Crustaceans constitute a subtype of the Anthropods that almost exclusively comprises marine aquatic animals that are also widely represented in freshwater and on land. What is special about them is that they are protected by a kind of shell, the carapace, a segmented exoskeleton made of chitin, a substance similar to the keratin in human nails and hair.

COMMESTIBLE Decapod crustaceans can be subdivided as follows:

  • MACRURI: long, distended abdomen with fan-shaped tail fin (e.g. lobster, lobster, prawn, etc.);
  • BRACHIURI: short abdomen without a fan, folded under the thorax head (e.g. crab);
  • STOMATOPODI: provided with two mouth appendages with attached abductor claws formed by a mobile toothed article that folds over the segment itself (e.g. canocchia etc.).

Crustaceans contain a very low percentage of fat (0.5-2%) and are therefore low in calories: they have about 70 kcal per 100 grams. While they are perfect for those on a weight-loss diet, they are terrible for those suffering from hypercholesterolaemia. In fact, despite their low fat content, shellfish contain between 80 mg and 150 mg per 100 grams of cholesterol, far more than is normally present in even the fattest fish.

Baked prawn tails

Shrimp tails are rolled in kataifi dough and baked in the oven, then laid on a lard mousse in a warm dish sprinkled with cocoa beans. We built this dish on 'Progetto 2' Albana di Romagna DOCG 2008 15 %. The sweet tendency of the prawns is balanced by the bitter notes of the cocoa beans. The unctuousness of the lard is balanced by the crunchiness of the kataifi pastry. Project 2, with its sweet/not sweet notes, hints of fig and vanilla, full flavour and high alcohol content is certainly not the canonical pairing for this dish (a cooler wine, perhaps a bubbly), but together I find them extraordinary. Recommended for trained palates.

Pan-fried prawn tails

Stir-fried just with a pinch of salt, they remain a very easy dish. In this case, they are served with a potato and herb velouté. Their sweet tendency goes beautifully with a 'Ribolla gialla' Collio DOC 2013 13 % from Marco Felluga. This wine remains very elegant on the palate, aromatic but not intrusive, persistent but unable to bore.

Shrimp tails in tempura

This dish, typical of Japanese cuisine, consists of shrimp tails fried in a very light batter of only flour and very cold carbonated water. A sweet tendency rounded by a very light, almost imperceptible fattiness. This is why I want to propose a more canonical pairing, with a fresh and aromatic Friulian white wine: Roberto Snidarcig's 'Sauvignon Tiare' Collio DOC 2013 13.50%, which this year won the Gold Medal and Special Trophy at the 5th World Sauvignon Competition in Bordeaux. Tiare stood out for its elegance and character among the 751 examined samples submitted to the prestigious competition by 473 wineries from 21 countries around the world.

Questions & Answers

How do I recognise if a crustacean is fresh?

On the outside, the carapace is rigid and has the bright colour typical of the species. Inside, the flesh is firm and white and smells of the sea.

Why do crustaceans not keep for a long time?

Crustaceans have a large amount of free amino acids in them. Amino acids are very good for us as they are essential for protein synthesis necessary for cell renewal in the body. However, these amino acids increase the production of nitrogen, which in turn causes odour formation. This, together with parallel processes involved in degrading muscle proteins to the point where trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) mutates into trimethylamine (TMA), a volatile compound responsible for the typical fishy smell. In summary, the high presence of free nitrogen combined with the enzymatic and bacterial action on dead animals causes a very limited shelf life of fresh crustaceans beyond which there is a strong ammonia odour.

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