Down to Earth Chef offers tips for buying and cooking fresh fish

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- You may love fresh fish, but do you know how to prepare it? Chef Karen Gill (aka Down to Earth Chef) joined the Studio A team on Thursday, March 12th to talk about tips for buying and cooking fish.

Tips for Buying and Cooking Fish

Purchasing Fish

Buy from reputable markets that have high turnover and get their fish from sustainable sources. Locally, St. Paul's Fish Market and Empire Fish are good choices. Nationally, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

Most fish is freshest when purchased frozen and then thawed by the consumer. Ask the seller about the age of the fish, whether it was frozen already and then thawed by them. If buying whole, fresh fish, look for shiny scales, bright, bulging eyes and a nice fish/ocean smell. Fish should not smell overly fishy. That is a sign of getting too old. Do not buy fish that is fishy and older. Do you live within 100 miles of the coast, Great Lakes or a local lake? Feel free to buy fresh fish, as long as they are local and in season. Concerned about sustainability? Check the status of your favorite fish here:

Cooking Tips

Perfectly cooked fish is moist and maintains a delicate flavor; overcooked fish is dry and less palatable.

One way to cook is using the 10-minute rule. Measure the fish at its thickest point. If the fish is stuffed or rolled, measure it after stuffing or rolling. Cook fish 10 minutes per inch. Increase cooking time when cooking fish that is frozen. Use a thermometer and remove fish at 135-degrees. Let rest for a few minutes before serving, which will bring the temperature up.

The meat of most fish is somewhat translucent and is it begins to cook, it becomes opaque. Visually check for opaque fish buy using the tip of a knife, lifting a bit of the flesh, near the end of cooking time. If fish flakes easily and looks opaque, it is done.

Rub lemon juice on fish before cooking. This will help the fish maintain its color and add to its flavor.

Thin, fish filets are often pan-fried with a flour coating, which develops a crisp, flavorful crust, and an interior that is tender and flaky.

For a moister broiled fish, first steam or poach the fish until close to being done and then brown it under the broiler. Just broiling fish can make it too dry.

Grill, broil, steam or poach oily fish so that their natural fats can drain while they are cooked. Or pan fry oily fish, like salmon, and use the fats to infuse flavor and keep the fish moist.


Spicy Pan-Seared Snapper, Serves 4

    In a small bowl, combine paprika, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Pat mixture evenly onto fish. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and butter and when hot, but not smoking, sauté fish on both sides until crisp and golden, about 8 minutes. Fish should flake easily with a fork. Serve immediately, garnished with lemon juice.

    Oven Baked Lemon-Caper Tilapia, Serves 2

      Pre-heat oven to 425-degrees. Pour lemon juice & olive oil into a 9x9 inch, glass baking dish. Lay tilapia fillets in the dish, and roll around in the oil until they are completely covered. Lay lemon wedges decoratively beside the fish. In a small bowl, combine zest, red pepper flakes & dried thyme. Sprinkle over top of fish. Scatter the capers over fish and season w/ salt & pepper. Bake about 12-15 minutes, until fish flakes easily.

      Make You Own Fish en Papillote (Steamed in Parchment)

      Steaming vegetables and seafood in a packet of parchment paper is a simple method that creates a delicious meals. Steaming requires little or no added fat; steam builds up in the packet to cook food quickly, yet gently.

      Choose thin fish filets that cook quickly, not thick steak cuts. Think salmon, Dover sole, halibut. Add vegetables with high liquid content that cook quickly, like bell peppers, zucchini and onions. Be sure to slice vegetables thinly, to ensure cooking through.

      Add moisture. If a food does not have a lot of moisture in it (like carrots or parsnips), add other foods with high moisture content (like spinach or tomatoes) or a splash of liquid to create steam within the packet. You can add white wine, apple cider, vinegars, etc.

      Add flavor. The ingredients in the packet will bring flavors of their own, but you can also add fresh or dried herbs, salt, pepper, and other spices, and liquids like wine, broth, coconut milk, or lime juice. Also consider a pat of herbed butter or a drizzle of cream; because no fat is required to cook en papillote, a little fat―about 1 to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons per packet―goes a long way to build flavor.

      Place fish on a large piece of parchment. Top with vegetables, liquids and herbs. Roll and seal parchment tightly, so it will not open during cooking. Place on a baking sheet and cook in a 400-degree oven, about 12 minutes. Let rest a few minutes. Cut open top of parchment and serve from paper or plate fish, including all the juices created.