AUSTIN, Texas The warm-weather months are the perfect time to try something new with fish and seafood.
Maybe its a new technique such as poaching in a foil packet on the grill or making homemade ceviche or maybe its asking a fish monger for a variety youve never tried.
Carol Huntsberger, who has owned Quality Seafood Market on Austins Airport Boulevard for more than a decade, says her favorite summertime fish is grilled halibut, but shes just as likely to skewer swordfish or scallops.
Remember, when it comes to seafood, its always good to pay extra attention to the place of origin and harvesting methods, for both health and environmental reasons. Seafoodwatch.org keeps a detailed list of species that the Monterey Bay Aquarium recommends and does not recommend eating.
Huntsberger offered nine tips for making better fish this summer.
1 Dont fear the grill basket. Grilling large fish on a plank can make for a nice presentation, but if youre only cooking for a few people, a smaller grill basket might be a better approach. Certain kinds of fish, such as the super-flaky halibut, need a little extra support so they dont break apart when handled. The baskets come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and if you grill more than once a month, you wont just use it for fish.
2 Get the good salmon. Wild salmon run in the summer, and they taste infinitely better than the light-pink farmed fillets.
3 Keep the skin on. If you are working on a grill, the fish skin can help hold the fillet together, much like a plank or basket. Start cooking the fish skin-side-down over direct heat, with the thickest part of the fish over the hottest part of the grill. Flip the fish at the end to get grill marks on the other side. If youre sauteeing, poaching or baking, it doesnt make as much sense to keep the skin on, unless you prefer, Huntsberger says, and if you do want the skin removed, your fishmonger should be happy to do it for you.
4 When in doubt, saute. No one wants to mess up a $22-per-pound fillet of fish, so if youre unsure how it would fare on the grill or flash-seared in a pan, gently saute it in butter or a little olive oil. Sauteeing is a great get-to-know-you technique for fish youve never prepared before. You can learn a little bit about fish, and you cant overcook it because youre sauteing it in olive oil or butter, which will keep it moist, Huntsberger says.
5 30-minute marinade. Fish dont need more than half an hour in a marinade, if youre using one at all. Huntsberger will use something as simple as Italian dressing, letting the fish soak up some of the flavors in the fridge for a short time before cooking.
6 Let freshness be your guide. Even if you walk into the store with a plan for what youd like to cook, talk to the fishmonger about whats freshest off the boat, especially if youre making something delicate like ceviche.
7 Steak, without the beef. You wont fool anyone into thinking that a seared, dense fish, such as swordfish, tuna and blue marlin, is a rib-eye, but steak-like fish brushed or served with a light sauce like salmoriglio is ideal for summertime grilling.
8 Freshwater, for less. With shrimp prices so high due to increased demand and decreased imports, shoppers are looking for another affordable way to put seafood on the table. Freshwater fish, such as trout, catfish or tilapia, tend to be less expensive than some of the previously mentioned fish, and you might even be catching some yourself this summer. Huntsberger recommends sauteeing or grilling these kinds of fish after marinating or rubbing them with a spice mixture, such as lemon pepper or Cajun seasoning.
9 Know when its time to splurge. Theres nothing like digging into a mess of crab legs or lobster tails, which really shine when prepared on a grill. These crustaceans are almost always already cooked when sold at market, so youre just reheating them at home. Serve with ample melted butter on the side and extra napkins for your hands. Whats summer if you cant get a little messy while youre eating?
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