Food & Drink

Making the safe and sustainable choice when buying fish

Rainbow trout and organic Clare Island  salmon were among the store's recent offerings.
Rainbow trout and organic Clare Island salmon were among the store's recent offerings. Herald-Leader

As consumers navigate the seafood choices in Central Kentucky during Lent, many wonder which species are safe to eat and which are sustainable.

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, nearly 85 percent of the world's fisheries are fished to capacity, or overfished. The aquarium's nationally recognized Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans, and its recommendations indicate which seafood items are "best choices" or "good alternatives," and which ones to "avoid." Seafood Watch recommendations are based on the fishery, habitat, species, management and other factors that affect each species.

The aquarium offers a selection of ocean-friendly seafood recipes on its website, The recipes, created by some of the country's top chefs, feature seafood that's considered a Seafood Watch "best choice" or "good alternative."

Wild-caught sea scallops from the U.S. Atlantic are on the Seafood Watch "good alternatives" list. The majority of farmed scallops worldwide are a "best choice" because the way they're raised presents few threats to the environment.


Scallops with tomatoes and corn on quick polenta

For polenta:

1/2 cup polenta or coarse cornmeal

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Freshly ground pepper

1⁄3 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

For scallops

12 ounces sea scallops, patted dry

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

11/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 green onions, sliced

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup corn kernels (from 2 medium ears)

1 cup grape tomatoes or small cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

To make polenta: Mix 2 cups water, polenta, oil, salt, paprika and a generous amount of pepper in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Place in microwave and cook on high for 5 minutes. Stir thoroughly. Return to microwave and cook on high for 5 more minutes. Stir well. Mix in cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To make scallops: Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops and cook until brown on the outside but still translucent in the center, about 3 minutes each side. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions and cayenne, and cook until onions begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add corn and tomatoes, and stir until corn is just tender, about 11/2 minutes. Mix in coriander and paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return the scallops to the skillet with any juices on the plate and stir until heated and cooked through (they will feel springy to the touch and will be slightly translucent when cut with a small sharp knife, about 30 seconds).

Spoon polenta onto 2 warmed plates, spreading in a circle. Spoon scallops and vegetables over. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Makes 2 servings.

From Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Tennessee Aquarium's Serve & Protect sustainable seafood program encourages people to make wise choices that help take fishing pressure off species that are in trouble. The aquarium has partnered with Food Network's Alton Brown to encourage cooks to learn techniques for preparing five to 10 types of seafood. Brown has developed seafood recipes specifically for the Aquarium's Serve & Protect program. Here is one of them:

Yellowtail snapper in a salt dome

1 small fennel bulb, sliced with partial stems

6 fresh parsley sprigs

1 small orange, thinly sliced

1½ to 2 pounds whole U.S. yellowtail snapper (cleaned and trimmed)

3 pounds kosher salt

2 egg whites

1/4 cup water

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Place fennel, parsley and orange inside the cavity of the fish.

Combine kosher salt, egg whites and water in a large mixing bowl, and work it with your hands until it reaches the consistency of wet sand. Set down a 1/2-inch thick bed of the salt mixture on the half-sheet pan. This bed needs to be large enough so that when the fish is laid on it, there's an extra inch of salt all the way around.

Place fish on the bed of salt and pile on remaining salt mixture, smoothing and mounding it to form a sealed dome about 1/2- inch thick all around. You might not use all of the mixture. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer stuck through the salt into the thickest part of the fish.

Remove fish from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter or bring the pan to the table. Tap the top of the dome several times with a small hammer, lifting off any slabs you can get hold of. Once the fish is fully revealed, use a basting brush to remove any remaining salt. Carefully remove the dorsal or back fin, which should pull free easily.

Use a fish knife or serrated pie server to make an incision all the way down the back of the fish and around the gill plate. Lift the skin off, working from the head to the tail.

Remove the fillet, in pieces if necessary, from the top side of the fish. Once the top fillet is gone, get a grip on the tail and gently pull up and forward. The skeleton should come away in one piece, revealing the fillet below. Serve the bottom fillet, leaving the skin behind. Makes 4 servings.

From Tennessee Aquarium

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science's Marine Advisory Services Program shares seafood recipes that use species which have been the focus of the institute's research and are harvested sustainably according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

This recipe was created by chef Steve Sadowski at the Culinary Institute of Virginia in Norfolk.

Flounder encrusted with caramelized onion

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup onion, small diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 6-ounce flounder fillets, skinless

½ cup dry vermouth

½ lemon

1 tablespoon butter

Mix salt, pepper and flour together. Heat sauté pan on high heat. Add oil to pan. Add onions and garlic to pan, and sauté until onions are translucent.

Dredge flounder fillets in seasoned flour. Lay the fillets on the sautéed onions and cook on high heat for two minutes. Use a spatula and turn the fillets once, being careful not to scrape the caramelized onions from the fillets. Cook for one minute. Deglaze pan with vermouth. Immediately squeeze lemon over the fillets. Immediately add butter and let cook on high heat for one minute before serving. If using skin-on fillets, use white side of fish. Makes 2 servings.

From Virginia Institute of Marine Science

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