Wading Into Seafood

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Heather says:

How do you feel about buying seafood?

I talk to a lot of readers and I know some readers find the process of buying fish intimidating. They don’t know what to look for, don’t know whether to buy farm raised or wild caught. If they do buy wild caught, there are concerns about whether or not the fish was caught sustainably.

How do you know you’re getting a quality product? Sure, some of us who live near the coast have the option of buying it at markets fresh off the boat, but not everyone has that luxury. Even then, it’s hard to know, without grilling the fishermen, if the fish are caught by sustainable methods. For as much as I run my mouth here, I’m actually quite shy and prefer to just buy food without asking a lot of questions. If something feels like a hassle, I really would rather skip the process entirely and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment.

If you live in Tennessee, Georgia, North or South Carolina, chances are you live near a BI-LO. If you don’t live in this region, hang tight a second, I’m linking to some easy seafood recipes anyone can use.

For disclosure, I’ve been shopping at BI-LO for years, long before I was contacted by the store. In fact, my general rule of thumb when posting recipes on this site has always been, if I can’t find an ingredient at my neighborhood BI-LO, then I don’t post the recipe without at least a mention that an ingredient may be hard to find. I was recently invited to sample Chef’s Catch, a new line of seafood products at BI-LO Supermarkets. Maybe it’s a sign of how much of a shut-in I became while writing the book, but I was excited to get out of the house and see what they had to say. In a funny turn of events, it turned out I knew the man cooking for the tasting. In fact, I’ve known him since kindergarten, but hadn’t seen him except once in passing in the *gulp* 15 years since I graduated. Small towns and cities are funny like that sometimes.

BI-LO has teamed up with North Coast Seafood, who use line-caught sustainably harvested seafood. To make the purchasing process even easier, Chef’s Catch uses color-coded trays to differentiate the product lines. They have fresh -never frozen- in blue, frozen at sea in purple, and reay to cook -often with marinades already added- in orange. Knowing what you’re getting, for me at least, makes the selection process a whole lot easier. For almost thirty years, North Coast Seafood has participated in the U.S. department of Commerce’s voluntary seafood inspection program so consumers can be assured that the fish has been inspected.

The Chef’s Catch line includes: salmon, tilapia, rainbow trout, steelhead trout, wild ocean perch, cod, haddock, flounder, sea scallops, and bay scallops –mmm, scallops.

For a good portion of my restaurant days I worked in a fancy steakhouse in Minnesota which limited my exposure to working with seafood. I’m sure there are many Midwesterners who love seafood, but when I listed the night’s fish specials I often heard comments like, “I don’t like (insert type of fish here) fish, it tastes like fish.” –If nothing else, waiting tables helped me learn to control my facial expressions.– Beer battered walleye, pan fried walleye, and grilled salmon were the most popular choices. To counter my own inexperience, over the next few weeks (when I get back from MN) I’m going to work on experimenting with other fish, including tilapia, trout, perch, and flounder.

The new Chef’s Catch line is geared to help novice cooks feel confident about purchasing seafood. It helps when experimenting with new foods to know that you’ve purchased quality ingredients.

How do you feel about experimenting with seafood?

Are you always looking for new recipes or hesitant to try because of past results? I love seafood, but it’s definitely a neglected category in our home (except for shrimp, I could probably eat shrimp every day, even if they are as some of my friends call them “sea bugs”).

My.bi-lo.com has some recipes for seafood including oven-fried cod and marinated grilled salmon and will be adding more to the collection.

Here at Home-Ec101.com I have:

Do you have a favorite seafood recipe? Is it one you recommend to a beginner? Feel free to share the recipe or a link to the recipe in the comments.

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25 thoughts on “Wading Into Seafood”

  1. Seafood is the scariest thing I cook, at home. With that fear, I don't do it very often. When I lived on the West Coast, we ate a lot of Pacific Red Snapper. Snapper, on the East Coast, is NOT the same thing, at all. So, I've had bad luck when it comes to how to prepare seafood.

    I, usually, over cook it.

    I don't really know how long to cook it or how to know when its done without flaking it apart. I'm interested in learning how to bake it, like in foil packets or even grill it, in foil packets would be cool.

    I want to expand my horizon beyond Salmon.

    I've had some recent good luck with orange roughy, on top of the stove, basically fried in butter, like I cook shrimp, if not in LC Boil.

  2. Ditto here – I almost never cook fish for those reasons. I have a recipe for salmon on a bed of lentils which is quite good, but it has to be pan fried and the house reeks for days afterward. If anyone has any suggestions on what to do with tilapia, I'd love to hear them. My theory is it's actually tofu that is shaped like a fish filet.

