Chef Barton Seaver's Fresh Take On Seafood
Author, Two If By Sea, (Sterling Publishing, 2016)
Director of the Healthy & Sustainable Food Program at Harvard’s Center for Health and Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Contributing seafood editor at Coastal Living Magazine
National Geographic Fellow
Named “Chef of the Year” in 2009 by Esquire Magazine
Featured in: New York Times, Cooking Light, O: The Oprah Magazine, etc.
Appeared on CNN, 20/20
Host of the national television program In Search of Food, Ovation Network and Eat: The History of Food, National Geographic TV
Sustainability is how biological systems remain diverse and productive indefinitely. As an expert on sustainability, Barton understands that this can be a difficult topic to understand. When it comes to seafood, Barton believes that supporting domestically produced seafood is one of the best ways to promote sustainability. Also, buying a diversity of domestic products is important. “For too long we have told the oceans and fisherman what we are willing to eat, rather than asking them what they can supply,” shares Barton.
Fisherman today are faced with the stark reality that consumers are willing to eat only a few species (shrimp, salmon and tuna). Many of the fish they haul up have not found favor at our tables and do not earn fair return for the effort it takes to catch them. These unpopular fish go back overboard. Others that do not make it to the dock are so undervalued that they end up as bait or fertilizer. If your recipe calls for red snapper, try substituting with fresh sheepshead. It cooks almost exactly like the red snapper.
Don’t just stay with the favorites. There are equally or more delicious fish at the market. Great quality seafood is now available most everywhere since grocery stores and retail outlets have improved the quality of their offerings. Barton insists that his seafood comes with a story no matter where it comes from and where he purchased it. He says we should take pride in the seafood we eat and understand where it comes from so that it connects us and with the producer which better ensures sustainability. The greatest joy of food is gathering around the dinner table to tell stories about the day and the things that matter.
Barton says many people want to cook seafood at home, but they are timid about doing so. The fear of the lingering fish aroma in the house can cause others to stay clear of cooking fish. Barton says that problem is easy to solve, “If it smells like fish, don’t buy it. Fresh, fine-quality seafood should smell sweet, like cucumbers or ocean breezes.”
There are several different techniques to cook seafood. Barton says once you familiarize yourself with the technique you would like to try, you can cook with confidence. Other tips to remember include:
1. Accentuate the flavor of fresh fish rather than overpower it. Instead of using citrus and vinegar to season your fish, go with simple seasonings, fresh herbs and smoke. Use lighter, aromatic woods such as cherry, alder, apple and peach. Woods such as hickory and mesquite can overpower.
2. All seafood that is fried should be skin off, as the skin can prevent the breading from adhering.
3. Roasting is the best method for preserving the succulence and texture of seafood.
4. Brine fish before grilling (to help strengthen the fish filet before handling) then cook fish over indirect heat.
On the show, Barton will prepare some mouthwatering seafood dishes that friends and family will enjoy:
• Main Dish: Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper -Barton suggested doing a hybrid of grilling and smoking which is basically adding a few wood chips to the grill (p.202, p.209)
• Sauce: Marinated Orange Segments with Chile (p. 239) – he said this is really very easy, just tossing the ingredients together.
• Side Dish: Zucchini spaghetti with garlic and herbs (p. 284-285)
• Main Dish/Appetizer: King Crab Cobb Salad (p. 72-73)
• Main Dish: Slow Roasted Salmon with Garlic Compound Butter (p. 235)
• Side Dish: Salmon Ceviche with Dill (p. 26-27)
“My curiosity always centered around what things tasted like, what delicious discoveries might be underfoot. Not surprisingly, I became a chef,” states Barton. As an executive chef, he opened seven restaurants awarded both for their cuisine and as environmentally-conscious businesses. Highlights of his culinary career include three Rising Culinary Star awards, twice earning Best New Restaurant awards, and being honored in 2009 by Esquire Magazine as Chef of the Year. His restaurant, Hook, was named by Bon Appétit Magazine as one of the top ten eco-friendly restaurants in America.
Since leaving the restaurant world, Barton has become involved with a number of local and international initiatives. In 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named him to the United States Culinary Ambassador Corp. He uses this designation to curate international conversations on sustainability and the role of food in resource management and public health. Today he is the Director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In this role, Barton spearheads initiatives to inform consumers and institutions about how our choices for diet and menus can promote healthier people, more secure food supplies, and thriving communities. He also serves as Senior Advisor in Sustainable Seafood Innovations at the University of New England.