What is a Shore Dinner?
A shore dinner is a meal of mixed seafood or freshwater fish, depending on the region. The name is taken from the tradition of fishing all day and then putting into shore to assemble dinner with some of that day's catch. Since shore dinners ideally involve a wide variety of fish, they are best when eaten by a large group of people, making the effort of preparation worth it. In some regions, to-go shore dinners are offered by markets and restaurants for people who want to enjoy this classic meal at home.
Shore dinners are particularly associated with the 1,000 Islands region between the United States and Canada, and they are also eaten along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. In the 1,000 Islands, a “shore dinner” is a frequent offering in a tourist package. Some tourists greatly enjoy the tradition since they can watch their meals being caught or participate in the fishing.
Along with mixed seafood, a shore dinner typically includes hearty bread and corn on the cob. Other foods like potatoes are sometimes included as well, depending on regional preference. There are also a wide range of ways to prepare a shore dinner; since the fish is so fresh, many recipes use minimal ingredients and spices to allow the natural flavor of the food to come through. By tradition, shore dinner is usually prepared in a large pan with fatback, a form of bacon. The grease from the bacon helps to flavor and cook the food.
Shore dinners often incorporate steamed crustaceans like oysters, mussels, and clams. They may also include creatures like crabs and lobsters, along with an assortment of fried cuts of fish. As one might imagine, the ingredients in a shore dinner can get messy, and the meal is usually highly casual as a result. The hearty bread helps diners sop up flavorful juices, and some people also use their bread to assemble sandwiches with their favorite ingredients.
Shore dinner often includes a salad which is tossed with 1,000 Island dressing, along with guide's coffee, a dense black coffee prepared in a pot on the stove. Some shore dinners end with French toast for dessert, typically with a lavish helping of syrup as well. Many fans of the shore dinner believe that it is best enjoyed in the great outdoors, prepared on an open cookstove after a long day on the water.
I did an abbreviated shore dinner package in the 1,000 Islands a few years ago. It was great. I say "abbreviated" because my extreme motion sickness proclivities kind of keep me off boats and so forth.
However, once the food is on dry land, it's wonderful. The shore dinner I attended had fried fish, crab, a lobster for each person, shrimp, scallops and mussels. It was so, so good, and so fresh, just off the boat.
My hubby enjoyed the boat trip and regaled me with all he saw and did on the cruise. The coffee was great, and the french toast scrumptious. I wish we could do that every summer, but unfortunately, it's not possible. I do want to go back at some point, though.
I think as you get farther South, it's called a low country boil. You still have the new potatoes and corn on the cob cooked with various kinds of seafood, like shrimp and blue crab. Most Southerners eat low country boil with garlic bread and a green salad, choice of dressing and bread pudding with a hard whiskey or rum sauce for dessert. I've participated in several low country boils, and they are absolutely wonderful. More food than a hundred people can eat, and the bread pudding is always spectacular.
A lot of people drink beer with a low country boil, but I'm not much of a drinker, so I opt for a cold diet soda.
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