  3. I've a midwesterner who doesn't like fish because "it's fishy." (Insert all the facial expressions you care.) But at 47, I cooked fish for the very first time in my life. Frozen whiting, seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked in the oven until it flakes with a fork. I need more ideas. And I'm in the Mt. Juliet area of Tennessee, there's no Bi-Lo here. (I think there was one in Lebanon, 25 miles away.)

    • LOL I had to at least pretend to be professional. 😉

      It's really sad, but I was excited because the tasting was at the "fancy" BI-LO, the one on the other side of town that I don't normally go to.

  4. Here's one of my family's favorite recipes. I've used it with tilapia and swai/basa.

    My husband grew up close to the gulf, so he's constantly asking me to fix some sort of fish. He's fixed shark before, but I didn't care for it. I would like to try salmon (other than salmon croquettes), but he said he had too much of it growing up.

    Oh, and shrimp is a must around here. I like to marinate it and throw it on the grill. The best I've ever eaten was shrimp wrapped in bacon and grilled. YUMMY!

  5. VERY EASY recipe, even thought there aren't amounts, as such –

    Easy Saucy Baked Fish

    fish steaks or fillets in serving size pieces
    sliced onions
    sour cream
    salt & pepper
    chopped green onions (including the green part)
    grated or shredded cheese of your choice

    Rinse and drain the excess water. Drain very well. Very. Well. On paper towels, for a while, until no more water comes out. (Seriously)

    Lightly butter a baking dish large enough to hold fillets in a single layer. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with sliced onions, a nice thick layer. Lay the fish on top of this onion bed, then lightly salt & pepper (add other seasonings here, if desiered) (Continued in reply, below)

    • Mix equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise (amounts of sour cream and mayo depend on how much fish you are baking) and cover the fish with the mixture. A good starting point would be about 1 tablespoon of each per fish steak or fillet. Spread the sauce on each piece of fish rather than pouring it over the whole thing. Sprinkle with chopped green onions and the grated cheese. You could add a touch of paprika here, if you like.

      Bake in a PREHEATED 400º F oven, for 10 – 20 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

      You can use various kinds of fish – I usually just use whiting. Also, try variety of spices such as chives, paprika, or lemon pepper. The cheese can be varied depending on what you have and what you're in the mood for – sharp cheddar is very good, but swiss or parmesan are also nice in this dish.

      I haven't made this in a long time, but for a while I was making it once a week — need to do it again soon.

  6. Perhaps it's where I live 😉 but, I love seafood!
    I like to experiment with it but, I am one who has to cook it within a day of purchasing it or I toss it, which is a HUGE waste!

    • I love seafood, I just tend to stick to what I know (shrimp, shrimp, and umm shrimp) Well, there's that and I look longingly at tuna steaks, but just can't make myself shell out at that price per pound.

      • In my experience tuna is a hard fish to experiment with. It needs to be rare and it is really easy to overcook. I don't ever buy it, but I will occasionally order it in a restaurant.

        • Oh, I know how to cook tuna, I'm just cheap sometimes and seafood is when it seems to kick in hardcore. I love to dust it with cajun seasoning and sear it. Even before breakfast I'm trying not to drool over the thought.

  7. Coho salmon is so delicious, you can simply broil it for about 10 minutes (depending on thickness) — use a fork to lift away one "scale" of the flesh to see if it's cooked through. You might like a little salt or seasoning salt, but we love it just the way it is.

    Since we can no longer eat eggs, beef, or lamb around here (food sensitivities!) the only way to break the pork/chicken cycle is to cook fish. I could eat salmon all the time, but since I live so far north (hello, I can see Alaska from my backyard!) I have to be careful to read the labels. Anything labelled "Atlantic salmon" has a gross mushy texture when cooked, and I won't buy it. (It turns out all the Atlantic salmon you can get here is actually farmed on the west coast. Ocean fish farms are a whole topic of problems…) I've found that sockeye salmon is good, but Coho salmon is the BEST! You really do have to experiment to see what you like.

    Trout is related to salmon and can be broiled in the same way. Red snapper is also very nice — it has a firm texture that is "meatier" than a lot of other fish. Sole has a very mild flavour — I have a great recipe for stuffed sole that involves parsley, cracker crumbs, and mushrooms being cooked and then rolled into the sole fillets, and then the whole shebang gets baked with some sauce on top. Yum! But this comment is long enough without adding a recipe…

  8. I should be clear that what I am broiling is not a whole fish, but a filet. You can do steaks this way, too, but with small children, I hate dealing with bones.

