Great dishes start with great ingredients, and no where is that more prevelent then dealing with fish. Having the freshest and best fish possible is absolutely essential to creating great tasting recipes, and also providing the safest food for your guests or patrons.
CHOOSING A FISHMONGER
When buying fish one of the most important things to consider is where you buy your fish from. Only buy from a reputable dealer. Your fishmonger, someone who fillets and sell fish, needs to know what they are selling, and they should be busy. You want a place where the supplies are constantly changing. A slow seafood store is not a place I want to go.
Cultivate a relationship with the people where you end up, they can help steer you in the right direction and help you make decision based on what is freshest. This is great for helping you work out your menus in your head ahead of time. They will also help you pick one, when you might be out of your depth, or not recognize a name.
Also make sure they label any fish or shellfish that may have been previously frozen. Like we have told you before, freezing can take away moisture, and once it has been thawed, you cannot re-freeze, which limits your options. It can happen that your dinner for 6 turns into 2, and you might want to freeze 4 fillets.
THE FIVE SIGNS OF FRESHNESS
A note: The bottom few deal with buying fish whole, but if your have that good relationship with your fishmonger, ask to see the whole fish, or fillet. If you imagine a fillet as only one of maybe 20 pieces of fish out of an entire Salmon, you are missing 95% of the information needed to make a comprehensive decision.
ONE: The skin/flesh should be resilient and bounce back when lightly pressed. It should not break the fillet apart along a fat line, common with old salmon, or just remain dented. It should be firm to the touch. The skin should not feel slimy to the touch.
TWO: The fish should have no odor. The smell of the fish should be light, delicate, and smell like “the sea”.
THREE: The eyes of the fish should be clear and natural. They should not be recessed or cloudy in any way.
FOUR: If scales or bones are present, they should offer resistance to removal, they should not fall off or out easily. This is one of the first things to show signs of deterioration.
FIVE: If there are gills, they should be bright red, not dark. They should be firm and plump.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you, when you actually get to the store, is to be flexible. If you go in with your heart set on Salmon, but it isn’t up to snuff, you want to be able to shift gears and get into a fish that could be fresher. This is where a relationship with the person on the other side of that counter comes in handy. They can steer you towards fish that might be in the same ballpark.
Once you have picked great fish, its time to STORE IT PROPERLY.