I grew up in Seattle with grandparents who owned a fish market. I used to go there as a kid for handfuls of fresh crab meat and it was my favorite treat in the world (still is, as a matter of fact). The shop is where I learned to count back change (my poor Noni tried so hard to teach me-at 9 years old I just didn’t get it) and where my brother trained for his many years working at Pike Place Fish. Needless to say, fish was on our family table all the time and I have always been a fan.
I am always surprised at how many people don’t cook fish at home or don’t eat it at all. The biggest complaint-‘it’s too fishy’, which cracks me up. Good fish should taste like the water it came from-a fresh, clean river or a briny, salty ocean. If it smells ‘fishy’, even before you cook it, it’s probably not fresh.
I always buy my fish from a market with a fish monger-a person who picks and packs the fish as I order it. This way I can judge if it is fresh or not and I can look the monger in the eye and ask him (or her) what is the freshest catch of the day. The fish should be firm and not at all mushy. It should have clear, translucent skin with no rainbow glisten on top (you know the kind you see in an oil slick on the road-not a good thing on fish). Whole fish should have clear clean eyes and, the best is when the skin on the outside still has a thin layer of slime-this actually means the fish is incredibly fresh, despite what you might think. When you buy fish shrink wrapped in a package, all of these things are very hard to judge.
Fish is also something that should be eaten as fresh, local, and sustainable as possible. An outstanding resource to find out which fish are best to eat is the Seafood Watch List published by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It categorizes fish into Best, Good Alternatives, and Avoid sections, giving you great alternatives if the fish you wanted was on the ‘avoid’ list. Good fish mongers should be able to help with this too. If you get to the market on the hunt for Chilean Sea Bass, a good fish monger might suggest Pacific Halibut instead. You can even download a copy of this list for your phone-handy to have if your fish monger isn’t in the know.
Fish is so healthy for all of us. Take a chance and try one of your favorite recipes for it at home. I have had a few suggestions in my blog posts if you need some ideas:
***Fish in Parchment
**Halibut all’Acqua Pazza
Enjoy your fish-make my grandparents proud!