CuisineStyle Kitchen Studio: Cooking Seafood with Pamela

As a Chef and cooking instructor, I’ve learned that most students dread the “daunting” task of handling and cooking seafood.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same baffled, often horrified expression on their faces when I set a whole salmon on the kitchen counter in front of them.

First, one big, collective gasp. Then one student will say, “How do I know what looks good?” Another- “I can’t tell if it’s fresh or not. I think fish is supposed to smell fishy!” Or – “ I just can’t cook seafood!”  I say, “YES YOU CAN!” Trust me, cooking seafood couldn’t be easier.

Here are my professional tips for selecting and cooking seafood:

Seafood is one of the most perishable and expensive items in your market. It’s best to have a reliable market with a trust worthy fish monger. Always inquire about freshness and what’s in season. This will ensure the best quality, and you’ll learn a good deal about what you’re taking home for dinner. For whole fish, look for red gills, clear eyes, and shiny scales. If you’re purchasing filets or smaller cuts of fish, look for firm flesh and a bright color. Ask to smell the fish before purchasing. If it has a strong fishy smell, skip it. Fresh fish will smell like the ocean. Storing your fish correctly ensures that it stays as fresh as possible. Always store the fish in the refrigerator, and my recommendation is to place it, wrapped, on a bed of ice.  If you choose to freeze your fish, use it within three months. The quality will deteriorate the longer it’s frozen.

For cooking fish, it only takes a few minutes to cook perfectly. My rule of thumb is, whether you roast, saute, broil, steam or grill your fish, watch for seafood when it comes to what the French refer to as the “milky point.” That’s when the proteins begin to appear as little white dots on the sides and possibly to the top of the fish. At that point, it’s cooked two thirds of the way through. Take the fish off the heat source. It will finish “cooking”, by virtue of its residual heat, and your fish will be cooked perfectly every time.

I’m inspired just writing about this. Let’s all cook fish for dinner this week!

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