Growing up in Nebraska, eating fresh seafood was about as common as eating chili and cinnamon rolls in Orange County, yes that’s a real thing and yes it’s amazing! Eating at the local Red Lobster was about as close as you were gonna get, and I only remember eating there once when I was a kid. I do have memories of my dad randomly bringing in lobsters from a friend at work, one time he even brought home shark meat, and what did he make with it? Shark chili of course! (I actually remember it tasting great) And yes there would be the occasional carp or cat fish dinner (locally sourced from a nearby lake of course), and fish frys during lent. My point is that for the most part cooking and eating fresh seafood was pretty much a nonexistent part of my upbringing in cow country. I didn’t try sushi until I was in college, and hadn’t cooked as much as a piece of salmon up until that point either. By the time I moved to California I realized I was a little late to the party, and had much to catch up on.
When I was presented with the challenge of cooking a large amount of fish for the first time in my culinary career I’ll admit, it was intimidating and unnerving to say the least, but as with most anything, the more I did it, the better I got…or I should say the more I totally screwed it up, the more I learned, and eventually, it got easier, and I got better at it.
Some of you may be at the point where you really want to learn how to cook the perfect piece of fish, but think you don’t have the skills to pull it off…I have good news for you, cooking fish is way more easier than you think it is! It’s no more difficult than grilling a steak or roasting a chicken( some of you are probably thinking, crap I can’t even do that.)
Keep it simple, stick with what you know
I’m sure most of you have no problem firing up your grill and throwing down some burgers or a nice thick steak. Grilling fish isn’t much different! Start with a hot, clean, and oiled grill. Next, season your fish. Keep it simple; a little salt and pepper, lemon juice, some fresh herbs, and you’re good to go. A few minutes on either side, cook it until it reaches 140 degrees internally, let rest for a few minutes! and voila! A perfectly grilled piece of fish awaits…make a simple relish or butter sauce like a beurre blanc to tie it all together. Don’t overthink it!
Searing the perfect scallop
Searing scallops is simple to do. Trust me. Of course you’ll need a few things to be successful.
First, make sure your scallops are dry, blot with paper towels if needed.
Next, have a nice hot pan, preferably cast iron.
Have plenty of oil, or my personal preference clarified butter. Vegetable oil works best for its high smoke point, as does clarified butter. Avoid olive oil as it may easily burn.
Of course practice makes perfect, but don’t be intimidated. A quick sear, about 90 seconds per side, and you’ll have a nice golden brown scallop. Don’t overcrowd your pan, deglaze your pan with a little white wine and butter for a quick sauce, and don’t forget the salt and pepper. Let rest a minute or two, but eat right away as they don’t have a very long shelf life after they’ve been cooked.
Black mussels steamed in beer with herbs and spices
Steamed mussels is one of the easiest yet rewarding seafood dishes to make. They literally only take a few minutes to cook, after chopping up some fresh herbs and tomatoes, and developing a simple hearty broth. whether you prefer a Belgian style beer or a nice white wine as a base, you can’t go wrong. Grill up some French bread to soak up the savory broth and that’s pretty much all you need. Just remember to discard any mussels that don’t open after cooking. And always make sure you get you seafood from a reliable source, lucky for us in Southern California we have plenty of options, personally I like Santa Monica Seafoods in Costa Mesa.
If you would like to receive recipes for any of the dishes above let me know. Thanks again for checking out my blog. Feel free to leave feedback and tell you friends!
Chef Bryce Benes