Seafood, like eggs, needs to be prepared low and slow. High heat does nothing to seafood except insure that it will come out tough and dry. An exception can be made for grilled and deep fried seafood, in which case the rule is hot and quick. One of the most popular ways to treat seafood is by frying. Since seafood is so heat sensitive, if you are going to fry it you should either have an electric deep fryer or a thermometer. Don't try to guess when the food is done because you will be wrong most of the time. The temperature of the fat should be at least 375 degrees but, if you are going to fry a large batch make it 425 degrees since once you add the fish the temperature will drop. Once you get the temperature right the only other thing that can affect your fish is the batter. A good batter will brown the fish but not accept a lot of oil. The formula is easy; dry the fish and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. One at a time, dip the fish first in flour, shake off the excess, dip it in an egg wash (lightly beaten egg with a few tablespoons of water), shake off excess and lay the fish in a shallow bowl with the coating of your choice, breadcrumbs, corn meal, matzo meal, or a mixture of one or two of them. Press the coating into the fish. It helps if you refrigerate the fish for about thirty minutes to let the coating set. This method is recommended for sauteing as well as frying. Sauteing fish is very much like frying it only you use a small amount of oil. If you are using butter add a little olive oil in so the butter doesn't burn. Again, the theme is low and slow. In both methods, frying or sauteing, you can tell as much by the color of the fish as you can the time you cook it, provided the heat is at the right temperature. Poaching is my favorite way to treat fish. It's also the easiest. The poaching liquid can be water, wine, fish stock or a combination of all three. You can also poach fish in water with the juice of a half of lemon added. When poaching a delicate fish, like salmon, I have even used orange juice as a poaching liquid. Timing is really crucial when you poach fish. My method is to bring the water to a simmer, put the fish in the pan. The liquid should be enough to reach at least 3/4 of the fish. As soon as the liquid returns to the simmer, take the pan off the heat, cover and wait 15 minutes. You will never ruin a fish fillet by using this method. Baking, or roasting whole fish is a wonderful way to serve it, particularly if it is stuffed. The Canadian Department of Fisheries has developed a formula for cooking fish that works well. Measure the fish at its thickest point and cook exactly 10 minutes per inch. This applies to any method of cooking fish. If the fish measures 2 inches at it thickest point you cook it for 20 minutes. If the fish is frozen double the cooking time. Preparing shellfish and other sea creatures isn't any different as far as cooking times are concerned with the exception of squid. Squid rings should be dropped into simmering liquid, taken off the stove and let stand for about 45 seconds. That's right, I said 45 seconds. Remove the squid, run under cold water and then use any way you like, in a salad, with pasta, whatever. Ignore this advice and plan to serve rubber bands for dinner.
- posted 10 years ago