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Valuable Seafood Shopping, Storage and Preparation Tips for Summer

May 21, 2008

There is something about summer that puts most of us in an “enjoy the great outdoors and grill out every night for dinner” mind set. Summertime is also a season when many Wisconsinites enjoy seafood dishes, but there are some basic guidelines that should be followed when preparing seafood, starting with smart purchasing decisions at the grocery store.


According to Kim Wall, a seafood expert and president of Baensch Food Products, the Milwaukee-based
company that produces the popular Ma Baensch herring, only buy seafood from reputable, commercial
sources – or as Wall does, dine on your own fresh catch!


When selecting a piece of seafood at the store, evaluate its freshness by checking for moist and firm
appearance. “In terms of odor, I always like to say a fresh fish should smell like where it lives,” says Wall. “For example, a salt water fish, such as halibut, should have a clean, ocean breeze odor, and a freshwater fish like catfish or trout should smell like a lake, river, stream or other freshwater source. Another good thing to know is that as a fish passes its ideal freshness, it will begin to take on more of a fishy smell.”


“Ask the grocer to pack the seafood on ice for the trip home from the store, which can help ensure it remains in the ‘safe zone,’ between 32 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Wall. “And never leave seafood in a hot car. It will definitely spoil.”


If you do eat your own catch, the same rules for odor and freshness apply. “It’s also a good idea to keep a cooler of ice on the boat with you so you can put your fish on ice immediately after it’s caught,” says Wall.


So you’ve arrived home, fresh seafood in tow. Now what? For starters, get the fish in the fridge! Be sure to store fresh seafood in leak-proof containers in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is usually on the lowest shelf or in the meat keeper. “As a general rule, fresh seafood can be stored for up to two days in the refrigerator and maintain its freshness, but every species is different when it comes to shelf-life, so check with your grocer,” says Wall.


If you prefer frozen seafood, try to allow one day of defrosting time in the refrigerator. If pressed for time, place the frozen seafood in a re-sealable plastic bag and submerse in cold water for one or two hours per pound. Never thaw seafood on the counter at room temperature.


When it comes to cooking seafood, there are several options, including baking, broiling or pan-searing, or even cooking it frozen, which is a new trend in seafood preparation. “But of course, my favorite in the summer is grilling,” says Wall. “The grill is easy and versatile, with several options for preparing seafood. With a few basic tools and a fabulous marinade recipe, your grilled seafood meals will leave a lasting impression on your family and friends. And don’t forget, veggies on the grill are a wonderful side dish!”




Grilling 101


Before firing up the grill, make sure you have all the essential tools, including:


• Grill brush
• Spatula
• Skewers
• Tongs
• Basting brush
• Grill mitts
• A seafood grill rack




Marinade Basics


Every good marinade has three essential components: acid, such as citrus fruit juice, white wine or vinegar; oil, like extra-virgin olive oil or grape seed oil; and spices, such as dried or fresh herbs. Marinating can be done overnight or for just a few minutes, but it adds moisture, flavor and tenderness to foods. Another flavorenhancing option is a dry rub of herbs and spices, which creates a wonderful “crust” when coated over seafood or meat.




Vegetable Grilling


Most in-season vegetables, placed directly on the grill, in foil or in a basket, are great grilled. Try artichokes cut into wedges, marinated and grilled over foil, eggplant drizzled with olive oil and grilled in a rack, or corn on the cob with or without husks!




Grilled Halibut with Fresh Lime
2 servings
2 Halibut* fillets (4-6 ounces each and 1” thick), skin removed
Grape seed oil
Cajun seasoning without salt
Seasoned salt, your favorite brand
3 Fresh limes cut into wedges
Fish/vegetable grilling tray (optional)


Prepare grill. Remove fish from refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling. Rub a small amount of grape seed oil on both sides of fillets. Rub Cajun seasoning on flesh side of fillet and seasoned salt on skin side. Rub oil on fish /vegetable grilling tray (may cook directly on grate as well, rub the grate with oil before placing over coals.)


Place cooking tray on grill directly to preheat. When tray is hot, lay fillets, flesh side down, on tray. Grill for 4-5 minutes. With a spatula, loosen fillets and turn over. Squeeze fresh lime juice over fillets. Grill for another 2-4 minutes, until fish is opaque. Remove fillets from grill and place on warm platter. Do not overcook. Fish will continue to cook after removed from the grill. Garnish with wedges of fresh lime and serve immediately.


*When purchasing halibut, try to get fillets that are uniform in thickness so they will take the same length of time to cook. May also substitute haddock, cod or turbot.