As a home cook and enthusiastic eater, I’ve spanned the meat-eating continuum over the past two decades of my life to include eating like a vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, vegetarian who eats bacon, and currently, an omnivore. My past reasons for shunning meat were broad. I can’t buy into the cruel practices or negative environmental impact of industrial meat production for my own eating pleasure. Now that I’ve educated myself more thoroughly on the benefits of pastured meat and poultry, I can enjoy them without guilt.
Even so, when given a choice between meat and seafood, I will nearly always choose the seafood. I love the flavor and delicate texture of fresh fish and, with the help of my handy Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch iPhone app, I can make eco-friendly choices on the go.
But, I get into ruts. With our move to a new home and all the associated chaos, I lack my usual inspiration to try new recipes opting instead for tried-and-true standards like pan-seared salmon or shrimp tossed with pasta.
Enter Fish Market A Cookbook for Selecting and Preparing Seafood by Kathy L. Hunt, a nationally-syndicated food and travel writer and author of the cooking blog Kitchen Kat. Her first book is equal parts inspiration and gently authoritative instruction for sourcing, preparing, and enjoying many, many types of seafood. She brings a wordliness and expertise to Fish Market that has made me smarter and more courageous when it comes to seafood.
Fish Market appropriately begins with the “WIIFM” or What’s In It For Me when it comes to eating seafood including health and environmental benefits. Kathy describes her personal path to a pescatarian lifestyle which began when, as a teenager, her parents started incorporating more fish into their diets in response to her father suffering a near-fatal heart attack. While I’m sure her mother gave it the good ol’ college try, it turns out she stunk at cooking fish properly. After choking down way too many dry, flavorless, overcooked fish filets, Kathy knew there had to be a better way, and she fervently learned the secrets to good seafood.
To call the “guy behind the meat counter” at the Whole Foods a fishmonger could be a stretch since he may not know much about the fish on display. Unless you live somewhere with consistent access to fresh fish and great markets at which to buy it, you’re probably at his mercy. Kathy’s advice will empower you to know what to look for when selecting your seafood, including appearance, smell, and sustainability considerations.
I can make my own mayonnaise, can quarts of tomatoes, and make homemade chocolate mousse without a second thought, but when it comes to knowing what to do with a whole fish, I feel completely out of my league. Kathy will teach you how to gut, scale, and filet a whole fish, handle a live lobster, clean and properly store mussels, and devein fresh shrimp. Best of all, she makes it sound easy and not at all unpleasant. I admit that even after reading Fish Market, I will still probably leave the dirty work to someone else. But at least I know that if I really wanted to deal with a fresh, whole red snapper, I’m now equipped to do so.
Most of the book is a comprehensive encyclopedia of recipes you’ll feel compelled to make right now for every type of seafood you can imagine – from clams and oysters to lobster, shrimp, crab, cobia, shad, bluefish, salmon, flounder and many more. Besides expert tips on how, exactly, to prepare each type of fish, there are little trivial tidbits along the way. Did you know that the crabcake made its debut in the 1939 World’s Fair Cookbook?
The well-tested recipes in Fish Market inspire me to step outside my salmon and shrimp routine and try something new. Although there’s a decidedly exotic spin with some recipes, such as the Cambodian Angkor-Style Striped Bass, they are easily manageable for home cooks with a little ambition. With a keen understanding of flavor pairing, Kathy’s philosophy is that good quality seafood is best prepared simply. The majority of the recipes contain a reasonable number of easily-accessible ingredients. And, if you live in an area where finding less common varieties of fish is a challenge, you’ll still be able to enjoy many of the recipes using Kathy’s suggested substitutes.
Some of my favorites from the book include the Halibut Cassoulet, Sardine Spread (don’t you dare wrinkle your nose up until you try it!), Spice-Peppercorn Shrimp, and Chilled Tuna and White Beans. I cannot wait to try the Crayfish Etouffee and the Banana Leaf Barramundi. There are also recipes for pleny of seafood-friendly sides so you can easily put together a complete meal.
If you’re interested in cooking and enjoying more seafood at home, but lack the know-how or inspiration, I recommend you treat yourself to a copy of Fish Market. Mine is already starting to show signs of use on its oil-splattered and dog-eared pages. Isn’t that what a great cookbook should look like?
Sites That Link to this Post
- Favorite Cookbooks: What I'm Loving Now - Tomato Envy : Tomato Envy | February 18, 2014
- Epic Dinner Fail: What To Do When Disaster Strikes - Tomato Envy : Tomato Envy | April 4, 2014
- Kitchen Kat's Catfish Curry - Tomato Envy : Tomato Envy | October 25, 2015