Don’t be afraid to tackle fish preparation on your own

It seems as though the preparation of our local delicacies should be innate behavior, yet one of the most common statements I’ve heard as a fishmonger in the Northwest for over 20 years is “I don't know how to cook fish!”

This large king salmon is one of the many fish Jim Oswalt offers at Gemini Fish Market in Issaquah.

This large king salmon is one of the many fish Jim Oswalt offers at Gemini Fish Market in Issaquah.

Some of the world’s finest seafood abounds in the icy waters of the North Pacific.

It seems as though the preparation of our local delicacies should be innate behavior, yet one of the most common statements I’ve heard as a fishmonger in the Northwest for over 20 years is “I don’t know how to cook fish!”

There is a certain mystique surrounding the preparation of seafood. People seem to feel that is incredibly difficult to pull off. They love fresh fish and order it frequently in restaurants, but are apprehensive to tackle the preparation themselves.

Bottomline: People are freaked out by fish.

It is my life’s goal to eliminate this perception.

Seafood is one of the easiest proteins to cook as long as you pay attention. It cooks very quickly and really doesn’t need much work.

Fish and shellfish can be baked, steamed, broiled, pan-seared, poached, pan-fried, deep fried, or grilled.

Since we are in the middle of August and should have a few more weeks of good weather, I’m going to focus on grilling. If The Reporter invites me back, we can tackle other prep methods.

The perfect grilled fish

1. Pick grill-friendly fish. Firm-flesh fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna, long-line rockfish, ling cod, shrimp, scallops, etc., lend themselves to the grill.

2. Preheat your grill to medium/medium high (Grill temps vary. Hold your hand two inches above the grate. If you have to move it within 2-4 seconds because it hurts, you’ve got the perfect temp).

3. Season or marinate seafood.

4. Brush with olive oil before putting fish on the grill.

5. If fish has skin, grill meat side down 4-5 minutes, turn and cook an additional 4-6 minutes (based on 1-inch thickness).

Sneaky tip: I’m a huge fan of the “instant read meat thermometer.” There is a lot of ego that goes into grilling and people like to think they can tell that fish is done by looking at it or cutting into it. Best Practice: Shake the Ego.

The biggest problem is that if it looks done on the grill, it’s going to cook for a minute or two once it leaves the heat source, and by then it’s all over. Many times you will end up with overcooked, dry fish.

If you temp the fish at it’s thickest point to 138-140 degrees, your fish will be perfect every time.

A Gemini special recipeGrilled salmon with tomato and pesto basil shrimp sauce


Four – 6 ounce portions center-cut king salmon fillets with skin

1 ounce olive oil

salt and pepper

6 ounces Pesto Basil Gourmet butter

8 ounces cooked Maine shrimp

1 cup roma tomatoes seeded and diced (about two tomatoes)

1/2 cup vegetable or seafood broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon warm water

Garnish with lemon wedges


Salmon preparation:

Preheat barbeque grill to medium-high heat. Brush both sides of salmon filets with olive oil. Season filets with salt and pepper. Place salmon filets on the hot grill and cook about four minutes on each side, or until fish filets are just cooked through. Do not over cook. You can also check the internal temperature of the salmon using a meat thermometer. It should be at about 138 degrees.

Sauce preparation:

Pre-heat a large skillet to medium-high heat on the stovetop. Place 2 ounces of the butter in the skillet. Add the shrimp, diced tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil.

In a separate bowl combine the cornstarch with the warm water. Add this to the skillet whisking until the shrimp mixture thickens up. Turn the heat down to a simmer.

Stir the remaining 4 ounces of butter into the sauce. Turn off the heat. Remove the skin from the salmon portions and place onto serving plates. Spoon enough warm sauce over each serving to cover half of each salmon portion. Garnish with lemon wedges if desired.

Jim Oswalt is the owner of Issaquah’s Gemini Fish Market.

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