Meet Hy-Vee Dietitian Denise Boozell RD, LD Visit me at your Indianola Hy-Vee; contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a mom of two young boys I understand the challenges of preparing a meal everyone will enjoy especially when serving seafood. What I have learned is the key to whipping up a spectacular fish-based dish that satisfies the entire family is to make the right selections: the right types of fish or shellfish, the right cooking methods and the right recipes.
If you are dealing with “picky eaters,” try incorporating fish or shellfish into recipes that are familiar—such as tacos, pizza, burgers or quesadillas. The familiarity of those foods may make it easier for fish or shellfish “newbies” to try (and enjoy) eating. Also, be sure to choose fresh fish. Your fish should not strongly smell “fishy”; if it does, don’t buy it.
Fresh fish or shellfish should smell like saltwater and the sea coast or have a faint (not strong) fish odor. Fish and seafood cook differently than meat; they are more delicate and cook at a faster rate. The best tool that any chef or home cook has in cooking fish is an instant-read thermometer because fish can quickly go from being undone to overdone in a matter of minutes. Periodically check the temperature with a thermometer so you know when the final cooking point is nearing. Fish should be cooked to 145°F, or until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
Flavor: Tilapia is somewhat sweet but really quite mild in flavor. It has a flaky texture and is considered a lean fish. It is usually paired with stronger-tasting spices and herbs because it is so mild.
Cooking: Although quite popular, tilapia is lean and fillets are thin so it can be a somewhat easy to overcook, compared to other “thicker” cuts of fish. However, with a close eye (and a thermometer) it can be grilled, broiled or baked with great results!
Flavor: This type of shellfish has a nutty, popcorn-like, sweet-savory flavor. It should not be “rubbery” in texture; if it is, it’s overcooked. Shrimp are versatile in recipes— they go well in everything from Italian pastas, Asian stir-fries and Southern barbeque to Mexican fajitas. Kids love them because they are fun to eat!
Cooking: Shellfish contains more collagen than fish and is less delicate and easily broken down by heat. For the cook, this means shellfish are less likely to be dried out and overcooked. Nonetheless, shrimp still cook very quickly, so keep a close eye on them! Heat them rapidly (such as by broiling) to quickly sear in the flavor and caramelize the edges. The flesh will turn pink and opaque and shrimp will slightly curl up when cooked (overcooked shrimp will be totally curled up, forming a tight “O” shape, rather than a “C” shape.
Flavor: Wild or farmed salmon each has different flavors but in general, both are meaty, succulent and savory. Salmon is also quite versatile and lends itself well to most flavors, including Asian, Mediterranean, Southern and Cajun.
Cooking: Salmon can be baked, grilled, broiled, roasted or poached. Because of the high fat content (of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids), salmon will take longer to cook than a similarly sized piece of leaner fish (fat transfers heat more slowly). The best, foolproof method is to insert salmon in a hot (500°F) oven to give it a blast of heat and then immediately lower the temp (to 275°F) and let it gently cook for 15 minutes.