In culinary language, the word "shellfish" includes crustacea and mollusks.
Lobster, shrimp, crab and crawfish are crustaceans. They are covered with a thin shell, have legs and sometimes claws.
Oysters, clams, mussels and scallops are bivalve mollusks, having two valves that open and close.
If lobster and crab are the most extravagant of shellfish, and shrimp the most popular, then oysters might be considered the most exotic.
Shellfish can be adapted to a wide variety of recipes and cooking techniques, from simple to elaborate.
Recipes for entres such as lobster Newburg may be legendary, but when properly cooked, the meat of a plainly boiled lobster is sweet and succulent and requires no adornment except perhaps a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a brief dip in some hot, melted butter.
Breaded, deep-fried fresh shrimp and lump crabmeat cakes, sauted to a golden grown, are among the greatest shellfish dishes ever conceived. And if oysters are your passion, you'll find them to be especially plump and tasty this time of the year.
Shellfish is not inexpensive, but considering the time, work and conditions that are necessary to bring fresh shellfish from water to table, the cost could be considered justified.
It takes a lobster, for instance, approximately six years to reach the legal marketable weight of 1 pound. Fishing for shrimp and crabs is dangerous and hard work and if oysters are to be healthy and fit for consumption, they must mature in clean waters, free from the effects of overdevelopment and unbridled industrialization.
The next time you bite into a delectable piece of lobster, shrimp, crab or oyster, remember that you are getting exactly what you've paid for perfection.
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