Great seafood meals start with really fresh seafood. Landing a seafood dinner can be a rewarding adventure if some simple steps are followed.
There are many claims made by restaurants and seafood market vendors. Most common, we have “fresh Seafood”. Some may add daily, or add the location of origin, but all will claim to have the freshest.
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Source is Key
Start with the journey and you will find the freshest. Time and environment are the enemy of any seafood. True freshness is determined by how long the fish has been out of the sea and how well it was handled.
Seafood Type: Choosing Fish
So many types of seafood, for now we will focus on fish from the sea. Fish is abundant in every market, there are many types and is very simple to prepare. Start with a fresh piece of fish and be confident in a great meal. Every region has it’s common types, but some are available everywhere. Each coast has species that are common, but usually depending on the season. There are wild caught fish such as warm water species (mahi-mahi, tuna, snapper), cold water fish (salmon, cod, halibut) and the in between (rockfish/striped bass, sea trout, flounder). Then there are farm raised fish (salmon, tilapia, bream).
Some tips on landing a really fresh piece of fish. Ask when it was caught and where it came from. The vendor should be able to answer these questions. Buy fish that the vendor received today.
New to fish preparation
Start with a fillet or a steak.
A fillet of is taken from the meaty side of the fish and has had most of the bones removed. Best prepared in the oven or on the stovetop in a skillet or sautee pan.
A steak is cut just like a piece of beef and can can include bones and skin (a good example would be a salmon steak). Best prepared in the oven or on the grill.
Look at the flesh, does it look firm and bright?
If there is a film, move on, it probably has been in the case too long or mishandled.
Ask if you may take a quick sniff. A truly fresh piece of fish will smell like the sea.
If there is an odor at all (fishy), it is not really fresh.
Finally, if you do not like the idea of skin, ask the vendor to remove, they will be happy to do this. Not sure about bones either? They can usually remove any remaining bones too!
Where to buy:
Use a reputable market when purchasing for home. If you live near the coast, your options are plentiful and with a little research you will find a good market. Look for the markets that are always busy. Seafood markets are fun and exciting, usually with lots of activity and plenty of stimulating sights and sounds.
Go EARLY!!! Fresh seafood travels overnight, so visit the market early for great variety and freshness. A good start to your fresh fish is to find a market that has to replenish their stock every day. This is a good sign! Make sure that they receive direct shipments from the source whenever possible.
The more stops your fish makes, the less it will deliver in freshness. Ask if you can see how they keep the fish once it arrives. It should be in some type of cold storage and each container iced and well drained. A good market will be happy to show you how they handle seafood, in fact they will be proud of it!
Dining at Home:
Not sure what to choose? Start with a fish you have tried before and liked (probably in a restaurant). Do not be afraid to ask the market manager for some tips on preparation, the good ones like to eat fish too. Once you become comfortable with your ability then experiment. There are so many types of seafood and it is “healthy”.
If dining in a restaurant, choose one that is known for their seafood and always busy. Chances are they have a seasoned buyer that has solid relationships with reputable seafood suppliers who know less than fresh will be returned. Good chefs and seasoned buyers like to visit their suppliers and choose their fish, but not all have the luxury of time so a relationship is important. Ask questions, the dining room staff should be knowledgeable and can answer your questions. If they don’t have the answer, they can get it for you.
Home or Dining Out:
Always remember, trust your nose. If the fish smells like fish, then it’s not fresh. If it smells at all, it is not fresh. Fresh fish smells like the sea! Take your time, explore, learn and enjoy a really great dining experience.