Blue Mussels in a tin surrounded by other cans
When You Can't Find Fresh Shellfish, Reach For The Canned Instead
By Alexis Montoya
Shellfish may be a somewhat unfamiliar ingredient for American food enthusiasts, but it has been and continues to be a culinary staple in Spain and Portugal. Although there's nothing quite like the taste of fresh shellfish straight from the ocean when you're craving seafood, canned shellfish can be a versatile and delicious alternative, offering a wealth of culinary possibilities.
Canned shellfish is integral in conservas — elaborate dishes made from canned fish and seafood that are preserved in oil, broth, or sauce — and feature a wide variety of shellfish like mussels, cockles, and razor clams. Plenty of canned shellfish options are available, with chopped clams being a versatile option that's easy to find in American groceries.
While canned shellfish can be integrated into pasta, stews, and even fried food, it is most often enjoyed straight from the can. Angelica Intriago, a co-owner of Despaña, revealed that for shellfish that's canned in brine, she likes to drain the liquid from the can (sometimes preserving it to add to fish stocks) and drizzle on a little bit of olive oil before serving.
Of Spain’s approach to canned shellfish, Fishwife co-founder Becca Millstein explained, "You might serve a tin of cockles with a toasted baguette and some olive oil and some olives and a glass of white wine." Cans with tomato sauce or pickled varieties can be heated up and paired with lemon, squid ink, or white wine for added flavor.