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Has anybody done a "fish tasting"

Been lurking for a while, but this is my first post. I would appreciate advice....

Here's the scenario. I have a friend who likes salmon but not mahi mahi. This got me to thinking: I don't eat a ton of fish and don't really know one fish from another. I usually base my fish choices on preparation rather than the fish itself. I'm thinking it might be fun to do a fish tasting .... prepare a few samples of different species for comparison.

1) What cooking technique would you suggest? I know different species respond better to different cooking techniques, but I would like to standardize this as much as possible. I'm also thinking that I should probably try to keep the technique simple so I don't overpower the flavor of the fish.

2) With which core species should we begin?

I live in Michigan, so almost certainly looking at frozen fish. Which means the ideal technique would start with a flight ... but that's not going to happen (yet, anyway)


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  1. I would go with deep fryer, pretty easy to do a bunch of pieces once you got the oil going.

    1. One way to do it might be to go for sushi or sashimi, since one needs to order several different kinds of fish and seafood by default. Obviously that would also depend on whether there's a good place in your area.

        1. I would go with a simple poaching. Not all fish is great fried (l can't imagine deep frying salmon).
          You could do the same type of broth for each fish, cooking them separately so the flavors of the fish don't mingle. Or go with a steaming method in parchment. Put the same basic stuff in each pouch, look for fish en papillote when doing a search. Then you could do several packages at once (keep the pieces of fish the same size), and will have fun at the table opening the packages. Maybe just a slice of onion, carrot, celery, a bit of salt, maybe a lemon slice or a teaspoon or so of white wine. Keep the flavors simple and the same in each package so that you can compare the different fish, not the seasonings. As one opens the parchment, the aroma is released, heavenly. I can imagine that with different fish, the aroma upon opening will vary.

          5 Replies
          1. re: wyogal

            Thanks everybody - I think wyogal wins! Love the en papillote idea. Hadn't thought about that - had been considering grilling / pan frying / broiling etc, but I think this will work better. I'm looking forward to this - we've done other tastings, such as wine, cheese, butter, and bacon. This will be a great addition to the list!

            1. re: belegund

              Thanks! I think the "what's in the package" aspect would be fun!

              1. re: belegund

                I was going to recommend poaching until I read Wyogal's post. She's right on! Clearly raw is not an option with your selection limitations, but you might try to find a good quality fish market. The difference between fresh and frozen, at least when it comes to fish, is significant. If you are near a city you should be able to find fresh fish pretty easily.


                1. re: belegund

                  En papillotte will be perfect. And the logistics so much easier than any other method.

                  Good call wyogal :)

              2. Fish tasting?....

                I once was the bearer
                of well-bonded letter,
                assurance of "all you can eat"
                at our local Red Lobster.

                My dear aunt had seen
                this now esteemed item
                on a fundraising drive
                on our local PBS station.

                Dear aunt placed high bid,
                with both me and my brother in mind.
                She had seen us each fish
                all throughout our upbringing.

                We arrived in mid-afternoon,
                in consideration that our ingestion
                just might tip some displacement
                from supply to the dinner crowd.

                Unknown was the tasting of fish
                that lay straight ahead of us.
                Images of butter-dripped pescies
                danced in our heads.

                But let us just say
                that within our back pockets
                we carried the necessaries
                of our own plastic bibs.

                We asked for the table
                that was closest to kitchen
                as a favor to our server,
                since there would be legwork.

                Then proceeded the pescavore carnage,
                and crabs oysters crustaceans and bivalves.
                To heighten "fish tasting", we most often opted
                for broiled, steamed, grilled, or sauted.

                This was a night without french-fries or hush-puppies.
                It was a time just for tasting of fishies.
                Though, on spur of an instant,
                we did share a cheese biscuit.

                With thanks and good tips to the staff
                we lumbered full bellies to exit.
                A night of good memories
                of good taste of good fishies.

                2 Replies
                  1. Yep like you intend I once did that for my family. What a disapointment!! The only fish one member of the family got right was butterfish, which has such a strong distinctive flavour they HAD to guess it!

                    All re cut thin. I did butterfish fillets, kingklip fillets, barracuda fillets. All in flour, egg, breadcrumbs and quick fried.

                    1. Whatever route you decide, please, please, please do not think that since you live in Michigan, you can only use frozen fish. For the love of everything, please understand that frozen fish would never, ever, be the way to have any sort of fish tasting, imo. Yes, some places will represent thawed fish as fresh, but ask at your fish counter you go to. I would be very surprised if you don't have a place worth the trip to go get some Lake Trout, walleye, or Lake Superior Whitefish fresh. Also, if you base your fish choice on what is fresh and looks great rather than preparation, you'll start to understand why people who love fish, love fish. If frozen were my only choice, I think orange roughy would be high on my list of selections for a fish tasting. If your friend likes salmon, I would almost bet my life they would like Lake Trout or LS Whitefish as well. Walleye is a little less fatty. I think the since you are in the midwest, you might as well start thinking about the GREAT fresh fish that is close - instead of concentrating on frozen fish from far away if your choices are limited. You don't go to Florida, and seek out Lake Trout. You don't go to Marquette Michigan, and look for grouper. There are some EXCELLENT freshwater fish in the big lakes. Lake trout is insanely good, just had some last night. The fresher the fish, the less you have to give a damn about "prep." The best thing you can do for fresh fish is to simply not overcook it.
                      That said, if you ever wanna try something a little on the odd side, but stellar:
                      Get a side of FRESH fish. I'd suggest salmon or lake trout, skin on.
                      Liberally coat it with celestial seasonings blackberry or blueberry tea. Let it sit in the fridge for a good 4 hours or overnight. Fire up the grill. Salt and pepper just before grilling it.

