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Salmon or lobster? Chefs take sides, but hungry football fans will probably just grab forks

T he Super Bowl is Sunday. So …

Seahawks or Patriots?

Or on a culinary level: Salmon or lobster?

The trash-talking has begun, and it has nothing to do with underinflated balls or overinflated egos.

It doesn’t have much to do with the football teams, for that matter; the chefs we talked to are, like most of the rest of us, fans of teams that didn’t make it to the big one. (But as a side note: The Miami Dolphins remain the only team with an undefeated season, even if it was in 1972. Just sayin’.)

Rick Moonen, executive chef of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay and a leader in the sustainability movement, is on Team Salmon.

“I’ve eaten enough lobster in my life,” Moonen said. “Filet and lobster; no more for me. I’ve been surfed and turfed to death. I’m going to serve, somewhere in another life, all of the lobsters I’ve killed.”

As it turned out, he was just warming up, like a kicker on the sidelines.

“Salmon is just so much better for you,” Moonen said. “A lot of omega-3s, which are nurturing and nourishing to your brain. Every part of your body loves the omega-3s that come with salmon. And salmon is a better value. I think you get a better bang for your buck.”

And …

“It’s got a better texture,” Moonen said.

“And it’s not a bug.”

Salvo fired, and he wasn’t done. Asked whether anyone would eat lobster were it not for the accompanying butter, Moonen roared with laughter.

“Would you eat a snail without garlic butter?” he asked. “Why would you eat a cockroach of the ocean without butter? It doesn’t make sense. Butter makes everything OK.”

Told of Moonen’s “cockroach” reference, Rene Lenger, executive chef of Lakeside at Wynn Las Vegas and a member of Team Lobster, had to stop and catch his breath.

“Wow,” Lenger said.

And then, diplomatically: “I disagree. A lot of places would claim it’s a delicacy of the seas.”

Then Lenger did a little trash-talking of his own.

“You could say the same thing about salmon,” he said. “I’m a big fan of wild salmon, but I’m not a fan of farm-raised — artificial feeding, to give the fish more color. I would beg the difference. I don’t think that lobsters are as altered, or could be as altered, in the feeding.”

Lenger is such a fan of lobster, he started a specialized program at Lakeside a couple of years ago.

“We have tanks in the back,” he said. “They come air freight, really when you order them. We’ve found the best way to experience lobster is when you cook it fresh.”

His favorite types, he said, are Australian rock lobster and Scottish blue. The first, he said, is “very pristine,” with firm white meat and a sweet but delicate flavor. The other, he said, looks like Maine lobster but is blue before it’s cooked, and has an exceptionally delicate flavor.

Laurie Kendrick, co-manager of Table 34, is on Team Salmon.

“We’ll eat salmon to be healthy all the time,” Kendrick said. “King salmon, definitely. Every day of the week, people love it. We also serve a wild Scottish salmon; it’s from the very cold waters. It has a little bit of a higher fat content, but it’s the brain-feeding fat. It also has a milder flavor.”

Mark Andelbradt, executive chef of Wolfgang Puck Bar &Grill in Downtown Summerlin, also is on Team Lobster, and laughed off the cockroach reference.

“Shrimp are much the same,” he said. “However, there must be good stuff at the bottom of the sea. They kind of have the pick of the litter, don’t you think? Lobsters and crabs, they eat clams, they eat shellfish.”

Plus: “If I’m going to take the time to do something luxurious, I’ll take lobster.”

Andelbradt said he prefers Australian spiny lobster, which he said is exceptionally sweet.

“And the texture of the tail, it’s so unique,” he said.

Unlike football fans, most of them would be satisfied with either, it seems.

“Lobster is lobster,” Kendrick said. “It’s just a special-occasion thing that we treat ourselves to occasionally. But I eat salmon all the time.”

And so does Lenger the lobster lover. His favorite salmon, he said, is Copper River, which he pointed out will be coming in season around May 15.

