Would you love to impress your friends with a fish dinner but don’t know where to start when it comes to picking out really fresh fish, or knowing how to clean and cook it? The trusted partners of Fine Dining Lovers when it comes to dispensing precious cooking tips regarding fish are the staff of Pescheria Da Claudio, the most renowned Milanese fishmonger’s and an absolute must for all those seeking a spanking fresh product: so here is a survival manual for modern-day “fish eaters”, containing all the answers for those who love fish whatever, even if they don’t know how to clean it.
HOW TO BUY FRESH FISH IN 7 STEPS
To distinguish between fish that has just been freshly caught from the thawed out variety, check its firmness first of all: if the fish is rigid and almost stands up alone, this means it is fresh. This first secret was revealed to us by Gabriele Badini, chef of the eponymous restaurant next door to Pescheria Da Claudio.
The outer surface of the fish is shiny when it has been caught recently. If it looks dull, it has probably been thawed out.
3. CLEAR EYES
Another sign that the fish you are buying is fresh is certainly the appearance of its eyes: if they are slightly bulging with a black pupil, you are on the right track.
4. RED GILLS, BUT NOT ALWAYS...
As far as the gills are concerned, you can’t take it for granted that a fish with red/pink gills is fresher than one with darker gills. It is often said that brownish gills are a sign of ageing, but the colour also depends a lot on the natural habitat of the fish. So don’t rely on this factor alone, without observing the overall condition of the fish.
5. BLOOD CHECK
Does the fish lose a lot of blood while you are cleaning it, or having it cleaned? This is a good sign indicating that the fish is fresh; a copious amount of blood points to two important factors: the blood has not coagulated inside a freezer and the fish has been caught recently.
6. TRICKY BACKBONE
Are you finding it difficult to remove the backbone from the flesh when filleting? Then your fish is fresh; if on the other hand it comes away too easily, it may be due to a natural chemical process that tenderizes the flesh of the fish once dead, indicating that it is not freshly caught.
7. WHAT A STRUGGLE TO STRIP OFF THE SKIN
Another way to assess the freshness of fish lies in the skin: if it is difficult to remove, then the fish you are about to eat is freshly caught. Our articles on fish do not end here: in the next few weeks we shall be joining Pescheria Da Claudio to learn how to clean and gut fish, how to open oysters and many other useful tips.