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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Paula Deen
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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm