Let’s face it, we’re spoiled on Long Island. Surrounded by water, every day is a beach day and come summertime the fresh seafood is one of a kind. Chef William Muzio knows it. That’s why he returned to the Island after training in Spain and working in Vegas to become head chef of View in 2009. Since then, he’s established the Oakdale spot as one of the region’s premiere places to get seafood. But preparing that delicious meal starts long before he rolls up his chef jacket’s sleeves to begin working in his kitchen. It all begins when he walks into a market. Not one to hide knowledge from his customers and staff—one of his favorite parts of his job is teaching others—Muzio shared five secrets to choosing fresh seafood.
Develop a Good Relationship With the Staff
The staff at a fish market can be your best resource, which is why Muzio considers developing a good relationship with them the most important step in your sea-to-table quest. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions because they’ll point you in the right direction,” Muzio said. And the more they get to know you, the more insider scoops they may throw your way. “I know a bunch and they’ll let me know what’s coming in fresh or if they’re getting something different because I’ll be the first to jump on it.”
Use Your Eyes
Give whatever you plan on purchasing more than a once over. The surface of the fish should be bright, clear, reflective and almost translucent and the color should be consistent with the fish you’re buying. “If it’s a pearly white fish, it should not have any pink or red spots, which usually indicate bruising, or gray and brown areas, which indicate spoiling,” Muzio advised. Check gills to make sure they’re bright and red. “Eyes should be shiny, not dull or opaque, and skin should not be slimy.” Just on a grocery store run for a fillet? Still check for spots and that there’s no coloring.
Notice How It’s Iced
Muzio likes to keep his fish set on ice sitting straight up as if it’s still swimming in the water. “You don’t want to soak it in the water or on its side where one side gets cold while the other spoils faster,” Muzio said. As for the temperature, Muzio keeps his fish under 32 degrees. “Some people tend to keep their fish at 50 degrees but it will deteriorate four times faster than it will at under 32 degrees.” That’s a huge difference.
Though most markets won’t let you touch the product because it’s a health code violation, you can still ask the person at the counter to press their fingers into the fish’s flesh. “It should appear to be firm and elastic. It should basically bounce back,” Muzio recommended. If it looks mushy or if the fish leaves a lasting impression, simply move on.
Believe it or not, fish should not smell like fish. “It should smell like the sweet farm of the ocean sea. It shouldn’t smell like low tide,” Muzio laughed. “It’s supposed to be fresh.”
Muzio’s Favorite Fish to Cook: Seabass. “The fish itself is just the best flavor,” he said. “It has a lot of fish. The skin has a crispy texture, there’s a moist center. It’s heaven.”