As you plan out your week’s meals, you may find yourself gravitating toward the old standards–pork chops one night, spaghetti another. It’s easy to get caught in a rut.
Sometimes it’s convenience that keeps us cooking the same old thing, but other times its beliefs about the expense or difficulty of new ideas that restricts our thinking. While we can’t all manage prime rib every night, we don’t have to let incorrect assumptions detour us into the same old circular menu.
It seems that no area of food gets a more unfair misperception than seafood. So many people think that quality seafood is too expensive or too difficult to prepare. And while there are some very complex seafood dishes out there, that isn’t always the case.
The great thing about cooking is that even if we do start with a tough recipe, we can often simplify it to something a little more practical for the daily routine. That’s just as true of seafood as any other culinary area.
Whether you’re going all out for the big meal on Friday night or just doing something simple to squeeze in a meal between soccer practice and movie night, seafood can fit the bill. The key is to follow some basic principles about choosing and preparing it.
Seafood can’t tolerate abuse. It’s harvested at distant coastal areas and then marketed in the heartland. The process of getting it out of the water, processed, and prepared for transport is complicated. Doing it right. That’s why Alaska seafood is so carefully and quickly packaged for transport to the Lower 48.
Getting your seafood cooked and served within the shortest possible time period is key to capturing the best flavor. After thawing, improperly frozen seafood is drier, more brittle, and lacks flavor. The final product just isn’t up to par.
So if you’re making a seafood dish, get quality ingredients. Find a source with consistently high standards and execution. You can often get better seafood shipped frozen to you than you can at a local “fresh” market.
Seafood is one of the most versatile ingredients you can use. Making a great seafood dish requires some creativity; everybody has breaded and fried a nice piece of fish before, after all. If you want your cooking to stand out, you need to break new ground.
There is limitless flexibility to the ways we can use seafood. It’s right at home in a bisque, a salad, or a pasta dish. It can even turn up in breads. With its worldwide utilization, it’s been put to use in almost every form of cuisine known to humankind.
So be bold with seafood. Research new ideas from all sorts of backgrounds. Read up on jerked seafood from the Caribbean. Review what’s done in coastal New England, the hometown of American seafood. Blend and mix and experiment and take advantage of the world’s culinary diversity.
Army soldiers once had an expression about the kitchen policy in their mess halls: When it smokes, it’s cooking. When it flames, it’s done.
Don’t do that to seafood. As a lighter, more delicate protein than beef, pork, or chicken, seafood needs to be cooked to an optimum level. A product like seared Ahi tuna is even easier to ruin.
Study the seafood and make sure you understand proper cooking techniques for the particular item you’re preparing. Invest ahead of time; get the right type of pots, pans, griddles, spatulas, tongs, and so forth to work with seafood correctly for proper cooking and handling.
Seafood has endless versatility. The wide array of flavors it provides and the way we can accent those flavors enables us to start with seafood in many different ways. Don’t get hung up in the old ways of grabbing a bargain-bin bag of frozen cod, throwing some panko on it, and tossing it in the skillet. Broaden your horizons and build your kitchen repertoire with some great seafood ideas.
Becky Wilcox is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about beauty, fashion, technology and more. She writes for Life with Lisa as well as several other blogs and websites. Check back soon for more from Becky.