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.
Get the right wild fish for home cooking.
Cimarusti prefers wild striped bass from the East Coast, which is available year-round, can run anywhere from eight to 40 pounds, and costs about $18 a pound. "You get a nice big fish to work with," he says. "You can grill, pan roast, or poach them." Cimarusti also likes the widely available Pacific halibut, which usually comes from Alaska and is available from April to December. Cimarusti brines it in a 5 percent salt solution before cooking it, which makes it super juicy. "You can cook it less – say, to medium rare, and the fish flakes beautifully," he says. "This transforms a fish that's not terribly fatty into something that's just delicious." It costs about $20 a pound, but, as Cimarusti points out, "it's cheaper than prime steaks."
If you consider these fish expensive, Cimarusti says, you may just have to consider fish more of a treat and eat a little less of it.
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