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The fish market revolution continues.

Since we reported on the "Fish Market Revolution" in October 1982, new species have been introduced, and the availability of others has changed. The health benefits of eating fish, now widely recognized, have kept demand for it high, despite higher prices.

Americans aren't the only ones eating more fish (and paying more for it). In what is still largely a wild harvest, world demand and the dollar's value in relation to other currencies directly influence which fish are available here day by day and at what prices.

Even with its sizable fishing industry, the United States now depends on imports for nearly two-thirds of its seafood supply. Transported by jet aircraft, fresh fish from around the world can get to market almost as fast as the local catch can.

Many of the sea basses are among kinds now in very short supply. But there's good news about some local fish. Runs of California barracuda have been good the last few seasons. And the famous Pacific sardine, which disappeared mysteriously in the 1940s, has recently been showing up in promising numbers along the central California coast.

Widespread use of aquaculture techniques has significantly increased the world's supply of salmon and shrimp. And farm-raised sturgeon, tilapia, steelhead trout, and striped bass are now being offered to home cooks.

Larger and more modern fishing boats are in use in many areas. Some are equipped to bring up fish orange roughy is one example from greater depths than were reachable before. Others can process and freeze fish at sea; operating in remote areas, these factory ships are harvesting species (Alaska pollock among them) too perishable to be brought to market in the past. Some of the best-quality mahi mahi is now frozen at sea.

Freshly caught fish that are filleted, then individually quick-frozen (called IQF in the trade) are changing the image of frozen fish. Although many markets still routinely defrost frozen fish before displaying it, you can usually ask for and get the still-frozen product. Well-frozen fish, cooked without defrosting, matches or exceeds the quality of fresh fish that's been stored on ice.

With fish selection constantly changing and expanding, it's a challenge for consumers to know what to buy and how to cook it. To add to the difficulty, market names for fish can be confusing, overlapping, and sometimes downright incorrect. The best approach is to arm yourself with the information you need to ask the right questions about the fish you're being offered. (You can often judge the quality of a market by how well informed its fishmongers are about the seafood they sell.) To help you decide how to cook any fish, the listings on pages 88 and 89 classify fish according to their cooking characteristics. The listing for each group of fish tells you which cooking methods usually give the best results; it will also help you make substitutions if the fish you planned to buy is unavailable. Beginning on page 130, we describe five easy and versatile techniques for cooking fish. Here, we provide an introduction to some of the newer fish, as well as updated information on several familiar species.

CALIFORNIA BARRACUDA. Although some species of barracuda are susceptible to a dangerous toxin, the California one is not only safe to eat, but also delicious. This fish migrates into Southern California waters from Mexico in spring and summer; although not plentiful, barracuda is worth watching for. Its tenderfirm flesh is moderately oily but surprisingly mild-tasting.

COD-RELA TED FISH. Several members of the cod family are newly available here. Very few of Alaska's Pacific cod or pollock were sold here before, but now they're being caught and frozen at sea. Almost identical to the well-known Atlantic cod, skinless fillets of Pacific cod make an excellent frozen product. Fresh Alaska pollock doesn't keep well, but the inexpensive frozen-at-sea fillets are good value.

Two imported cod-related fish are also worth trying. Antaretic whiting is usually sold here as Antarctic queen; caught off the southern coast of Chile, it yields large, snow-white fillets. Hoki is taken off the New Zealand coast; its flaky white flesh compares in flavor with Atlantic haddock. You can use any of these lean, mildflavored fish as you would cod. HALIBUT The only true halibut in our markets is Pacific, also called northern or Alaska halibut. But in California, it's often confused with California halibut, a large flounder that resembles the Pacific species in shape but not in texture. Pacific halibut has firm, meaty flesh, while the California species is coarser and softer.

True halibut is sold fresh sporadically during spring and summer, but most of the catch is frozen. If you're offered fresh halibut during the fall or winter, it's probably the California species.

JACK FAMILY. Although yellowtail (the best-known Western jack) is scarce, this family has many members worldwide, and some are showing up in our markets. One, the amberjack, is taken in the Gulf of Mexico; another amberjack, kahala, is caught in Hawaii; and Japanese yellowtail is known to sashimi aficionados as hamachi.

Jack crevalle is sold by various names, including cavalry, cavalla, toro (in Mexico), trevally, and jackfish. Hawaii has about 10 species of jack, among them the ulua, or giant trevally, and the smaller papio, or trevally.

Most jacks have firm to very firm, meaty flesh; only the papio has softer, flakier flesh. If properly bled and handled, jack meat is moderately rich-tasting. For best flavor, remove skin and as much of the red muscle underneath as possible. With papio, you can simply scale it and cook it with the skin on.

