Need some seafood tips to give you cooking confidence? Seafood is one of the most popular restaurant cuisines, but it can be quite tricky to master it at home.
Our chef John Lanzafame has cooked for celebrities from all over the world, and has cooked a river worth of fish and seafood in his time. John knows all the seafood dos and don’ts, so we asked him for his top seven seafood tips. He’ll get you cooking seafood in your home kitchen just like a pro!
John’s Lanzafame’s seven top seafood tips
Seafood Tip #1:
“If it looks shiny and clean, it means it’s good,” John Lanzafame says. It almost goes without saying that the appearance of seafood is the best indicator of quality and freshness. Look for pieces of fish that Rhianna would love, i.e. shining bright like a diamond. Colour is not always indicative of the fish’s freshness though, as with many species the colour will fade almost immediately after death. However, the skin should be taut, clean, and glistening, almost as if the fish were still alive. Also if they’re still on the fish, check the eyes as they too should be bright, clear and never cloudy or sunken. The gills should also be bright red.
With fish fillets, if you can, try and touch the piece. It should be quite firm and springy, not sloppy. If the edges of the fillet have begun to brown, say “no, thank you”, as this indicates oxidation and decay. The same goes for prawns. The meat should be firm. The shells of most raw prawns are translucent with a grayish green, pinkish tan, or light pink tint. The shells should not have blackened edges or black spots.
John’s seafood do: Look for shiny and clean seafood
John’s seafood don’t: Buy fish with dirty or soft looking skin
Seafood Tip #2:
As well as appearance, the smell of a fresh piece of seafood is tell-tale sign of its freshness. As silly as it sounds, seafood should not smell ‘fishy’. It should have a faint odour that is like the sea. There are few worse smells in the world than the rotting flesh of a crustacean – ask anyone who’s made the mistake of putting prawn heads into the bin on Christmas Day. Spare a thought for the poor garbage collectors who have to work those late December shifts!
John’s seafood do: Buy fish that smells like the sea
John’s seafood don’t: Buy fish that smells like rotting flesh
Seafood Tip #3:
While most people cook their fish already de-boned, John Lanzafame recommends de-boning the fish after it’s cooked. “Any meat cooked on the bone tastes better, fish is no different,” John says. When the fish is cooked with its bones intact, it cooks slower and infuses more flavour into the flesh.
John’s seafood do: De-bone fish AFTER cooking it
John’s seafood don’t: De-bone fish BEFORE cooking it
Seafood Tip #4:
When cooking fish fillets, it’s much like any other meat in that when you pull it off the pan it will keep cooking for a few minutes. We’ll elaborate on the amount of cooking a fish requires in the next point.For now, just remember that when you serve the fish, it will not be exactly the same as the moment you remove it from the heat. You will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. This also should be remembered if you are poaching prawns. Have ice ready to place the prawns on as soon as you pull them from the pot to ensure they don’t over-cook themselves.
John’s seafood do: Take fish off the pan just before it’s fully cooked
John’s seafood don’t: Let the dish overcook itself when it’s taken off heat
Seafood Tip #5:
If you like your meats charcoaled, look away now. Seafood especially shouldn’t be cooked to the point it’s dried out. As John Lanzafame says, ‘over-cooked fish eats like leather’. And as any Japanese person will attest, it is always good to eat fish rare. Not only does it taste better, the fish will retain more of its amazing health benefits. If the idea of undercooked meat grosses you out, maybe order or cook some chicken instead!
John’s seafood do: Serve fish rare
John’s seafood don’t: Overcook the fish to make it too dry
Seafood Tip #6:
John Lanzafame recommends cooking fish skin side down first for around 80% of the time it’s spent on the pan. This is to ensure you get it nice and crispy outside but it doesn’t dry out the flesh inside. You’ll notice when you place the fillet onto a hot pan, it’ll start to flex upwards. When this happens remember to flatten it down with a spatula to ensure the whole piece is cooked evenly.
John’s seafood do: Cook fish skin down for 80% of the time.
John’s seafood don’t: Cook for very long on the flesh side.
Seafood Tip 7:
“Enjoy the simple flavour of fish be it cooked or raw,” Lanzafame says. John uses this rule for all of his cooking, because most of the time, less is more. That means not going overboard with sauces and toppings. A simple cooked fish, drizzled with lemon juice and served with a couple of side dishes is delicious. And with the right preparation and additions, it’s very nutritious as well. “There are people in parts of the world living off fish and living to 100 years old – there must be a reason,” Lanzafame points out.
John’s seafood do: Add simple flavours
John’s seafood don’t: Go over the top with sauces and toppings
So there you have it – now you can get down to your local fish market and get cookin’ with confidence! But if it’s not the chef’s night in at your place, or you feel like indulging yourself in a meal that’s not cooked by you, come on in to MáZi Restaurant. Our menu is filled to the gills with seafood (pardon the pun)!
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