Monday, November 22, 2004

Quality Seafood

Redondo Beach's Quality Seafood reminds me of the seaside fish markets along the coast of Long Island, where I grew up. Dad and I would visit nearby Freeport NY, and stop by the restaurants and fish markets of the mile-long wharf to see fish hauled freshly from the local waters. In today's world that fresh fish more likely flew across the world and got to the market on a truck, but that's progress for you.

Quality Seafood has anchored a waterfront corner of King Harbor since 1954. Quality sells all manner of seafood: freshly dead, alive, or ready to eat. One part of the building houses live tanks that hold all kinds of crabs and lobsters, including a local spiny lobster in season right now. More tanks hold dozens of oysters, clams, mussels, whelk, and live sea urchins, all of which will be gladly served as you like: on the half shell or steamed.

On this day, some of the folks from Chowhound gathered to sample the seafood, drink beer, and feed the panhandling gulls and pigeons. This is not a seafood restaurant, per se. It's a fish market next to a slightly shabby marina with poured concrete picnic tables outside. Don't go for the atmosphere. Go for the wide variety of live shellfish, cooked or shucked to order.

The clams and oysters are the best bet here. Live uni can be hit or miss: some will be amazingly sweet and delicious, others urchins will be slightly bitter or not flavorful. The crabs and lobsters are cheaper and just as delicious at the Cantonese seafood houses of the San Gabriel Valley and Little Saigon. However, Dommy! notes that local spiny lobsters aren't easy to find, and Quality Seafood has them. I tasted some of her lobster, and it's definitely a different animal than Maine lobsters.

I shot some video of the live uni still moving their spines while we ate the goods inside the shell. Video streaming is still beyond my technical ability - perhaps for the better in this case.

These live tanks hold the larger clams, whelks and sea urchins.

Quahogs, Golden littlenecks, and local conch.

The small white clams in the center were imported from Ireland. These were sweet, delicate and very tender when steamed. Definitely get some Irish clams!

The fresh fish counter runs the entire length of this part of the building. TomSwift had fresh whitebait fried to order. Must have been good, because they disappeared by the time I finished taking pictures.

Checking out the breaded and fried offerings from the fry bar.

Our oyster schucker, hard at work.

Quality Seafood offers a couple dozen varieties at any given time.

Various fish are also smoked on site. We got the black cod - very rich, very delicious when warmed in the nuke for a minute. By the time you read this, eels will be available smoked.

This is a garibaldi that lives in the presumably clean waters of King's Harbor. Garibaldis are California's highly protected state fish. If you so much as harm a scale on their knobby golden heads, the game warden is allowed to chop off your pinky yakuza style and ceremoniously feed it to the offended garibaldi in homage.
Gurlfren and I have spotted this little guy the past two times we've visited Quality Seafood, and have named him Orenthal J. Garibaldi. Say hello if you see him.

Quality Seafood
130 International Boardwalk
Redondo Beach, CA

It's imprecise to say it's at the base of the Redondo Beach Pier,because it's next to the Strand north of the pier. Do this: drive into the underground parking garage @ the pier. After you take your parking ticket, drive straight until you can't go further. There's a staircase at that end of the garage. Take it downstairs to the waterline, and QS is on your right.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Barbecued bacon & eggs

I began thinking of my smoker as an outdoor oven, and realized that most any food that can be roasted or baked indoors can be cooked outdoors. Much more than the usual barbecued meats would taste good cooked in this way. The possibilities seem endless, as long as I learn how to control the heat in the cooker.

This particular barbecue lesson focused on holding a higher temperature of 350 degrees F, so I chose to cook turkey parts and sausages. These tender items, small in size, do not require the all-day smoking at low temperatures that large, fatty, sinew-rich cuts like pork shoulder and beef brisket require. To achieve 350 F, I had to increase airflow to the charcoal by opening the bottom vents fully and also by propping open the door of the cooker by resting it on the shovel I use to scoop the coals. Seems ad hoc and hokey, but it worked.

As long as I was firing up the smoker, I wanted to try a couple of appetizer ideas. Chileheadmike on suggested bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and a smoked cocktail sausage, so I tried something like it, with excellent results. Although I love my spicy food, Gurlfren and 4 year old Adam do not relish the sting of capsaicin, so I thought I'd wrap some hard boiled eggs with bacon and smoke them for their less bulletproof palates.

These smoke-burnished turkey parts cooked for an hour after brining overnight to reach this state. The breasts and wings tasted good (but it's still boring ol' turkey). The legs tasted off, but that's because I sourced frozen legs that turned out to be old and nasty. Lesson: use fresh meat only. The skin rendered out a lot of fat, but wasn't as crisp as I'd like. Next time, I'll dry the skin in the fridge overnight so it'll crisp up when cooked.

Above, on the left: bacon wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese. On the right: halved, hard-boiled eggs. Foreground: kosher salt, prepared for smoking. I heard about someone who sells smoked salt, and liked the idea of having some handy any time I wanted to add a pinch of smoke flavor. The salt smoked for 30 minutes, and took on a too- subtle smoke flavor. I'd probably extend the time to 45 or 60 minutes next time.

Jalapenos and hard boiled eggs, after smoking. I'm convinced anything wrapped in bacon and smoked will taste good: medallions of skunk, for instance, or crow on a stick. Mmmm....bacony crow.

Closeup of the eggs. These were mighty good right out of the smoker! Next time, I'll make deviled eggs with the yolks before smoking.

Friday, November 05, 2004


At the rate I'm using my new smoker, I'll permanently smell like a slab of bacon and have a leathery, browned face from standing in its exhaust. Very excited by the semi-success of last week's pork ribs, I cooked up 16 pounds of pork shoulder yesterday, with oustanding results.

This photo shows the pork after I basted it with a vinegar and spice "mop" after 5 hours of cooking. It took a total of 8 hours to finish, and yielded about 9 pounds of pulled pork for my freezer. I was late to work, but the boss was very understanding, especially because I took some of it in for everyone to taste.

I'm encouraged by the good results from this Weber smoker and will be using it often. If I knew how easy it is to operate, I would've bought one years ago. If you see a Japanese born New Yorker in Southern California smoking up some Southern barbecue, it might be me. Next purchase for this good ol' boy: old pickup truck with gun rack, perhaps.