Whether it’s oysters slurped back raw or salmon grilled on the barbecue, nothing beats fresh seafood in the summertime. These chefs’ tips are sure to put you on the right track for purchasing and preparing the best fish for family meals and outdoor dinner parties alike!
Chef Daniel Norcott – Catch
Many view oysters as a special occasion food, something reserved for fancy dinners out, paired with champagne of course. But don’t be fooled, oysters are just as easy (and cheaper!) to prepare at home, once you get the hang of it at least.
If anyone knows oysters, it’s Chef Daniel Norcott at Catch, arguably Calgary’s top seafood restaurant. When buying oysters, he’s got a few tips to keep in mind. “You want to look for oysters that are closed tight,” Chef Norcott says. If it’s opened a little bit and doesn’t close when you tap it, it means that the oyster is dead, which doesn’t make for pleasant eating. Purchase them as close to serving as possible, and always be sure to keep them cold, preferably on ice.
Once you’ve got your oysters, it’s time to shuck. First off, get yourself an oyster-shucking knife for best results. “Insert the blade with moderate force and vibration, if necessary, at the hinge between the two shells,” chef says. Twist until the oyster pops open, then run the blade along the top and bottom halves to sever the abductor muscles, freeing the oyster from its shell. Slurp it back with some lemon, hot sauce or just as is!
Check out Chef Norcott’s recipe for Showstopper Hot Sauce HERE.
Chef Toshiyuki “Iwa” Iwai – Hapa Izakaya
How often do you prepare sushi at home? Rarely? Well that doesn’t have to be the case; it’s not as complicated as you might assume. In its simplest form, sushi is only rice and fish, so get those two components right and you are ready to eat!
Chef Toshiyuki Iwai of Hapa Izakaya has just the tips to get you started. First, “only use sashimi grade fish if consuming it raw,” he says. You should also keep it refrigerated at all times. Even when defrosting frozen fish, it’s best thawed in the fridge overnight, rather than on the counter at room temperature. When it comes time to slice it, a sharp knife is your best friend, although it doesn’t have to be perfect because wrapping it around the rice hides any imperfections.
As for the rice, any short grain Japanese variety works best. Rinse it under cold water before cooking to wash off any excess starch, helping to promote that characteristic stickiness.
Chef Iwai’s Temari sushi is perfect for your first foray into the world of sushi. A disc of rice draped in either salmon or tuna, it makes for the perfect bite as a snack or appetizer!
Chef Kentaro Matsuura – Japanese Consulate
The Japanese are known for their preparation of fish, both raw and cooked, so there’s no better person to ask about cooking and eating seafood than the chef at the Japanese Consulate here in Calgary, Chef Kentaro Matsuura.
“Japanese cuisine” itself is often associated exclusively with sushi in Canada, but that isn’t the only food they are known for. “Nowadays in Japan, we can easily get ingredients from all over the world so that has influenced the foods we eat and cook,” Chef Matsuura says. Japanese home cooking includes ingredients from other countries such as France, China, Italy, and Mexico. Take for example the white wine used in Chef Matsuura’s broiled salmon and mushrooms, paired with more traditional Japanese ingredients like white miso and soy sauce.
When it comes to preparing fish, a staple in the Japanese diet, “it’s important to get good, fresh fish that doesn’t have a strong smell and is bright in colour,” he says. It’s a delicate protein so it’s critical not to use too high a heat or over-cook it either. And remember to save those fish bones as well! Good fish stock is after all the essence of Japanese cooking according to Chef Matsuura, so don’t let the bones go to waste!
Check out Chef Matsuura’s recipe for Broiled Salmon and Mushrooms HERE.
Photos by Ingrid Kuenzel