Every year when we get our taxes done by the same man who's been doing Bill's family's taxes since who knows when, we stop at this seafood place as we're leaving (it's in Massachusetts) and splurge on something (or several somethings) for dinner.
I think we started doing this in defiance the first year we were married – when we found out we had to PAY a couple thousand dollars in taxes that year. We were stunned, to say the least, and then figured what the hell, we'll pay it in installments over a few months. In the meantime, dammit, we need to eat.
This year we noticed that the name had changed. Originally "Ocean Fresh Seafood," the name had now changed to "Fresh Catch Seafood & Butcher." (I just looked all this up online and found out that Ocean Fresh is no more. Aha. Well that explains things.)
But regardless of the name above the door, tradition dictated that we stop there after taxes and get some goodies. I also wanted to get something to bring to my sister, who looked after my kids while Bill and I had our Taxes and Seafood date.
We went in and while the layout is pretty much the same, it wasn't the same. First of all, it's not just seafood – it's "Seafood & Butcher." So over where all the shellfish and smoked fish used to be, it's now assorted cuts of beef and pork and lamb. (Didn't see the "Butcher" himself – guess we missed him.) It all looked good, but in my opinion it was space that could have been better used for shellfish. The lobster tanks were over in the far corner, just like they used to be. And the main strip of display area, which used to be filled with ready-to-cook things like baked stuffed shrimp and the like, and fresh fish in a multitude of cuts and sizes, was all in the same place, but now the shellfish was crammed in, too, so overall there was less variety.
Ultimately, we were disappointed. Not with all of it – the steamers were great, the mussels I got for my sister looked good – she said she's cooking them tonight, so I'll find out tomorrow – the stuffed clams (frozen) were fine, and – hey, cool!, whole frozen octopus!
We also got a dozen oysters and they were a waste of money. Bill shucked them all and I served up a warm half of a baguette and some cheeses to round out the snack. The oysters were…flat. They SHOULD taste of the sea, briney and fresh. These were…lackluster. Blah. They did not dazzle. We each ate two and gave up. They weren't going to give us food poisoning – they just weren't worth eating raw. I ended up frying the remaining eight the following night, and that was a much better use for them.
The other thing we were not happy about – and this is probably the biggest reason why we won't go back – was the response we got when Bill asked if the tuna was sushi grade. First of all, it's not a far out question to ask in a seafood place. But the guy behind the counter looked around and bounced a bit on his feet, like he'd been called up to the blackboard to solve an algebra problem and he was thinking maybe he'd wandered into the wrong classroom. He had no idea. Maybe he'd heard wrong. "What?" So Bill repeated the question. Still no idea. So he asked another guy who looked older and had, perhaps, worked there a bit longer than the first guy. Second guy's face tightened into a no-nonsense and no-sushi frown and he started shaking his head. First guy felt better – he relaxed a bit and bounced some more on his toes and said "Management might say it's sushi-grade, but it isn't."heh heh. Thanks. Really.
Just the fact that the question had to be taken up in committee was enough of an answer, really. But what spoke louder was the smirky "us against the boss" attitude of those guys behind the counter. Back when the place was Ocean Fresh Seafood – same ownership for 30 years – I don't think we ever got the feeling that the guys behind the counter were just showing up so they could get paid. Maybe they were, but IF they were, they hid it behind knowledge and professionalism – at least on the one day a year that we showed up.
So next year we'll go someplace else for our celebratory seafood purchases.
But at least this year we got an octopus.
I didn't get a picture of it when it was frozen, but the whole thing was smushed together in one hard lump about the size of a bowling ball.
When we got it home, Bill put it in a big bowl of water to start it thawing.
He consulted a couple of books about Japanese methods of cooking a whole octopus and settled on bringing a big pot of water to boil and slowly lowering the octopus, tentacles first, into the pot.
(If you're easily creeped out by such things as whole dead octopi, you might want to just stop reading now. The upcoming pictures are not pretty.)
Here's a series of shots of Bill removing the squid from the bowl and lowering it into the pot of boiling water.
He cooked it for an hour and a half, and then chilled it in a bowl of ice water.
During the cooking, the tentacles curl up tightly and the whole creature turns from grayish-white to a deep, dark purple. It also shrinks.
The kids were fascinated…
"Okay, Julia, my turn to hold the octopus!"
Anyway, after the kids got to spend some quality time with it, we put it back in the fridge and the following day made Octopus Ceviche with it. That recipe is below this post.