FUN WITH FISH AND SHELLFISH
Buying, storing, handling, and cooking fish and shellfish are some of the most critical moves a cook can make. Freshness is an absolute MUST! For that reason, here I am providing you with some guidlines for all those moves and more!
BUYING FRESH FISH AND SHELLFISH
STORING YOUR PURCHASE
A GUIDE TO COMMON FISH
BUYING: If the critters aren't fresh when you first buy them, your nose will tell you right away! Sniff the seafood; it should smell like a clean ocean breeze. Disagreeable, sweet, or ammonia odors are caused by bacteria that proliferate as seafood deteriorates.
Fresh fish fillets should look moist and lustrous; whole fish should have clean red gills, shiny and tight scales, bright clear eyes, and firm and elastic flesh. Don't buy packaged seafood where liquid has collected inside.
Fresh clams, oysters and mussels should have tightly closed shells; if slightly open, it should close when gently tapped. Fresh scallops should smell slightly sweet; there should be no accummulated liquid in the package. Fresh shrimp should be firm in texture and not smell ammonialike, have slippery shells, or spotted shells.
Live crabs, lobsters and crayfish should move their legs and curl its tail under when picked up.
STORING: Immediately after purchasing fish, shrimp or scallops, unwrap and rinse under cool running water; place in a container; cover with damp paper towels. and keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Cook the day you buy it if possible, but no later than 2 days at the most.
Cover live oysters, clams, mussels, crab, lobster and crayfish with wet paper towels; then refrigerate; cook and eat within 12 hours of purchase.
COOKING GUIDELINES: Generally speaking, seafood cooks so quickly that it frequently is overcooked, losing moisture and flavor. Contrary to popular belief, when recipes recommend cooking until the flesh flakes with a fork, the fish has already been overcooked. Also, the theory of cooking "10 minutes for every inch of thickness" may be too long.
A different test is to cut a small slit in the center of thicker fillets, steaks and whole fish; check flesh for a slightly transluscent appearance or wet inside. Remove it from the heat; it will continue cooking for a few minutes. If using a meat thermometer, it should read 135 degrees.
The flesh of crab, lobster, scallops and shrimp turns opaque when cooked.
Remove oysters, clams and mussels from the heat as soon as the shells open. Shucked oysters are cooked when the edges curl.
COOKING METHODS: Baking fish cooks more slowly than other methods; hence less chance of overcooking. Preparing with a sauce, stuffing or coating will keep fish moist. Fillets at least 3/4 inch thick up to 6 pounds can be baked in sauce. Simple baking calls for brushing with melted butter or margarine, coating with bread crumbs or other coating mix.
Barbecuing is best for moedrately oily fish such as salmon, swordfish, and tuna. Skewered scallops and shrimp are also excellent choices. Keep fish and shellfish moist while they cook by brushing with a basting sauce. Live clams and mussels can also be set on a grill until their shells open.
Broiling is a dry-heat method like barbecuing and works best for fish at least 1/2-inch thick and with enough natural oil to stay moist. Flavor with a basting sauce if desired.
Pan-frying is very popular for almost any fillet, steak or small whole fish. For even browning, make sure the fish is dry and the pan heats uniformly. Dusting the fish lightly with flour or other coating produces a nice golden brown exterior.
Deep-frying is not as popular these days because of concerns for fats in the diet; however, many folks (me included) refuse to eat perch, catfish, and some other fillets cooked by any other method. Oil should always be fresh, heated to at least 350 degrees, and in a deep-fryer; however, a wok or deep skillet may be used. Do not crowd fillets in the pan, as it cools the oil down. When fish is golden brown and floats to the top, it is done.
Stir-frying is apparently the choice of today. Fish should be cut in cubes, firm-textured, and very fresh.
Poaching or Steaming is suitable for many larger fish such as salmon, pike, and drum; and is an excellent method for preparing fish for salads.
