I eat fish a lot. I’m especially fond of buying fish that are deemed “Best Choices” from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. This is a bi-yearly report on the most sustainable species of fish to eat. They even have an App so you can check the guide from your phone when you’re at the store! I love this. I also loved the fact that May handed out the latest version along with our class recipes.
When you buy fish, it’s important to make sure your fish is fresh. Fish is highly perishable because of its high moisture content and high protein content. Fish should smell like the ocean. If it has a strong, ammonia-like smell, run away! A good fish department will have all fish stored on ice, and that ice should be fine, as larger pieces can pierce delicate fish skin.
Speaking of skin, this should be shiny and tight, with all fins are intact. The eyes should be full and round. Eyes that look sunken are a sign of dehydration. If you’re looking at fillets, these should be compact and dense and spring back when touched. I always find chatting with the people behind the counter a good indicator of how well the fish is handled. If the people are knowledgeable, the fish is probably fresh.
May brought up the term “Sushi-Grade Tuna.” What that means isn’t what people usually think. Most of this type of tuna is pre-frozen, as freezing kills off some of the bacteria and parasites, so that if you consume it raw, it’s most probably good to eat. For most of us though, it’s not a fabulous idea to freeze fish. Basic home freezers aren’t cold enough and the fish can become crystalized. Fresh fish only lasts 24-48 hours, so if you want to keep it, put it over ice on brown paper in the back of the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Here’s another fun fact about fin fish-the more active a fish is, the firmer and darker the flesh will be. These fin fish include salmon, swordfish and tuna. Guppies are pretty active! I wonder if they’re too small to fillet? These fish taste best grilled, sautéed, poached, steamed or roasted, but are not great for deep-frying.
The less active fish are the ones with a more delicate flavor, like sole, flounder, catfish and cod. Now THESE you can fry, both in deep fryer and pan. They’re also great sautéed and broiled.
There are three kinds of fin fish: round, flat and non-bony. Round fish have eyes on each side of the body and are, y’know…round. The flat fish have a flat body and eyes that are on the top part of their head (like a flounder). Non-bony fish have no bones, only cartilage. Sharks, swordfish and skate are all non-bony.