you asked her about her early days as a seafood education specialist
for North Carolina Sea Grant, Joyce Taylor probably would have told the
after accepting the position in 1973, Taylor was tasked with teaching a
blue crab cooking class in western North Carolina. She transported a
bunch of the pinchers in the trunk of her car. They had to be alive, of
course. Taylor was a stickler for using fresh seafood long before
today’s “eat local” mantras.
she made the long drive across the state, Taylor heard the crabs
scurrying in their container, causing her to wonder how many would
dance across the demonstration room floor at her destination.
toes were bitten, and the lesson ended up one of many that launched
Taylor’s reputation as North Carolina’s “Guru of Seafood.”
Taylor died last year, but the seafood bible she wrote with the help of coastal North Carolina cooks endures.
Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas” compiles not only dozens of
recipes developed and carefully tested by Taylor and the team but
details about North Carolina’s seafood history, the health benefits of
fish and shellfish, aquaculture, seafood safety, and how to handle,
clean and store seafood -- as well as kitchen tips and cooking tidbits
like how to clarify butter.
Sea Grant did not publish the book until 2003, its content began in the
early 1970s when the agency enlisted the seafood cooking wisdom of
Carteret Extension Homemakers, an offshoot of Cooperative Extension
programs that partner with county, state and federal governments to
help people gain access to research generated by public universities.
The idea was to share seafood research with fishers and seafood
processors and help them market the catch.
Morehead City kitchens, Taylor directed the mostly women, who had a
lifetime of knowledge about the North Carolina’s traditional seafood
cookery. Sea Grant asked Taylor and them to document those recipes but
also to develop and test new ideas and techniques.
creating gourmet dishes such as Soft Crabs Amandine or Flounder Filets
with Black Butter Sauce, the ladies conducted various seafood
experiments. No matter the recipe, Taylor made sure the seafood’s
flavor was apparent. Hence, many recipes in Mariner’s Menu” are
no-fuss dishes with few ingredients.
women also found ways to use bits of meat and bone leftover from
filleting fish. They created fresh flaked fish, an alternative to
canned products. They tested ways to freeze seafood to retain texture
and flavor. Sometimes, the group worked on formulas for commercial food
efforts were documented in various publications, including a quarterly
newsletter titled “Mariner’s Menu,” edited by Taylor and distributed to
3,300 subscribers between 1990 and 1996.
Taylor was an Asheville native who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Born in 1932, she didn’t reach the coast until the mid-1950s, when she
came to Carteret County to work as a public school teacher.
first assignment with Sea Grant was taste-testing croakers and gray
trout. Throughout her seafood career, she promoted other lesser-known
species taken off the state’s coast. Many recipes are recorded in
have not been comfortable cooking seafood,” Taylor said in the book,
distributed by the University of North Carolina Press. But after
reviewing a simple recipe or watching Taylor prepare seafood at one of
the many classes she conducted, landlubbers gained confidence with fish
and shellfish cookery, no matter if it was familiar grilled grouper or
unusual catfish stir-fry.
Taylor herself, “Mariner’s Menu” makes preparing seafood seem a breeze.
Taylor said her knack for showing cooks the way came from her years as
“I don’t think learning should be tedious,” she said. “I have a good time.”Some RecipesTaylor
thought fresh, unpasteurized blue crab meat tasted best. Unpasteurized
crab meat consists of fresh, cooked, picked and packaged crab. Highly
perishable, it must be used within a couple days. Pasteurized meat is
cooked and sealed in cans that may be kept refrigerated for several
months. HOT CRAB DIP1 pound backfin crabmeat8 ounces cream cheese1 tablespoon milk2 tablespoons grated onion1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice1 teaspoon horseradish¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepperPaprikaRemove any shell or cartilage from crabmeat.Mix
cream cheese, milk, onion, lemon juice, horseradish and white pepper in
a medium bowl. Gently fold in crab meat. Place mixture in an 8-inch pie
dish. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or
until bubbly. Serve with assorted crackers. A
“Mariner’s Menu” chapter is devoted to showing readers how to clean
seafood. Drawings demonstrate techniques, including how to dress
.SOFT CRABS AMANDINE6 soft-shell crabs, cleanedSaltPepperFlour3 tablespoons vegetable oil4 tablespoons butter¼ cup almond slivers2 tablespoons fresh lemon juiceSprinkle
crabs with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Heat
oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of butter.
When butter sizzles, place crabs top-shell-side down in skillet. Sauté
until crisp and golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn crabs over and
repeat cooking time. Remove crabs to warm platter.Heat
the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same skillet. Add almonds
and sauté until golden brown. Stir in lemon juice. Pour over crabs.
CATFISH STIR-FRY3 tablespoons soy sauce1 tablespoon dry sherry1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger¼ cup minced green onion, including tops2 teaspoons cornstarch4 tablespoons vegetable oilSaltFreshly ground black pepper4 medium catfish filets, cut into 1-inch chunks1 cup thickly sliced celery¾ pound snow peas1 cup sliced fresh mushroomsCooked rice (optional)Combine soy sauce, sherry, ginger, onion and cornstarch. Set aside.Heat
2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet. Lightly salt and pepper
fish. Add to pan and stir fry until almost done, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove fish with slotted spoon.Add
remaining 2 tablespoons oil and heat. Add celery and snow peas and cook
vegetables 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until tender, about 2
in sauce mixture and cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add
fish to pan and cook until done, about 2 minutes. Serve over rice if
desired. Serves 8 to 10.(Source: All recipes from “Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas.”)
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read other
stories about the North Carolina coast at www.nccoast.org.)
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