How To Select A Fish and Estimate How Long To Cook It

Fresh Fish Look Bright

Fresh Fish Look Bright

There’s nothing worse than overripe fish.

Here’s how to avoid it, and how to estimate how long you should cook what you buy.

Appearance is important, but the first sense to trust is smell: A fresh fish won’t smell fishy.

Look at the scales. They should be bright, and colorful. If the fish’s skin looks dull it’s old.

Touch the fish. It should feel firm, not soft, and your fingertip shouldn’t leave an impression.

The brightly colored fish here are dentici, dentex in English, whereas the skinned fish are anglerfish, which are often sold this way because of their appearance when whole.

Fresh Fish Have bright Eyes, and Look Back As You

Fresh Fish Have bright Eyes, and Look Back As You

Selecting a Fish: Look it in the Eye

Look the fish in the eyes. They should be clear and dark, as if it’s looking back at you, and ready to dart off. No white at all.

These sardoni, slightly larger cousins of sardines, were caught in the Adriatic Sea off Rimini and reached Rimini’s fish market within hours.

A Sunken Eye

A Slightly Cloudy Sunken Eye

An older fish’s eye will begin to cloud and sink.

Unfortunately, you’ll only find perfectly bright eyes when the fish is unloaded from the boat and taken directly to market.

If the eyes are slightly cloudy (like these), but the fish doesn’t smell, the fish was transported after it was caught (or came from further away) but is still good.

This grouper, for example, was caught off Sicily and sold in Rimini, several hundred miles away. It therefore spent at least a day in transit.

If the eyes are cloudy white, or, even worse, sunken and cloudy white, select a different fish or plan to serve something else.

A Fresh Fish will Have Red Gills

A Fresh Fish will Have Red Gills

Check the gills. They should be bright red, like these.

Does your fish pass inspection?

Have the fishmonger clean it for you immediately, because the guts of a dead fish will taint the flesh around them.

When you get it home, refrigerate it. Remember that fish is highly perishable, and that you should thus cook it as soon as possible, at the most within 24 hours.

Fresh Fish: Orata, Red Mullet & Scampi

Fresh Fish: Orata, Red Mullet & Scampi

To Determine The Cooking Time Of a Fish:

Measure the fish at its thickest point; calculate 10 minutes for every inch (2.5 cm) of thickness.

For example, roast a 4-inch thick fish 40 minutes, or grill a 2 1/2-inch thick fish 25 minutes, about 12 per side.

Calculations are fine, but you should also keep in mind this empirical method for determining doneness:

Stick a toothpick into the thickest part of the fish, near the backbone. If the flesh is no longer translucent and flakes easily, it is done.

A Couple Of Tips:

1. Remember, the fishmonger’s job is to sell fish. Trust is fine, but keep your eyes open.

2. Don’t overcook the fish, lest it become dry and its texture suffer.


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Categories: Italian Fish Recipes, Italian Ingredients, Tecniques

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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