In search of sustainable seafood options? Farmed mollusks like clams, mussels, and oysters are your best bet.
Not only do they minimize impact on local ecosystems’ natural biodiversity, they also clean the water in which they grow, thanks to their filter-feeding ways. These tips from Matthew Beaudin, executive chef at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, will help ensure you get the best taste and texture from the sea.
See also 6 Sustainable Seafood Recipes
For a protein boost, enjoy mild-flavored clams, the most protein-loaded mollusk among this trio. Three ounces of shelled clams (about 12 ounces in the shell) supply 22 grams protein—44 percent of your daily needs. All that protein will keep you full and will repair muscles post-practice.
Sautéing or steaming
In a pot over medium heat, sauté ¼ cup diced fennel in 4 tbsp butter.
Add 2 cups canned chickpeas (drained), 2 cups red wine, zest of 1 orange, and 1 tsp dried chile flakes; cook until wine reduces by half, 5–7 minutes.
Add 2 lbs clams and 2 cups water. Cover and steam until clams open.
Sweet and creamy, mussels pack a punch when it comes to vitamin B12, which your body needs to keep nerves and blood cells healthy. Just 3 ounces of shelled mussels (about 12 ounces in the shell) deliver 20 micrograms of B12, which is about 300 percent of your daily goal.
Sautéing or steaming
In a large pan over medium heat, sauté 2 lbs mussels, ½ cup artichoke hearts, 2 sliced roasted red peppers, 3 minced garlic cloves, and 4 tbsp olive oil.
When mussels open (3–5 minutes), add 1 cup white wine, juice of 2 lemons, and 8 basil leaves.
Cook until wine is reduced by half, 3–5 minutes.
Considered a culinary delicacy, oysters taste briny and are a rich source of zinc, a mineral that helps strengthen your immune system. Belly up to the oyster bar for 67 milligrams of zinc—more than 400 percent of your daily needs—per 3 ounces of shelled oysters (about 12 ounces in the shell).
Baking or eating raw
On a sheet pan, top 12 shucked oysters with 1 cup caramelized onions and 4 tbsp minced jalapeño.
In a bowl, toss 2 cups panko, 2 cups shredded Gruyère, ¼ cup parsley, 2 tbsp olive oil, and zest of 2 limes; sprinkle over oysters.
Bake at 350° until oysters are hot and panko is light brown, 5–10 minutes.
Purchase fresh, live mollusks with shells that are tightly closed—opened shells can indicate mollusks that are already dead and starting to spoil. Select the most sustainable choices by using Monterey Bay Aquarium’s free Seafood Watch app (seafoodwatch.org)
Shellfish are filter feeders and easily pick up sand and tiny gravel from their marine environment. To remove particulate matter, soak shellfish in saltwater (about 3 parts cold water to 1 part salt)—it needs to be salted to keep them alive while prepping.
People commonly overcook mollusks, which results in a rubbery texture. To keep them tender and plump, cook only until they open.
Eating Bad Shellfish
To check for freshness, take a quick sniff. If the mollusk smells like the sea, you’re in the clear. But if it smells the least bit unpleasant, it’s likely beginning to decay, so toss the entire batch.
Sources: Alexandra Miller, RDN; Randy Hartnell, founder of Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics