Sea scallops are dredged year-round from Labrador to New Jersey. Since they tend to die out of water, scallops are predominantly shucked at sea and kept on ice or frozen aboard. Only the adductor muscel, which allows the scallop to swim by clicking its shells together, is eaten. For quality scallops, avoid "wet" scallops that have soaked too long in chemicals–they'll be flabby and opaque, and will shed water and weight quickly.
Don't let the size or thickness of scallops fool you. Though they may be large, they cook quickly. Choose light recipes with little or no added fat, so the full flavor of the sweet, light meat will not be masked. Recipes often suggest cutting scallops in half across the grain before cooking. This may be fine for recipes that call for sautéing, but left uncut, the large size makes sea scallops a natural for the grill. Microwaving is not a preferred method of cooking any fresh seafood; this is particularly true with the scallop, because they explode at higher settings.
The rainbow trout is a member of the salmon family. Idaho accounts for 70 percent of the rainbow trout raised in the United States. While trout fishing is a favorite activity of anglers, all rainbow trout sold domestically are farmed, either in concrete raceways or earthen ponds. Farm-raised fish reach their market size (8 to 10 ounces) in 8 to 12 months.
Talk about convenient: most rainbow trout are just the right size for individual servings. Trout can be cooked with minimal preparation, and is often served with the head on. Its taste is very delicate, and should not be overpowered with strong sauces or heavy seasoning. A little butter, lemon and parsley will bring out the delicate flavor of this fish.
Tracing its roots to the Nile River, "Tilapia" is actually a group of species within the tilapiine cichlid genus. Tilapia has been farm raised for decades and is cultivated in warm waters across the globe. Sometimes called "St. Peter's Fish", the tilapia is, according to legend, the one fish that Jesus of Nazareth used to feed the masses. Whole tilapia normally range from one to two pounds in size.
Tilapia is a highly versatile fish with a very delicate flavor. This freshwater fish is frequently served baked, fried or grilled. Whatever cooking method you choose, stick with a subtle sauce to help avoid overpowering the fish’s subtle taste. The tilapia's attractive skin–gold, red, or black and white–should be featured but not eaten, as it can have a bitter taste.
Most tiger shrimp is farmed, though a significant amount is harvested from the wild by trawlers. While black tiger shrimp is available year-round, farmed shrimp peaks in February and September. A native of warm, tropical waters, the tiger grows exceptionally quickly; these shrimp can reach up to 13 inches in length, but harvest sizes typically average 9 to 11 inches long.
Large tiger shrimp tails make excellent hors d’oeuvres, such as shrimp cocktail or grilled shrimp on skewers. They’re also good with pasta or in casseroles, because they can withstand tossing with other ingredients. Because their thick shells hold heat, black tigers cook more quickly than the other varieties of shrimp or prawns, and they toughen if overcooked. Once thawed, they will last three to four days when properly refrigerated, but are best when eaten within two days of thawing.
Halibut is the largest of all flatfish; the largest halibut grow up to eight feet long and four feet wide, and weigh over 600 pounds. Market sizes typically range from 10 to 100 pounds. Pacific halibut are found along the Pacific Coast from Northern California to the Bering Sea, and westward to Russia and the Sea of Japan. They are primarily taken by longlines in Alaska and British Columbia.
An extremely versatile fish, the thick, meaty halibut holds up well to a number of cooking methods and sauces. It is one of the mildest and most pleasant-tasting fish. It’s white and flaky, contains little oil and never has an overpowering taste or smell. It can be used in just about any recipe that calls for a mild white fish and can be substituted for other types of fish.
Gulf shrimp varieties include brown, white and pink shrimp. Although their name suggests they come exclusively from the Gulf of Mexico, they are also found as far north as Maryland and along the southeastern coast. Pink shrimp are the largest Gulf species, reaching 11 inches in length, while whites grow up to 8 inches long. Brown shrimp are concentrated off the Texas/Louisiana coast; males reach 7 inches in length, while females grow to up to 9 inches long.
Few seafood items are enjoyed by as many people and in as many ways as Gulf shrimp. Flavorful and firm, Gulf shrimp can be breaded, stuffed, boiled with spices, sautéed or barbecued. The greatest danger in preparing shrimp is overcooking, which toughens the meat. Always be aware of cooking time; shrimp cooks in just 60 to 90 seconds at a rapid boil. When the meat turns opaque, it’s ready to serve!
Catfish farming started in Arkansas in 1960 and expanded exponentially as soybean and rice farmers built ponds and processing facilities. Most catfish farms today are located in the Mississippi Delta. A typical pond covers 16 acres and produces 4,000 to 7,000 pounds of catfish per acre. As a rule, U.S. farm-raised catfish are antibiotic and hormone free, are recommended by the National Audubon Society as a safe environmental choice, and are listed as a best choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Possessing a fairly mild flavor and an unusual texture, catfish is as versatile as chicken; you can dress it up with a complex sauce, or dress it down for an outdoor barbecue. A mainstay of Cajun, Creole and Southern cooking, channel catfish can handle a variety of sauces or seasonings, from mild to strong.
The yellowfin (also known as "ahi tuna") is distinguished by its long, bright-yellow dorsal fin and the yellow stripe down its body. More slender than the bigeye or bluefin tuna, yellowfins are the most tropical of the tuna species. Yellowfin is primarily caught by purse seine, but the higher-quality yellowfin is caught by hook and line. These fish range from the ocean surface to below 600 feet. High-quality yellowfin comes from Hawaii, Florida, Mexico, Southern California and the Gulf of California.
Yellowfin tuna (also known as ahi tuna) is excellent raw or cooked. For grilling or broiling, cut steaks one inch thick, and use a marinade or seasoning to enhance the flavor. For quick preparation, just brush with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. For a milder taste, remove the dark lateral line from the meat. Tuna can also marinate for several hours without becoming "cooked".
Chinooks, also called “kings,” are the largest and most prized species of Pacific salmon. They are the most expensive of all salmon species and are often found in upscale restaurants and better supermarkets. Most Pacific salmon spend one to three years at sea; kings can stay out as long as five years before returning to where they spawn. Chinooks are harvested primarily by trawlers, but are also fished by seiners and gillnetters. They can reach upwards of 50 pounds, but the bulk of the commercial catch ranges between 11 and 18 pounds.
For the purist, the less you do to the rich and flavorful king salmon, the better. However, this fish can also stand up to hearty seasonings and flavorful sauces. For a simple yet bold treat, try broiling or grilling a piece of king salmon with pesto sauce.
To meet a rapidly growing demand, Atlantic salmon farming first emerged on a large scale in the early 1980s, with Norway leading the way. Since then, global production has increased tremendously. Today, Atlantic salmon are farmed in more than a dozen countries in Latin America, Europe and North America. The fish are typically raised in large, floating netpens, which are usually located in open bays. Farmed Atlantics start at four pounds, but can grow as large as 18 pounds.
Fillets of Atlantic salmon are pleasing to the eye, and should be used with recipes that highlight their vibrant color and texture. Since the flavor of this fish is delicate, avoid using flavors, glazes or seasonings that overpower it. For example, a light dill and yogurt or cucumber-dill sauce works well.