KINGKLIP A plentiful fish in southern oceans, kingklip is sold as fillets in some markets now. Golden kingklip is the most abundant and best of the four species. Avoid darker, less tender South African and black kingklip.

The meat has an unusual dense, chewy texture somewhat like monkish, but softer and with loose flakes. It's lean and bland-tasting, with a hint of sweetness.

MACKEREL. Although Pacific mackerel has staged a comeback since the 1970s, when it practically disappeared, not everyone appreciates its rather assertive flavor. Jack mackerel (actually a jack), looks much like Pacific mackerel but is leaner and milder in flavor. You can recognize the jack by a row of tiny, shallow surface bones along each side.

The choicest mackerel of all is wahoo; its Hawaiian name, ono, means sweet and delicate, a fitting name for this fish found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. It has a fairly high oil content and a firm, meaty texture. Good frozen-at-sea wahoo is also available.

OPAH (also called moonfish). Now gaining acceptance with those who appreciate its unique texture, this exotic fish resembles a garbage can lid in shape and size. Most opah is taken in Southern California as an incidental catch, and in Hawaii. An opah has four types of firm, coarsetextured flesh, each a different color: amber-red behind the head and along the back, pale pink and slightly stringy toward the belly, red in the cheeks, and ruby red inside the breastplate. The breast meat cooks up brown and tastes something like beef; meat in other areas cooks white, and is rich and fairly mild in flavor (compare it to chicken).

If you buy skin-on fillets, remove the thick scales or cut away the skin and fatty layer underneath before or after cooking.

SEA BASS. No fish name causes more confusion in markets. The sea bass family itself, which includes groupers, is the largest and most diverse group of fish in the world. And fish from other families are also often called by the name. Sea bass usually has a mild flavor but dramatic differences in texture and fat content (species fall into four different categories in our listings on the next two pages).

The kind of sea bass sold here in the past has become rather scarce. The most commonly available species now is Chilean sea bass; its flesh is white and mild, as might be expected, but much softer and oilier than other sea basses.

White sea bass (actually a drum) is still taken in Southern California, but it's becoming rare. There's also some baquetta (a grouper) available in Southern California. And some Hawaiian black sea bass, called hapu'upu'u, is now sold on the Mainland.

Two other sea basses are imported from New Zealand-the bluenose (actually a sea bream) and New Zealand groper (a true grouper). Both New Zealand and Hawaiian fish have firm, meaty flesh.

SKATE. This unusual-shaped fish is becoming more common in markets. Only the triangular wings are eaten. Each yields two fillets divided by cartilage (there are no bones). It's sold both as skinned whole wings and as fillets.

When cooked, the deeply ridged fillets are tender and somewhat gelatinous. To eat skate cooked with the cartilage attached, anchor the fish with a fork and scrape off the cooked meat. The meat is lean and tastes sweet and delicate.

STRIPED BASS HYBRID. Commercial fishing for stripers is banned now in most Eastern states as well as in California. But hybrid bass, being farmed in geothermally heated tanks in the California desert and in ponds elsewhere, is beginning to supply demand for this popular fish.

Most farmed fish are in the 1- to 3-pound range now, but fish up to about 5 pounds are coming; they'll be a perfect shape and size to bake or poach whole.

STURGEON. In the wild, sturgeon grow slowly; females are more than 6 feet long and may be 19 years old before spawning. By contrast, aquaculturists can now produce white sturgeon weighing 8 to 10 pounds in about two years.

Sturgeon is firm and meaty, almost like veal; it's firm enough to cube and cook on skewers, The flavor is mild but distinctive. Try barbecuing or smoking a whole, skinon fish as you would salmon.

TILAPIA. Native to Africa, these little fish can thrive almost anywhere, and they're easily interbred to produce new hybrids, Tilapia's quality depends on the water in which it grows, and it hasn't always had a good reputation. But highquality fish, some of it farmed in the West, is now available. At its best, the flavor of tilapia is mild and sweet. Buy it ftom a reliable market and you won't be disappointed.

Which way to cook? First, figure out the right fish group

Group 1

Thin and delicate

Small flatfish yield fillets less than 1/2 inch thick and flexible (they can be rolled). Whole fish are too thin to cut into steaks. Smallest species (rex sole and sanddab) are sold whole or deeply trimmed (pan-ready). Tender meat is delicate to mild in flavor. All are lean. Dusting with flour aids browning when pan-frying.

All the small soles and flounders, including English sole, petrale sole, rex sole, sanddabs, and Eastern fish such as gray sole and winter flounder (also called lemon sole).

Best ways to cook Fillets. Pan-fry or pan-poach*; roll fillets to poach.

