Say “surf” and turf" and the first image that comes to mind is probably pretty clear — a beef filet and a lobster tail on a plate.
And there's nothing wrong with that. The flavors of these two favorites complement each other well, and the combination is an easy way to make sure that wedding-reception guests are going to be happy with the meal.
But surf and turf, like any traditional menu item, can start to seem ho-hum. Luckily, it's easy to take this basic concept — let's call it a “duet,” to give it a modern spin — and upgrade it. There are variations on surf and turf that make it fresh, and may even save you money.
“You've got scampi, shrimp, scallops and so many cuts of meat available that it's not just limited to filet,” said Joe Monastero, events operations manager at Kendall College in Chicago. “In reality, there are other cuts of meat that are less expensive and 10 times tastier than filet. Ribeye is making a comeback; there's prime rib, even New York strip.”
Surf and turf doesn't even have to be beef, Monastero said. “I've had clients that want to take it to a healthier level, with chicken and salmon. Basically, there are no rules.”
Here are some of Monastero's ideas for new surf-and-turf ideas:
- If you're going to do salmon, do something other than plain salmon. Monastero makes a pinwheel roulade with spinach, red pepper and balsamic reduction glaze.
- Even if you're serving lobster, instead of serving it on the half-shell, cut medallions out of the tail meat so that one tail can make two or three portions.
- Put your surf or your turf into something, instead of serving it as a portion of pure protein. Monastero created a polenta dish made with shiitake mushrooms and lobster meat, formed into a nice little cake. On top of that, he puts hangar steak, and then drizzles on a cabernet wine reduction.
Monastero has one rule: “If you're going to go crazy with one half, stay simpler with the other half of the dish.” In other words, if you're loading on the sauce or the fancy flavors on the surf, keep the turf part of the plate simpler.
Chef John Ponticelli of Tulalip Resort, Casino & Spa in Tulalip, Wash., does a lot of surf and turf for clients and their guests, often with salmon because that makes sense in Washington. He created a new surf-and-turf entrée, which he has added to his banquet menus. “The Waguy Beef Tenderloin and Ahi Tuna Steak is great for banquets,” Ponticelli said. “Once it's prepped, it's easy to garnish and serve; you could do it for thousands of people at a time.”