admin On August - 2 - 2011

Select, store & cook FISH

This is for all my friends (& general people out there) who LOVE SEAFOOD, but dread buying or cooking it themselves.. This should get you going!
Here are the basics of Selecting & buying fish, storing it & cooking it to perfection:

Buying Fish:

- Buy fish when its in season – it will be fresh, plentiful & hence, cheaper.
- Buy fish from reputable stores or markets – where you know fish sales are brisk & so they get fresh stock often. For frozen fish, ensure packages look fresh, not broken.
- Ask for fish that came in that day or the day before, not longer. If that’s not available, then fish that’s frozen on the boat/ship at sea right after being caught is the next best option.
- Always buy fish just before exiting the grocery store, take it home immediately and either cook it within 24 hours (12 hours on a hot day) or freeze it immediately. If you have other things to do on your way home from the store, carry a cooler along.

Selecting Fish:

- The flesh of fresh fish should spring back when touched or lightly pressed with a finger – it should feel firm.
- Fresh fish has a typical ‘fishy’ smell that reminds you of the sea. If you fish yourself then you know what I’m talking about.
- The eyes should be clear, not whitish or gray.
- The gills should be bright red & slimy, not dull, dark & dry.
- The skin should be shiny with tightly scales.
- For buying the right quantity/weight use these points: For whole fish, buy 1 lb. per person (half if it’s a side dish). For dressed fish (scales, tail, inside stuff, fins & even, heads removed), steaks (width-wise slices of large fish) or fillets (skinless & boneless sides of the fish), get ½ lb. per person.

Storing Fish:

- Fish should be kept frozen for only 5 days from buying it. Note, sometimes its been 10 days since catching the fish & dropping it off at the port or 10 days since it got from the port to the store, so be careful while selecting it – if it has a strong ammonia smell, avoid it.
- Fish should be kept as cold as possible, so store close to the walls of your freezer. Ideally, place fish bags in a separate compartment in your fridge. You would not want your ice cream to smell of it!
- Also, since salt decreases the freezing point of water, add some salt to the fresh fish before freezing – the fish will get some taste too, just as it freezes & while you are defrosting it.
- When you want to cook frozen fish, place the fish bag in COLD water & change the water 2ce till the fish has defrosted. Do not defrost it in the micro wave because fish is tender & will cook unevenly in the heat of the microwave. If you need it 1st thing in the morning, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator just before going to bed.

Cooking Fish:

- Apply salt to the washed fish for at least 20 mins before cooking. Wash it well before adding it to your dish. You may even add lemon/lime juice for marinating if it’s not a very tender fish, like mackerel, king-fish. Tender fish like salmon starts to cook in the acids of the lemon/lime juice (like the Peruvian dish).
- Although most recipes encourage you to cook fish till its ‘flaky’, do not! Flaking means the fish is too dry, or over-cooked. You can poke a piece in the centre to check if its done.
- Some fish, give out a milky liquid as they cook, like when you are pan-frying salmon. That’s ok – its just fat.
- Fish is done when it turns from translucent to opaque or white.
- You can use a meat thermometer & cook fish till the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F.

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