Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How To Cook Seafood, Vol.1

"In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight."
---Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Are there reasons why you don't cook more seafood at home?
Do you have difficulty, or feel intimidated, preparing seafood at home?
Do you know how to best cook fish and shellfish?

As I have previously said, on repeated occasions, Americans don't eat enough seafood. You should eat seafood at least twice a week, garnering its significant health benefits. A significant reason why people don't eat enough seafood is that many are not comfortable cooking seafood at home. They feel intimidated, and don't want to potentially ruin an expensive piece of fish. I have found that even some of my more food-oriented friends still are not confident cooking seafood. So how do we change that? How do we give people more confidence in preparing seafood at home?

In my coverage of the Seafood Expo North America, I wrote a post, How To Cook Seafood, which included advice from chefs for home cooks on preparing seafood. I was inspired to continue in this vein, to provide home cooks with more seafood cooking advice. Thus, I have created a new series on my blog, How To Cook Seafood, which will consist of advice and recipes from local chefs. The advice will be geared for home cooks, simple suggestions and recipes that most anyone can do at home. My hope is that it will spur on more people to cook seafood at home.

If any local chef is interested in participating in this series, please contact me.

Now onto the first three chefs in this first volume of this series, all with some grilling advice which is a great preview as the weather starts to get warmer.

Chef Marc Orfaly, the Executive Chef at The Beehive, advises:

"When cooking at home, especially fish, I try to keep things as simple as possible. Summer time is a no brainer, the great outdoors means firing up the big grill. I prefer charcoal, but gas is always cleaner and some what easier.

"I recommend using a hearty or thickly cut steak, fish such as swordfish, salmon, striped bass or tuna. Always remember to clean the grates of the grill and swab with an oil dipped towel (this will prevent sticking). Fish like salmon or bass, I like to cook and start skin side down (lightly oil the skin side first) and then finish on the flesh side. Other fishm like halibut, tuna and swordfish, can be cooked at equal times on either sides.

"Accompaniments for grilled items could be beautiful grilled vegetables, any type of salsa, or as simple as a piece of lemon. The quality of the fish should always be the star of the show.

"Cooking indoors I find can be a bit more challenging for the home cook. Two great techniques are either broiling or poaching stove top. Ideal fish for broiling are sole, haddock, pollock or cod. Place fish on a cookie sheet tray and season with dry white wine, sale & pepper, lemon, pat of butter, or just EVOO. When the fish is almost done, top with seasoned bread crumbs if desired.

"A good way to poach stove top is simply with a shallow sauté pan of water seasoned with salt, a touch of lemon juice and/or dry white wine. Fish such as tuna or salmon can be poached over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Good side dishes are sautéed spinach or peas."

Chef Andy DiPace, the Executive Chef of Sky Restaurant, recommends:

"When I order fish, I call my fish order in every morning to find out what just came in and what looks good. This helps us get the best possible and freshest fish. You can do the same thing when you are at the market. Ask the fishmonger what’s fresh and what just came in. Do a visual inspection of the fish. Looking for nice bright color, nothing that is opaque, shiny (shiny can mean slimy) and avoid frozen or color added fish. Ask if it farm raised (although it’s not bad, wild caught is always better). Ask if you can feel the fish. Avoid mushy fish, fish that doesn't bounce back if pressed, and nothing that feels slimy.

"Depending on what you’re cooking, say swordfish, we have a grilled swordfish on our menu, topped with a lemon caper butter. Depending on what you’re doing to it you want different sizes. 8 oz, or ½ pound is a good number to base on per person. Since we are grilling we don’t want it to be too thick or too thin. To thick and it will take too long and burn, to thin it will easily over cook and become dry. So about 1 inch thick is perfect.

"Ok, now for preparing and grilling. Just a simple marinade is fine. Oil, salt, pepper, chopped parsley and thyme. Don’t soak the fish. This can lead to flare ups later on. Using a gas grill can cause a butane kind of flavor and charcoal a burnt flavor, which we want to avoid. Now make sure the grill is hot to avoid the fish sticking. Shake off excess oil and place on rack. If you do get flames, a spray bottle with water can help eliminate this. To impress your friends, turn 90 degrees to make diamond marks. Swordfish you want to cook all the way through. It takes about ten minutes on each side until it is done. There are a couple ways to check if it’s done. One, temp it, 140 degrees and its done, pull it off a little before this, it will keep cooking when it’s pulled off. This way you avoid over cooking it. Two, you can check by touching it. If it feels squishy needs more time. And three just cheat and check the middle with your tongs. Looking for all white not grey."

Chef Greg Weinstock, the Executive Chef at Salvatore's in Boston

"Being a chef means spending the majority of my time in a kitchen. I don’t do a lot of cooking at home, but when I do I try to keep it as simple as possible. I don’t want to spend my valuable time off cleaning another kitchen. During the warmer months, I really enjoy using my grill, cooking outside doesn't feel like work. An ice cold beer in hand, some good music and conversation, and I’m in my happy place. I love grilling fish and then topping it with a homemade salsa, quick and easy. One of my favorite preparations is topping striped bass with a twist on salsa verde, the classic Italian sauce. During the summer months when the stripers are running, there is nothing better than fresh caught Cape Cod striper. The following recipe is super easy and can be made using a multitude of other seafood varieties.

Cilantro Salsa Verde
You can make this ahead of time and refrigerate, it will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

1 bunch of cilantro chopped (stems and leaves)
2 oz scallions sliced very thin (greens and whites)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
½ cup of lime juice
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper; if it is a little too acidic you can add a touch of honey or agave nectar to sweeten it
Set aside to use later

Grilled Striped Bass
"I like to use a charcoal grill, the wood imparts a nice flavor into the fish or meat. If you don’t have a charcoal grill, a gas grill will work suitably as well.

"Before grilling the fish, I brush it with vegetable oil. I don’t use extra virgin for this as extra virgin olive oil has a lower flashpoint and will flare up on the grill causing the fish to taste like gasoline. After brushing I season liberally with Kosher Salt and ground black pepper.

"I like to sear the fish on high heat and then finish it with low, indirect heat. I place the majority of the coals on one side of the grill and after they are ready will start my fish, flesh side first over these. After I get a nice sear I move it to the side with very little coals to finish, this way you are ensured a nice moist center without a burnt exterior. I suggest investing in a fish spatula; you can find these inexpensively online at sites like Amazon, or in stores such as Williams and Sonoma. These spatulas have a thinner more flexible metal than traditional bbq spatulas and make it easier to turn the fish on the grill. The light oil the fish was brushed with will help to keep it from sticking to the grill as well.

"Be careful not to overcook the fish. You want to pull it off the grill when the center is slightly warmer than human body temperature. Chefs test this by taking a thin metal skewer and placing it into the center of the fish and then holding it to our lips. The lip is better to test with because it is more sensitive to heat. When it is slightly warmer than your lips, remove the fish from the grill and let it rest. The fish is still cooking during this resting period and the flesh is reabsorbing all the moisture that the heat of the grill has removed.

"After 5-7 minutes of rest, top with the salsa verde and serve."

1 comment:

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