How to Get Started on a Culinary Seafood Journey
It can be a bit daunting when you are exploring the world of seafood and trying to decide what you might like to try and taste and how best to cook it so that you get the best flavour experience.
Typical topics of conversation amongst diners who want to be adventurous with their seafood exploration include concerns about how to tell if a fish or crustacean is ready to eat and how to actually consume it, especially when there might be issues like bones to contend with.
You won’t need to worry about bones when you buy whole scallops, for example, but there is no need to be concerned anyway, as preparing seafood is not as difficult as some of us fear and the taste experience makes it well worth the effort.
Keep it simple to start with
There are lots of baby steps you can take on your culinary seafood journey and as your knowledge and enjoyment of this wonderful source of food continue to grow you should find yourself becoming more confident with your menu choices.
If you are a bit of a newbie when it comes to seafood it makes a lot of sense to start off with something that is simple to prepare, easy to cook, and tastes awesome.
Salmon fits the bill perfectly in that respect.
You have loads of options with salmon fillets. You can bake it, put it under the grill, sear it in the pan, or poach it, plus there are plenty of flavour and sauce options such as Teriyaki, curry flavouring, or a simple parsley sauce on top of the cooked salmon if that is what you like.
Don’t worry about shellfish
The good news is that you have no need to be intimidated by shellfish and most of it is far easier to work with and prepare than you might think.
There are a few simple rules to follow when it comes to cooking things like mussels and there is very little work involved in preparing what is great-tasting seafood.
Shrimp is another prime example of a shellfish that is so simple to prepare but is absolutely delicious in so many different ways.
To give you an example of how easy it can be to prepare and cook shellfish, here is a look at cleaning and steaming mussels.
To clean the mussels, simply scrub them with a brush under a faucet with cold running water and use a knife to scrape off any barnacles with a knife. After preparing them, use a mix of water and white wine in a decent-sized pot and in about five minutes the mussel shells should open wide and be ready to serve.
All you have to remember is that you need to discard any mussels that have failed to open as they are not good to eat in that state.
You will be enjoying flavoursome mussels in under 15 minutes, what could be simpler?
Learn how to deal with a whole fish
One of the things that worries aspiring cooks the most when it comes to fish is how to prepare and cook a whole fish.
There are two options here. The first is to get your fishmonger or supplier to dress the fish for you, which actually means removing the scales, gills, and guts of the fish.
The second one is the most fun, which is to learn how to choose a whole fish and then prepare it yourself, which is not as challenging as it sounds.
What you need to look for in a fresh fish is to note whether the skin looks healthy and the skin is still nice and taut, with all the scales still firmly in place. Its eyes should still look clear and have a shine to them, the gills should be a scarlet red and retain moisture, and its stomach should still feel firm to the touch.
You can learn how to skin the fish if you prefer but you can cook the more delicate fillets like sole or flounder with the skin on, as it crisps nicely and helps to keep the fish together during cooking.
In general terms, lean and thin fish tend to best cooked by a pan-frying method, but a thick piece of fish such as swordfish or tuna, won’t cook so well using this method as it becomes difficult to cook it all the way through without drying it out.
It will only take a matter of minutes to cook your fish in the pan and it is so easy to achieve great results, you will soon be confidently producing perfectly prepared and delicious seafood meals.
Keeping your fish moist
There is no question that when you overcook a piece of fish or choose the wrong cooking method for the type of fish you are wanting to enjoy it can soon lose its moisture and it won’t taste as good when that happens.
You might worry about cooking a fish through to avoid any potential food poisoning issues but that doesn’t mean you have to boil all the flavour out of it.
A good way to cook lots of different types of fish is by poaching, which helps promote moisture retention and seals in the great flavours that you have added to the stock you have used.
The fish is cooked when it flakes apart with ease and that is the time to remove it with a slotted spoon. Even oven poaching a fish by wrapping it in foil or parchment paper should only take about 15 minutes to cook the fish through.
It can often be better to consider grilling or oven baking more meatier types of fish like tuna steaks and if you bear that in mind and choose the most appropriate cooking method for the type of fish you are preparing you should avoid any culinary dramas and achieve great results.
Eating fantastic seafood is one of life’s amazing culinary experiences and if you embrace the challenge of preparing and cooking a variety of different fishes and shellfish you will soon have the confidence to embark on a taste journey that will truly reward your taste buds.