Tips for Buying and Cooking Seafood

Choosing to buy seafood at a grocery store can seem a little daunting to some folks. It’s estimated that over 2/3 of seafood consumers would rather purchase it in a restaurant than cook their favorite catches in the comforts of their own homes. Most of us either have no clue how to treat the seafood once we get into the kitchen or maybe there is the fear of overcooking the seafood that it turns into a piece of rubber. Or maybe you’re just unsure of when or where to purchase the best seafood available.

Well worry no more friends! I have some ideas, tips, and solutions to help you serve up some sensational seafood recipes, all while not having to get dressed up to head to a restaurant and spend an excessive amount of cash on your favorite piece of fish. Flannel pajamas optional.

Have a relationship with your fish monger
I met my fish monger, Zach, about three years ago when I moved into my neighborhood in Chicago. I was curious to have a budding relationship with the man who gave me countless bits of fascinating advice on what to do with my Chilean sea bass. I chat up Zach almost twice a month for tips and insider advice on what’s in season, how should I cook up bay scallops versus diver scallops, why should I buy local fish, fresh over frozen, the list goes on and on. Point is, I love that I initiated this conversation years ago because it’s really taken my seafood cooking game to the next level. So the next time you head to your favorite grocery store, take a couple extra minutes to introduce yourself to the seafood monger and start asking questions.

Experiment with something new
Believe it or not, seafood does have a seasonal buying chart much like fruits and vegetables. Most seafood is not in season year-round and if you find something that’s out of season behind the counter, most likely it’s farm-raised and loaded with excessive amounts of antibiotics and chemicals. I usually head over to http://www.cuesa.org/eat-seasonally/charts/seafood when it comes to buying what’s fresh, local, and in season. The simplicity of knowing that tuna is most abundant only in July through September might help you to choose some of the most delicious cuts of this unctuous sea creature.

Do you have the proper kitchen gadgets?
Once you’ve decided on what to cook for tonight’s seafood extravaganza, make sure to do an inventory check in your kitchen for the proper tools. I always make sure to have a very sharp boning knife to make precision cuts to my fish, a fish spatula that’s metal and the tines are spaced, and a heavy-bottomed sauté pan for getting a good sear on my fish. I also like to keep fresh oils like olive and avocado handy to season my fish before crisping up the skin or just to kiss it with a seasoned oil when it’s done cooking. Sea salt or a delicate finishing salt are also in my arsenal when it comes to working with some sensational seafood.

I also like to cook seafood using different methods such as grilling, sautéing, frying, or baking. Once you feel comfortable experimenting with seafood, the cooking techniques will be a breeze to master.

Below is my tried and true recipe for a fried grouper sandwich. It’s practically fool-proof and will make your friends and family beg for seconds and even congratulate you on your seafood cooking skills. Happy eating!

Florida Fried Grouper Sandwich (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 4, 4oz filets of fresh Florida grouper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup Wondra flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, leaves pulled apart
  • ½ sweet onion, sliced
  • ½ cup homemade mayo
  • 4 potato buns
  • Pickles for garnish

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven pot, place enough oil to deep-fry the fish and heat up to *350 using a candy thermometer. While the oil is heating, season you grouper with salt and pepper. Then begin breading your fish by dipping the grouper in the flour, then in the egg, and finally dip into the panko bread crumbs. Carefully drop the fish into the oil and cook until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes.) Remove the fish and place on paper towels to drain the oil. Season the fish with salt.

Place the bread down and slather on the mayo to both sides. Add the lettuce, tomato, and onion then top with the grouper. Serve with pickles and an ice cold drink. Enjoy!

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Kari Karch

Kari Karch is a 19-year veteran of the culinary industry, creator of Kiss the Cook, and the head chef and spokesperson for the Kenmore brand. She has made many notable appearances on ABC Morning News, on WGN, on the Cooking Channel and as a judge for the World Food Championships.

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