Pickled Seafood

By: The Local Palate
pickled seafood
Photo courtesy of Baxter Miller & Ryan Stancil

“For our pickled seafood, we like to leave it wide open to whatever wonderful things our local fishermen/foragers are bringing to us,” says chef and owner Dean Neff of Seabird. Read our article Marsh to Menu to gather insights from Neff’s sea foraging outing with Shell ‘Em Seafood Co. This recipe for pickled seafood creates a bright and tangy vinaigrette that pairs beautifully with a bounty of fresh seafood like shrimp, mussels, oysters, clams and whelks.

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Serves 4 to 5

    Pickling vinaigrette
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • ½ teaspoon chile flakes or ½ teaspoon shaved jalapeño
  • 1 tablespoon Maldon or similar sea salt
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and shaved
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced flatleaf parsley
  • ½ tablespoon minced thyme
  • ½ medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly shaved
  • For the seafood
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound mussels in shells
  • White wine
  • 12 large oysters (optional)
  • Raw fan clams (optional)
  • Raw North Carolina clams, cleaned and shucked, some shells reserved
  • Shaved Poached Whelks (optional)
  1. Make the pickling vinaigrette 24 hours in advance: In a bowl mix all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Prepare the shellfish: Prepare an ice bath. In a medium to large pot, boil 3 to 4 quarts of salted water. Add shrimp and cook until just pink. Quickly remove from boiling water to ice bath.
  3. Purge mussels by submerging them in clean, cold water that is salted to a salinity similar to ocean water. They’ll open slightly, releasing sand. In a deep skillet or pot over high heat, arrange mussels in a single layer and add enough white wine to cover bottom of pan. The mussels will start to open as they steam. Quickly remove one by one as they open and transfer to a sheet tray; when all mussels are open, place tray in freezer until cold.
  4. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Arrange oysters on a sheet pan (larger oysters are better suited for this). Prepare smokebox by adding wood chips to another baking tray and lighting them on fire. Working quickly, drape kitchen towel over pan to snuff out fire, and place smoking baking tray along with oysters in oven. (Be sure to remove towel first.) Close door to create smoke chamber, and cook oysters for 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Rinse fan clams (if using) in cold water, removing sand and any sea greens. Use a butter knife to open and sever adductor muscle from shell to remove meat. Reserve shells.
  6. At least 12 and up to 24 hours before serving, toss shrimp, mussels, oysters, clams, fan clams, and shaved poached whelks with pickling vinaigrette. Store cold in glass jars or a glass bowl.
  7. Use mandolin to shave radishes and fennel. In a small bowl, lightly dress radish, fennel, herbs, spring onions, and celery leaves in a bit of vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and additional vinaigrette as needed.
  8. On a plate, arrange salad and dead man’s fingers and top with pickled seafood. Place a few clams and fan clams in reserved shells. Garnish with dead man’s fingers and microgreens, and serve with toasted bread points and hot sauce.
  • Recipe By
    Dean Neff of Seabird in Wilmington, North Carolina
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