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Suggestions for turning a non-seafood eater

My husband HATES all seafood. The only "fish" he will eat is tunafish salad. But he recognizes that fish is very healthy and his reticence is a problem for his foodie wife, and has agreed to experiment with eating seafood. He has previously tasted my fish while out to dinner and almost universally gagged.

I want to give him "beginner" seafood, as opposed to college level. Can anyone suggest some good recipes to introduce him to seafood? I can't bring myself to go the frozen fishsticks route.

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  1. It appears you live in Manhattan. I'd do my research and find the best fish and chips and take him there. I can't imagine anyone not liking that. The fish is so mild but more importantly there's the batter, the malt vinegar, tartar sauce and the chips, of course. I wouldn't start cooking it at home --- some don't like the smell --- until you bring him to the party at restaurants. Oh, yeah, fried calamari. You can eat the tentacles and he can have the rings. Poor you :) And if he's a drinking man, how about a martini???

    1 Reply
    1. Most of the people l know that "hate" seafood owe their bias to an experience with a strong flavored seafood in the early part of life. Some have handled live (or recently live) fish and when they eat it their mind goes to the memory of a slimy slithering thing that they had difficulty holding onto.
      You didn't say he hated "fish", but you did say he hated "seafood". So I'll leave other types of fish out of my list of suggestions.
      Seafood can be baked, fried, grilled, cooked in a sauce or prepared in many other ways. Finding out how he prefers his meat dishes (what's his favorite way to have his chicken prepared?) is a good starting point. Even if he likes a certain type of food, he may like especially well when it's cooked in a certain way.
      I might suggest starting with some very mild and more delicate varieties. Cod, Grouper, Alaskan Halibut, and Flounder come to mind as my first choices. Adding a little to a pasta dish (spaghetti, in a casserole, fettuccini) might be a good start. Especially if he has a favorite red or white sauce that you could use with it. Including some of his favorite herbs as ingredient in the dish can also help.
      If you'd prefer a mild fish with a firmer texture you could work with Haddock, Flounder, Atlantic Perch, Tilapia or perhaps Red Snapper. Tilapia is pretty high in cholesterol so if you need to avoid those kinds of things just take it off the list.
      A fish chowder, using one or more of these is another way to get started.
      I'd stay away from shell fish of any kind, most are strong tasting and not, IMO, be a good place to start.
      One VERY important element I failed to include in the original posting of this response.
      What ever you decide to try, make sure the seafood is fresh ... I mean really fresh. If it smells "fishy", it isn't fresh. It should smell like the ocean, not like fish. Then, keep it very cold and use it the same day you purchase it. Even if you find it's more expensive to get really fresh fish, your goal is worthy of the investment. If you use fish that isn't fresh and he rejects it, you've lost the war.

      5 Replies
      1. re: todao

        "Tilapia is pretty high in cholesterol so if you need to avoid those kinds of things just take it off the list."
        take tilapia off the list anyway. most of the stuff you can find these days is muddy-tasting and pretty awful.

        the suggestion to treat it with a similar preparation to his favorite meat dishes is great...so if he likes fried chicken, c oliver's fish & chips idea could be the winner!

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          Any compliment from you puts a big ole grin on my face :)

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Why? Because in addition to being a good cook, you have the ability to explain things so everyone can understand. And you put together MENUS which is a thread I intend to start. AND you can explain flavors and combinations of flavors. You have it all IMO.

              1. re: c oliver

                wow. that's unbelievably sweet of you to say! i'm flattered...but i think you guys give me too much credit, and if you keep it up i'm gonna get a swelled head ;) seriously though, i'm touched. thanks, c.

      2. let him be.
        recently, after 40 years of people trying to convince me that fish was great, i had a revelation and realized i just dont like it. never really have.
        its expensive, we are fishing the oceans into extinction, you cant reheat it, it doesnt keep well.
        and it all tastes like fish.

        1. Oh my god! This is the most terrible thing I've ever heard! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

          Ahem. Okay, I've calmed down.
          Um, what is it that he dislikes? Because tuna from a can is quite fishy. Does he like garlic? Maybe something very delicate, steamed and drizzled with garlic butter? Or go Chinese dress plain steamed or boiled seafood with soy, ginger, spring onions, touch of chilli, drop of sesame oil. All fresh seafood tastes incredibly good like this. You can dip fresh boiled prawns in it, dribble a teaspoonful on a freshly shucked oyster, toss pan seared scallops in it, steamed mussels or just over steamed whole fish or fillets.

          I like hot smoked trout or salmon flaked into a creamy pasta sauce.

