Learn All About Fish

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts spoil Georgia with the best of the bounty—delicious local flounder, grouper, pompano, and red snapper.  The ocean and rivers provide a huge variety in types and tastes of lean protein that can be cooked in different ways to avoid monotony.  Even if you don’t have a huge selection of fresh local fish available, grocery stores almost always have reasonably-priced frozen fish, offering high vitamin and mineral content as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

As with other proteins, environment, texture, and fat content will determine which cooking methods are best, but as a general rule, fish with darker flesh have higher oil content and stronger flavor, though many people (even children) find salmon and tuna surprisingly palatable.  Most fish fall into the category of flat (flounder, fluke, sole, turbot), round (sea bass, snapper, grouper, tilefish, salmon, tuna, pompano, mahi-mahi), or cartilaginous (swordfish, shark, monkfish, skate).  They can also generally be classified as saltwater, freshwater, or anadromous (migrating between the two through rivers, like eel, salmon, or ocean trout). 

Your fishmonger and recipe can help find the type, cut, and accompanying ingredients that are right for you.  Zesty sauces, deep-frying, and butter are reliable ways to get almost anyone to appreciate fish, but healthier, easy options like steaming, poaching, grilling, and baking with herbed lemon or a light vegetable topping can also produce delicate, enjoyable results. 

Here are some fun recipes, highlighting Southern standards…

Whip up an elegant fish dish just like a restaurant chef by searing and finishing in the oven, like Pecan Coated Fish with Remoulade Sauce. (We like grouper, but you can play around with other fish—like flounder—or go even healthier and faster by omitting these standard nut crusts and side sauces.)

Or make it a club or po-boy sandwich:
Grouper Club
Grilled Tilapia Po Boys with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Tilapia is a mild and wildly available fish, commonly used for the popular Southern specialty of a blackened fish sandwich, baked, or grilled:
Blackened Tilapia Sandwich with Cilantro Lime Mayonnaise
Bobby’s Baked Tilapia
Zesty Grilled Tilapia

Another excellent grilling fish is tuna; even the boys will thank you for this tasty alternative to a high-cholesterol red-meat steak, Grilled Tuna with Olive Tapenade.

Southerners are known for catfish, fried or baked with Old Bay seasoning or heavily sauced:
Southern Fried Catfish
Oven Fried Catfish
Saucy Catfish

For some large-pot Southern group meals like gumbo, check out:
Savannah Seafood Gumbo
Seafood Cioppino Stew

And remember these tips for the freshest and most delicious possible fish (aka, for some, the least “fishy” tasting):
-Look for bright, clear, bulging eyes; tight scales and shiny (not slimy) skin; elastic flesh with a clean, pink belly; and no strong odor—essentially, as close to alive as possible. 
-Fish degrades extremely fast in the air, so most chefs prefer to buy their fish the day of or the day before cooking.  It should be chilled if not iced for display, storage, and transport.
-Frozen fish should be properly thawed and gently dried before cooking.

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Reader Comments:

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CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT POMPANO FISH? I WENT TO THIS HOTEL RESTRAUNT YEARS AGO WITH SOME FRIENDS AND THEY HAD THE BEST POMPANO I HAVE EVER EATEN AND I HAVE NOT FOUND IT ANYWHERE ELSE COOKED LIKE THIS AND I WONDERED IF YOU HAD A GOOD RECIPE FOR IT? I DO KNOW IT WAS NOT FRIED NOR GRILLED AND IT WAS IN A SAUCE THAT RESEMBLED CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP.

By COFFEE121858 on July 31, 2012

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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
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in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I just love love love the table and flowers and am so glad that I can still access all of Paula's recipes, her family life, Bobby's lighter versions and Brandon's beautiful work. Truly thankful to see such beautiful tablescapes. You guys are my heros.
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