If it smells, it's not fresh. Fresh, uncooked fish should smell pleasant -- at most, faintly of the sea. Most fishmongers are very nice, so don't be afraid to ask for help. Back home, fish doesn't have the same shelf life as meat or poultry, so it's best cooked on the day you bought it. If you must keep your fish overnight, store it on a bag of ice in the back of the fridge. Steaks and fillets should be wrapped tightly in a layer of plastic wrap first, but whole fish can be laid directly on the bag of ice.Fear #2. I don't eat anything that can stare back at me.
Along with a neutral scent, the eyes are the best way to spot a fresh fish. The more lifelike -- round, clear and moist -- the more likely you're looking at something just off the boat, so consider yourself lucky if you're able to see eye to eye with your potential purchase. Of course, you don't have to bring it home that way. Your friendly fishmonger can remove the head. Staring contest averted.Fear #3. It's too expensive!
True, some catches are pricey, but you can stretch their value. A pound of swordfish is enough to make kebabs for a family of four, and a half-pound of tuna, seared and thinly sliced, is the perfect topping for a family-size niçoise salad or as a taco filling. Even inexpensive varieties can be dressed up: Stuff a brook trout, trick out tilapia with crispy pancetta and sage or slather flounder with a lime-chipotle butter.
Sometimes frozen is actually better than fresh. Freezing a fish immediately after it's caught -- right on the boat -- locks in the best possible taste and texture before it has a chance to fade. This means a longer shelf life, fewer safety concerns and usually a less expensive fish, too. Most markets buy lots of frozen fish, which they thaw out for display (labelled "previously frozen"). If you're not planning to cook it that night, buy it frozen so you can thaw it out whenever you want, overnight in the fridge.Fear #5. I only like fish sticks.
Think outside the box -- literally. If you like fish sticks, guess what? You like fish! Specifically, cod and pollack, which have light, flaky flesh and a mild, slightly nutty taste. But kicking store-bought sticks doesn't mean you have to stray too far. Making them from scratch gives you way more control over quality, ingredients and fat, plus you can dress them up with homemade tartar sauce.
Fair enough. Eat more steaks like tuna, marlin and swordfish, which are rarely sold as anything other than boneless steaks. Buy bone-free fillets that are sold deboned (tilapia and flounder, for example). Larger fish like salmon and halibut have a few prominent bones in both their fillets and steaks, but they're always in the same place. Once you learn where to look, they're easy to pluck out every time.
If you dig pasta, swap a flounder fillet for the noodle in your favorite spinach-stuffed manicotti recipe. If Mexican is your thing, make mahi-mahi tacos with shredded cabbage and mango salsa. Or maybe you're just a big fan of meat and potatoes. In that case, you can always make schnitzel with a catfish fillet instead of a veal cutlet.
You're probably worried about overcooking it, right? It's one of the big reasons many first-timers are turned off to fish forever. Fish is best when cooked the least. Ideally, most fish should be cooked just through -- or very slightly underdone. (It'll finish cooking on the plate.)
We understand that it looks a bit reptilian, but there's no reason to panic if your fish shows a little skin. In fact, it's a good thing. Skin protects the flesh against extreme temperatures -- whether it's a bed of ice or hot coals. It's also easily removed (by you or the fishmonger). Plus, you can always eat it. Any of the thin-skinned fish are quite tasty, like our Super-Crispy Salmon Teriyaki. Just don't eat any of the thicker, more leathery skins found on fish like swordfish or grouper.
Those would be anchovies, which lots of folks love for the salty punch they add to salads and pizza. On very rare occasions you might find them fresh, but most often they come in tins and jars packed in oil or salt. Preserved anchovies are definitely an acquired taste. But you've probably had them if you've eaten a caesar salad, where they're blended into the dressing.
Wild-caught: It was caught the old-fashioned way, by a fisherman.
Color-added: It was farm-raised and fed an additive to make its flesh a pretty color.
Farm-raised: It was born in a hatchery and spent its life swimming laps in a cage and eating feed pellets.
MSC-certified: It came from a sustainable fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Dolphin-safe/turtle-safe: It was caught using methods that reduce the chances of accidentally catching or killing dolphins or sea turtles.
Omega-3s: These are the heart-healthy fatty acids found in many species of wild-caught fish.