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.