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Choosing and Cooking Fresh Fish

Choosing and cooking fresh fish

A Byte of Fish History

There was a time when there were days on which fish, but not meat, could be eaten. Originally decreed by the Church (Fridays, fast days and throughout Lent); more were decreed in England during the 16th century, both to encourage ship building and the training of mariners, and also, because of the shortage of meat, to permit an increase in the numbers of cattle. The Vatican rescinded the rule forbidding Catholics to eat meat on Fridays in 1966.

Demersal fish are known in the USA as ground fish. This fish species lives on or near the sea bed. The white (non-oily) fish include cod, haddock, halibut, plaice, sole and whiting.

Choosing Your Fish

Skin:  Should be firm and elastic. Skin should be shiny and color not faded. The skin should spring back when a finger pressure is exerted.

Eyes:  Bright, clear and somewhat bulging. Stale fish eyes are usually cloudy and sunken.

Scales:  Tight to skin, not falling off. Bright and shiny.

Gills:  No slime, reddish pink and clean looking; not grey.

Odor:  Not overly strong. Fish should never smell fishy. The smell is from a chemical compound called trimethylamine. It is produced from the deterioration and breakdown of the fish. Cooking Fish

The Fish Facts

  • Supermarkets can offer up to 200 varieties of fish, some may be fresh.
  • Cooking fish, you should be more concerned with retaining flavor than tenderness as with meats. Fish is naturally tender.
  • When purchasing live lobsters there should be movement in the legs.
  • Squid, shark and snails rate among the highest foods Americans dislike the most.
  • The size of shrimp will not affect their quality. They should be tender and firm if cooked properly.
  • Mussels, clams and oysters should be alive when purchased. Gaping shells should close when tapped. Discard dead ones.
  • Minnows will stay alive longer if you add six to eight drops of iodine to the water they are transported in.
  • If you wash your hand in cold water before handling fish, your hands will not smell fishy.
  • To eliminate the fishy odor from a pan, try placing a small amount of vinegar in the pan before washing.
  • Cooked crab shells should be bright red in color (not orange) and have little or no odor. They should always be displayed on a bed of ice.
  • Frozen fish can be skinned easier than fresh ones.
  • Aquaculture is fast becoming a major protein food industry in the United States.
  • The best eating fish and the safest are: Aquaculture raised Trout and Catfish, Halibut, Turbot, Skipjack,Sole and Pollack.
  • A small amount of grated onion added to the butter when cooking fish will add an excellent bit of flavor.
  • If you are planning on a fish barbecue, use the high-fat fish; they will not dry out as fast and will be juicer and more tasty.
  • Most fresh fish and shellfish are never inspected; make sure you are dealing with a quality fish market.
  • Never keep a shellfish in fresh water; it will kill them very quickly.
  • Try not to thaw frozen fish completely before cooking or it may make them very dry and mushy.
  • To eliminate the canned taste of shrimp, try soaking them for 10 to 15 minutes in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sherry.
  • Lemon juice rubbed on fish before cooking will enhance the flavor and help maintain a good color.
  • The flavor of canned shrimp can be greatly improved if you soak the can in ice water for at least one hour before opening.
  • To de-vein shrimp, hold the shrimp under a slow stream of cold water and run the tip of an ice pick down the back of the shrimp. This will clean the shrimp and leave it whole.
  • When frying fish, sprinkle the bottom of the pan with a small amount of salt or use unsalted butter and the fish will not sa to the pan. Salted butter does not work as well.
  • A small amount of grated onion added to the butter when cooking fish will add an excellent bit of flavor.
  • When making clam chowder, add the chopped clams during the last 15 minutes of cooking to avoid them from becoming mushy and tough.
  • When cooking fish wrapped in tin foil, add a sprig of dill and a lemon slice for a great taste treat.
  • Eliminate fish smells by boiling a pot of water containing a few whole cloves, sa of cinnamon and a slice of lemon on the stove.
  • When cooking shellfish, a heavily salted water will draw the sea salt out.
  • To make scaling a fish easier, try rubbing vinegar on the scales first.
  • When baking fish, try wrinkling up the tin foil before you wrap the fish. This will cause the fish to brown better and it will not sa to the foil.
  • Avoid making tough shrimp by first cooling the shrimp under very cold water for one to two minutes. Place them in a deep pot (not over the heat) with a small amount of salt, then cover them with rapidly boiling water, tightly covered. Large shrimp take approximately five to seven minutes, average size are done in about four minutes.
  • Shark is an excellent eating fish; young shark are best.
  • The best tuna is labeled white and is albacore. Three other types are sold, namely light, dark and blended. The darker the tuna, the stronger the flavor and usually the oilier. These are mostly Skipjack and Bluefin.
  • Fish ham is a Japanese product made from a red fish such as tuna or marlin, pickled with salt and nitrite, mixed with whale meat and pork fat and stuffed into a large sausage type casing.
  • Fish paste: A spread made from ground fish and cereal. In UK, legally contains not less than 70 percent fish.
  • A fish tester is an instrument for assessing the freshness of fish by measuring dielectric properties of skin and muscle.

Fish Meal

Surplus fish, waste from filleting (fish-house waste) and fish unsuitable for human consumption are dried and powdered. The resultant meal is a valuable source of protein for animal feedingstuff, or, after deodorization, as human food since it contains about 70 percent protein. Meal made from white fish is termed white fish meal, distinct from the oily type which is sometimes of very poor quality and is used mainly as fertilizer.

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