          Have you ever managed to trick him? Sneak it into food he does eat? In asian grocers and herbalists you can get dried scallops. they're expensive but usually sold by weight so you can just get a handful. You put these in either saucey/soupy recipes where they will absorb moisture or you can rehyrdate them first, like you do with dried shitakes. When added to recipes, I like to add them to my marinara sauce or to my paella, as well as chinese recipes, they cook down to little shreds and add a deeply savoury flavour, bit salty, very delicious but not at all fishy, bit like what anchovies do when you add them at the beginnng of an italian sauce. Maybe enjoying something like that will change his mind or get his tatsebuds used to the flavour.

          What he won't like, I'm sure, is what my husband loves. When we are in Denmark, he likes squishy hot dog roll kind of bread with a couple of whole pickled herrings, chopped onions, pickles that you get from street vendors. He calls it the wet fish sandwich. Now that is something I won't eat!

          But one last thing to consider, my son is 6 and after a night of crayfish feasting his eyeball swelled up and nearly fell out of his skull. It was a suspected shellfish allergy and one of the things the specialist said was that if someone is allergic to something, it can taste really really bad to them. It's like a natural defence mechanism. Maybe your husband is very allergic to some kinds of seafood and his body won't let him eat it. Maybe tuna fish from a can is processed enough to destroy whatever he is allergic to (sometimes it is algae or other things on the seafood people are allergic to) or he is okay with that family of fish.

          good luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: hillsbilly

            I agree with the first part of your answer... let him be. Love him how he is.

            And, more fish & shellfish for us!!!

          2. you know, it's interesting, my sister is the same way. she's tried a bite of maybe one or two fish dishes in her adult life, and *refuses* to even taste shellfish because she says it "just seems like something she wouldn't like" (i'll never understand that). anyway, she insists she hates all seafood...but she loves tuna salad made from the canned stuff. maybe it has something to do with an association to comfort food (ie. childhood tuna fish sandwiches). who knows?

            i think c oliver was definitely on to something, with the restaurant suggestion and the dishes she suggested having him try. while battered & deep-fried may negate the health effects, it's a gentle way to get him started, and you can wean him off the artery-clogging stuff and introduce more healthful preparations as time goes on. but the reality is that although he's willing to give it a shot for the sake of his health (and of course to please his foodie wife), you may be fighting a losing battle here. he's a good sport for trying, but don't make yourself crazy over it, and if he doesn't ever convert, there are other ways he can get his Omega-3's.

            1. From a seafood-hater that has eaten an inordinate amount of the stuff in the name of professionalism, the best that I've had was really fresh halibut cooked in an awful lot of butter. Fish & chips is another good suggestion.

              I'd stay away from anything that smells fishy, at all, and my experiences with shellfish have not been positive - the combination of the texture and the taste is pretty much the epitome of everything I don't like about seafood.

              And keep in mind that it's close to impossible to change a non-seafood eater. If given a choice, I don't eat anything that lives in water (well, except duck and caviar, but the ducks really live on land, and the caviar never really lived in the water). I know some people will disagree, but I don't feel like it has a huge impact on my "chowhound"ness. I've had amazing fried chicken at the fish & chips dives in London, and amazing tasting menus at 4-star restaurants, and the seafood thing isn't really an impediment.

              1. How about a McDonald's Filet-o-Fish? Seriously!

                1. Based on my experience nudging my picky daughter to try fish and seafood I would suggest:

                  1. I agree about fish and chips. Almost everyone likes fish and chips.
                  2. You don't have to go the frozen fish stick route. You can make homemade fish sticks. One recipe I've made several times is the sole goujons with lime-dill mayonnaise in Nigella Lawson's "Nigella Express." My daughter liked it right away.
                  3. Shrimp. It's so mild-tasting. Not fishy.
                  4. If shrimp works, move on to scallops. Also mild.

                  1. Maybe do something with a firm texture like Swordfish, or Tuna Steak, or Halibut.

                    Fish tacos might be good, to get him used to the taste, but in a way that it's amongst other familiar flavors.

                    You could also do Salmon Croquettes.. salmon can be a little fishy for some (me!), but paired with the right dipping sauce, it might be palatable to him.

                    Does he like Piccata? Maybe a Sole Piccata

                    Perhaps a frittata with lobster or crab...

                    1. My mother was always less than enthralled with seafood...

                      Years later she has a profound allergy to the stuff. Some peeps dislike foods for good reason. they aren't having the same kind of positive experience we are.

                      1. I started out as a picky eater and wouldn't touch seafood until my early twenties.

                        I remember that flounder, dipped in flour, egg, parsley, bread crumbs and lightly fried in butter as the first seafood dish that spoke to me as "lovely". I graduated to haddock and cod after that. Next came scallops, shrimp and lobster. I now adore most seafood. And I find that seafood doesn't need (for me anyway) much more than pan searing or grilling to be excellent. However, I also found that the "quality" and freshness of my fish is of the outmost importance in how good my seafood turns out. Buy the freshest fish possible. If your husband still hates fish after a month, let him be. At least you can say you tried.

                        1. Lobster thermador or souffle? Lox? Brandade?