How to buy and prepare exotic fish
Fish is appearing more and more often on our plates and this is a very healthy trend. There are many different types of fish to choose from – from traditional herring or carp to popular fish like cod, trout and salmon to original and exotic species such as turbot, monkfish or John Dory. But do you know how to prepare the lesser-known types of fish? How to buy them and ensure they are fresh and tasty? We asked one of our chefs – Marcin Socha from andel’s by Vienna House Cracow. Below you will find some tips on how to buy and prepare exotic fish.
1. Buy fish only on certain days of the week
This tip applies not only to exotic fish, but also to the better-known local species. Fish and seafood are delivered to restaurants, bars and shops on certain days of the week. Most European fish are sold at the fish market in Hamburg and brought to Poland twice a week – on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Therefore, it is better to go to a fish restaurant or to prepare a fish dinner at home on these days.
2. Order fish
Fish can sometimes spend a few days at the market or supermarket before it is bought. To be sure that the fish we buy is fresh and good, it is therefore better to order and buy on certain days of the week. When we do that, it is more probable that we will not buy a pig in a poke.
3. Check if the fish is fresh
No matter what you do, you should check if the fish is fresh yourself. How can you do that? Check if:
– eyes are shiny and not cloudy
– gills are blood-red, with clearly visible gill filaments
– skin is uniform and shiny, covered with transparent slime
– fishbones stick to meat on inner side of the stomach cavity
– when you touch meat, its shape quickly goes back to the original position
If everything seems to be normal, you can buy and cook it.
4. What type of fish should you choose?
If your intention is to surprise your guests, then pick a less popular species, such as gilt-head bream or seabass, which should be available in any large supermarket. Gourmets will be really pleased to try exotic fish, such as monkfish, turbot or John Dory.
A good exotic fish to start with is monkfish, whose meat is tender and dense. Monkfish is also very universal: it can be roasted, stewed or fried. It goes well with many different kinds of food, e.g. black lentils or citrus fruit, and is a perfect ingredient for surf and turf. The meat texture makes it a perfect part of grilled shashliks. John Dory is even tastier and more tender. When preparing a John Dory, try to avoid strong and aromatic spices because they may kill its subtle taste. And beware of the dorsal fin! It’s sharp so it is better to cut it off with scissors so as not to hurt yourself. The Atlantic turbot, in turn, is most delicious when it is roasted and served with fresh herbs and olive oil. If you prefer fillets, they are best served with a mild sauce with morels or asparagus. Turbot belongs to the family of righteye flounders so filleting may be troublesome.
5. What should you pay attention to when filleting fish?
Marcin Socha spent several years working in a restaurant whose menu was based mainly on fresh fish and seafood so he has prepared lots of fillets in his life. Below you will find some tips on how to do it quickly and easily:
‘To make perfect fillets, we need, first of all, a sharp knife with a slightly flexible edge and a chopping board, preferable a wooden one. Start by cutting the fish near its tail, then cut near its head along the line of its gill opening and its head so that it will be easier to cut fillets. Next cut the skin along the spine from the the back side, pressing the knife against the bones, so that there is as little meat left on the skeleton as possible. Cut the meat carefully, but with confident movements.
Do you want to see how to do it? There are lots of videos on YouTube, for example here.
6. What to serve your guests?
There are lots of recipes with exotic fish in the Internet and in cookbooks. Below you will find a recipe for a delicious meal prepared by our chef, Marcin Socha. This turbot combined with spring asparagus and morels will be sure to satisfy the palates of your guests.
Turbot on saffron risotto with morels and asparagus (serves 4, preparation time: about 50 minutes)
What do you need?
– 4 turbot fillets
– 150 g Arborio rice
– 3 shallots
– 100 ml white wine
– pinch of saffron
– about 400 ml bouillon of bright vegetables
– 100 g butter
– 50 g Parmesan cheese
– 80 ml heavy cream (30%)
– 100 g morels
– 1 bundle of asparagus
– 50 ml olive oil
– salt, pepper, sugar
– to decorate: micro Pak Choi and micro red radish leaves
How to start?
Dice 2 shallots, sauté in olive oil and add the rice. Fry the rice until it becomes slightly transparent but without burning it. Pour in a little wine and wait until it evaporates a bit. Pour the warm bouillon over the rice to cover it completely, then add salt and a pinch of saffron. Do not pour the entire bouillon at once, but do it gradually (dividing it into about three parts). Mix the risotto with a wooden spoon. Cook the rice until it is al dente.
When the rice is done, add the heavy cream – this will give your meal a creamy consistency. Add the Parmesan cheese and a spoonful of cold, salted butter. Leave it in a covered dish so that the rice will ‘rest’.
Rinse the morels in water to get rid of any sand. Slice the morels and dice the remaining shallot. Sauté the shallot in olive oil with a bit of butter and then add the morels. Add salt and pepper, then stew in a covered dish.
Rinse the green asparagus in running water. The edible part of the asparagus is the part from the tip down to the place where you break it. Boil in water with salt and sugar until it is slightly crunchy.
Sprinkle salt over the turbot fillet and fry it in butter with olive oil skin side down. Flip and take the pan off the heat. Leave the fillet until it is done in the middle.
Place the risotto on a plate, top with a turbot fillet, then add the asparagus and morels. Decorate with micro Pak Choi and micro red radish leaves.