Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Seafood

I can't believe that I haven't written about this book yet. Obviously it's time! Seafood, compiled by DK Publishing is quite simply... brilliant. Let me start at the beginning... with a short quote from CJ Jackson, Director of Billingsgate Seafood Training School at Billingsgate Market, the UK's largest inland fish market in East London (definitely on my list of "must visit" places).
"So many people tell me they would love to cook fresh fish bat are not sure where to start. I'm convinced this uncertainty stems from the diversity of seafood. If all fish looked like salmon, for example, we' all be experts at preparing it. Round fish, flat fish, shrimp, squid... all have particular preparation techniques."
No kidding!!!

We've all heard the term "sustainability" bandied about - much of that is about dwindling fish stock and who's over fishing. Not to mention the fact that everyone seems to have a different opinion about the subject.  Seafood, gives a much needed, calm and clear approach to consumer choices and responsibility.

The second quandary many people have about cooking fish and seafood... HOW do I cook fish X or Y?  Unless you live in a fishing rich locale... and even then, you're probably familiar with a specific variety most frequently caught and cooked in an equally specific way.    But what about the rest of us?   How can we determine what is the best way to cook any particular fish or cut of fish - fillets? steaks?  whole fish? which fish? (I couldn't resist a little Dr Seuss)  what techniques are there and which works best with which fish?

The third issue is, of course, recipes.  While a tried and true recipe is fine, don't you wish you had a few alternatives?   Again, whether you're a beginner cook when it comes to fish and seafood and you want sure success, or if you love to try different species and don't want to spoil it before it even gets to the table, or you'r just looking for new and wonderful ways to cook your favorite, then Seafood is the definitive book to have in your library.

Like all my other DK cookbooks, the photos are gorgeous - not only does every recipe looks spectacular, the techniques are displayed step by step, and to top it all off, there's a huge section identifying the various fish & seafood groups.

Like all my other DK cookbooks, the recipes are simple, easy to follow, mostly quick to make - or at least very quick to prepare, since cooking times may vary, and easy to adapt.

like this Spicy Garlic Shrimp - great over a bed of greens or tossed with pasta...

or the Pasta with Crab & Lemon that I made with shrimp instead this time.

Since my Honey is one of those who doesn't like to find bones on his plate- I most frequently stick to shrimp, scallops and fillets - haddock, salmon and tilapia.  Good thing there are lots of recipe options here.

And, like my other DK books, I love how this one is organized - right up front is a pictorial index of recipes by most common choices -salmon, mussels, shrimp, crab...with some glorious photos along with page numbers for the actual recipe.  Then on to sections for starters (finger foods, salads, and light bites (sushi & fish cakes come to mind).  Pages and pages of soups from chowders to bisques and some  Asian soups I must try - Keralan prawn soup with coconut milk, curry leaves, mustard, coriander and fenugreek seeds - do I have you drooling too?    An entire chapter on paella, pasta & risotto - you know I'll be spending a lot of time here. Pies, tarts, bakes, one pot meals, curries, fried, baked & roasted, or broiled and grilled - which ever you favor or whichever you wish to try for the first time, you'll have a hard time trying to choose just one recipe.

Even though I love the recipes, I think the next section is my favorite - techniques... all beautifully photographed and clearly explained from specialty tools,  to how to choose and store your purchase, what cuts of large flat fish look like, how to prepare round fish and flat fish (yes there is a difference), shellfish and even specialty techniques like preparing sushi, preserving and other cooking methods like baking - fillets, whole, en papillote, poaching... the list goes on.    Not to mention the perfect fish stock recipe.

The last chapter in Seafood walks you through a photo chapter called The Fish Gallery - with photos of the whole fish, the meat and descriptions.   I thought I'd share an example of something a little unusual in my neck of the woods... Barracuda
"The elongated fillets are dense, meaty and succulent.  This fish works well with many flavors and is an excellent dish when broiled with olive oil and herbs.
CUTS:  fresh or frozen; whole fish or fillets
EAT: Cooked: pan fry, broil, deep-fry, roast; Preserved: smoked
Flavor Pairings: Olive oil, garlic, paprika, spices, coconut.
With a firm, meaty texture and excellent taste this fish takes robust flavors well."  
 (Ruth's note - in the longer description, they suggest you eat only smaller barracuda as larger ones have a poison that, at best can be "unpleasant" and at worst can be fatal.)


BOTTOM LINE:  If you're going to buy one fish-seafood cookbook to add to your library, this is my choice for a definitive encyclopedia. 

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