Shop Like a Chef: Fish

When I shop for fish I have a couple things in mind when I head to the fish counter.  My requirements are:

  1. Must be fresh
  2. Must be local (we live on the coast for goodness sake)
  3. Must be under two digits a pound.
  4. Must be fish I like

Must be fresh

I am not a fan of frozen foods except peas and ice cream.  I really dislike fish that has been frozen.  I know some of it is practically frozen on the boat, my husband watchesDeadliest Catch,  but really deep-freeze frozen or previously frozen fish just doesn’t taste good or feel good on the palate.  Be sure to read the signs carefully, and if you have questions ask!  The fish mongers are usually more than happy to answer.  You can ask to see the piece of fish and go ahead smell it if you like.  Fish that is fresh has a clean scent not a “fishy” smell.

Must be local

When it comes to fish, it’s quite easy for us to be locavores.  We live near the ocean.  Of course, you can decide how far your locavore zone goes.  There was a great story by Mark Bittman about Monkfish in The New York Times last October tracking it’s ridiculous journey from Monkfish to Lotte.  We’re having local monkfish, purchased at Whole Foods Market tonight as well as mussels from Maine.

Must be under two digits a pound

There is a little refrain in our household that states, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  This goes back to a time when my husband and I had just started new jobs and the dot com market was dying a rapid death.  My husband wasn’t sure where his company stood.  I had always firmly believed in buying organic food and I refused to buy farmed fish having had several roommates from British Colombia who knew the fish farms quite well.  My husband wasn’t quite on board.  So one day he came home, glanced at the grocery bill and said, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  I refused to back down, if you know my family you understand, and pointed out that perhaps the many bicycles he owned and maintained and the cable bill are better things to cut back on than things we put in our body.  In any case, we kept our jobs, we kept the bikes and we do buy cheaper fish, we just don’t buy salmon that often, and we don’t buy farmed fish.

Mussels and baguette with salted butter make up one of my favourite cheap feasts.  You can get mussels from 3.69/ bag.  A baguette is a couple of dollars, and if you’re lucky you have a stick of local butter in the door of your refrigerator.

The monkfish just made it at $9.99 a pound.  I bought a little less than a pound for the two of us because it’s quite a hearty fish.

Must be a fish I like

I like a lot of seafood.  I really don’t like swordfish and I’m not a fan of fish that seem to have more bones than flesh.  I love flounder and any other delicate white fish.  I love trout and other lake fish, but those are hard to find at the store.  My dad used to take my brother and I fishing every summer in the Muskokas.  We would catch and eat Pike and I think rainbow trout as well.  To this day, it is the best fish I have eaten.  I really like salmon but I can live with just having it a couple times a year.  I love scallops and steamers.  I make clams every once in a while with pasta because my husband loves clam sauce.  As you can see, I’m not too picky when it comes to fish.  I even recently bought a whole fish (I think it was flounder) and had the fish monger fillet it for me.  I’m not ready to handle the entire thing alone even though, as I learned at dinner with one of my dad’s students, the cheeks are one of the best parts of the fish.

So if you want to shop for fish like a chef then be sure to have some things on hand at home:  leeks, onions, lemons, and perhaps some tomatoes or peppers, bacon or pancetta is good too.  Head to the store and see which fish looks fresh with the right price.  Ask a few questions if it’s new to you:  What does it taste like? How do I prepare it?  Then bring it home and look through your cookbooks while the kids do their homework or play or look it up online to find an easy preparation.  I’ll post my monkfish recipe soon.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Luxury for locavores (Boston Globe), 
Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores? (New York Times)

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