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Gills and grills

September 01, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Although summer doesn't officially end until Sept. 21, for many, Labor Day marks the season's close.

There's still plenty of time to fire up the grill. If you're burned out on the usual - burgers, dogs and barbecued chicken, cast about for something different.

How about fish?

Elbert O'Keeffe, a longtime member of Antietam Fly Anglers, a 100-plus member fly-fishing club, hasn't eaten a fish he's caught for years. He's a catch-and-release man, fishing for the sport of it.

When he did eat fish he caught, O'Keeffe kept cooking simple: Clean them, open them up, put them on the grill. The biggest mistake he's found is that people overcook fish.

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He's backed up by information from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Marine Fisheries Service. Cooking fish too long or at too high a temperature makes them tough, dries them out, and destroys their flavor.

Fish is cooked when the flesh loses its translucent appearance and becomes opaque. Place a fork in the thickest part of the flesh. When the flesh flakes easily when pierced with a fork, it is done.

If you plan to eat the fish you hook, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends following state and local government advisories about fishing areas and eating fish caught in certain locations.

Safety considerations also are important when buying, preparing and cooking fish. The FDA advises buying fresh seafood that is refrigerated or properly iced only from reputable sources. Put seafood on ice, in the refrigerator or in the freezer, immediately after buying it.

Is it fresh?

The eyes of whole fish should be clear and bulge a little, flesh should be firm and shiny, and gills should be bright red and free from slime.

Press the flesh. It should spring back if fresh.

Fresh fish should have no darkening around the edges or brown or yellowish discoloration, and fresh fish shouldn't have a strong odor or smell like ammonia, according to information on the Web site of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at vm.cfsan.fda.gov.

Fish is a nutritious as well as tasty choice. It contains "high-quality" protein and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Fish is low in saturated fat and contains omega-3 fatty acids - which benefits the heart, according to information on the Web site of the American Heart Association.

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