Americans have traditionally favored meat far above fish. Today fish has become exceedingly more popular for several reasons, the first being its increased availability. Many supermarkets display a wonderful variety of fish, not only from sources within the United States, but from other countries as well. The second reason for the growing enthusiasm for these foods is their nutritional value.
Like meat and poultry, fish offer an excellent source of protein. Unlike animal foods, they are relatively low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. They are also good sources of Vitamin B12, iodine, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
In addition, some o the fat in fish, unlike the fat in meat and poultry, appears to promote health. Fish oils contain certain types of polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3s. These oils have anti-clotting properties and may protect against heart attacks and high blood pressure. Fish oils can also help lower blood cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats in the diet. They are also thought to help control inflammatory responses in the body that cause such conditions as arthritis and psoriasis. Omega-3’s are distributed throughout the flesh of the fish.
Eating even a serving or two of fish per week is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Research suggests that the higher the fat content of the fish, the greater the benefit. Fish with a moderate to high content include striped and freshwater bass, butterfish, carp, catfish, halibut, herring, mackerel, mullet, ocean perch, orange roughy, pompano, rainbow trout, sablefish, salmon, sardines, shad, smelt, swordfish, and tilefish. Most canned fish also retains most of its omega-3’s.
When buying fish, use your nose! Fresh fish should not smell fishy. Whole fish should be bright with bulging eyes and shiny, resilient skin that springs back when pressed. Fresh fillets should not be slimy. They should hold together tightly and are not dried or curled at the edges.
Once you bring your fish home, wrap it in an airtight package and keep in the coldest part of your refrigerator. The fish should be used within two days or freeze immediately.
Almost any fish can be baked, broiled, poached, or steamed. However, it is wise to bake more fatty fish (carp, mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna, and whitefish) and poach or steam lean fish. Fish can be easily adapted to casseroles, salads, omelets, and soufflés. Fish fillets and steaks are excellent for barbecuing and charcoal grilling. An acid marinade (lemon or vinegar) helps to eliminate the stronger taste of fish.
The most common error in cooking fish is overcooking. Unlike meat, cooking does not tenderize the fish. It only develops flavor. Therefore, only a short time is necessary to fully cook the fish.
These cooking tips will help:
- Measure the fish at the thickest part. Cook 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.
- Test for doneness.
- Eye test-when the center or the thickest part loses its shiny or translucent appearance and becomes opaque, the fish is done.
- Fork test-poke the fish with a fork. When the fish flakes easily, it is ready to eat.