You can manhandle a steak and chicken too. But Fish? In a food culture where the average dude can identify cuts of beef on sight as if he butchered them himself, there is no excuse to go on ignoring fish. It is every bit as succulent, hearty, nuanced and open to interpretation as the other daily proteins we all like to eat and prepare. You just need to know how to deal with it. We’re not talking Tuna Helper here! Here are some simple things to know and remember when preparing and cooking fish at home.
· How to Choose & Buy the Right Fish
First and foremost smell it! The freshest fish should always smell sweet and should smell as if you were standing in the ocean and not the aisles of your local grocery store. Any fishy or strong odors means the fish has passed it’s prime and you should not buy it. When looking to buy a whole fish it should look as if it was just pulled out of the ocean; bright eyes and firm flesh are signs of freshness. Fish fillets or steaks should be firm and bright looking, with no brown spots or discoloration. Remember that fresh fish should be stored in your refrigerator for only a day or two; it is very perishable. Any longer than two days and you will need to wrap the fish well in freezer paper and freeze it.
· To Marinate or Not to Marinate
Soleil @k’s Furikake Crusted Ahi
Thick and dry fish steaks like Tuna or Thresher Shark taste great when marinated. Sometimes the simplest of ingredients like a mix of oil, vinegar and spices will do the trick. Any marinating should be brief as your fish could become mushy fish when cooked due to the delicate nature of this protein. One idea is to use our recipe from our restaurant, Soleil @k here at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp which is simple but very tasty. Our Furikake Crusted Ahi is a local favorite and consists of a mix of shredded Nori, sugar, salt and sesame. First soak your Ahi in soy sauce for 1 minute making sure both sides get covered. Get a pan nice and hot and add a little oil to the pan so your fish does not stick to the pan and then let it sear for a few minutes on each side making sure to turn it sideways as well. Put your Furikake mix on a plate and coat both sides of your Ahi with these delicious ingredients. Add a nice side of Asparagus or Rice and enjoy!
· Never Overcook Your Fish
There is a very delicate balance between perfectly cooked fish and overcooked fish. Remember the principle of residual heat: a pan will hold heat when it is removed from its heat source and will continue to cook the fish for several minutes if left in the pan. It is best to cook your fish until it is just about done, remove the pan from the oven, stovetop or grill and let it stand for a few minutes to finish cooking. Before cooking oily fish like Salmon or Trout you will need to dry the fish with paper towels thoroughly.
· How Do I Know When My Fish is Done
The safest thing to remember is to cook your fish for at least 8 minutes per inch of thickness or 10 minutes per inch of thickness for whole fish. Fish is best when it just starts to flake off with a fork. Because fish have very little connective tissue and fat, they are quite delicate when cooked. A reliable doneness test is to check if the fish “flakes”. Insert a fork or knife gently into the thickest part of the fish and twist. The fish should begin to separate along the natural lines.
Everyone knows that fish is good for you and that the fats in fish like Tuna and Salmon are thought to help prevent heart disease. But it seems that many people are afraid of cooking fish at home due to not knowing how. Buying, storing and cooking fish is not difficult and it just requires a little know how. I hope these tips help in your efforts in making your next fish meal in the comfort of your own home and kitchen.
Sean Mattix is the Director of Food & Beverage at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. Sean has been working at this Marriott for almost 8 years and has overseen the menu development, operation and overall vision of Altitude Sky Lounge which has won many local awards and national accolades. When not working he tries to keep up with his teenage daughter, 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son.