Fish is actually one of the most versatile and tasty proteins, but many people shy away from serving it because they expect disaster. These fears include choosing the wrong fish, not understanding the preparation process and cooking the fish too long. When cooking fish for the first time, these tips can go a long way towards a delicious result.
Sources and Varieties
The best place to obtain this protein is at a respectable fish market. If that’s not an option, a grocery market with fish mongers will do. Shopping for sustainable options is best. These include Alaskan cod, Arctic char, North American swordfish, rainbow trout, wild Alaskan salmon and red snapper.
Choosing a Good Product
Look for fresh fillets that feel firm and smell like the ocean, not fishy. When buying a whole fish, inspect if for shiny eyes, taut skin, firm scales and bright red gills. The latter should also be moist. Order the fish dressed, which means that the fishmonger will remove the scales, gills and guts. Frozen fish should lack any type of freezer burn.
For best results, cook fresh fish on the day of purchase, but it can keep for a day or two when properly refrigerated. Even on deboned fillets, check first for pin bones. Do so by running several fingers gently over the fillets and feel if they encounter tiny bumps.
If needed, use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to remove pin bones. Leave the skin on when cooking delicate fillets, but score it with a knife to prevent curling when the fish heats up. To achieve a crispier result, dry the fish with a paper towel before cooking.
Mark Usewicz, co-owner of Brooklyn’s renowned seafood market Mermaid’s Garden, recommends butter-basting the fish in order to create a restaurant-worthy dish. Start with a heavy skillet and sear the fish in oil that is tolerant to high heat, such as canola or grapeseed. When ready to flip the fillet, add a dollop of butter and baste the flip side vigorously. This will create a tasty crust while keeping the flesh tender.
The whole process should take no more than five minutes. Since the cooking time remains short, it will keep the house from smelling fishy. While this process works on most types of fish, make sure that each fillet is at least half an inch thick.