Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Fish should, of course, be fresh -- preferably very fresh. It should be firm-fleshed and should not have what is often erroneously referred to as a "fishy" smell: the odor of triethylamine and of fish fats that are starting to spoil. (Fish is healthful because it contains higher levels of unsaturated fats, but for the same reason, it will oxidize more easily.)
If you soak the fish in ice-cold water, the flesh firms up nicely. If you also add a little salt, you will get a mild brining effect and a more juicy result. A teaspoon or so of vinegar or lemon juice will help neutralize triethylamine and its offensive smell. Those techniques are not enough to make an old fish seem brand-new, but they will make an acceptable store-bought fish a whole lot better.
Method: Fill a container 2/3 full of cold water. Add salt (about 2 tablespoons per quart of water) and 1 to 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice. Add the fish and a handful of ice cubes. Let soak for anywhere between 15 minutes and several hours. To soak for a longer period, place the bowl in the refrigerator and refresh with a few ice cubes about a half-hour before you cook the fish.
-- Andreas Viestad