Talk to Your Fishmonger
Delicious fish means fresh fish. For whole fish, the eyes should appear bright and clear. "If that fish needs Visine, avoid it," says Rick Moonen, owner-chef at RM Seafood in Las Vegas and author of Fish Without a Doubt. For fillets, the flesh should be shiny, translucent, and white. "If it's dull or brown at the edges, you don't want it," Moonen says.
Now ask questions. "What's fresh?" won't work, because it demands that a fishmonger confess to having old product. Instead, draw him into your plans: "I got this recipe for mahi-mahi on the grill – what would work for that?" Or, "I'm looking for something to poach." Now he can direct you to his best options.
Finally, when he picks out a piece of fish, ask to smell it – fresh fish smells like the sea, not like fish. "A good fishmonger will respect the request," Moonen says. If he doesn't, walk away.
Expand Your Repertoire
Most of us are comfortable cooking only five or six types of fish. That puts overfishing pressure on a few species and keeps you from enjoying other great stuff in the market. So add a single piece of something you've never prepared to your order. "Just pan-fry it, squeeze lemon on, and taste," Moonen says. From there, you can tell what recipes will work with it.
Keep It Fresh
Home refrigerators are set at 41 degrees, fine for meat but not seafood. Ask your fishmonger to pack fish in ice, and keep a cooler in your car. At home, put whole fish in a slurry of ice water in the fridge. Set fillets, still in plastic, in a colander with ice on top.