I swam like a fish as a child, and went deep sea fishing with my family in Acapulco, Mexico when I was a teenager (I caught that 6 foot swordfish next to me in the photo below), but that is about as far as my experience went with seafood having grown up in Des Moines, Iowa – 2000 miles away from the nearest ocean. What about you, do you know how to choose the freshest seafood?
Thankfully, most places today have access to a wonderful variety seafood due to flash freezing and modern delivery methods. Most specialty seafood markets, your local grocer and many of the larger food chains, display a good selection of fresh and frozen fish. Make sure you’re comfortable that the supplier you choose is one you’ll want to visit again, because you know their food is rotated properly and that they can be counted on to have the freshest product possible.
The American Heart Association recommends we eat fish twice or more weekly. Studies have shown that Omega-3s from fish seem to have a beneficial and direct effect on our heart’s electrical function, which determines the rate of the heart’s beats. Even moderate consumption of fresh fish may help to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.
Remember good fish never smells fishy … but rather like the ocean. A fresh aroma that is pronounced but definitely not overpowering.
Crustaceans such as crab, shrimp or lobster, should be heavy in weight (which indicates how much meat is inside) and have good color. Ask how long lobsters have been in their tank … they should be a bit active. Same thing for crab … ask how long they have been in their case. Shrimp should feel firm and never smell of ammonia. The shells should feel sturdy.
Shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels, should never have a gaping shell. If one or more is opened pick one up, tap it on a surface and if it is alive it will close tightly. Which means that you will need a tool to open it. If it remains open then it is not edible. Repeat this whenever necessary.
Fin Fish shouldn’t smell fishy either. They should be bright in appearance (salmon for instance should be red/pink). The skin’s surface should be glistening and with a light slippery feel to it. Fish need this protective shield since they live in the water. If you can smell the fish and touch it, then by all means do so. The flesh should feel firm and spring back. Trout and halibut will be an opaque white, whereas sand sole is white with a very light-pink tone. Swordfish is soft pink (not too much dark discolor on it) and yellow fin tuna has deep reddish/maroon tones. These two are steak-like fish. When cooked they are very firm and are great on the grill.
Whole fish should have the same nice appearance. The eyes should be level or bulging just above the surface of the skin; mostly bright, even though there are some species of fish that have cloudy eyes, but they are still fresh. The scales should look mostly intact and many times the gills have been removed as they deteriorate faster. Make sure the fish looks like it has been handled respectfully because if it looks like it has not, then it raises a red flag as to whether or not the correct temperature was maintained throughout shipping and display.
Eau de Vie Julie Anne Seafood Risotto
Last year I was honored with a limited edition bottle of grappa named after me, and Simini Catering in Turin, Italy very kindly sent me a case to sample. I don’t drink alcohol, but I do cook with it, and today I finally got around to writing, testing, and photographing a recipe using my namesake grappa.