How A Fishmonger Cooks Fish To Bring Out Its Natural Flavor

Whether you're a die-hard seafood fan looking for a simple way to enhance the flavor of your fish or a newbie wanting to widen your healthy protein intake, Joe Gurrera, a fishmonger and owner of the storied Manhattan gourmet market Citarella, believes he can help. He says the key to doing fish right lies in using a few simple ingredients to enhance rather than hide the fish's inherent qualities, such as sweetness or butteriness. No matter which cooking method you employ, he suggests salt, pepper, and olive oil are the only things you need to bring out the fish's most flavorful attributes.


But what if you aren't a fish person and don't typically like the flavor or texture. Well, Gurrera is here to change your mind. He feels you probably just haven't found the right fish that gels with your personal tastes. "Before someone gives up on seafood, I encourage them to sample a few different kinds to see if there's one that strikes their palate," he tells Chowhound. "Ask your trusted fishmonger to make recommendations."

A simple preparation is best with fish

When Joe Gurrera bought Citarella in 1983, he expanded the more than 100-year-old seafood business into new markets and food categories, but seafood remains at its heart. So yeah, Gurrera knows a thing or two about fish, and he believes less is more when it comes to cooking seafood. "The key is simple preparation and timing," Gurrera says. "Using basic ingredients that enhance the flavor of the fish, rather than mask it, will make the natural flavor shine. Salt, pepper, and some good extra virgin olive oil is all you need when grilling, broiling, or baking."


His second big piece of advice is in the cooking time. "Do not overcook it!" he says. Other big mistakes to avoid when cooking fish include removing the skin or over handling the fish while you're cooking it. If you're planning on grilling, stop fish from sticking by cooking it on a thin bed of lemon slices

Explore your seafood options

For all of the seafood naysayers out there, Joe Gurrera believes you just haven't found the right fish for your tastes. Given the vast range of types of fish — from cod to sardines to salmon — that vary widely in both taste and texture, he suggests exploring different options and that, more than likely, you'll find one that suits you.


"I've often heard people say they don't like fish — but which one don't they like?" he says. "There is such a wide variety of flavors and textures in seafood — mild, sweet, delicate, meaty, fatty, and robust." For instance, where cod is mild, sweet, and firm, sardines are dense and meaty. Salmon, on the other hand, is rich and buttery. If salmon turns out to be your thing, try our herby lemon-butter fish skillet, which combines a few simple ingredients with salmon for a delicious and easy to make dinner. The world of seafood is vast, and Gurrera hopes you'll cast your net wide to find the right fish to suit your tastes.