Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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Food safety tips from the Island Fishmonger

During these unpredictable and confusing times, we all have to mind our p’s & q’s and be safe, smart and responsible. As I write this article the date today is March 18th and I do not know what the month of April will bring for Florida restaurants as I can’t predict the future. But, I what I do know is that all of us at Big Water Fish Market will continue to operate within the state mandate and maintain a clean and sanitized environment as usual. As of right now we have no plan to close the retail market and will continue to offer dine in and carryout in the restaurant until we are told we no longer can due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation. If there is a mandate to close restaurants, our retail market will remain open. Now that we have the unknowns out of the way, here are some safety tips for keeping your fresh fish in your daily diet.

Buying Fish

The leading cause of most food-borne illnesses is improper food handling, preparation and storage. I suggest your very first step is to hook up with a reputable local fish monger that you can trust to ensure the best seafood quality and safety guidelines. Here are the most important tips for buying fish. First of all, when food shopping, visit your fish monger on your way home in order to purchase your seafood last and keep it cold. If you have a few minutes before you get home, you should always ask for a bag of ice or even travel with your own cooler. The meat without feet that you purchase should be firm with a fresh sea breeze aroma and no discoloration. Clams, mussels and oysters should be closed or will close after a tap as they should be alive. Do not be embarrassed to ask to smell the fish. If it has a strong fishy smell odor, it’s going to have a strong fishy taste. Of course, your fish should taste like fish, but fresh fish tastes clean. When somebody approaches my fish counter and asks the question “What do you have that’s not fishy tasting?” My answer is “You’re buying your fish from the wrong person!”

How much do I buy is a FAQ? How much do you eat is an answer but probably a better suggestion is an average dinner serving of fish is around a half pound of meat per person. Four people at your dinner table equals two pounds of fish. Thank you, Mr. Obvious. If your fish monger is advertising 21/25 Shrimp or 10/15 Scallops that means, there are approximately that many in a pound.

Storing and handling tips

Rule #1 in my fish market is if you wouldn’t eat it yourself you better not sell it. When in doubt, throw it out. If you get home and the fish that you just bought stinks, either bring it back and tell the person who sold it to you to eat it or throw it out and buy your fish elsewhere. Enough with the negative and let’s assume you bought a beautiful filet of fish. Store your fish in the coldest part of your refrigerator and keep it between 32°F and 41°F for up to 2 days. For best results, I always suggest you eat your fish the day you buy it. To freeze your fish, wrap it tightly to prevent freezer burn and you can store frozen fish up to 10 months. When thawing it is always best to thaw in the refrigerator or in the sink at room temperature. If you’re in a rush you can run cold water over your frozen product to speed up the process. Make sure not to run water at high pressure directly onto the fish as it will damage the flesh.

Here are a few must know tips when buying fish from a retail counter…

· Only buy seafood from a reputable source.

· Always buy sustainable seafood.

· Fresh fish should have a mild, fresh sea breeze odor. A strong fish odor is not acceptable.

· When buying whole fish, look at the eyes. They should be clear not cloudy.

· Shellfish should be alive. Tap the shell and it should close. If not, they are dead, and you should not buy them.

· Purchase your seafood last and keep it cold.

· Benefits of Omega 3 outweighs mercury concerns.

· A ½ pound filet is the average dinner serving per person.

· Cook fish for 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness at 350°F.

· A grilled piece of seafood with a side of steamed broccoli should be part of your weekly diet.

How to cook fish

You have no idea how many times a day I am asked “Can you tell me how to cook my fish?” For some reason people are a bit intimidated by cooking fish and shellfish when in reality it is as simple as chicken and even less than meat. I think one reason many non-experienced home fish cooks are intimidated and would rather eat fish out instead of cooking in their own kitchen is fish odors sometimes lingers. This can be avoided by cooking outside or by doing an immediate clean up and trash removal after dinner is served. Although there is some inconvenience in cooking seafood at home, all of us seafood lovers know that after each bite you realize the swift cleanup is worth it. Here are some seafood cooking tips that will make cooking fish as simple as 1-2-3!

The general rule for cooking fish is 8-10 minutes per inch at 350°F or when it is at an internal temperature of 145°F. If the fish is cooked in sauce or in foil, add 5 minutes to the cooking time. Fish is done when the flesh becomes opaque and flakes easily at its thickest part. Opaque means preventing light from travelling through and therefore not transparent or translucent.

Shrimp and scallops become opaque when fully cooked also. One pound of shrimp added to boiling water should be simmered for 3 to 5 minutes. Scallops should also be boiled or grilled for 3 to 5 minutes depending on your preference. Do not overcook.

Oysters and clams should be cooked steamed or grilled until the shells pop open and it’s the same with mussels, but they will only take half the time as the oysters and clams.

Health benefits of Fish & Fish Oil

Apparently, you can’t eat enough fish. Not only is it good for our immune system as times like these call for, but there are several other benefits the Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood provide. A healthy body needs its Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly essential for your body and brain. Omega 3 lowers cholesterol, can fight depression and anxiety, it promotes brain health, improves risk factors for heart disease, fights age related mental decline, may help prevent cancer, promotes healthy joints, skin and, most importantly, it is great for the heart. Where do you get this fatty acid? It comes from several sources including fish and nuts. Google it…it’s all true!

Ideally, we all know we should get 2 to 4 servings of fish per week. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, canned sardines/anchovies, striped bass, and herring have the highest percentages of Omega-3 oil content followed by cod, halibut, flounder, trout, mussels, oysters, swordfish and snapper (not in any particular order). A six ounce serving, 2 to 4 times a week, will supply a beneficial dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Live well….Eat Fish
Scott Dolan
Big Water Fish Market
6641 Midnight Pass Road ,Crescent Plaza – 941-554-8101
6639 Midnight Pass Road, Crescent Plaza – 941-203-5972

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