How to Overcome a Reluctance to Cook Fish, According to Obama's Former Chef
Sam Kass, author of Eat a Little Better and the Obamas’ former chef, is passionate about fish and wants to show you the best way to buy and cook it.
A couple of times a week, Sam Kass visits his local fish vendor. He asks a lot of questions before buying. “I find out what just came in or what looks good to them. And since they know a lot about cooking fish, I’ll solicit ideas.” Then he requests a smell test. “If it has a fishy aroma, put it back,” he says. “Fish should smell like the ocean.” (Related: What Is a Pescatarian Diet and Is It Healthy?)
Also a must: Knowing where his fish comes from. Kass always chooses sustainable varieties and buys American because the safety protections are tighter. If he has any concerns, he consults the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app on his phone. Finally, once he’s got a package of flounder, cod, fluke, or black sea bass, Kass picks up some seasonal vegetables to roast or grill alongside it. When Kass can’t make it to the fish market, he orders online from Thrive Market, which ships frozen organic and sustainable meat and seafood. (Try Kristin Cavallari's healthy seafood pasta recipe from her True Roots cookbook.)
Many people fear cooking fish, but Kass swears it’s simple. Not sure you believe him? Try his foolproof method: roasting. “You don’t have to worry about flipping the fish, oil spattering, or making your kitchen smell,” he says. Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees, season fillets with olive oil and salt, and cook them (about 10 minutes, depending on size; fish is done when a thin knife inserted into the thickest part encounters no resistance). Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on, and dinner is ready. (FYI, this is how to debone a fish the *right* way.)
Once you master that technique, you’re ready to experiment with new recipes and different types of fish. “Seafood is an incredible source of protein and healthy fat, and if you choose species that are sustainably produced and caught, you’ll leave a light footprint on the environment,” Kass says. Americans tend to stick to tuna, salmon, and shrimp, but eating other varieties—like his favorites, sardines (try them seared) and catfish (he suggests breading and shallow frying)—“helps balance the ocean’s ecosystems, provides you with different nutrients, and expands your palate,” he says.