Michael Cimarusti, the owner of and chef at Los Angeles's Michelin-starred seafood restaurant Providence, wants us to buy better fish – and to feel better about it at a time when most seafood has never been more expensive and the terms "farmed," "wild," "organic," and "frozen/defrosted" confuse nearly everyone. "Everybody feels comfortable walking into a butcher shop, and people buy chicken easily now that everything is so pre-packaged," Cimarusti says. "But when it comes to fish, it's more difficult, especially because, unlike with meat or chicken, there are absolutely no federal regulations."
With fish, Cimarusti says, you have to both trust the seller and possess some level of seafood-quality awareness in order to make the right decisions. Cimarusti doesn't recommend buying fish in a supermarket, or even most high-quality, organic supermarkets – dishonesty with respect to mislabeling and freshness runs rampant. "You need to find a real fishmonger, get to know him or her, and then to know what's fresh, and what's not," he says. "You need to go shopping armed with a set of questions you wouldn't need to ask a butcher." Buying fish doesn't require a Ph.D. – it just requires a little research and curiosity. "You're the one buying it, and you're probably the one who's going to eat it," says Cimarusti. With that in mind, Cimarusti also offered a few tips on cooking fish, as well as how to evaluate whether a sushi restaurant is good or not.
Buy and cook the right farmed fish for home cooking.
Salmon-family-member Arctic char is on the top of Cimarusti's list for farm-raised fish. "It has nice, light-and-thin skin that cooks up beautifully," he says. It's a fairly forgiving fish, too. "People always used to say that you can't screw up Chilean seabass – well, you should probably learn how to cook fish first and besides, that's not the top virtue a fish should have." Especially since Chilean seabass is highly unsustainable. "Arctic char is a bit more mild than most salmons, and it's a smaller fish, so that makes it a bit easier to handle when portioning or cooking at home," says Cimarusti. "I love it because the skin is almost wafer-like when you cook it right. At medium-rare to medium, it's absolutely beautiful and fairly inexpensive at around $14 or $15 a pound for fillets.
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