  9. I live in Iowa, so there's no such thing as 'fresh fish' here. However, I love seafood. Here are my two faves:

    Baked Tilapia (I buy frozen Tilapia fillets)
    -Thaw fillets
    -mix equal parts mayo and brown mustard (I like to go heavier on the mustard)
    -Spread over fillets
    -Top with dried Italian bread crumbs (I buy them in a can – this is SIMPLE STUFF, folks!) 🙂

    Bake at 400 for 12 min.


    My 2nd favorite is Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo:
    Boil water and put in the fettucine noodles
    While pasta is boiling, saute small raw shelled and deveined shrimp in a little olive oil and garlic. (Thaw shrimp if you bought them frozen).
    Mix cooked shrimp with alfredo sauce (I use alfredo sauce from a jar, unless I'm feeling adventerous and want to make my mom's recipe), then serve over pasta

    Yum yum!

  10. Tip for new seafood cooks. Don't buy it at the supermarket if you don't have to. Try and find a seafood market or specialty shop. I realize not all towns have them, but if you can find one, I have found that the workers are much more helpful instructors. I can walk into the market accross the street from my apartment and tell the guy I want fish for one person that doesn't require grilling and he will not only recommend a type of fish, but tell me how to prepare it.

    • Casey, if they are available, they can be a very nice resource, depending on the employees. There was a fish market in my small town, but the owner wasn't very helpful (it may be part of the reason it's out of business). It seemed they expected customers to know exactly what they wanted and to get out.

  11. Great ideas. I'm ok with any type of salmon except canned. I tried it two or three times just to see if I could come up with a few frugal recipes and umm no. I just can't do it. The pin bones, the texture, the ugh ugh ugh.
    I'm excited to force myself out of my unintentional rut.

  12. I’ve only ever bought packaged fish, usually frozen though not usually pre-seasoned. But it’s not just fish that intimidates me. It’s all meat, pretty much. I don’t know stuff like:

    Should I go to the meat counter at the grocery store instead of the meat case? Do you pay a premium at the counter, if so, what are you getting for that premium? What will they do for you for free? butterfly? debone? trim fat? How about a butcher? even more expensive?

  13. I’m another Midwesterner that thinks a lot of fish tastes fishy – but that’s because most of it needs to be shipped in from the coasts. I once had fresh salmon from the Oceanaire Seafood Room in Minneapolis and it was WONDERFUL (It better be for $25 …just for the entree!). About the only time I really enjoy fish is when we go camping – the guys are catching fresh from the lakes and we dip in Shore Lunch and deep fry. I also like shrimp – cocktail, pasta, etc.

  14. I cooked salmon the other day…on the grill with slices of zucchini, yellow squash, tomato (Romas grill nicely), onion, and portabella mushroom. Tossed with some garlic, butter, and herbs, gave it a light shake of salt and grilled it slowly until the salmon was done. A wedge of lemon and a side of herbed rice and dinner was done.

    BTW, HoneyBoy brand of canned salmon, in the SMALL can, has proved to be bone and skin free so far. And it is really tasty, not ick. I use it to make a variant of tuna casserole that also includes capers.

    • We sometimes put canned salmon on toast — just mix it with a little malt vinegar, salt, and pepper, maybe add some diced celery or radishes for crunch — mmm! But the bones don't bother me, so clearly this is not for everyone. (I take out the big bones for my hubby. But that doesn't change the texture issue.)

      You could also do this with leftover salmon — I'd probably just put it on toast without any extras, though. Or else you can flake it up to go on a salad. Reheating fish in general is pretty ick! 🙂

  15. Oh how I love this thread! Seafood…..I love it! I have found many recipes that I enjoy. Un fortunatly most seafood here isnt as fresh as I would like. I have tried several diffrent types. Swordfish, shark, mahi mahi, catfish, flounder, Oh the list could go on. I have gotten really good at cooking it too. I even make stews, soups, and burgers with seafood. Yum!

  16. I just don't do seafood. It's sad, isn't it? I don't know what to buy, I don't know how to cook it, and my husband doesn't like it. I might get some shrimp, either already cooked, or breaded or in a meal packet with specific instructions. Canned tuna and fish sticks. That's my limit.
    Who's the guy on Food Network that visits houses and cooks? I would be willing to do that.

  17. Another way I cook fish is to coat it in crumbs. Since we're gluten-free and egg-free, instead of doing an egg wash and then flour or store-bought crumbs mixed with salt (easy-peasy!), I use flaxmeal gel (mix 1/2 tbsp of flaxmeal with 3 or 4 tbsp hot water, then let it cool for a few minutes, and it will have the consistency of egg white) and cornmeal, or even millet flour. Fry it in a half inch of hot oil. I know this might not be considered super-healthy, but really, if the oil is hot enough, you don't end up with that much in your portion. 🙂


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