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Product Spotlight: Complements

Sauces, rubs, marinades, breadings can enrich any seafood meal

 - Photo by Laura Lee Dobson
By April Forristall
October 01, 2007

The right complement can determine whether a meal will sink or swim, and seafood is no exception. Luckily for consumers, seafood's delicate flesh is practically impervious to flavor mishaps. That is why complements like sauces, rubs, marinades, spices and breadings are the perfect way to enrich any seafood meal. However, due to the scare factor involved in cooking fish, consumers can get nervous when it comes to spicing things up.

"People are not sure how to cook [seafood] or add flavor," says Laurie Harrsen, director of public relations and consumer relations at McCormick & Co. in Hunt Valley, Md. "They don't want to ruin it."

That is why people will stick with traditional light seasonings for seafood, like lemon and butter. But making the pairing doesn't need to be so nerve-wracking, Harrsen says. "Really, anything goes. Obviously, if it's a stronger fish, like salmon, a stronger flavor will hold up better, but there are no rules."

McCormick's extensive line of complements includes sauces like Asian Seafood and Santa Fe Seafood and seasonings like Old Bay Salmon Classic Mix.

A good way for hesitant consumers to venture out of their comfort zone is to start by 
trying a new flavor with shrimp. "Shrimp is just as great with butter and garlic as it is with 
tomato. It's all-purpose," Harrsen explains.

Like with any protein, especially when eating a lot of one kind, experimentation is necessary to keep things fresh.

"You've got to change it up. It's so simple to just put a [complement] on and add variety and in terest to this same piece of protein and omega-3. One day I feel like Mediterranean, or Caribbean. It can change the whole entire dish. It's pretty important," says Harrsen.

Because it has a lighter natural taste than other proteins, consumers can pair seafood with a flavor they already like, and there are no restrictions to the personal palate.

No matter what the trend, more and more consumers want to recreate in their own kitchens what they're ordering at restaurants. "Customers are getting more adventurous," Harrsen says. "They are looking to replicate flavors at home."

Two restaurants that are making it easier for diners to experience those flavors in the comfort of their own homes are Boneheads Grilled Fish & Piri Piri Chicken and Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill restaurants.

The new Bobby Flay collection includes sauces and rubs like Mesa Grill Hot Sauce and Mesa Grill Jalapeno Hot Sauce. The signature collection is available at all Mesa Grill restaurants including locations in New York and Las Vegas.

Boneheads' signature sauces and spices all come from a South American pepper, the piri piri.

"We have a few different types of piri piri sauces that were originally designed for chicken that are available at every table," says Seth Salzman, senior VP and brand leader for Boneheads. "But what we found was that people are using them as condiments for fish."

"It surprised us at first, but now it's commonplace," says Scott Vogel, Boneheads' director of operations and culinary development.

The sauces come in four different flavors of heat, from extra hot down to mild, in addition to a lemon and herb sauce, that has no spice at all. "It has a lemon juice base, and goes really well with any type of fish," Vogel says. "It's light and tangy, perfect for marinating fish at home."

At Boneheads, grilled fish is paired with piri piri mushroom sauce and the fish tacos and grouper sandwich get the medium piri piri hot sauce.

When diners started asking for bottles to take home, the restaurants were more than happy to oblige. Four sauces are available to purchase at all seven Bonehead locations in Georgia, California and Florida, and the company is expanding to other retail markets and making its spices available as well.

But when it comes to the piri piri pepper, home chefs should be cautious - a little goes a long way.

"Less is more. It's pretty spicy stuff and can be overpowering," Vogel explains. "When using it to cook fish, stick with the lighter flavors, unless you're getting into heavier fish like swordfish. It's going to be oilier fish that the flavor will really come through."

He also suggests using the sauce as a dip as opposed to basting the fish in it. "If you overpower the fish, you'll be disappointed." Or, try doing what the chefs at Boneheads do - cut a strong sauce with lemon juice to tame the flavor when sautéing.

A sauce, rub, marinade, dip, spice or coating can open the barriers to cooking with seafood. For consumers, making the right match is as easy as knowing what flavors they already enjoy. Any flavor works, and after all, variety is the spice of life.


Editorial Assistant April Forristall can be e-mailed at aforristall@divcom. com


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