We all know we should eat more seafood--it usually has less fat and cholesterol than meat, more nutrients than some vegetables, and in the best cases, is more sustainable to our planet's health. So, you order a bowl of steamed clams at a restaurant, get the fish sandwich at the ballpark, and try to grill some salmon for your friends and family. But it's time to graduate to the next level, and thankfully the perfect teacher has arrived to lead us in learning.
Becky Selengut's latest book Good Fish is equal parts sustainable seafood primer and cookbook. There are recipes for seafood favorites like crab mac-and-cheese, shrimp cocktail and fish tacos, tips on buying fresh versus frozen seafood, how to buy and store seafood, and the best way to prepare everything from oysters and salmon, to char, sardines and squid.
Good Fish has a mission is to get us to eat fish that is sustainably raised or caught, and to eat more variety of fish and shellfish. Selengut demystifies terms like long-line, troll-caught and bycatch. She introduces readers to seafood like sardines and black cod, and techniques such as how to fillet a fish (buying a whole fish can be more economical), and how to clean squid and crab. And she also reminds us that, like produce, fish and shellfish have distinct seasons.
Selengut is a private chef and cooking teacher, and throughout Good Fish are valuable lessons. There's a two-page spread on "The anatomy of a flake" to illustrate doneness of fish. Selengut's skill as a teacher shines through in sidebars on everything from thawing fish to searing scallops. There are even how-to videos at goodfishbook.com with great demonstrations on how to fillet a fish, shuck an oyster, cook and clean Dungeness crab, devein a shrimp, wok-smoke a fish, and more.
The book is broken into chapters on shellfish (clams, oysters, crabs, etc), finfish (salmon, trout, black cod, halibut, and more) and "littlefish" (like sardines and squid) and caviar. Each chapter introduces each fish or shellfish, followed by several recipes. In those introductions is information on sustainability, what to look for when you buy, what to ask your fish seller, information on seasonality, and tips on buying and storing.
The introduction to the book packs a lot of important information into just a few pages. There are helpful tips about kitchen tools, and information of the less-common ingredients like tamarind, shiso and mirin. The section on fresh versus frozen and farmed versus wild seafood is helpful, like the fact that frozen fish can sometimes be better than fresh fish because of the high-tech methods for flash-freezing fish at sea. And how not all fish farming is bad. Especially when it comes to shellfish farming which can actually be beneficial to the oceans.
While this book a great for beginning cooks, it also has recipes for cooks at every skill level. There's sake-steamed black cod, a hangtown fry, and stuffed trout. Selengut's wife is a sommelier, so each recipe also includes a recommended pairing for wine, or in the case of the Mussels with Guinness Cream, beer (Guinness beer, of course).
Meet Selengut Sunday, May 15 at Elliott Bay Books at 2pm for a book signing. She also teaches classes at PCC markets (multiple locations and dates) and at The Pantry at Delancey in Ballard on August 2.
Check back tomorrow for Part II of this week's Cooking the Books and a recipe from Good Fish.