Too many home cooks find their confidence drying up when they consider fish. And that's too bad, considering all the mahi mahi, wahoo, grouper and hogfish available on the market side of Big Mac & Little Lu's Seafood Market & Grill, which I review this week. "We receive daily shipments of fresh fish," says Ashley Brock, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Paul. "Swimming yesterday and here today."
To remove the fear factor, I talked to Andy Floyd, academic director of the Colorado Culinary Academy and general manager of Kitchen Table Cooking School. The most important thing to remember when shopping for fish, he says, is to skip anything that smells like ammonia or has an off-putting odor. And if the flesh is flaking apart or doesn't bounce back when you touch it, "its best days are behind it," he adds.
Once you've got the fish home, store it well-wrapped in the coldest part of the refrigerator and plan to eat it quickly, ideally that day or the next.
When it comes to cooking, his cardinal rule is not to overcook. "Meat is so much more forgiving," cautions Floyd. With meat, the "temperature range of being delicious to unpalatable is about thirty degrees," he notes, whereas with fish it's about ten. Outside that range, it's either undercooked or as tough as a dried-out sponge. While you can't go wrong searing the kind of fish sold at Big Mac & Little Lu's in a very hot, oiled Teflon pan, then finishing it in a 300-degree oven, Floyd's favorite technique is to use that old summer standby, the grill.
To test out Floyd's advice, try his recipe for grilled mahi mahi.
Grilled Mahi Mahi with Mango-Avocado Salsa Recipe courtesy of Andy Floyd, academic director for the Colorado Culinary Academy and general manager of Kitchen Table Cooking School
Ingredients 12 oz. mahi mahi filet, skin off 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper
Salsa: 1 mango ½ avocado 2 tbsp red onion, cut in a fine dice 1 tbsp chopped cilantro ½ jalapeño, chopped in a fine dice 1 lime 2 tbsp coconut milk
1. Portion the mahi mahi into two equal-size filets. 2. Oil them lightly with the extra virgin olive oil and season. 3. Clean and season the grill. 4. Grill the mahi presentation-side first, set the grill pattern and then flip over to finish. 5. Brush with extra virgin olive oil when you take the fish off the grill to keep it moist.
For the Mango salsa: 1. Peel the mango and slice into ¼-inch slices, then into ¼-inch strips and then into ¼-inch dice. 2. Cut the avocado in two halves and remove the seed. Scoop out the flesh of one half of the avocado in one single piece with a large spoon and proceed as with the mango to dice into a ¼-inch dice. 3. Put mango, avocado, onion, cilantro and jalapeno into a bowl and squeeze the lime juice and pour the coconut milk over the ingredients. 4. Mix and taste. Add salt and pepper and more lime juice if necessary.
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Final presentation: Place the grilled fish on the plate and top with the salsa. Garnish with a cilantro leaf and a lime wedge.