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Friday, January 14, 2011

Tips on selecting fresh seafood

Whole fresh mackerel on ice
"...Fresh fish, buy your fresh fish here: King fish, Snapper, Mullet, Macabak, Goat head fish, fresh Parrot, fresh Mackerel, fresh Butta fish..Hi nice lady, come buy some fresh fish fram mi nuh, taste up di table fi yuh big straptin man a yard pon di satideh ya...."  Damn, I cuda nyam two fry parrot fish wid a piece a bammy ya now to...wait... wait... wait for it i tell Sclaaaat!!!  Have you been anywhere where you have heard that before? No?  Well damn! So here we go again, back to my childhood. I swear, the memories are endless from this period in my my life. But this piece is not so much about those memories as they are about purchasing what's advertised and knowing you got exactly what you paid for, fresh seafood for your dollars. Now granted, back then just as in most places here with seemingly modern refigerated equipment, if you were not savy in knowing how to select your goods, you would be going home with garbage.  The salesman has a product and he needs to sell to you whom ever wants to buy it. Problem for him is that his product has an exceptionally short "shelf life". Seafood immediately starts to break down once it has been removed from it's natural environment and even more so in terms of fish when it expires. The market of which I spoke of earlier (in Jamaica) didn't have refrigerated systems, just men and women with large wicker baskets or aluminum tubs layered with newspaper, ice, burlap, fish, ice, plastic and more bulap to keep the fish from going bad. Antiquated you might say but it works. Works more in your favor when you know the days the fishermen have brought in their loads. The best time for buying fish will be early morning, often times before the sun comes up or is too high in the sky. You want the freshest and best.
 Well, most of us can't go to a market like such or you probably don't care to involve yourself with such fun activities :-). So like the effecient consumers and expert shoppers we are we hop down to our nearest supermarket to get the goods.  Alas, because of refrigerated technologies, we can get a product sold to us in pretty good condition in "MOST" places. Well here are a few tips for you to not take home someone's damaged goods:
First and most importantly for all seafood:
It must smell like the ocean, not amonia, bleach nor shall it smell fishy unless of course it is being sold to you by BP or some other related conglomerate. What!! You know they would too.

Caribbean lobster tail nice sweet flavor.
can be frozen before use
 Lobster, Crab, Shrimp: If you've bought shrimp 9 times out of 10 it's frozen. Keep them like that until ready for use. Just thaw them in some cold water and drain. Lobsters and crabs can survive a little longer, just put them in a pan and cover with paper. Cook them though when they are nice and lively.
Whole Fish: not slimy, deep red gills, better if eyes are to slightly opaque, very cloudy forget about it. Flesh should be firm and bounce back when pressed. But you say chef, I can't touch that damn thing or I'm not allowed. If homeslice behind the counter works for a reputable store have him or her do the checks for you.

Swordfish steaks: flesh moist &
not gray, bloodline bright red
 Filets or steaks: should not look dried out, no freezer burn, bones bright and fresh not white and dried, flesh should be bright not greyish, moisture on fish should be consistent not in small beads (temperature too high) no slime at all.

Pacific Oysters from British Columbia
 Shellfish: mussels, clams, oysters, scallops
These sexy little devils must be sold to you ALIVE. Eat dem wen dem dead and yuh might get an acute case of mauly gripe and fluxy complaints, yes belly hot. Projectile vomiting and spewing fro both ends..well you get the picture and trust me by then Charmin won't be able to save your ass. In some extreme cases depending on the individual, death can occur. When you buy them it's usually in bulk so I say if your recipe calls for say a pound of mussels, buy an extra half pound. Why Chef? In a second my little Padawan, you'll see. When you get those sexxy little devils home immediately remove them from whatever wrappings they came in, place them in a collander and rinse them with cold water and remove any bearded stuff from them. This allows any sand residue to get washed off and if you are going to cook them immedaitely do your first check. I told you earlier that you always buy shell fish alive so keeping them wrapped up will almost certianly extinguish their sexxy little lives, well before they are ready to be cooked anyways.
Smell them - good, Check.

Mussels Chorizo w/ Mango Aioli -
Buss Em Out Wednesdays!!!
 See any open ones, tap them once or twice. If they are not closing or only half way closed throw that bugger out - check.
Once cooked, the converse is true, if that sucka didn't open sail that bad boy through the window. I wouldn't recommend you do this at a restaurant though, there might be lawyers dining close by.
Now, you walk into any establishment that is selling fish and there's a strong odor of bleach or amonia in the air, be like Usain Bolt and sprint out of there, no time for jogging on this one.
So you buy these like devils and the fish of course and you want to cook it the next day, do this. For the whole fish or steaks, get long plastic dish with with smaller insert with holes. Add ice (crushed is better if you have it) in smaller container then place the fish on ice and cover with paper towel and place at middle or close to the bottom part of fridge. For filet, I would do the same or just leave it in the store plastic wrapped package. If you are not going to use this immediately then just put the damn thing in the freezer unless you have one of those refrigerators that freezes not in the freezer but in the middle shelf. For the shell fish, just keep them in the collander you washed them in with a bowl beneath and place in the fridge. So there you have it, I hope this was somewhat helpful. What's next you ask?  Well you know that seafood you bought and cooked and are about to eat? Ever thought of them saying sexxy things to each other, you know, the same way you express it to others. Check it out:
"..Chil look here, when he dipped that succulent shrimp in that warm velvety sauce, brought it to my mouth with the juices drippppppping all over his fingers, I couldn't do nutin but open wide girl..and he didn't just push it in, he let it dance across my lips, brushing past my teeth and placed it on my excited tongue. All this time my eyes are closed not knowing if I should close my mouth now as I was savoring the shrimp as it languished on my palete, but I closed it slowly only to find that his finger was still attached to the shrimp but was being removed oh soooo slowly before my lips were now pursed together and I started to chew, one sensory explosion at a time..'' Yeah, something like that..Stay tuned for "Food is Porn - Conversations from within"..

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