There’s nothing fishy about Executive Chef Anthony Tuttle’s cooking at the JW Marriott Phuket Hotel in Thailand. That’s because Chef Tuttle only uses the freshest fish for meals, which should emit a fresh, clean sea aroma. A very strong odor, according to Chef Tuttle, is a clear indication that the fish is old or was somehow handled wrong before it arrived in the kitchen.
Many home cooks have two major complaints about fish - it tastes and smells fishy and its texture is too rubbery or tough when prepared. This can easily be avoided if the cook is armed with the basic knowledge about selecting fresh fish, as well as the proper cooking techniques.
In addition to avoiding stinky fish odors, Chef Tuttle advises that cooks look for eyes that are clear and full - not cloudy. The gills are another giveaway. They should appear moist and range in color from red to maroon with no traces of brown and gray.
When cooking fish, Chef Tuttle prefers grilling or pan-frying, depending on the type of fish. Fattier fish such as tuna or salmon are best grilled over charcoal or wood. Leaner fish like trout and various types of flat fish can be lightly coated with flour and pan-fried with a squeeze of lemon. By using this simple preparation method, the freshness of the fish is the dominate flavor. Chef Tuttle cautions against masking the fish with heavy sauces.
The fish is done when the meat begins to flake but does not fall apart easily. If bone is present, the meat should separate from the bone. The flesh also turns opaque from its original translucent state. A common pitfall for home cooks is overcooking the fish, which makes it chewy and dry.
Chef Tuttle explains that fish cooks quickly even at low heat. Unlike meat, fish has very little connective tissues and is naturally tender. Overexposure of the proteins to heat dries it out. For novice cooks, Chef Tuttle suggests using steaming or poaching cooking techniques, which preserves moisture.
When the time comes to serve the fish to guests, Chef Tuttle urges home cooks to keep the presentation simple so hosts don’t spend the entire evening in the kitchen. After all, the most important part of the dining experience is the flavor.
Miso Glazes Tasmanian Salmon with Baby Bok Choy and a Lemongrass Broth // JW Marriott Phuket Hotel’s Signature Dish) // Ingredients: 1 cup Sweet White Miso // 3 tbsp Brown Sugar // ? cup Sake
? cup Mirin // 4 Salmon Fillets (170 grams each) // 1 tsp Olive Oil
Add in small saucepan the miso, brown sugar, sake, mirin and simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Pour liquid over fish and allow to marinate at least twelve hours. After the allotted time, remove fish and pat dry. Sear salmon in sauté pan and then turn and cook until medium. Pour Miso Lemongrass Broth (recipe to follow) over salmon and serve immediately. Yields four servings.
Miso Lemongrass Broth
Ingredients: 2 liters Miso Broth // 1 cup Dried Fish // 1 ? cup Soy Sauce // 1 tbsp Sugar // ? cup Mirin // 3 tbsp White Soy Sauce // 3 stalks Lemongrass (cut into one-inch pieces)
Bring miso broth to simmer and dip dried fish into broth to steep for only one minute and remove dried fish. Hold fish to use elsewhere. Add other ingredients and simmer for five minutes.