Small whole fish. Oven-brown*, panfry, pan-poach*, or poach.

Group 2

Medium-dense, flaky

Small to medium-size fish with moist, tender meat. Steaks and fillets are usually 1/2 to I inch thick and sturdier than those of fish in Group 1, but they need to be supported on foil or in a hinged broiler if grilled. Crumb coatings usually add flavor and texture. Group includes small pan-size fish and larger fish sold whole for baking or poaching.

2A Lean; mild flavor

Bass, striped

Cods and related fish, including Antarctic queen, Pacific whiting, haddock, hoki, and pollock

Flounder (large)

Halibut, California

Kingklip

Lingcod

Perch, walleye and yellow (fresh water)

Pike, northern (fresh water)

Rockfish, including Pacific ocean perch and Pacific snapper

Snapper, red (Florida) and Hawaiian ta'ape, opakapaka, onaga, and uku

Tilapia (fresh water)

Tilefish

Best ways to cook

Steaks and fillets. Bake in sauce*, broil with moist heat*, deep-fry, ovenbrown*, pan-fry, pan-poach*, or poach.

Small whole fish. Bake in sauce*, broil with moist heat*, oven-brown*, pan-fry, pan-poach*, or poach.

2B Moderately lean; mild flavor

Catfish (fresh water)

Salmon, chum and pink Sea bream, including porgy, sheepshead, New Zealand snapper (tai)

Sea trout, spotted, gray weakfish, and shortfin corvina

Trout, rainbow (fresh water)

Best ways to cook

Steaks and fillets. Bake in sauce*, barbecue, broil with dry or moist heat*, deep-fry, oven-brown*, pan-fry, pan-poach*, or poach.

Small whole fish. Bake in sauce*, barbecue, broil with dry or moist heat*, oven-brown*, pan-fry, panpoach*, or poach.

2C Oilier or distinctively flavored

Oilier and mild in flavor

Buffalo (fresh water)

Carp (fresh water)

Greenland turbot

Lake trout (fresh water)

Sablefish (black cod, butterfish)

Sea bass, Chilean

Shad (fresh water)

Whitefish, lake (fresh water)

Distinctively flavored

Barracuda, California

Herring and sardines, fresh

Mackerel, Atlantic, jack, Pacific, and Spanish

Mullet, striped

Pompano, Florida

Salmon, Atlantic, king (Chinook), silver (coho), and sockeye

Best ways to cook

Steaks, fillets, and small whole fish.

Bake in sauce*, barbecue, broil with dry heat, oven-brown*, pan-fry, panpoach*, poach, or smoke.

Group 3

Medium-dense with extra-firm flakes

Medium-size to large fish with firm, compact flakes. Thick cuts are sturdy enough to put directly on a greased grill. Fish hold their shape well when cooked. Steaks and fillets are generally at least 3/4 inch thick and usually don't need a coating for good browning. Some species are sold whole; they're a good size to bake, barbecue, or poach, As a group, they're lean (except orange roughy, which is about 8 percent fat, but it's a unique type of fat that doesn't taste oily) and light to moderately pronounced in flavor.

Drum, black and red

Mahi mahi

Orange roughy

Papio (Hawaiian jack)

Sea bass, white

Best ways to cook

Steaks and fillets. Bake in sauce*, barbecue, broil with moist heat*, deepfry, oven-brown*, pan-fry, pan-poach*, poach, or stir-fry*.

Group 4

Dense and meaty

Large fish with the fewest small bones of all fish. Meat holds its shape very well, so these are the best choices for skewer cooking. Fish are usually cut into thick steaks, fillets, or boneless pieces at least 1 inch thick; they brown well when pan-fried without a coating. Fish range from lean and mild-tasting to oily and rich-tasting.

4A Lean; mild flavor

Grouper, large species such as giant, Nassau, and Warsaw

Halibut, Pacific (Northern, Alaska)

Sea bass, baquetta, bluenose (New Zealand sea bream), and Hawaiian (hapu'upu'u)

Shark

Best ways to cook

Steaks, fillets, and boneless slices. Bake in sauce*, barbecue, broil with moist heat*, cook on skewers, pan-fry, pan-poach*, poach, or stir-fry*. 4B Moderately lean to oilier, distinctively flavored

Cobia

Jack, amberjack, California yellowtail, Hawaiian ulua, jack cravelle, and trevally

Mackerel king and wahoo

Opah

Sturgeon

Swordfish

Tuna, including albacore

Best ways to cook

Steaks, fillets, and boneless slices. Bake in sauce*, barbecue, broil with dry or moist heat*, cook on skewers, pan-fry, pan-poach*, poach, smoke, or stir-fry*.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1989
Words:2458
Previous Article:Hanging salads.
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