Whether you’re a Seahawks or Patriots fan, or neither, and find yourself on Team Salmon or Team Lobster, here are some recipes to fuel a Super Bowl get-together.

MINI LOBSTER ROLLS

½ pound cooked lobster, finely chopped

½ pound cooked shrimp, finely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

24 small soft dinner rolls

Stir together all ingredients, except rolls, with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then chill, covered, until ready to serve.

Cut down into tops of rolls to split them, but do not cut all the way through, and fill each with 1 rounded tablespoon seafood.

Makes 24.

— Recipe from Gourmet

LOBSTER AND MANGO COCKTAIL

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons cognac

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

4 1½-pound live lobsters

3 firm-ripe mangoes

1 cup finely diced celery

4 whole Belgian endives plus 12 leaves for garnish

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives plus 24 whole chives for garnish

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, cognac, ketchup, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and chill sauce, covered.

Plunge the lobsters into a large kettle of boiling salted water and boil them, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer the lobsters with tongs to a bowl and let them cool until they can be handled. Crack the shells, remove the meat, and cut it into ¾-inch pieces. Transfer the lobster meat to a large bowl and chill it, covered. The lobster cocktail may be prepared up to this point 1 day in advance.

Halve the mangoes by cutting just to the sides of each pit and, using a ¾-inch melon-ball cutter, scoop the flesh from the mango halves. (There should be about 2 cups.) To the lobster meat add the mango balls, the celery, the whole endives, trimmed and sliced thin crosswise, the minced chives, and the sauce and toss mixture until it is combined. Divide the lobster mixture among 12 chilled small glasses and garnish each serving with 1 of the endive leaves and 2 of the whole chives.

Serves 12.

— Recipe from Gourmet

LOBSTER-TARRAGON TOASTS

6 (½-inch thick) slices French bread baguette (about 4½ ounces)

Cooking spray

1 cup chopped cooked lobster tail (about 5 ounces)

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 tablespoons minced celery

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon reduced-fat mayonnaise

2 to 3 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 teaspoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt

1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place bread slices on a baking sheet. Lightly coat tops of bread slices with cooking spray. Bake for 8 minutes, or until toasted. Cool.

Combine lobster and the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon lobster mixture onto each toast.

Serves 8.

— Recipe from Cooking Light

DEVILED EGGS WITH SMOKED SALMON AND CREAM CHEESE

6 large eggs

3 tablespoons minced smoked salmon (about 1 ounce)

3 tablespoons minced green onions

3 tablespoons softened cream cheese

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Garnishes: fresh dill, smoked salmon slivers, sweet paprika

Place eggs and enough water to cover in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Drain; return eggs to saucepan, and add enough cold water and ice to cover. Let cool. Remove shells from eggs, halve each egg lengthwise, and scrape yolks into a bowl. Reserve egg whites.

Combine yolks, salmon and next 7 ingredients, mashing with a fork until well blended. Spoon filling into reserved whites, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for as long as 2 days. Garnish, if desired.

Serves 12.

— Recipe from Oxmoor House

WONTON CUPS WITH HOT-SMOKED SALMON AND AVOCADO

24 square wonton or shumai (dumpling) wrappers

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons white sesame seeds

4 ounces hot-smoked salmon, flaked into small pieces

½ cup finely sliced green onions, including tops

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 small avocado, finely diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay 12 wonton wrappers flat and, using about half of the butter, brush both sides. Press into mini muffin cups (2-tablespoon size), pleating each to form a small cup. Sprinkle wrappers with half of the sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown (watching carefully; they can burn easily), 7 to 9 minutes. Loosen from cups with a small spatula and put on a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining 12 wonton wrappers, butter and sesame seeds.

In a small bowl, combine salmon, green onions, cilantro, lime juice, ginger and salt; mix well. Add avocado and toss very gently until well combined. Put a generous spoonful in each wonton cup. Serve immediately.

Makes 24.

— Recipe from Sunset

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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