and popular. For this dish the clam sauce can be pre-made, portioned and then heated very quickly to order. There are different kinds of clams you can use, but I recommend chopped sea clams because these should be
accessible to every market. Plus, I really like the quality of them (don’t confuse them with chopped ocean clams, which are not as good). Here’s a simple recipe:

Garlic Clam Sauce

1 51-ounce can of chopped sea clams (with the clam juice)
½ can (25 ounces) water
½ pound of clam base (paste)
1 tablespoon crushed red peppers
¼ cup garlic puree
½ cup vegetable or olive oil
1 cup of white wine

Bring all ingredients to a simmer and add 2/3 cups of cornstarch dissolved into 2/3 cup of cold water. Whisk it in and keep whisking until it comes back to a simmer and remove from heat.

Once the liquid cools, add 2/3 cup of chopped parsley. You can portion the cooled sauce into 15-ounce servings. I use soup pint containers for this.

When I get an order, I put portioned clam sauce into a sauté pan over a high flame. I drop 10 precooked linguini into my simmering pasta water for roughly 90 seconds, then I drain the pasta and toss it with the clam sauce. If someone wants linguini with red clam sauce, simply add 4 ounces of marinara.

If you have a fryer, I’d love to see you offer fish and chips. If you have the market for it, serve it every day; if not, it makes an excellent Friday or lunch special. You’ll have to estimate how much fish to buy without running out. If you have fish left over, not to worry, I’ll share with you what to do.

Any kind of flat fish will do, such as flounder, tilapia or even catfish. I prefer a thinner fish because of how fast it cooks. There are different mixes for fish that can be used dry or wet, depending on what kind of finished product you seek.

If you want to make your own batter, which will set you apart from your competition, here’s a great and simple recipe: for every 1 cup of flour, use 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of paprika and 1 cup of water. Dredge your fish in flour, shake off the excess and dip it in the batter. Let the batter drip off the fish for a few seconds and carefully lay the fish in a 350 F fryer for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with an order of your favorite fries and you’ve got an
awesome serving of fish ‘n’ chips.

If you prefer a dry mix instead of a batter, use the same recipe I gave you except replace the cup of water with a cup of fine corn meal or corn flour. (This dry mix is also great for shrimp and scallops if you decide to expand your seafood offerings.)

When purchasing fish, you want to make sure it’s fresh. It’s so important to keep your seafood iced in your cooler. Put your seafood in a perforated pan inserted into a deeper solid pan so that when the ice melts it doesn’t leave the fish submerged. A very good alternative is purchasing some IQF (individually quick frozen) fish filets. Understand that this fish is caught, filleted and frozen at sea, providing you with an excellent product. You can thaw as much as you need. I’ve seen chefs insist on buying fresh fish from a local market and then selling it four or five days later. In reality it’s not very fresh anymore by that point. Frozen at sea can really provide you with an excellent end product.

If you decide to tap into the seafood salad, the clam sauce and fried fish, you are now in a perfect position (with your inventory of crab flakes, baby shrimp, chopped clams and fish) to make an awesome seafood chowder! I’ve won eight awards with my chowder and I know you will win customers over with this awesome recipe:

Seafood Chowder

2 pounds white fish
1 51-ounce can chopped sea clams with juice
1 pound of crab flakes
1 pound baby shrimp
2 pounds diced potatoes
½ pound clam base
½ gallon light cream
1/3 cup granular garlic
¼ cup salt
¼ cup black pepper
10 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme

Simmer all ingredients until potatoes get tender.Make a roux with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of oil, and stir into simmering chowder until it comes to a simmer again. You are now ready to serve.

Jeff Freehof owns The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today and a speaker at the Pizza Expo family of trade shows.