                      Honestly, I'd skip frozen fish for a fish "tasting." There is really no chance of you figuring out which fish you might be more fond of. Really, unless it is meticulously packaged, once fish is frozen for over a month, it's not ever going to taste as good as fresh. Sorry if this came across as ranty, but frozen fish - just don't do it.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: gordeaux

                        I live 500 metres from the Atlantic. The thought of frozen fish makes me cry :)

                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                          I live about as far away from any ocean as a person can. The thought of ANY fish makes me cry - I have given up eating it because around here old, rank, mushy, fishy fish outnumber the few fresh specimens that I am lucky enough to find (and unlucky enough to pay a big price for).

                          1. re: sandylc

                            I know what you feel. Used to live in North Dakota. But see my post below about thawing fish. You can find good frozen fish most places. Just buy fish in the frozen packaging that comes from the ships themselves, and thaw it in the correct, patient way.

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                Is that easy to find? Just curious.

                                1. re: CanadaGirl

                                  Do you mean, is it easy to find fish frozen on board ships when caught?

                                  I'm not sure, but I think that most ocean fish is frozen when caught. And most ocean fish on hand in central USA supermarkets arrives at the market still frozen, even if it's often thawed later for the display case. The fish person at a supermarket should have information.

                              2. re: sandylc

                                Oh, sandylc, that makes me sad too. I guess every place has its food limitations

                                I often think when people say they hate all fish that they have only had bad fish. Obviously there are people who have had excellent fish and hated it, but fish is so sensitive to being mishandled.

                                The obvious solution is to move near an ocean ;)

                                1. re: CanadaGirl

                                  "I often think when people say they hate all fish that they have only had bad fish"

                                  I think you are very correct!

                                  I plan to move to near an ocean after I have finished caring for the aging mother and the fledgling son!

                                  Any recommendations for affordable seashore habitats, anyone?

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    I'd say Nova Scotia, but I think it's the wrong country for you :). And, you have to be pretty rural to find cheap Oceanside.

                                  2. re: CanadaGirl

                                    "I often think when people say they hate all fish that they have only had bad fish."

                                    My mother often says "that fish was good; it didn't taste fishy." My interpretation is that she doesn't like fish that's gone bad. Sadly, I can't get her to understand that fish shouldn't taste fishy. *sigh*

                              3. re: gordeaux

                                No need to worry about me ignoring Great Lakes fish. I'm a big advocate of local food (and wine) and have no intention of ignoring local fish.

                                I'm starting to think my friend's issue with mahi mahi may stem from the source - he bought it at a big box store in town. My plan is to go to the local fish market (from what I hear they're pretty decent) and talk with the fishmonger to find out what's best.

                                Re: your fish cooked with the tea. I love odd, counterintuitive food combinations. I'll definitely keep this in mind - usually I've avoided most things from celestial seasonings, but I'm intrigued....

                              4. Keep in mind that different fishes cook at different tempos, and need different levels of doneness, so beware of experiments that equalize the cooking method and times and even seasonings. Tuna, for example, is overdone when it flakes easily, unlike such varied items as salmon, catfish, and monkfish.

                                Also, I will respectfully dissent from those who feel that frozen fish is necessarily a downer. In my experience, if you properly thaw a flash-frozen fish in the fridge with juices draining into ice, as fishmongers do it, then the texture and flavor can be terrific. It takes two days even for thin filets, usually. Thawing fish in an enclosed bag and its own juices, on the other hand, seems to make something bad happen in the texture. Try thawing on ice before you knock it!

                                p.s., I live near Lake Michigan, and I agree that at many times, fine fresh lakefishes are available and terrific. But fresh ocean fishes here are tougher to find genuinely fresh, unless you're in a major transit center like Chicago, where they might in fact be getting yesterday's catch of Pompano or Mahi Mahi.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                  I don't think freezing fish is that terrible either. We have frequently caught more fish than could be eaten fresh and have not noticed much difference after being properly frozen and thawed.

                                  Oilier fish like mackerel seem to freeze less well.

                                2. The en papillote fish tasting suggested by wyogal sounds wonderful. Have fun! Fish is nice to eat and great for general health too.

                                  Just a word of warning, though, if you don't usually eat fish...if, by chance, you come across some, uh, hitchhikers in one or more of the fish pieces, don't freak out.

                                  http://seafood.ucdavis.edu/Pubs/paras... but see this also: http://seafood.ucdavis.edu/HACCP/Comp...