A GUIDE TO COMMON FISH
NAME OR SPECIES TASTE & TEXTURE SIZE BEST COOKING METHODS Bass(striped; white) Mild; slightly sweet; flaky lean 1-9 lb
Bake; barbecue; pan-fry; poach Bluefish Rich; soft; moist; tender; oily 3-6 lb
Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; smoke Buffalo Mild; earthy; oily; moist; tender 2-12 lb
Bake; barbecue; broil; poach; smoke Catfish Mild; sweet; earthy;moist; flaky; lean 1-5 lb
Deep-fry; pan-fry; broil; barbecue; bake Cod (haddock; pollack; hoki) Mild; tender; firm; lean 1-9 lb Bake; barbecue; deep-fry; pan-fry; poach Croaker (spot) Mild; moist; flaky; lean 1 lb Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry Drum (red; redfish; black) moderately pronouced; tender-firm; moist; lean To 10 lbs; whole; filets Bake; barbecue; pan-fry; poach Flounder/Sole (gray sole; plaice; fluke; petrale sole; English sole; Dover sole; rex sole; sanddab Mild; sweet; nutlike; tender-firm; lean 1-20 lb;whole;fillets Broil;bake;deep-fry;pan-fry Grouper (black and red) Mild; firm to meaty; lean To 50 lbs; whole; fillets Bake; barbecue; pan-fry; stir-fry; steam Halibut Mild; sweet; fine-grained; firm-flaked; lean To 300 lb; steaks; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; poach; stir-fry cubes Herring/Sardine Pronouced flavor; soft; tender; oily 1 lb or less Pan-fry; broil; barbecue Jack (amberjack; yellowtail; cravalle) Rich; mild; firm to meaty; oily 2-100 lbs; steaks; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; smoke Ling(cod) Mild; tender; moist; flaky; lean 9 lb; fillets; steaks Bake; barbecue; broil; deep-fry; stir-fry Mackeral (Atlantic; Spanish; king; cero; Pacific; wahoo; ono) Strong; moist; tender; oily 1-35 lb; whole; fillets; steaks Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; smoke Mahi Mahi Sweet; distinctive; tender-firm; lean To 40 lb; fillets; steaks Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; poach Monkfish Sweet,lobster-like; chewy; nonflaky; lean To 50 lb; tapering tail fillets only Bake; barbecue; broil; deep-fry; pan-fry; poach Mullet, striped Rich; pronounced; medium-firm; tender To 2 lb; whole Bake; barbecue; smoke; poach Orange Roughy Mild; sweet; tender-firm To 3 lbs Bake; barbecue; broil; deep-fry; pan-fry Perch (walleye, yellow) Mild; delicate; sweet; tender-firm; lean 1-3 lbs; whole; fillets Pan-fry; deep-fry; bake Pompano (Florida) Sweet; rich; tender-firm; moist To 2 pounds Bake; barbecue; pan-fry; steam Rockfish (often called Pacific Snapper) Mild; tender-firm; moist; flaky; lean 2-5 lbs; whole; fillets Bake; barbecue; deep-fry; pan-fry Sablefish (black cod; butterfish) Rich; mild; velvety soft; tender; oily 3-10 lbs; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; smoke; steam Salmon (King or chinook; silver or coho; pink; sockeye; chum) Delicate to rich; moist; flaky; tender; medium to high fat 1-100 lbs; whole; steaks; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; poach; steam; pan-fry Sea Bass (black and white; Chilean) Mild; firm to meaty; lean 1-20 lbs; whole; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; steam Seatrout/Weakfish (spotted seatrout; gray weakfish) Mild; sweet; fine-grained; moist 1-3 lbs; whole; fillets Bake;barbecue; pan-fry; steam Shad & Roe Rich; sweet; soft; oily 3-5 lbs; whole; fillets; roe only Barbecue; broil; pan-fry Shark (thresher; soupfin; bonito; blacktip; mako; sandbar) Mild; pronounced; firm; dense; meaty; lean 35-1000 lbs; steaks; fillets Bake; barbecue; pan-fry; deep-fry; poach Smelt (rainbow; eulachon; grunion; silversides) Delicate; tender; soft 3-8 inches; whole Barbecue; deep-fry; pan-fry Snapper (red; Florida; Caribbean) Mild; distinctive; tender-firm; lean) 4-6 lbs; whole; fillets Bake; barbecue; pan-fry; poach; steam Sturgeon Mild; distinctive; firm; meaty; oily 10-80 lbs; chunks; steaks; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; smoke; poach Swordfish Mild; rich; firm; meaty; oily 50-200 lbs; chunks; steaks Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; stir-fry; smoke; poach Tilapia Mild; sweet; earthy; moist; tender; lean 1-2 lbs; whole; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; deep-fry; pan-fry Trout (rainbow; steelhead) Mild; tender;flakyl lean 1-2 lbs; whole Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; smoke Tuna (albacore; bluefin; yellowfin; bigeye) Rich; distinctive; meaty; firm; oily 10-1000 lbs; steaks; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; poach; steam; smoke Whitefish Rich; mild; tender; flaky; oily 1-4 lbs; whole; fillets Bake; barbecue; broil; pan-fry; smoke; poach
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